Al Harees - a Family Recipe! Traditional Qatari, Iraqi

READY IN: 4hrs 40mins


  • 1
    kg lamb or 1 kg chicken, on the bone
  • 1
    kg whole wheat (called 'habb harees' ) or 1 kg pearled durham wheat (called 'habb harees' )
  • 150
    g ghee (or traditional samen)
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • water, as needed
  • Extras
  • Option 1
  • 12
    teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2
    teaspoons roasted ground cumin
  • Option 2
  • 3 -4
    whole bruised cardamom pods
  • Option 2
  • 12
    teaspoon cinnamon


  • Soak wheat overnight in plenty of water.
  • In a large pot, place pre-soaked & drained wheat, add 1 & 3/4 litre of water & boil until the wheat is beginning to fluff up & soften - skim off any foam or skummy bits on the surface!
  • Soak the lamb / chicken in plenty of lightly salted water whilst the wheat is cooking.
  • When the wheat is fluffy, rinse & drain the meat.
  • In a large, heavy bottomed pot (or special harees pot), place the wheat & the meat with a little salt & pepper and enough water to come about 5cm above the wheat & meat. Cover with a tight fitting lid - you can place a damp cloth or aluminium foil over the pot & then place the lid over that of the lid is not a tight fit.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat & cook on a very low heat for 3 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally & skim-off froth or fat on the surface.
  • Once the wheat is very soft & has lost it's shape & most of the water has been absorbed, remove from heat & allow to cool a little, then remove any bones & grissle. (If all the water has been absobed add about 3/4 cup - 1 cup of boiling water - if there is too much water but the wheat is cooked, ladle out the excess water.)
  • Shred the lamb or chicken if any larger pieces remain - there shouldn't really be any as almost all of it will have 'melted' into the wheat.
  • Now begin whipping the wheat & meat until it forms a homogenous, slightly elastic, pastelike consistency - add a little salted boiling water to thin it down if required. Use a large wooden spoon, or pound it with a wooden rolling pin to get the desired consistency. You could also pulse it in a food processor or use an immersion blender but if you are lucky enough, you might have a medhrab which is specially for harees.
  • Check the seasoning & re-season if desired. Transfer to a warmed serving pot, cover & keep warm.
  • Place the ghee in a pan & season to taste with salt & pepper (& any of the spices listed below). Gently warm the ghee & mix well.
  • Pour the seasoned ghee over the harees & serve immediately.
  • N.B : You can serve the harees with 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon & 2 tsp roasted ground cumin seeds, or 3-4 whole bruised cardamom pods added to the ghee (remove the podes before serving!). You can also serve harees with plenty of sugar & cinnamon.