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Hreessy (which is different than harissa, the Tunisian hot paste) is a traditional Lebanese dish made with pearled wheat and lamb or chicken, usually prepared in large quantities and shared with families. In our village, it is prepared by the groom's family on his wedding day, among a very large buffet where the whole family is invited to celebrate the occasion before the big party. It is typically cooked in a large copper cauldron and the ladies cooking for the day take turns at the stirring (quite a workout). The result is a very creamy-textured and rich-flavored porridge that melts in the mouth.
I want to share with you my gluten-free version which is equally delicious. Brown rice, in many ways, behaves like wheat berries, and especially when cooked for an extended time. I love lamb so this recipe will be using lamb shanks. The bones will add to the richness of the broth. You can certainly use chicken or even a mix of both. It is a one pot dish than requires a little attention only towards the end. Served hot and sprinkled with cinnamon, the result will make your tummy quite happy!
Happy Almost Spring all!!
3 lamb shanks
3 tbsp olive oil
10 cups water (more might be needed later)
2 1/2 cups short grain brown rice, washed and drained
2-3 bay leaves, fresh or dried
5 cardamom pods, cracked
3 cinnamon sticks, or 1 long one broken
1 1/2 tsp sea salt (plus a sprinkle for the shanks)
Cinnamon powder for serving
Preparing the broth - Sprinkle the shanks with salt and a pepper and sauté briefly in a large pot with some olive oil. Add water, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and cardamom pods, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for approximately 40-50 minutes. Occasionally skim the top of any foam. Turn off heat, remove shanks with tongs and place in a bowl. Strain the broth from all the aromatics used and return to pot.
Preparing the porridge - Bring to a simmer, add rice, cover and simmer stirring occasionally for about an hour. During that time, pull lamb off bone and add to rice. Stir occasionally to prevent rice from sticking to the bottom. Add water as needed to keep the mixture moist (I've always been told to add hot water to prevent the porridge from liquifying and losing its creaminess). When the rice blooms completely (the grains will open), start stirring regularly to develop the creamy texture. Add salt (and pepper if desired). Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with a generous sprinkle of cinnamon.