Harissa recipe

One of the things that I can’t seem to get used to in this whole expat experience is this endless summer! Even after 18 months in the country, I can’t wrap my brain around the idea that it is almost December and it is still  30 C!!

Last year, I kept on hoping that the temperatures will drop, at least to the early twenties or late teens but winter began and ended and the thermometer refused to go below 25.

Sure it is a relief after months of 45+C but still, I really miss winter clothes, the morning cold breeze, the color of leaves in the fall. Simple things that I took for granted are now the things that I really miss.

Arabic semolina cake.jpg

The fact that a few clouds are enough to make me run to fetch my camera, an overcast day is cause for celebration and finally accepting that rain only happens once or twice A YEAR are making me extra nostalgic these past few weeks.

But it is not only the nostalgia that is getting under my skin lately, it is the disorienting weather phenomenons here.Take fog for example, I have always loved fog, something about the idea of walking in a cloud always seemed magical to me. We do get fog quite often here but when it happens the weather is really hot and humid. I see the fog and expect cold weather and rain but I open my window and instead I am faced with  stifling humidity and heat.

Enough ranting for one day 🙂 In my defense, the weather forecast promised rain this weekend but it did not happen and that left me extra grumpy

Now back to today’s tempting recipe

Hareesa by chef in disguise.jpg

Whenever I try to write the name of an Arabic recipe in English I find myself in a pickle. Take today’s recipe for instance, when I tried to google Harissa (pronounced Ha-ree-sa or Ha-ree-se) , I got Harissa, hareeseh, haresa, Harisa and hareesa. Of course that is not to mention that this same dessert is also called basboosa (which google says can be also spelled as basbousa lol)

Arabic tongue twisters and spelling mess aside, this is one of the most popular dessert recipes throughout the Levant and Egypt. You can actually find harissa in most bakeries right next to the bread and fatayer. It is that popular!

Harissa is a semolina based dessert, some recipes add coconut while others add a cream filling but in its most basic form harissa is a semolina cake drizzled with syrup and decorated with nuts. Simple yet completely addictive!

Harissa semolina cake.jpg

Harissa recipe

3 cups semolina

3/4 cup butter or ghee

1 cup greek yogurt

1/4 cup orange juice

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking  powder

2 tablespoons tahini sauce

Zest of one orange (optional)

Peeled slivered almonds for decoration

1 tablespoon of tahini to brush baking dish


Sugar syrup for drizzling

Ground pistachio

To make the syrup

3 cup sugar

2 cups of water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon rose water (optional)


Make the syrup

Place the sugar, water and lemon juice in a pot over medium heat

Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes

Take off the heat and add the rosewater if using

Make the Harissa

Mix the semolina,butter, yogurt, juice, sugar, baking powder, tahini and orange zest in a pot until homogeneous

Brush a baking dish with tahini

Pour the batter into the baking dish

Level the surface using a wet hand

Use a wet line to make cuts in the pattern that you like

You can find step by step picture instructions on how to make this particular pattern here.

Decorate with peeled almonds

Bake on the bottom rack of a preheated oven at 180 until the edges are golden brown (about 30 minutes)

Place under the broiler until the top is golden brown

Take out of the oven and allow it to cool for 5 minutes

Drizzle with syrup (the amount depends on how sweet you want the harissa to be. Do remember that harissa needs to be hot and the syrup needs to be room temperature)

Decorate with ground pistachio

Serve one the Harissa is room temperature