Chicken and wheat porridge (Hreessey)

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.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 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

METHOD:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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


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29 Comments

  1. Posted November 16, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    My mom likes to prepare something similar for the us in cold winter days…they are great and comforting!

  2. Posted November 16, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never had wheat berries. Thanks for introducing me to so many new flavors and textures.

  3. Posted November 16, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    This looks like great comfort food! Reminds me of Chinese porridge– this looks yummy and will have to try it soon :)

  4. Posted November 16, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    I love Hrissey! Perfect cold weather dish and so wholesome. Pictures look so yummy.

  5. Posted November 16, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    What a nourishing and comforting stew! Perfect if you plan on doing a long walk.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  6. Posted November 16, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    This does look like comfort food, yummy! I would even enjoy it now when our weather in so beautiful!

  7. Posted November 16, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    This looks like the perfect remedy for the upcoming cold days! A delicious bowl of this would be all I need to warm up.

  8. Posted November 16, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    A great option for the crock pot (and I have the SAME crock pot!) I’ve always loved wheat berries, but I’ve never actually tried to make it myself. You’ve inspired me to revisit this grain.

  9. Posted November 16, 2010 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    We ate Hreessey at TawLet – and I’ve been longing for it ever since. Dishes like this make the winter that much easier to deal with. I’m almost willing on the cold! (but not quite…)

  10. Posted November 16, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    This is crave worthy. I know it won’t be the same but I’m going to try this with lentils. Wheat berries not available here and even if they were one son is Gluten intolerant so it would not be practical

  11. Posted November 16, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    I love this with cooked wheat Joumana – and this exactly what I need for the winter + I have chicken bones in the freezer :) Making this soon.

    Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  12. Posted November 16, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    Simple and nice…

  13. Posted November 16, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Comforting! This reminds me of a couple of Iranian recipes that use similar ingredients and techniques. You’re right, it’s perfect cool weather food.

  14. Posted November 16, 2010 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    This dish is just perfect for the cold weather…SO SO soothing :-)

  15. Posted November 17, 2010 at 2:15 am | Permalink

    Wow Joumana, wow, wow!!! Here is another recipe we make in Cyprus which is called resi. If you take the (H)reesey away it is the same. Most delicious. I ate some when I went to Cyprus lately and brough a picture with me to write about it on the blog but as usually did not find time for it.

  16. Posted November 17, 2010 at 2:17 am | Permalink

    I love cooked wheat and I am sure that after a prolonged cooking this is going to melt in your mouth.

  17. Posted November 17, 2010 at 4:11 am | Permalink

    This looks wow! I would love a bowl of this right now, soothing, comforting, warming, am I right? It sounds perfect for a cold and rainy winter day, a savory version of pudding or oatmeal, almost. I love wheat berries and this savory dish looks delicious.

  18. Posted November 17, 2010 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    I love this dish!! A very comforting one!

  19. Posted November 17, 2010 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    Avec toi, je vais toujours de découverte en découverte.
    Ça doit être délicieux.
    Bonne journée.

  20. Posted November 17, 2010 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    Your dish is sending back to very happy times, long ago, when I used to travel frequently to the Middle East! This used to be my absolute favourite confort food :-) Thanks for bringing back happy memories!

  21. Posted November 17, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    This is my kind of food! That sounds AMAZING!

  22. Posted November 17, 2010 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    While,I’ve never heard of this it sounds both interesting and delicious. I’ve bookmarked the recipe. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings…Mary

  23. Posted November 17, 2010 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Comfort food to the max, I love it. Have not had wheat berries before so am quite intrigued by what the texture would be like. Also love the instruction to cook it to death, hehe :)

  24. Posted November 17, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Wheatberries are my favorite, and I love the idea of this savory porridge. What would be a traditional vegetable accompaniment for this delicious looking dish? – S

  25. Joumana
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Steve: (Oui, Chef): a vegetable accompaniment? a big tomato and some onion or a dish of hindbeh bel-zeyt (which is wild dandelions cooked briefly and sauteed with onions and olive oil)

  26. Posted November 17, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    I just love slow cooking for fall and winter. This recipe sounds wonderful. I’ve never tried cooking with wheat berries before!

  27. Posted November 17, 2010 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    I love this dish… It is one my childhood favorite… and I was a verrrrry pick eater. :) I have never used cinnamon or allspice before. Our family tops this with melted brown butter and lots of cumin. You’re actually make me crave some right now.

  28. SYLVIA
    Posted November 18, 2010 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    This is a sentimental recipe for me It’s my childhood favorite.This delicious dinner is grand enough for a party but still approachable enough for a weeknight meal. The dish soothes the soul and comforts the body. Your family will want a second serving spoon. No celebration of ours is complete without the classic herissa, It is a party favorite, and gains distinct personality from a choice of two topper cumin and Aleppo pepper for a kick. Excellent Joumana

  29. Posted November 18, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never thought of this combination: chicken and wheat. It seems easy to make abd really worth trying!

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