Hlelem Soup

From Arlene Abitan

The Hlelem soup recipe here comes from the Tunisian-Jewish community. It was eaten by Arlene Abitan and her family to mark the end of Tisha b’Av. This holiday is an annual fast day that commemorates a number of disasters that occurred in Jewish history, namely, the destruction of the first and second Temples.

Growing up, the women in Arlene’s family would make the Hlelum (small round pasta) by hand, rolling the pasta dough into small balls and letting them dry until added to the soup. To this day, Arlene only makes (and eats!) this soup once a year.


  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 cups cooked lentils (1 cup dry lentils)
  • 1 cup cooked acini di pepe pasta (½ cup dry acini)
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 – 2 tsp harissa, add more or less depending on your spice tolerance
  • 1 small preserved lemon, finely chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp, olive oil
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped parsley, for garnish


Place the dry lentils in a strainer or colander. Pick over and remove any shrivelled lentils, debris, or rocks. Thoroughly rinse under running water. Transfer the rinsed lentils to a small saucepan and add 2 cups of water. Bring the water to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low to maintain a very gentle simmer. You should only see a few small bubbles and some slight movement in the lentils. Simmer uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes. Add more water as needed to make sure the lentils are just barely covered. Cook the lentils until they’re no longer crunchy.

Cook acini di pepe pasta in a pot of salted boiling water to package instructions, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain well in a sieve. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a medium pot and saute onions until golden brown. Add garlic and saute for a minute. Add cumin, harissa and preserved lemon and saute for another minute.

Add vegetable broth to the pot and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the lentils and the acini di pepe to the pot and let simmer for 10-15 minutes so the flavours come together.

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with chopped parsley. It tastes even better when reheated the next day.

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