The Tunisian chilli paste in this delicious and colourful soup is enhanced by za'atar croutons. Halloumi cheese makes a great gluten-free alternative to the croutons, if you prefer. Just toss chunks with olive oil and za'atar, and roast for 5–6 minutes, until golden. Like so many others, this soup freezes really well (without the croutons).


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 175g peeled and chopped onions
  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 350g peeled and diced carrots
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 teaspoons harissa paste
  • 750ml vegetable or chicken stock
  • juice of 1 ⁄2 a lemon

For the za’atar croutons

  • 3 thick slices of white yeast bread or challah would also work well
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 generous teaspoons za’atar

To serve

  • 2 teaspoons thick natural yoghurt a few coriander leaves


  1. Pour the olive oil into a saucepan over a medium to high heat and add the chopped onions, garlic and carrots. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and toss until coated.
  2. Cover with a butter paper or a piece of parchment paper and a saucepan lid. Turn the heat down to low and cook gently for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until the vegetables have almost softened.
  3. Remove the lid and paper, stir in the harissa and turn the heat up.
  4. Pour in the stock and boil until the veg is completely tender. Pour into a liquidizer and blend until smooth. Add lemon juice and more salt and pepper to taste – it may even need more harissa. To make the croutons, cut the crusts off the bread and cut the bread into 1.5cm cubes.
  5. Toss in a bowl with the olive oil and za'atar, seasoning with salt and pepper. Spread the croutons out on a baking tray, in a single layer, and cook in an oven preheated to 220°C/200°C fan/gas 7 for 5–6 minutes, until golden and crisp.
  6. Serve the steaming hot soup in warm bowls, with little blobs of yoghurt, a scattering of coriander leaves, and a few croutons on each.

Notes: If you don’t want to turn on the oven just for the croutons, you can sauté them in a frying pan, tossing regularly, instead. If you have some leftover cooked carrots, they can be used in place of some or all of the carrots in the recipe here. Add with the stock and continue as above.