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Lentil and Harissa Soup

December 11, 2013 Deanna 2 Comments

By: Danya Weiner

Last year, one random day, I was at my son’s school to register him for first grade. In the entrance to the office there stood a large pot filled with warm lentil soup. Every few minutes a different faculty member came into the office, ladled themselves a bowl of the hearty soup. As I waited in line patiently for my turn to register I couldn’t help but stare at that hot pot of soup, but didn’t have the guts to ask to try it. After some time, I guess the secretary couldn’t help but notice the drool on my face and she offered me a taste. It was one of the tastiest soups I had ever tried, but with the secretary as busy as she was with overzealous parents, I knew that there was no way I was getting the recipe. So I ate the soup as slow as I could, to try to figure out exactly what was inside.

I got home that day and tried to figure out the riddle of that soup. My first attempt at making the soup was a total failure, as it tasted nothing like the one I had drooled over earlier that day. All the veggies were there, as were the lentils, but something crucial was missing. Something told me I should add some harissa, and that was the missing link.

A few months into the school year, an me and the secretary, Shosh, have become buddies, but she still won’t give me the actual recipe. And I’ve stopped asking for it, because in our family now, the soup, which is known as Shosh’s soup, is actually Danya’s soup inspired by Shosh. And what’s most important is that it’s the perfect soup for the upcoming storm this weekend here in Israel.

Some tips before getting started:

–          In order for the all the vegetables to cook evenly, it’s important that you cut them all the same size.

–          Here in Israel you can buy spicy harissa or sweet harissa. Because my kids love the soup, I have to give up on the spicy harissa.

Ingredients for 8-10 servings:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 celeriac, peeled and cut into small cubes

3 celery stalks, finely chopped

1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes

2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes

3 carrots, peeled and cut into small cubes

2 ripe tomatoes, cut into small cubes

8 cups water/vegetable stock

1½ cups lentils (preferably black or green)

2 tablespoons sweet harissa

1 teaspoon spicy harissa (or more according to taste)

2 tablespoons sea salt

½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

½ teaspoon cumin

A handful of parsley leaves

A handful of cilantro leaves


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the onion and garlic and cook on medium heat until the onion is transparent, about 5-7 minutes. Add all of the vegetables and continue to cook, while stirring for an additional five minutes.
  2. Add the water/stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the lentils, harissa, salt, pepper, and cumin and cook for 20 minutes. Add the parsley and cilantro, cover the pot and cook on low heat for 40 minutes.
*The beautiful bowl featured in this post is made by Yaara Nir Kachlon. Check out her beautiful ceramics here.


2 comments to “Lentil and Harissa Soup”

  1. we are fans says:

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  2. Jenny Thielemann says:

    Hi, this sounds fantastic! My kid also eschews spicy foods, but I’ve never heard of sweet harissa. Googling it just brings up a coconut/semolina cake recipe apparently also called Harissa. Do you have a recipe for sweet harissa, or a brand name that I might look for online? Thanks!

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