Hreessey (pronounced hur-ee-ssay) is a traditional porridge-like dish with few ingredients. It is the epitome of comfort food in Lebanese villages, especially when the weather turns cooler.
Its main ingredient? Wheat berries, cooked for a long time till popped and silky-soft in a broth of lamb and (or) chicken. The berries swell up and drink the broth until you are left with a thick soupy dish redolent of cinnamon and chicken flavor.
It was prepared to use the leftover lamb bones after the lamb or goat was slaughtered. Simmering very slowly in earthenware dishes till the porridge-like consistency was obtained. Right when the lamb confit (awarma) and other provisions were made for the winter.
Hreesseh can be prepared with a whole chicken only; or with some lamb or goat bones. An ideal method here is to throw it all in a crockpot and cook the whole mess overnight. It tastes better the next day anyway!
One thing: The chicken needs to disintegrate! So don’t be afraid to cook it to death! It will fall apart and meld into the berries and the sauce will turn thick and smooth.
- 2 pounds (or more) of lamb or goat bones with a little meat attached on some of the bones; this can be substituted for a whole chicken or several pieces of chicken with bones. Hreessey can also be made with both meat and chicken (which is what I did).
- 2 cinnamon sticks, salt, pepper and white pepper, to taste (can substitute allspice for the cinnamon)
- 1 1/2 cups of peeled or unpeeled wheat berries
- 2 large onions chopped or one pound of small boiler onions
- Brown the bones in a pot and cover with water ( about 6 cups) and simmer the mixture, skimming the froth, until the stock is flavorful. Cool, strain the stock and refrigerate to remove all the top fat.
- Place the stock in the crockpot with either a whole chicken or some chicken pieces (removing all fat and skin) and add water if necessary to get about 2 quarts of liquid. Add the wheat berries, onions, the cinnamon sticks and pepper and simmer on high at first, until the wheat berries have burst and then on low for at least a couple of hours or even overnight. The chicken will have disintegrated, the berries will be swelled up and the sauce will be thick and smooth. Taste an adjust seasoning.
- Serve warm.
NOTE: Hreessey can be made with lamb (or goat) bones alone. It can be made with a whole chicken and no meat.
Sources for the recipe:
Fayez Aoun, 280 recettes de cuisine familiale Libanaise
Chef Ramzi’s The culinary heritage of Lebanon