Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook
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In love's intoxication, the Lover and the Beloved
are like the spirit in the body.
They become like harisa:
there is no difference between them,
all differences are submerged there.
Harisa, Haleeme Gusht, or Keshkek
An ancient dish, originally prepared in Iran with barley, that traveled to Armenia, Anatolia, Northern Iraq, and the Indian subcontinent. Evliya Efendi wrote that the Prophet himself ate harisa, and called it "the Lord of dishes." In Pakistan, it is prepared on religious holidays and the urs of saints (death anniversary). In Turkish Rufai dergahs, it is a favored treatment for the sacrificial (Kurban) lamb, and is cooked and stirred for twelve hours. This smaller batch takes less time, but still provides an opportunity for extended stirring.
Soaking: Overnight
Total second-day time: 4-6 hours
2 lbs. whole wheat berries (bulgur or pearl barley may be substituted)
5 lbs. lamb or poultry with bone or 3 lbs. boneless
2 tsp. salt
Turkish-Style Garnish
Melted butter

Delhi-Style Garnish
Ginger, finely chopped
Green chilis, finely chopped
Cilantro, finely chopped

Put the wheat into a bowl, cover well with boiling water, and soak overnight.

If you are using boneless meat, cut it into small pieces; if the meat is on the bone, disjoint it. Put the meat into a large pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat, remove the foam, and simmer until the meat is very tender, 1-½-2 hours. Strain, skim and reserve the broth. If necessary, remove skin and bones and discard them.

While the meat is cooking, drain the wheat and put into another large pot. Cover with 2" of cold water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 1-½-2 hours, adding more water if necessary. When the wheat is very tender, remove from the heat and drain.

Wash out one of the pots and combine the meat, wheat, broth and salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cook, stirring and mashing constantly, until the meat and the wheat have fully dissolved and blended together. Take care to keep the keshkek from sticking.

The keshkek is ready when it holds its shape on a spoon. Spoon it into a shallow bowl, pour melted butter over it, sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and pepper, and serve with thick yogurt; or for a Delhi-style breakfast, garnish with chopped ginger, green chilis and cilantro.