Monday, December 28, 2009

Djibouti - Harira

I’ve been cooking meals around the world since late August and I haven’t attempted to figure up how much I’ve spent on food or how many hours I’ve spent in the kitchen. Each month has blurred into the next and I’m consciously aware that I have way over a hundred countries left to go. Every day I’m obsessively searching for recipes and running to the grocery store. Our dinners begin with my kids asking what country we’re eating and then patiently posing for the camera as I snap away at them eating. They smile in almost every picture even if they don’t like what we’re eating. John, who is very competitive, pushes me to continue so that I finish this project in a year.

My life is centered around food and though I’m not paying much attention to the news anymore I can’t help but be sucked into the same media hype as everyone else, like the Jon and Kate break-up, the mistresses of Tiger Woods and the Swine flu.

Kevin, the kids and I ran out to get our H1N1 shots as soon as we were able, and the night I cooked the Djibouti meal, Kevin called me from work to remind me that it was the last night, until January, for us to get our seasonal flu shots. It was snowing and I considered the inconvenience of going out to the clinic to stand in line with the kids, for God knows how long.

I decided to go but I had already begun cooking. I was making Harira, a beef stew with lentils, chickpeas, tomatoes, spices and pasta. I told Kevin that he would have to finish making it since I had no idea how long it would take us to get the flu shot. He had already gotten his shot at work.

Djibouti is a small country located in the Horn of Africa. It borders Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. There is nothing in the media about this country. It gained independence from France in 1977 - after a hundred years of occupation - and it may be considered just a transit point on the road to Eritrea and Ethiopia but it’s stable with a well organized infrastructure, unlike some of its larger neighbors.

Djibouti is ninety percent desert with the hottest and driest climate on earth. However, it has one of the best harbors on Africa’s eastern coast making its location its main economic asset. Much of Ethiopia’s foreign trade passes through the port, providing Djibouti with its primary source of income. Plus, in an effort to counter terrorism, France and the U.S. have stationed troops in Djibouti. This provides the country with additional income. It’s the only place in Africa where the U.S. has a base.

It ended up taking us well over an hour to get our flu shots and when we got home I saw our Harira. It was a massive conglomerate of food in one big pot, and even though Kevin and the kids didn’t seem to mind it, I didn’t like it at all. There was too much stuff mixed in together and I didn’t like the idea of lentils and pasta together. There was so much of it that we ended up throwing most of it away.

I wasted food for a country that is poor and relying heavily on foreign aid. It made me wonder how I can help feed those who don’t have enough to eat. From now on I’m going to regularly supply the food bank with food – canned food, not my Eat Planet leftovers.


1 onion, chopped
A pound and a half of steak, cut up into bite-size pieces
1 cup of lentils
1 can chickpeas
1 28 oz. can of chopped tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
3 lemons, quartered
1 cup chopped celery
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 pinch saffron
3/4 cup sifted flour
2 cups water
1 large handful of angel-hair pasta
Salt and pepper to taste
2 litters of sparkling water

Add oil to a large pot with meat, cumin, saffron, cilantro, parsley, onion, celery, and salt. Cook for 5 minutes then add the sparkling water and cook for a further 10 minutes. (I’m not sure what the sparkling water is suppose to do) Add lentils and chickpeas and cook for 50 minutes. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for another 20 minutes. Mix the flour with 2 cups of cold water and mix well with a whisk to get out any lumps. Pour this mixture into the pot stirring all the time. Add pasta and cook for 10 minutes. Serve hot and garnish with lemon.

1 comment:

  1. I love your blog! I'm cooking my way around the world too - day 46 and a longgggg way to go! I'm making the same recipe you have listed here, along with flat bread. Keep up the great work - your family is learning so much from you!