Sunday 4 January 2015
Moroccan Wedding Soup
Here is some cheeky fusion cuisine to warm your cockles this winter. I love soup and there has been no shortage of it here since I started this blog. I had this idea kicking around in my head which I finally put to action and the result was really tasty. You may have heard of Italian Wedding soup. "Wedding soup" is actually a common misconception. The Italian name of the soup translates to "married soup" referring to the pleasant pairing of meat and greens. Originally it was not meant to be eaten at weddings, but since the misconception became such a part of pop culture in North America over the years, you will sometimes see it served at Italian-American weddings. Italian Wedding soup always consists of meat (usually meatballs or sausage) and some kind of leafy green wilted in broth. Many variations include other vegetables, pasta, barley, rice and cheese.
This is a version of Italian Wedding soup but with a heavy Moroccan influence. I took Merguez sausages, which are famously popular in North African (and French) cuisine. Merguez is made of lamb, beef or a combination of the two and spices like paprika, cumin, chilies and garlic. I removed the casings from the sausages and formed the meat into balls. I sautéed a mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery) with garlic, ras el hanout and harissa then added chicken broth. I brought the broth to a simmer and added the meatballs and some orzo pasta and once they were cooked I wilted some kale at the very end before serving. I used kale because I happened to have a lot of it left from my last recipe but you could use anything from spinach, escarole, collards, mustard greens, chard or any other dark, leafy green.
Some of you may not be completely familiar with all of the ingredients I just mentioned. Let's take a look at a few of them more carefully.
Ras el hanout is immensely popular in North Africa. It is a house spice blend which can sometimes consist of over 30 different spices! It is used in North African cuisine in a very similar manner to which garam masala is used in Indian cuisine.
Harissa is a spicy paste made of ground chilies, garlic and caraway seeds. Sometimes other whole spices can be ground into it, like fennel. It is another staple of North African cuisine.
Orzo is a kind of Italian pasta made into the shape of grains of rice, although "orzo" is the Italian word for what we call "barley" in English. It's no different from any other run of the mill dried pasta, aside from its shape.
I hope that helps to clarify for anyone who needed it. Many supermarkets do carry most of these ingredients now, but depending where you live you may have to source out an ethnic specialty market or find them online.
4 Merguez sausages
1 white onion, finely diced
1 medium sized carrot, finely diced
2 ribs celery, finely diced
2 garlic cloves. minced
2/3 cup dried orzo pasta
100 grams kale, roughly chopped (just under a 1/4 lb)
8 cups chicken stock or broth
2 tsps ras el hanout
1 tsp harissa paste
2 tbsp olive oil
Start with four Merguez sausages. If you can only find it frozen, be sure to thaw completely before proceeding.
Remove the casings from the sausages and discard. Form the meat into balls (four per sausage for a total of sixteen). For both flavour and practicality we need to get a sear on the meat. There are two ways you can do this. You could brown the meatballs in the soup pot in a little olive oil over medium-low heat. Then remove them and proceed with the mirepoix. When I formed my meatballs I found them to be very soft and I worried that they would fall apart if I did them that way. So I chose the second option which is to brown them in the oven. Preheat your oven to 400 F/204 C. Place the meatballs on a baking rack and cook for 20 minutes, turning them halfway through. Brushing them with a little olive oil first is recommended.
When they're done, remove them from the oven and set aside.
Heat a soup pot to medium-high and add 2 tbsps of olive oil. Add the onion, carrot and celery with some salt and pepper. Sautée until softened. Then add the minced garlic and continue to sautée for 2-3 minutes.
Add the harissa and the ras el hanout and stir until evenly combined. Cook for about a minute to wake up the spices.
Add the chicken stock or broth and turn the heat up to high. While you're waiting for the liquid to come to a boil, use a spoon to skim and discard any froth or oil that rises to the top.
As soon as the soup comes to a boil, turn the heat down to low and maintain a simmer for the rest of this recipe. Add the browned meatballs and the orzo pasta. Keep the soup at a simmer stirring occasionally for 12-15 minutes or until the orzo is soft and the meatballs are cooked through. From time to time you may have to add hot water from a kettle as necessary.
Add the kale to the soup and stir it in. It should wilt within a minute.
Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning. Now you're ready to serve!
I really like this soup and I'll definitely be making it again. The earthy Merguez really compliments the greens, accompanied by the body of the orzo and the complex tang of the spices. It's a very well-rounded soup. It's perfect for any day, but especially for when the weather is cold and you don't want to leave the house. It's definitely something different and new for you to try. Not to mention it's fairly healthy so you can eat it with little to no guilt.
Well, I'm signing out for now. Until next time, foodies!