Barley grits, also known as cracked barley, are a kitchen staple in many Moroccan households, where they often get cooked into savory soups such as zesty, peppery Hssoua Belboula Hamra. For this recipe, the barley is cooked until tender along with tomatoes, onions and Moroccan seasoning. It’s perfect as a light supper on a night when you’re not in the mood for much fussing in the kitchen but want something hot, delicious and satisfying.
Of course, you need not restrict yourself to serving the barley and tomato soup in the evening; in some families, savory porridge-like soups are also standard breakfast fare. Large barley grits (referred to as dchicha) are best if you want a lot of chewy bite to the soup; otherwise, medium-caliber grits are fine.
The recipe calls for a little lamb or beef, which may be replaced with chicken or omitted for a vegetarian version. For added flavor, replace some of the water with broth or stock (I use stock cubes), adjusting salt as necessary. Tomato paste is optional, but it will add color and richer tomato flavor.
As with many grain-based soups, this one is best served immediately after cooking because the barley grits will continue to swell and thicken as the soup sits. Add water (and a little more seasoning if needed) to thin the soup when reheating.
Moroccan Cracked Barley Soup with Tomatoes - Hssoua Belboula Hamra
- 1 cup cracked barley or barley grits (medium or large caliber)
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 3 oz. beef or lamb, diced (one handful)
- 1 onion, grated (medium)
- 2 or 3 tomatoes, grated (seeds and skin discarded)
- 3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- 1.5 tsp salt, or to taste (less if using stock)
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp turmeric (optional)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste, or to taste (optional)
- 8.5 cups water (can use stock or broth instead)
- Wash the barley grits in a bowl of water and drain. Repeat several times until the water is no longer cloudy when swishing the barley around. Leave the barley to drain while you start the soup.
- In a 3-quart (3-liter) or larger pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the grated onions and meat, stirring until the onion is translucent and the meat is browned.
- Add the grated tomatoes, chopped parsley, spices and water (or stock). Bring to a boil over high heat then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste (if using) and the barley grits. Continue simmering for another 15 minutes, or until the barley and meat are tender and the broth is slightly thickened.
- Taste and adjust seasoning, and serve.