Truth: What I knew about Ramadan and the foods that are eaten to break the fast previously could have fit in a grain of millet. But it’s never too late to learn, and nothing makes a culture more accessible than delving into its food.
One of the foods commonly eaten to break the fast is chorba, which means soup in Arabic. And like soups, chorbas can be made in infinite ways, though most often chorba is associated with a hearty Moroccan soup made from vegetables and chickpeas, usually with diced lamb and some sort of pasta or grain.
Chorba is made all over the Middle East, Europe, Northern Africa and other regions. The vegetables vary, the spices vary, the meat varies. It’s one of those many dishes that has crossed many borders and morphed along with way.
I decided to use lamb, the classic meat for this soup/stew, and millet as the grain, which holds up nicely in soups and stews, retaining its texture and shape. Harissa is used in cooking and as a condiment by Moroccans, as well as other cultures, and it’s a wonderfully spiced chili paste that adds heat and complexity to all kinds of dishes.
So while I don’t know a lot about Ramadan, I know more than I did a week ago. I also know that my family is not going to be sorry to see this soup appear on the table again, any time of year.
If you can’t find harissa, substitute sun-dried tomato pesto with a splash of hot sauce to approximate it.
Start to finish: 45 minutes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth or stock
1 tablespoon harissa
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
Two 15 1/2-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup uncooked millet
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
In a large pot over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the lamb, onion, celery and carrots, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the lamb has lost most of its pinkness on the outside and the vegetables are starting to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin and coriander, then stir until you can smell the spices. Add the tomatoes, broth, harissa, saffron and chickpeas, then bring to a simmer.
Add the millet and return to a simmer. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the meat and millet are cooked and tender. Stir in the lemon juice and parsley, then cook for another 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Nutrition information per serving: 500 calories; 210 calories from fat (42 per cent of total calories); 24 g fat (8 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 50 mg cholesterol; 950 mg sodium; 48 g carbohydrate; 12 g fiber; 9 g sugar; 26 g protein.