Chicken harira

Chicken harira

The Sunday Night Book
Patricia Niven

I love this hearty Middle Eastern-inspired soup. It comes from my days working with Juliet Peston, an amazing chef who ran the kitchen at Alastair Little’s in Soho for a long time and was a force to be reckoned with. We worked together for many years, including at Lola’s in Islington, where this harira would appear regularly. You can also make it with lamb, so once you have mastered the art of the stew-y bit, it can become a good home for leftover chicken or lamb, or even some roasted veg, from your Sunday roast. The ginger and coriander relish keeps very well and can be added to curries, chillies or other spicy numbers – you might want to make double the amount and keep a jar handy in the fridge. For this recipe you won’t need the whole tin of chickpeas, but I figure you could easily knock up a little bit of hummus while the harira is bubbling away (or they could be transmogrified into another meal later in the week).


Quantity Ingredient
4 tablespoons sunflower or grapeseed oil
1 large red onion, sliced
1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 heaped teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons hot smoked paprika
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
400g leftover, shredded cooked chicken
or 570g boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 heaped teaspoons garam masala
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
400 g tin chopped tomatoes
400ml chicken or vegetable stock
100g green or brown lentils
110g long-grain rice
160g tinned chickpeas, drained but liquid reserved
sea salt
flatbreads, to serve

For the ginger and coriander relish

Quantity Ingredient
8 cm piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 large handfuls coriander leaves
2 lemons, zest finely grated and juiced
4 tablespoons light olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt


  1. Heat about 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan over a low heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt, cover with a lid and sweat until the onion is soft, stirring from time to time to avoid it sticking or getting too brown – a little colour is fine. Add the pepper to the pan, and a touch more oil if needed, and cook for a couple of minutes until beginning to soften. Now add all the spices, except the garam masala, and cook for a minute until aromatic, then add the garlic and stir everything about for a minute – if everything seems a bit dry, a splash more oil wouldn’t go amiss.
  2. Meanwhile, toss the chicken in the garam masala. If using raw chicken, season it well with salt as well, then heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and brown it all over before adding it to the saucepan. Deglaze the frying pan by splashing in the red wine vinegar and 200 ml water and stirring and scraping the base of the pan to loosen any meaty bits, then tip into the saucepan. If using leftover cooked chicken, this needs to go in later, so just pour the red wine vinegar and 200 ml water into the saucepan.
  3. Now add the tomatoes and stock to the saucepan and cook for about 10 minutes. Rinse the lentils and rice in a sieve under cold running water, then add to the pan with another 200 ml water. Cook for 25–30 minutes or until the rice and lentils are cooked, by which time the chicken will be nice and tender too. Throw in the chickpeas and their liquid – and if you are using leftover chicken, add that now too. Leave to simmer for 5 more minutes or until thoroughly heated through.
  4. Whilst the harira is simmering away, whizz all the relish ingredients to a paste in a food processor.
  5. To serve, ladle the harira into bowls and stir in a heaped tablespoon of the relish. Check for seasoning and add more relish if you wish – I often serve this with a little extra dollop on top for people to stir in as they eat. Warm flatbreads are great for scooping up this delicious supper.
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