Finally made a pot of hlelem last night and boy was it ever delicious! Although mine did not look as beautiful as the photo in the newspaper, it tasted and smelled fabulous. The recipe was pretty straightforward and easy to follow. I had planned to make the soup for dinner on Monday (after finding the harissa), but did not read the recipe carefully enough to notice that the beans needed to be soaked overnight. Such a rookie mistake. Oh well. I ended up soaking them while I was at work yesterday so they were ready to go for dinner last night.
I have to admit that I was more than a little apprehensive about how the hlelem was going to turn out. When I opened the can of harissa and took a big whiff the first thing I noticed was how "earthy" it smelled. Then the chile powder hit my nose and I felt the burn. My immediate thought was, "Oh crap, my kitchen's going to smell like dirt and we're going to have heartburn for days!" Thankfully I was wrong on both accounts.
R and I both kept commenting on how each of the different spices in the harissa hit the tongue in a different place so that the flavors just kept coming! We don't eat that many vegetarian meals, but this one is a keeper for sure. So much flavor, so many textures and so filling that I don't think either one of us even missed the meat.
We each ate two bowls of the soup last night and took leftovers for lunch today... I'd say it was a success.