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.

 


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..


Middle-Eastern lentil soup

 

Shorber A’das or Lentil soup is usually available in Lebanese and Syrian restaurants (In UAE and Qatar at least). It’s seriously one of the best things I’ve tasted as far as Levant cuisine is concerned. It’s simple, it’s healthy and it’s quick to make, one of these 30 minutes recipes you want to keep.
Here is another post for Priya’s healthy soup event.
Ingredients
Serves 6
Prep: 5 min – Cooking: 25 min
  • 1 cup split red lentil (no soaking needed)
  • 1 medium-size peeled potato, in cubes
  • 1 medium-size peeled tomato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium-size onion, chopped
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 l of chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
Serve with
  • Bread croutons (ideally fried pita in little pieces)
  • Lemon juice
  • Ground cumin
Preparation
In a heavy saucepan, add lentils, all the vegetables and garlic. Sprinkle cumin and cover with the chicken stock. Cover and let simmer for about 20 min. the lentils will cook quickly without pre-soaking.
Purée the soup until smooth. Do not over blend it or the starch from the potato will make it look muddy.
Put the soup back over medium heat. Add the olive oil and bring to a boil while stirring.
Serve hot with bread croutons, a sprinkle of cumin and lemon.

Lentils are a great source of fibres and potassium. I need both! I already had 2 bowls today, which brings me to that: when you want to reheat the soup for any reason, you may want to add some water to liquefy it again. Just in case..