This is a classic Tunisian soup, spiced with harissa, one of the most popular condiments in the Middle East and North Africa. We became interested in Tunisian food on our many trips to Paris. A significant number of the kosher restaurants in Paris are Tunisian or Moroccan because of the large number of North African Jews who have made their home in France. This soup is simple, but with an extra "kick" from the hot harissa. It is an excellent first course before a tagine or pkaïla or couscous. In central Illinois, I usually cannot find baby fava beans, so I use lentils. This is an excellent substitution.


Put beans or lentils in a stock pot. Cover with water, bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cover; cook slowly for 30 minutes. Purée the beans.

Peel the garlic. In a clean pot, warm the oil, cook the garlic, and add the tomato paste, cumin, and harissa. Add the bean purée, add water or broth to a soup consistency, and season with salt and pepper. Heat to just below boiling. Serve with extra harissa on the side.

*Harissa is a North African condiment, available in many Middle-Eastern or French specialty shops. It is a mixture of hot peppers, garlic, salt, and usually oil. Occasionally coriander or other herbs are added to the mixture.

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