Harisa or Haresa is a traditional Middle Eastern sweet that is very popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Harisa is given a variety of names, while in most Levantine countries it goes by the name Harisa, in Egypt and some Gulf countries it is named Basbousa, while in some western countries it is called Semolina Cake.
Many versions of sweets are developed from this basic recipe, the most common is preparing it with coconut or pistachios and nuts. It is also prepared with different kinds of dried fruits. For me, I call the basic Cake “Harisa”, and the one prepared with coconut “Basbousa”, but you will find the name interchangeably used throughout the Middle East. All versions of Harisa or Basbousa whether with coconut or dried fruit or nuts, are yummy.
Harisa is customarily baked in very large aluminum pans (the portions of my recipe requires a 34-36 cm pan, this equates a 13-14 inch pan). As soon as the Harisa is baked and removed from the oven, it is soaked in sugar syrup or Ater. I normally like my sweets not very sweet so I use less Ater than customarily used, but you can adjust the recipe to prepare the Ater with as much as 3 cups of sugar instead of the 2 cups I use.
Hope you give this popular Middle Eastern sweet “Harisa” a try.
Preparation time: 20 min Cook time: 40 min
Harisa Cake:¼ cup (50 grams) butter
3 cups semolina
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons orange blossom water (you can substitute with rose water)
1½ cup yogurt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons soda bicarbonate
3 tablespoons Tahini (sesame paste), for greasing the pan
¼ cup blanched almonds (peeled raw almonds cut in half)
Ater (Sugar Syrup):2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cup water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
How to make Harisa:
- Microwave the butter for 20 seconds, or melt it in a pan on the oven top.
- Mix the semolina, sugar, orange blossom water and butter together with your fingers until all the ingredients are well blended together.
- In a separate bowl, mix the yogurt, baking powder and soda, and let stand for 5 minutes until the yogurt doubles in size.
- Pour the yogurt mixture over the semolina mixture and mix well with your fingers until both mixtures are well blended.
- Grease a 35 cm pan with the Tahini (sesame paste).
- Pour batter in pan and level the top with a spoon or with wet hands until you have a smooth surface. Be careful of using a 34-36 cm pan, as the batter should be a thin layer.
- Cut cake into diamond shapes (or squares).
- Place an almond in the center of each piece.
- Set the pan with the cake batter aside for half an hour.
- Ten minutes before baking the Harisa, preheat oven to 400°.
- Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, until the Harisa top is golden.
- While the Harisa is baking, prepare the Ater (sugar syrup) following the instructions in this post. I don’t like my sweets to be overly sweet, so for my Harisa I prepare my Ater using 2 cups sugar and sometimes even adjust it down to 1½ cup sugar. If you enjoy very sweet desserts, adjust the portion and prepare the Ater using 3 cups of sugar. Boil the syrup for only 2 minutes before adding the lemon juice and 2 minutes after that as for the Harisa, you don’t need a thick Ater!
- As soon as the Harisa is baked, remove it from the oven and pour the prepared Ater on top. I usually pour the Ater on the Harisa while it is still warm, but the popular method is to prepare the Ater ahead of time and pour it on the Harisa while it is cold, then return the Harisa to the warm oven for five minutes so the Ater soaks in. Use whichever method you prefer.
- Set Harisa aside to cool.
To serve, cut the Harisa pieces and nicely arrange in a serving plate. Enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee.
Hope you enjoyed today’s easy sweet recipe: Harisa, a traditional Middle Eastern dessert. Bon appetite.
What is your favorite Middle Eastern dessert?
اضغط الرابط لقراءة وصفة الهريسة باللغة العربية