Moroccan barley soup - Dchicha or Tchicha

Moroccan barley soup – Chorbat Tchicha or Dchicha

Barley is widely used in Morocco to make soups, bread, couscous and galettes. Its deep flavour is appreciated across North Africa and people also believe in its health attributes.

Barley soup comes in a white version with milk, a yellow version with less paprika/tomato addition and a red version with a bit of tomato paste or grated tomatoes. The last version gets the Khlii treatment in the city of Fez, which makes it even tastier. It’s a soup that hardly needs spices.

Ramadan lasts 29 to 30 days and soups are served at Iftar/Ftour (the time we break the fast). In our family, we usually have 2 soups of the day because not everyone likes the same thing, but also because there is always leftover soup from the previous day. Barley soup is one of the Moroccan soups that will be served when someone fancies it.

Tchicha with khlii and agriche and less tomato paste

If you don’t have khlii or khlii sediments, use a smokey ingredient such as bacon. It won’t be similar but at least it will lift it a bit.

Khlii can be made using an express method. Its sediments are widely used in Fassi kitchen to flavour many dishes. It’s a condiment on its own.

If you can’t have khlii for whatever reason, make a seafood version of this dish by adding fresh prawns (shell on for more flavour) and chopped squids. I won’t suggest supermarket-frozen packets for this recipe.

Tunisian-inspired version with prawns, it takes a bit more tomato paste 

I also make tchicha soup with the meat from Merguez or mini Moroccan spiced meatballs (with cumin, paprika, parsley and coriander). This could be another option to explore in case you can’t get hold of khlii.

 

Ingredients

Serves 4 to 6
Prep: 5 min - Cooking: 35 min
  • 1/2 cup of barley grits, small caliber
  • 1 medium-size onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of dried broad beans, or 1/2 cup of fresh broad beans (see note)
  • 2 liters of water
  • 1 cube of bouillon
  • 2 tbsp of tomato paste or 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp of ground black pepper
  • A good pinch of cayenne or a tsp of mild Harissa
  • 1/4 cup of coriander, chopped
  • 1 strip of khlii
  • 1 tbsp of khlii’s sediments (agriche)
  • 2 tbsps of olive oil (if you are not using khlii)
  • Salt to taste

 

Preparation

Rince the barley grits until water comes out clear.

In a deep saucepan, place water/bouillon, chopped onions and the broad/fava beans. Cook covered until soft.

Add the rest of the ingredients except the coriander and khlii. Stir frequently.

Passed 15 minutes, the barley grits should have become soft. Correct the seasoning, add the chopped coriander and khii. Add water if you think that the soup is too thick.

Serve warm.

Notes

  • Dried broad/fava beans need pre-soaking from 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Fresh broad/fava beans can be parboiled for a few minutes before adding them, which comes in handy so you can peel them before you add them to the soup.

 


Moroccan qadra soup with a pigeon and eggs

Moroccan Qadra soup with pigeons or lamb fries

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Qadra or Kadra soup is another very old Fassi soup where time is of essence. It a couple of hours in its cooking as the quality of the consommé that which will result from this is what everyone is after. It’s a soothing soup especially for those who feel poorly. Traditionally, Kadra soup of pigeons is what every woman who gave birth should have after giving birth to get some of her power back.

You could add whole shallots or small white onions to the kadra and serve
them unbroken, some like it that way 


Kadra soup can be made using pigeons or lamb testicles especially in the morning of Eid El Kbir (the feast of sacrifice). Both are cooked the same way with the possible addition of potatoes in the later.

While these options for kadra soup might put off some people, just remember that in the old days, people were less judgemental about what to eat and most of all, more appreciative of the bounties of nature. Offals and game were a big thing and for some, they still are, although I feel this kadra recipe with pigeon or with lamb testicle has gone a bit forgotten with the new generation. Pigeons have become quite expensive in Morocco and they get replaced with chicken in many cases, including the famous Bastilla with pigeons.

Basically, kadra soup recipe will use the same set of spices used in all the kadras posted so far. Let’s what this recipe is about.

Ingredients

Serves 6 to 8 persons
Prep: 10 min – Cooking : 60 min

  • 4 pigeons
  • 500g of small white onions and 1 chopped yellow onion (substitute white onions with sliced yellow onions)
  • 2 tbsps of parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp of ground white/black pepper, mixed
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick, about 8 cm tall
  • A good pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 tsp of smen (Moroccan cured and aged butter)
  • 2 tbsps of butter
  • Fresh free range eggs, (1 per person)
  • Water

 

Preparation

  • Clean the pigeons and leave them a brine (for 1 l of water use 1 tablespoons  of salt and 2 tablespoons of vinegar, lemon or orange rinds). Leave for 2 hours, rinse thoroughly and drain.
  • You could halve the pigeons whichever way you prefer or even cut them in quarters.
  • If you are using yellow onions, slice them finely and add them in the beginning of the cooking.
    If you are using whole shallots or fresh spring onions with a round bottom, leave them uncut and add them halfway of the cooking process while you should add the chopped onion in the beginning. If the pigeons are cooked through, you could fish them out, cover them and carry on simmering the onions. You could place the pigeons back in the last 5 minutes.
  • Mix all ingredients in a deep pot and cover with water, leaving 1 tablespoon of parsley (ore more) until the end. Cover the pot and cook on medium heat for 60 min.
  • 15 to 10 minutes before the end of the cooking, add butter and the eggs (with shell on) and cook them in the broth. We serve them soft to hard-boiled so it’s a personal choice.
  • Serve hot, each person should have a bit of pigeon and  a whole egg in their bowl.

Note:

1- For more texture, you could add a handful of broken vermicelli 5 minutes before the end of cooking. Children seem to like it.

2- It’s important that the pigeons are not more than 5 weeks old otherwise they’ll be tough and won’t cook easily.

 

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Healthy Moroccan millet soup: Aneeli or Illane

Moroccan millet soup called “Aneeli” or ” h’ssoua d’Illane” is a very simple and yet extremely healthy soup. It does not require many ingredients although it may vary depending on the families. You just need to find the major one to make it.

Our Moroccan millet grows in warm areas and especially in Ouarzazate area.

Millet is known for its health benefits: relatively rich in iron and phosphorus, B vitamins, iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc, proteins, a good dose of calcium and it’s said to be gluten-free!
 
When my mother and her auntie (65 years old then and now 71) went to visit their doctor complaining about some pains in their bones, they were highly advised to incorporate the Moroccan millet soup into their diet, besides increasing their intake in milk. Most of Moroccan associate this cereal with strong bones. Presumably, women’s bones tend to age and become weak as the years go by.
 
A lactose-free Moroccan millet porridge with orange blossom water and cinnamon
or garlic, ginger and black pepper for a savoury version.

Moroccan millet soup can be slightly thin or porridge-like in texture depending on preferences. You may also serve it on the savoury side as it’s widely known or on the sweet side.

And while it needs milk in the last simmering minutes to finish it off, you don’t have to add it in case someone in your house is lactose-intolerant. There is another reason why I sometimes omit milk: I like to give this in a porridge-texture to my little toddler and adding milk is believed to stop the body from absorbing iron.

Feel free to add butter or olive oil before eating it
The type of millet used in Illane or Aneeli soup is something that could be either sorghum or pearl millet but definitely not the plain millet seeds (I tried, they didn’t deliver).

 

The plain millet seeds found here in UK shops do not make a good substitute
for this soup as it does not have a nutty flavour 

 

The type of millet used in this soup should be cleaned first, toasted to bring out its nutty flavour and then crushed to a fine semolina.

Millet soup Illane or Aneeli with millet
So, what are your options with this soup?
Plain (standard version)
Just cooked in water. Salted and finished with milk. You could go butter or olive oil which you add before serving.
 
Spicy and herby
Add crushed garlic, ground ginger, ground black/white pepper and even some warming herbs such as thyme, rosemary, sage…You may still finish it with milk and thicken it.
 
Porridge with Moroccan flavours
I serve this porridge in the morning for breakfast. Either you add milk or don’t but the flavourings I use are cinnamon and orange blossom. Then I add a dollop of butter before serving. Sweetening it with honey is an option.
Mixed with barley semolina: just cook it in any of the 3 ways mentioned above but replace a portion of millet with barley grits/semolina (say 50%-50%)and adjust the liquids accordingly.
 
Ingredient for standard Aneeli or Illan soup
Serves 4 – 6
Prep: 2 min – Cooking: 35 – 40 min
  • 200g of millet, cleaned, toasted and ground to fine grits
  • 1 tsp of salt (adjust to taste)
  • 1.2 l of water (at least 6 times the weigh of millet used)
  • 1 tsp of smen (optional)
  • 2 tbsps of butter or olive oil
  • 500-700 ml of milk
Removing stones and any undesired bits before toasting the unhulled millet

Preparation
In my family, we slightly grease the inside of the pot (sides and bottom) with smen. It just add a subtle touch to the soup or porridge (whichever the texture you like) we are about to make.
And while the traditional way of starting this soup is to add millet grits to boiling water, I just mix it with normal cold tap water and place the pot on a medium heat. Stir to avoid any lumps.
Give it 15 to 20 minutes and start stirring from time to time. If you feel that millet needs water then add about 1/2 cup and see how it goes..Do it progressively.
Passed 30 minutes of cooking, the grits should have become tender. Add the milk and correct the seasoning.
Carry on simmering the soup until it the liquid has reduced and and the millet cooked (usually for another 15 minutes).
Drop in the butter or oil and mix. I find using a whisker quite handy but you just use a spatula.
This soup thicken as it cools down. It also tend to form a sort of crust from the top if it’s not covered, especially if you have gone for a porridge texture. Take that into consideration before thickening it too much in our last minutes of cooking.
Make this soup in this cold winter and enjoy its benefits. My 21 months old baby seems to love it especially with orange blossom and cinnamon..

The healing Moroccan Tadeffi soup

Tadeffi or Dadeffi is a typical Moroccan soup made during cold days especially for people suffering from cold, asthma, problems with digestion, migraine, PMS etc..It is also highly recommended for women who just gave birth as it’s invigorating.

Tadeffi is a family recipe shared between family members in Fes, Meknes and The Mountain region near these two cities. It’s a sort of mother-to-daughter thing..

La Boîte à merveilles” is a  quite famous autobiographical novel written in 1954 by the Moroccan author Ahmed Sefrioui. Chapter IX, he refers to Tadeffi as a mean to make Sidi Mohammed (the hairdresser in the story) feel better.. It’s a nice story by the way. It’s been taught at schools back home.

Tadeffi soup is made with humble ingredients. However, pennyroyal remains its key ingredient. This plant is also used in Moroccan tea and I love it. It’s so refreshing as it’s somewhere between mint, spearmint and peppermint but on a milder note.

In Morocco, pennyroyal is referred to as “Fleeyou” or “menthe pouliot” or “menthe sauvage
When my baby boy is sneezy, I give him a hot milk with infused pennyroyal and he does sleep like a baby for really, same goes for his father whenever he gets a mild cough. These are traditional remedies I still stick to since they’re all natural and have proven their efficiency.

Left: fresh pennyroyal. Right: drying it in the shade

I’m planning to grow fresh pennyroyal here in London. But today’s soup needs the dried version which I didn’t forget to bring from Morocco this time. 1/2 kg makes a lot of dried pennyroyal so we’re using it regularly, at least with the Moroccan tea.

A properly dried pennyroyal which has kept a bit of its
green colour as well as its refreshing smell

Back to today’s soup. Tadeffi is made of semolina (fine wheat semolina or barley grits) or just plain flour then some good things: a lot of garlic, ground pepper, pennyroyal. Some additions such as saffron, ginger, thyme and oregano are perfectly fine and depend on the region. The soup is then served with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil.

Ingredients
Serves 6
Prep: 5 min- Cooking: About 30-40 min

 

  • 50g of semolina (I used fine semolina, it gives a better texture)
  • 1.6 to 2 l water (adjust according to absorption and to your preference)
  • 4 cloves to a head of garlic (whole and unpeeled)
  • 1 tsp of ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 2 to 3 tbsps of dried pennyroyal, toasted in a pan for 1 minute and ground to powder

Optional

  • 1 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1 tsp of dried thyme or and oregano
  • A good pinch of saffron threads

Serve with

  • Olive oil

 

Grind toasted dried pennyroyal into a powder before using it in the soup

Preparation

In a medium-size pot, combine all ingredients (except flour or semolina), cover and bring to boil then count about 20 to 25 minutes, check if the garlic has gone tender. Squeeze the cloves out and discard their peeling. Try to mash them with the spatula. It’s ok (advisable) if you keep the garlic bits obvious.
Simmering the mix before adding the semolina
In a small bowl, stir the semolina with a few spoon of water to avoid lumps in case you add it straight away to the boiling water.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the semolina mixture. I find using a manual whisk quite helpful to integrate the semolina mix without having to face that ugly curdling/lumpy issue.
Bring back the pot over medium low heat and keep stirring until the semolina seems cooked (about 10 minutes).
It’s good to keep some bits of garlic
The thickness of Tadeffi soup is a matter of preference but it should not be too runny nor too heavy.
Bear in mind that Tadeffi will cool down and the semolina will keep on absorbing more liquid. So it will ultimately thicken. Sometimes, I just wait for this to happen and warm it again to make sure I
have the consistency that suits me.

 

Serve Tadeffi hot in bowls with a drizzle of olive oil and as we say in Morocco: “Beshshifa” (May this heal you).