Harissa – Food for Strengthening the Believer

Harissa brings the ancient taste of Arab cuisine at the tablecloth of everyday Muslims.  It is an old recipe that has withstood the test of time against various cuisines, only to become incorporated in them. It combines ingredients endorsed by tibenabvi and has itself been liked by The Holy Prophet (SAW). The dish has been readily adapted in numerous other regions, with each one drawing upon its base and adding their own cultural twist to it.

It is widely served as a supper meal since it restores energy for the next day and strengthens the body. It is rich in complex proteins and carbohydrates, which take time for digestion and hence keep the stomach occupied. This induces feeling of being sated for longer and restrains the body from eating more food after a proper meal.

About Harissa

Harissa has been known by many different names across different cultures. In Arab cuisine, it is called harees, deriving from the work harasa which means mashed meat and grain (wheat or barley). Harissa recipe has old roots in Arab culture since the times of The Holy Prophet (SAW). Ranging from sweet to savory and even bland variants, harissa is a versatile dish which can take on almost any tastes it has been assigned.

Harissa is particularly enjoyed as a special treat during the month of Ramadhan. Even though the dish contains complex proteins and carbohydrates, it is particularly light on digestion and prevents bloating. It can be cooked with minimal spices for those preferring a milder taste to their taste. Alternatively it can be prepared for patients with weak digestion to ensure their bodies receive nutrients without stressing their digestive system.

The harissa recipe discussed here is a cultural one, which has been adapted from Arab cuisine and found its place on Kashmiri tables. Harissa suits the scenic and snowy regions of Kashmir, Pakistan, as the dish warms the body and keeps the person active. The infusion of proteins, carbohydrates and fats provides ample calories for metabolism and keeping the body active. Since most of the year is cold with snow, the dish has become a staple for the indigenous people. In any way, harissa remains a revered dish whose preparation has become as much traditional as religious.

The Ingredients

Following is the list of ingredients needed for preparing harissa:

No. Ingredients Quantity State
  Main Ingredients
01 Beef 1 kilogram With bones, chopped in chunks
02 Yellow lentils 100 grams Washed, soaked overnight
03 Wheat 100 grams Cracked
04 Rice 100 grams Washed,
05 Onion 1 medium sized Quartered
06 Garlic 1 entire bulb Peeled, whole
07 Ginger ½ teaspoon Peeled, finely chopped
08 Oil As needed Liquid
09 Salt As needed Granulated
10 Red pepper 1 teaspoon Powdered
11 Garam masala ½ teaspoon Powdered
12 Black cardamom 2 pieces Whole
13 Cloves 4-6 pieces Whole
14 Cinnamon 2 x 2 inch pieces Whole
15 Green chilies 5-6 Whole
16 Onion 1 small sized Peeled, finely chopped
17 Garlic 2 cloves Peeled, finely chopped
18 Green chilies 3 Whole
19 Garam masala 1 teaspoon Powdered
20 Oil As needed Liquid

Preparation of Harissa

Following is the complete detail of harissa recipe, where each step and preparation phase has been identified separately. The hearty dish serves as an excellent main course for your nightly supper. Although it requires effort for its preparation, it is quite rewarding. Harissa is a very versatile dish which has proven its worth by being adapted in different cultures. It can be changed as per your very own desires to create the perfect blend of tastes. While the Arab recipe requires fatty lamb meat on most occasions, the Kashmiri variant incorporates lean beef, spices and a special “tarka” to add a burst of spices towards the dish’s finish. This produces a finer, leaner and spicier finish.

Preparing Meat

1. Wash beef thoroughly and place it in a pressure cooker to thoroughly cook it. Add the salt, red pepper, garam masala, black cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and green chilies to the cooker. Wait for the pressure cooker’s whistle to start blowing and continue to cook the meat for another 30 minutes.

2. Strain the beef, separating the stock and solids.

3. Separate the beef from the bones, picking and transferring it to mortar and pestle for mashing. Mash until it has been completely pulverized.

Preparing the Lentils and Rice

1. Wash the lentils and soak for 30 minutes. This will ensure they are moist and tender which results in a very supple consistency when cooked.

2. Was the rice thoroughly and soak for 30 minutes.

3. Wash the wheat and soak overnight. This softens the otherwise hard grain.

4. Place the wheat over high heat and bring to a boil. Simmer for 45 minutes until soft and thoroughly cooked.

5. Grind the soaked rice in mortar and pestle until reduced to tiny pieces. Pour 1.5 times the water in cups as much as the rice and bring to a boil. Let it boil until holes form and then cover while cooking over low heat. Cook for 5 minutes.

6. Bring the lentils to a boil by adding 2 cups water and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

7. Combine the rice, lentils and a little beef stock in a blender and blend.

 Finishing Harissa

1. Add about 6 tablespoons of oil and in a pot and heat over high flame. Add the ginger and sauté. Add the beef and sauté.

2. Add the beef stock to the meat along with blended rice and yellow lentils. Cook until mixed thoroughly.

3. Add the wheat to the dish and stir to avoid burning at the base of pot. The dish will start to take on a thicker consistency, with the ingredients conglomerating together.

Preparing the Tarka

1. Take about 8 tablespoons of oil in a pan and heat over high flame. Sauté the onions until they are caramelized and light browned. Add the green chilies. Poke holes in them to avoid bursting, which can send spray of oil everywhere.

2. Add the garam masala to the tarka and stir. Spread evenly over harissa to add the final touches.


  • Pulverize the meat completely with mortar and pestle. It should not retain rashers; instead, it should be beaten to a paste like consistency.
  • Clean the yellow lentils, rice and wheat with water thoroughly. The water should not have any murkiness left.
  • Do not let the dish set for long in its final stages. Stir periodically to avoid burning at the base of pot.
  • Feel free to make variations with the spices as required. Harisa recipe is incredibly versatile and can be modified to adapt according to different cultural cuisines.