Harees is one of the daily Ramadan staples here in the UAE. It is easy on the stomach after a long day of fasting. It is a very simple, delicious,and filling dish that can be eaten at Iftar (breaking the fast) or for Suhoor the meal before Fajr (morning) prayers. It is served either alone as a main dish or as a side dish with all the other goodies during Ramadan.
During Ramadan, you will find this is one of those dishes that is widely shared between neighbors….if you should receive a bit too much or you get tired of eating it, it will freeze very nicely. Just freeze it in an aluminum container, thaw it out in the fridge, and then heat it up in the oven.
Harees is also one of those dishes that you will find at every occasion…Ramadan, Eid, weddings, engagement parties, any special event…so I would classify it as one of the foods in UAE popular culture.
The “harees” grain is wheatberries in English and can be made with either lamb or chicken. When my family was living in America, I also used pearl barley for this because it looked so similar to wheatberries and I achieved the same tasty result using it.
Also, you can add as much or as little chicken or lamb as you wish. For the 2 cups of harees, I will usually use 1 kg of meat. Of course, the more meat you use the more richer the dish. But for economic reasons the harees would be more. If you are using lamb this is a good time to use those bones and make a stock from it and debone what you can use.
I made Harees Laham (Lamb Harees) just the other day and I experimented using the crockpot/slow cooker. It is summertime and the temperatures outside are at least 45C. During Ramadan in the summer, I want to spend as little time in the kitchen! The results…I think it turned out better in the crockpot than cooking it over the stove top!
Okay now, on to the recipe:
Harees (serves 8-10)
2 cups of harees (wheatberries) For best results, you will need to soak the harees (wheatberries) overnight or for at least 8 hours.
1 kilo (2 pounds) of chicken or lamb
2 sticks of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of black pepper powder
2-3 teaspoons of salt
samen (local-made clarified butter) or melted butter
First of all, you will want to boil the chicken or the meat until tender. After boiling until tender, debone your chicken or lamb. Save the stock to use later on in this recipe.
In a large pot, add the harees, deboned chicken or lamb, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and the stock. Add water if needed. The stock/water need to cover the harees by about 2 or 3 inches.
Bring to a boil and then turn down the fire/heat to low. Let it boil, boil, boil until it reduces to a watery oatmeal-like consistency. Total cooking time will be about 1 hour…I didn’t time it.
(Note: Be sure to check every 10 minutes and just stir the pot so that the harees won’t burn at the bottom.)
Now you are ready to blend the harees. Using a hand mixer, blend the harees in the pot until smooth. It won’t be entirely smooth. You can also use one of those hand blenders to do the job.
The harees when ready will have a thick consistency. Serve on a small platter and spoon the samen (clarified butter) or melted butter on top to cover. Some people will decorate the top of the harees with powdered cinnamon in a simple pattern.
Cooking Harees in the crockpot or slow cooker:
This was my experiment: If you are cooking the harees using a crockpot, you will just need to add all the ingredients to the crockpot. Add enough stock and water to equal 3 liters (12 cups). I cooked this on high for 6 hours.
I added the lamb without deboning (I don’t think I will do that again). I had to add a little more water so that I could blend it and then let it cook a little bit more (maybe an hour).
I will be making the harees again this way today because I think that it turned out much better than on the stovetop. This time though I will be using already cooked and deboned lamb.