The only good thing about February, to my mind, is that my birthday falls this month. I need a bit of cheering up at this point in winter. If you share my dislike of cold and damp (and my financial inability to spend winter somewhere sunny) you might enjoy this heart- and stomach-warming soup.

It is inspired by harira, an earthy, spicy, hearty Moroccan recipe, often eaten to break the Ramadan fast. It is a main course in itself. Just add bread because who doesn’t like a carb overload at this time of year?

Harira is often made with lamb, but this is a veg-heavy version; as ever, adapt to your own tastes. I used home-made chicken stock as a base, but a good vegetable broth works too, so it's easily made vegetarian/vegan.

If you have time, leave it to sit and thicken up for anything up to 24 hours and re-heat when you want to eat. Try it with warmed flatbreads for dunking and scooping.

About Linda

Linda Duffin is a food writer who operates a cookery school, Mrs Portly’s Kitchen Classes, from her beautiful Tudor home in mid-Suffolk. Students are invited, in season, to plunder the kitchen garden and orchard in her two-and-a-half-acre garden for ingredients and can also book a stay as part of a course. Linda works closely with local producers, some of whom join her in teaching classes in their specialist areas. The Mrs Portly name, Linda says, started as a joke but she has grown into it.

Great British Life: Morrocan-spiced Vegetable Soup. Morrocan-spiced Vegetable Soup. (Image: Linda Duffin)

Moroccan-spiced Vegetable Soup recipe

(serves 2-4)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped

2-3 stalks of celery, diced

3 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 sweet potato, peeled and diced

About 140g swede, peeled and diced

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp hot smoked paprika

1 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

Large pinch of saffron strands, crumbled and soaked in a little hot water

1 tbsp tomato puree

4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped, skinned if preferred

About 250g tinned or bottled chickpeas

125g green lentils (or 100g green and 25g red)

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

Salt and pepper, to taste

The juice of 1/2 lemon plus extra lemon chunks to serve

Large handful each of chopped fresh coriander and parsley


Heat the oil in a deep pan and gently fry the onions and celery until soft and golden. Add the carrots, sweet potato, swede and garlic, stir to coat in oil and cook for five minutes more.

Now add the spices, except the saffron, stir and cook off for a few minutes. Pour in the saffron with its water, chopped tomatoes and tomato puree, the drained chickpeas and lentils, stirring again to coat in the spicy mixture. I like to use a handful of red lentils in addition to the green ones, to thicken the soup.

Add the stock and bring to a boil.

Put a lid on at a tilt and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes or until the lentils are tender and the flavours have blended.

Stir in the lemon juice and most of the herbs, reserving a few to garnish.

Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper and more lemon juice, to taste. Ladle into deep bowls and serve with extra lemon to squeeze over. [ends]