By Mubashir Hassan, Stawa 03-20
Preparing Harisa in Srinagar, Kashmir
Kashmir's cold winters are marked by special Kashmiri winter dish: Harisa. Authentic Harisa is prepared in Srinagar's old town area where people line up from early morning to get a plate of this sumptuous breakfast. The recipe of Harisa is said to be unchanged since it was first introduced in the 16th century by the Mughals.
This dish requires meticulous preparation and ingredients include the best portions of minced mutton mixed with local rice, fennel seeds, garlic, cinnamon, cardamom, and other seasonings. The concoction simmers in a huge earthenware pot over a slow fire for at least 10 hours.
Expert cooks who prepare this dish in Srinagar's old town area are unanimous that Harisa can only be prepared by hand and takes around 24 hours. It is generally served with small pieces of kebab, Methi-Maaz and topped with boiling mustard oil.
Prominent Kashmiri poet, Zareef Ahmad Zareef traces Harisa to the Mughal period. He said "The Mughals used to boil sheep feet to make a king of Harisa that they called `Pacha'. It was during Afghan rule in Kashmir that Harisa was introduced in its current form. In the past, the first bowl of Harisa was sent to the Mirwaiz family after the first snowfall.
People also gift it to in-laws after engagements and marriages as a token of love. It has thus become an integral part of Kashmiri culture."
He added, "Harisa is also available in Central Asia with the same name and a similar style of preparation. There are no ancient records of such dishes being prepared in Kashmir. We can thus conclude that either Harisa is a universal dish or it came to Kashmir from Central Asia along with other influences."