, , , ,

If you only make one of my recipes, this should be the one. (But, really, why limit yourself to one?) This may be the best soup I have ever made, ever, and I give 90% of the credit to Olaiya, who taught me how to put these flavors together. Well, at least 80%, because I did come up with the idea to make soup, after all… Let me explain.

Two years ago (I can’t believe it has been that long!), I took a Moroccan cooking class with my friends at what is now The Pantry at Delancey; our teacher was Olaiya, and it will be hard for any future culinary instructor to live up to my her, in my eyes. What fun we had making chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons, roasted vegetables with harissa & yogurt, couscous with apricots, and a pistachio cake with oranges. I knew most of the flavors individually, but this was my introduction to blending them together to make the warm, comforting dishes I now associate with Moroccan cooking. I have been hopelessly in love ever since: I make my own preserved lemons, own a tagine, work cinnamon into every savory dish I can, and panic when I run low on harissa.

You have probably noticed that I am a fan of spice in my cooking, and to me, harissa is a nearly perfect condiment. It’s a blend of hot peppers, bell peppers, garlic, preserved lemon, tomatoes, olive oil and salt and it is fiery and sweet at once. My favorite, recommended brand is Mustapha’s Moroccan Harissa; I plan to try making my own someday soon and will, of course, let you know how that goes. Harissa is delicious with fish, chicken, lamb, even eggs and makes a wonderful, simple sauce when added to yogurt with a little bit of garlic and lemon. It can be hard to find, but is a worthwhile addition to your pantry.

The roasted vegetables with harissa & yogurt we learned to make in Olaiya’s class were the inspiration for this soup. I used the same roasting technique and spices and added the flavors of the yogurt sauce to the broth. I am not kidding when I say that this is my new favorite soup, ever: I was so happy with the way it came out that my face hurt from smiling. I may have cried a little, too, but tears of happiness, I swear. The broth was rich, redolent of the warm spices within, and the vegetables were sweet and tender. If you are not a fan of spicy food, you can reduce the amount of harissa (or leave it out altogether) and still have a beautiful, tasty meal. The minute I buy more turnips, I am making this again; my poor lucky husband is going to get tired of this recipe because I am going to make it all the time. If you like to eat pho with a few extra jalapenos or an extra squirt of sriracha, if you ask for five-star tom yum or hot and sour soup– you know who you are, and this has your name all over it. Run don’t walk to get the ingredients and make some tonight!

Moroccan-spiced roast veggie soup

Moroccan-Spiced Roasted Vegetable Soup

  • 1 lb. turnips, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into pieces similar in size to a 1″ cube
  • 2 large shallots, cut into 4 or 6 pieces, depending on size
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin (toasted and freshly ground, if you can)
  • 4 c. chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 T. harissa (this makes a spicy broth; if you’re not familiar with harissa, start with 1 tsp. and work your way up)
  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • plain yogurt to garnish

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Prepare your vegetables; the key is to keep them all a uniform size for even cooking. Toss them in the olive oil and season with salt & pepper; spread in an even layer on a cookie sheet and roast for 30 mins.

Scrape the roasted vegetables and all accumulated goodness– oil, dark bits that might be on the pan, etc. — into a stock pot or Dutch oven. Sprinkle the vegetables with the cinnamon, coriander and cumin and toss lightly to coat. Add the stock and heat to a light boil; turn the heat down to medium and simmer gently for 20 mins. This is primarily to infuse flavor into the broth, since the vegetables are already cooked. (If you prefer the veggies in your soup to be firmer, reduce the roasting time to 20-25 mins.) Add the harissa (to taste) and lemon juice and stir to incorporate. Serve with a dollop of yogurt. Naan is a nice accompaniment to this soup, as well.