Monday 9 December 2013

Harissa, a winter delight that Kashmir loves

Harissa is a very popular meat preparation which is made for breakfast. It is usually slow cooked for many hours, with spices. And yes, hand stirred for hours and hours. With the sharp dip in temperature, Harissa is the most preferred delicacy in winter in Srinagar.

It is said that concept of Harissa making was brought to Kashmir by Mirza Hyder Duglat of Yarkand during Chak period in 1540. Some historians attribute Harissa’s origin in Kashmir to Central Asia, which influenced the art, custom, rituals, belief and the food-culture of the Kashmir. And thus they got the blessing in the form of a flavoursome delight, now known as Harissa.

Harissas' roots can also be traced to the Mughal period. It was during Afghan rule of Kashmir that Harissa was formally introduced in its present form in the Valley. At that time economic condition of Kashmir was so weak that they could not afford to relish Harissa. They boiled turnips as they were cheap as the alternative to Harissa. Gradually two Harissa shops were opened at Aali Kadal and Saraf Kadal in Shahar-e-Khaas which used to be thronged by customers.  But one at Aali Kadal was famous as it added milk to the delicacy. People gifted it to each other after they used to win bet of the snowfall. Harissa has now become a part and parcel of the culture.

The recipe that I have tried, and can vouch for :) and this time I wanted to prepare it especially because everyone told me its very complex, which it is not but does require loads of patience.


Meat (lamb) - 1 kg (chopped into very small pieces)
Garlic - 4 cloves
Onions (chopped in chunks) - 2 medium
Dried ginger powder (shounth) - 1 tablespoon
Salt (to taste)
Water - 1 liter

Cinnamon stick (daalchini) - 2
Big brown cardamom (badi elaichi) - 4
Green cardamoms (choti elaichi) - 8
Cloves (laung) - 4
Peppercorn (kali mirch) - 8
Fennel seeds (sauf, not powder) - 1/2 cup

Rice flour - 1/2 cup

Oil - 1 and 1/2 cup
Shallots (praan) - 4 (for garnish)

Whole Spices
Whole Spices (Fennel seeds)

  1. Add meat, garlic, onion, ginger powder, salt and water in a pressure cooker.
  2. Tie up the whole spices (cinnamon stick, cardamom, green cardamoms, cloves, peppercorn, black cumin, fennel seeds) into a small muslin cloth (potli), drop it in the pressure cooker.
  3. Cook on Medium-high heat, after 2 whistles turn down the heat to simmer.
  4. Let it simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour. 
  5. Turn off the heat and leave it like that till all the pressure is released.
  6. Open the lid of pressure cooker and stir with a wooden spoon till all the ingredients mix up.
  7. Remove the bones, if any
  8. Discard whole spices from the potli
  9. Put the rice flour in 1 cup cold water and make a paste (USE COLD WATER).
    Rice Flour Paste
  10. Put the pressure cooker back on flame and add the rice flour paste and keep stirring the mixture.
  11. Add about 1 cup oil.
  12. Cook it on medium high heat, stirring every 2 minutes until you get the desired consistency (maybe for about 45 minutes to an hour) till oil starts leaving the sides of the cooker.

  13. For garnishing, cut the shallots in long slices, heat oil to very high temperature and fry shallots till they are crunchy golden brown, don't let the shallots turn black and avoid breaking the sliced onions in the pan.
  14. Serve hot with crispy fried shallots (along with all the oil) on top, preferably with Kashmiri bread.

PS: Chop the meat into very small pieces so that you won't require much more stirring.
When reheating before serving, if the consistency is too thick, add few 3-4 spoonful of milk.