It was a Saturday morning when I visited my grandparents in Niha, a village located 44 miles away from Beirut in the Chouf district. Everything was peaceful and serene until I saw the family. They were like a beehive, each one had a task to do, one family member was kindling the fire, and another was preparing a huge vat which I never knew still existed. I looked around and there was grandma, the queen of the bees. I was so mesmerized by the energy and the support everyone was showing, I asked what’s going on and the answer was Harisseh day.
Lebanon is well known for its culinary wealth. Food is a part of our Lebanese culture; it has always been a connector between the Lebanese abroad and their sense of nostalgia. Chefs are always on the hunt for new recipes, experimenting with food and trying to add different touches to complete their artwork. However, we’ve always had our traditional dishes correlated with special occasions.
Whenever the word Harisseh is mentioned, an instant image is created in our mind; a group of women gathered around a huge copper vat, taking turns in stirring and adding wood to the raging fire every now and then. Harriseh is not only a traditional dish that we inherited from our ancestors but it is also a symbol of love and collaboration. It takes about six hours to cook Harisseh and sometimes the meat or chicken has to be prepared a day before.
Harisseh is an Armenian dish that was passed to us from ancient times. It is popular in Arab cuisine and common in many villages from Lebanon, however it is cooked on different religious occasion. From ancient times, Shiite Muslims prepare Harrisseh during the 10-days of the Ashoura Commemorations. Christians prepare Harisseh on August 15 (Assumption of Mary), while Druze cook it on Adha.
“Shiite Muslims prepare Harrisseh during the 10-days of the Ashoura Commemorations. Christians prepare Harisseh on August 15 (Assumption of Mary), while Druze cook it on Adha.”
According to grandma, they used to cook Harisseh for the whole neighborhood. People in the village used to gather and unite to make this collaborative dish. Even when grandma was younger her mother used to send her around to distribute Harisseh to the neighbors.
Ingredients: (for up to 10 people)
- A kilo of yellow peeled wheat
- 2 kg chicken
- 250 g butter
- 3 tablespoons of margarine
- 9 liters of water
- Cinnamon sticks
- Bay leaf
- Table spoon of cardamom
- Salt for tasting
1 – The peeled wheat is thoroughly washed and soaked with water for about 12 hours
2 – Next day boil the chicken in about 12 litres of water; add to them cinnamon sticks, bay leaf, cardamom and salt
3 – Remove the well cooked chicken from the water and keep aside
4 – Add the peeled wheat to the chicken stock
5 – Begin stirring the mixture but make sure to let the wheat stick
6 – When observing the cohesion of chicken broth with wheat add the chicken
7– Keep stirring until the mixture gets thicker
For cooking large amounts add the ingredients, each kilo of wheat requires 2 kg chicken and of course add the rest of the ingredients.