Zdir (Tunisian tomato-chili soup)

Read this article in the Atlantic yesterday and decided to give it a try. The article doesn’t give a precise recipe, so I’ve deciphered it the best I can below (making a minor substitution and leaving out the semolina). I just made it. It’s really damned good.

I really have no idea whether this can be properly called “zdir” since I’ve been unable to locate an actual recipe (or any other information) about it. Either way, it’s crazy tasty with a good solid spicy punch. If you don’t care for spicy food, skip the harissa and chilis. If you do like spicy food, you have to try this.

  • 2-3 dried red chilis (I used 2 Sanaam chilis)
  • 1 oz olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp harissa (this is a lot, I might halve this next time…it’s potent stuff)
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp ground caraway
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tin diced tomatoes + juice (28fl oz)
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1 tbsp preserved lemon, chopped
  • 1 tbsp capers, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olives, chopped
  • 1 tbsp sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried mint (or to taste)
  1. Soak chilis in a bit of water for 15-20 mins. Chop finely.
  2. Pour olive oil into a pot and heat over med-low, when warm add garlic + let steep for 5 mins or so. Don’t saute the garlic…just let it warm through and flavour the oil.
  3. Turn up the heat a bit and add tomato paste, harissa, and a bit of the tomato juice. Whisk together well and simmer for a few mins.
  4. Add chilis, caraway, and coriander to the paste. Simmer another few mins.
  5. Pour in diced tomatoes with their juices and the extra 1/4 cup of water. Add chopped sundried tomatoes, and mix well. Simmer over low/med-low for 20 mins or so. Add more water if needed.
  6. Optionally, if you have an immersion stick blender, use that now to chop up the tomatoes a bit. If you prefer a chunkier soup, or if you don’t have an immersion blender, just skip this part.
  7. Quickly rinse the chopped preserved lemon, capers, and olives (just to get rid of the excess vinegars/etc). Stir these into the soup. Let sit on low to heat through for another 10-15 mins.
  8. Remove from heat, stir in dried mint, serve.
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