Harira soup with rose harissa
These darker, colder days call for warming sustenance and where better to turn than to the fragrant spices of Middle Eastern cooking? Harira is a soup I love to make when the weather turns, a traditional Moroccan dish which uses vegetables, spices, chickpeas and can include lamb for extra nourishment. Everything is cooked slowly to bring out the maximum flavour and if you make a big batch, it will keep for a few days in the fridge so you can warm up a bowlful for a fast and healthy meal.
I add a spoonful of harissa, a North African sauce made with chilli pepper, paprika, cumin and other spices for extra warmth and depth of flavour. I’ve recently been using Belazu’s Rose Harissa which includes dried rose petals. This may sound odd, but it provides the delicate scented experience often found in Moroccan food where fruit, nuts and rose petals are often used in savoury dishes. A jar of harissa never goes to waste in my kitchen: one of my favourite breakfasts is fried eggs with rose harissa, toasted Poilane and a dollop of cooling yoghurt.
- 2 large pheasants weighing about 1.5kg in total
- Olive oil for frying
- 100g smoked, streaky bacon, cut into 1cm strips
- 100g shallots, peeled and sliced
- 1 small bunch of thyme, leaves picked from the stalk and roughly chopped
- 8 juniper berries
- 1 litre cider
- 1/2 litre chicken stock
- 25g butter
- 4 apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths and tossed in lemon juice (Cox or Braeburn work well)
- 150ml crème fraiche
- Salt and pepper
For the brine:
- 4lt filtered water
- 1 cup fine sea salt
- 4tbsp sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 lightly crushed juniper berries
- First make the brine: put all the ingredients into a large pot and bring to the boil to dissolve the salt and sugar. Allow to cool to room temperature. Find a container – stainless steel, ceramic or plastic – don’t use aluminium which will taint the flavour – large enough to fit both the birds and the liquid. Refrigerate for 4-6 hours then remove the birds, rinse well under cold water and dry thoroughly. You can now keep the birds for up to 2 days in the fridge until needed.
- To joint the pheasants, put the bird on its back on a board and gently pull the leg away from the body. Slip the knife between the leg and body and cut through the skin. Bend the leg back to snap and release the joint and cut downwards to remove the leg from the body. Repeat on the other side.
- To remove the breasts and wings together, keep the bird on its back, cut through the ribs to remove the under-cavity so that you are left with both breasts and wings on the bone. Using scissors, cut through the length of the breast bone so that you are left with two breasts, on the bone with wing tips attached at each end.
- Season the pheasant joints and, in a large casserole, heat some oil. Brown the joints on each side and remove on to a plate.
- Fry the bacon pieces until crisp then add the shallots and thyme and cook for a couple of minutes to soften. Return the pheasant to the pan with the juniper berries and pour over the cider. Boil for a minute to cook off the alcohol and reduce the liquid slightly. Add the stock and season well. Reduce to a simmer, cover with a piece of baking paper and cook gently. After 20 minutes, take out the breasts, then cook the legs slowly for another 20.
- Remove the pheasant pieces from the pan and boil for several minutes to reduce the liquid by about half. Whisk in the crème fraiche and taste for seasoning.
- In a large frying pan, melt the butter and fry the apple pieces. Resist the temptation to turn them often to allow them to brown well without breaking up.
- Put the apple into the sauce with the pheasant pieces and serve.