Hareesa/ Harrise (with step by step pictures)

What’s your winter morning nostalgia made of? Mine is very simple – a thick blanket of soft snow, a kanger tucked under a pheran, and a steaming hot plate of hareesa, with lavase and nunchai.

What is hareesa, you ask? Well, first of all it is *not* harissa – the lovely North African hot chilli pepper paste, which I’ve come to love, in spite of my epic disappointment when years ago someone mentioned harissa and brought this tiny little pot out, but that’s another story.

It is also *not* Haleem – the spicy stew made with meat, lentils and grains that’s popular in the Indian subcontinent.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, here’s what Hareesa (harisse in Kashmiri) is : a slow cooked dish of lean meat (lamb, mostly) mixed with either rice, or the thin Kashmiri flat bread lavasaa, and delicately flavoured with just a few spices. It is what winter morning dreams are made of. The kind of breakfast that sets you up for a freezing snowy day. It may not look like much but it really is a thing of pure joy.

This is my mum’s recipe, but it’s fairly universal.

Ingredients

1 kilo lamb – any lean cut will do, usually the leg, with a bit of bone works well. (Traditionally a whole leg of lamb will be chopped up in to a few big chunks for this recipe. I used a kilo of boneless leg because, well, that’s what I had, and it turned out super anyway.)

2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed.

3-4 shallots, sliced thinly.

2 small (Lebanese) khobez breads. These are very similar to the Kashmiri lavase flatbreads, so work quite  well. You can use one cup of cooked rice instead of khobez, and that’ll make this recipe gluten free. I’ve even used a couple of slices of bread in a pinch. Not ideal, but not end of the world either.

Oil.

Salt.

Whole spices –

1 inch piece of cinnamon

4-5 pods of green cardamom

2 pods of black cardamom

2 cloves

2 teaspoons of fennel seeds

Method

This is a fairly easy and straightforward recipe. It does call for patience, and some good old fashioned stirring muscles though.

First of all wash the meat, and put it in a (preferably deep, thick bottomed) pan. Add enough water to cover the meat, and a bit more, and the garlic and bring to boil. Cover, simmer and cook for the next one/ one and a half hours till the meat falls off the bones.

At this stage you want to separate the bones and the meat. I like to take the meat out, and then strain the stock to make sure I don’t miss any bones. Then return the meat to the pan with the stock.

Now add all your whole spices, and keep cooking on a medium-low flame. Add the bread, and bring it all back to the boil.  Some folks like to soak the bread in a bit of water before adding it to the pan. Either way what you’re trying to do is make sure the bread sort of dissolves in to the meat/stock. Check for salt, and add some according to taste.

Now basically all you need to do is keep stirring, and grinding, and stirring till the hareesa gets to the right consistency. *Gass dyun* in Kashmiri. This is where you’ll benefit from the wonder that is the * choncha* – Kashmiri wooden cooking spoon – next level, folks!

Depending on your meat you might be stirring – not continuously, thank heavens – for the next hour or two. My dad has this fail proof test for whether the hareesa is done or not. So you try and pick a spoonful up and if you are able to do that without any strands of meat dangling off of your spoonful, then you’re done.

Once you’re done, all that’s left is the tempering. For this heat some oil in a frying pan and fry the shallots till they are almost black. Using a slotted spoon, take them out of the pan and keep aside.

In the same frying pan heat up a generous amount of oil till its almost boiling. Pour this oil, very carefully, all over the hareesa.

Poems have been written on the lovely crackling sound the oil makes as it hits the meat, or at least poems should be written on that utterly beautiful *tchhirr*. Ahem. Anyway, I digress.

Give everything a good stir, making sure the oil is all mixed up with the hareesa. Fry for a few minutes. Take off the flame, and scatter fried shallots on top.

Traditionally hareesa is served topped with fried seekh kebabs, along with Kashmiri bread and nun chai.

You’re allowed to skip the kebab. Ahem.

You’re welcome.

Best Ever Gingerbread Cake

What’s winter without a bit of ginger eh? And gingerbread. And gingerbread cake. Ahem. You see where I’m going with this. Ahem. So. Yes. Gingerbread cake. Fair to say I’ve tried quite a few recipes, adapted quite a few, but let’s just say I hadn’t stopped looking. Well. Until now. This recipe is absolutely fantastic. Dark, treacly,  very gingery, intense. And yet soft, with an incredibly light crumb, and almost too easy. If you like ginger in your baked good, then prepare to be delirious. And if all of this wasn’t enough this also keeps amazingly well for up to 4 days. In fact if anything, the taste actually improves. So bake on a Sunday and your teatime is pretty sorted for the week. You can even have friends over. This recipe is going to single handedly kick start your social life in the new year. What? Fine. I’m assuming too much. It’s only a cake. And your self control is clearly not as legendary as mine. Ahem.

Must say here that I found this recipe on the bbcgoodfood website (surprise surprise!).

Here we go then:

Ingredients:

250g of butter (softened)

250g of dark muscovado sugar

2 (generous) tablespoons of black treacle

375g of plain flour

5 teaspoons of ground ginger

2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

2 eggs, beaten

3 pieces of stem ginger (crystallised/ from a jar – optional)

300ml of whole milk

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method:

First thing you want to do is grease and line two standard 7inch victoria sponge tins with baking paper and preheat your oven to 160C, which is about 140C with fan.

While your oven is getting ready gently heat your butter sugar and treacle in a pan, stirring until smooth. Let it cool a bit.

In a large mixing bowl mix together your flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground spices. To this add the treacly-sugar mixture, and mix thoroughly till well combined. To this add the stem ginger and eggs and mix some more.

Warm the milk, just a tiny bit, and add that to your mix and stir till everything is well blended. Your mixture will look a bit runny at this stage, but that’s nothing to worry about.

Pour into the prepared tins. In they go, into the oven, for about 30-35 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Once done, let them cool in the tins for about 10 mins, and then on a cooling rack till completely cool.

Awesome stuff, no?