Aleesa recipe is a delicious Malabar Moplah dish made with wheat and chicken cooked in coconut milk and whole spices, garnished with ghee-fried shallots and nuts.
I grew up believeing Aleesa was dessert. At our family weddings, Aleesa was always served with sugar in the side before the biryani. I used to save it and have it at the end of meal. 😆 Only after my marriage, I learnt that Aleesa is made with chicken or mutton and so it is an appetizer dish! Do you think it is gross to have meat with sugar? Try this and you can confirm it is not!
What is Aleesa?
Aleesa is a Malabar mopla dish made with wheat grains and chicken that is cooked in coconut milk. Served with ghee-fried shallots and nuts. Aleesa is also referred to as Alsa and is usually served as a starter with sugar on the side in every Malabar Moplah wedding. I am not sure who is the original - the Arab's Jareesh or Harees that is prepared during the month of Ramadan or Malabar Moplah's Aleesa. I found a nice read in Gulf News about the relationship between the two cuisines.
What type of wheat is used?
Traditionally, Kuthiya gothambu (hulled whole wheat berries) is what is used to make Aleesa. While in Yanbu, I saw a pack of white wheat and asked my mom to send the recipe for Aleesa (Thanks to WhatsApp). She made the whole process sound so easy but I was doubtful with the preconceived notion about the hard work.
Update July 2019: The pack in supermarkets of Yanbu mentioned "White Wheat" so I never had to doubt it. I was looking for the same white wheat in Abu Dhabi markets and I found that apparently, I have been using "pearl barley". facepalm. But I did find that many families use Peral Barely instead of Wheat to make Aleesa or Harees. So, I am keeping the option in the recipe.
- wheat berries: hulled whole brown wheat berries
- chicken: I like to use boneless chicken thighs for the best flavour. You may use any cut or even replace chicken with mutton.
- veggies: garlic and mini shallots or onion
- nuts and dried fruits: lots of cashews and golden raisins
- whole spices: cardamoms, cloves and cinnamon stick
- coconut milk
How to make it?
With the pressure cooker method, we can recreate this traditional aleesa recipe with zero hand workouts. But for those who don't want to use the pressure cooker, you can cook in a pot and use an immersion blender to break down the cooked wheat.
Making Aleesa requires time. Soaking, pressure/pot cooking, and blending. If you have a hand blender, then it takes lesser time. Else, we need to cool it and break it down in a processor.
I ditched the pressure cooker method only because my cooker has its mind of late. And ever since I tried the pot method I am stress-free and aleesa is on the menu more often. Whatever method you use, make sure to add a dash of ghee or oil which will reduce the chances of burnt bottom - a tip my umma shared recently.
Pot Cooking takes 1.5 hours (may increase or decrease depending on the type of wheat/barley used)
Dump all the porridge ingredients and cook stirring every 10 minutes.
Cook partially covered until the wheat berries are plumped and cooked through.
Use an immersion blender to break down the cooked wheat.
How to serve Aleesa?
Scoop a ladle of Aleesa and spread on a plate, pour a teaspoon of ghee, top it with garnish mixture and generous sugar and dig in!
Can you make Aleesa without a pressure cooker?
Yes! I don't own a big pressure cooker so used a deep pot and cooked covered on a low flame for an hour while stirring occasionally. Use a heat diffuser to prevent burnt bottom. I highly recommend getting one or keeping a flat pan instead. To finish off, you can use an immersion blender to coarsely grind or use a mixie once it cools down. Then reheat with some water and serve warm with suggested toppings.
No, it is not. It is different in ingredients and so in flavour profile and taste. The common factor is both dish is a "cooked-down" of meat and grains or lentils in the case of Haleem. While Aleesa relies on whole spices and coconut milk, Haleem is a savoury and spicier version with lot more ingredients. Both are a Ramadan favourite and we love both.
- 1 cup wheat berries or use pearl barley soaked for 5 to 8 hours or overnight
- 300 to 500 grams boneless chicken thighs boneless skinless
- 4 garlic cloves crushed
- 4 cloves
- 3 green cardamom
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 2 cups thick coconut milk
- 2 to 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon ghee
- salt to taste
- 4 tablespoon ghee
- 10 mini shallots thinly sliced or use a medium red onion
- 2 tablespoons golden raisins
- 8 whole cashews split
- Sugar optional
Prepare the Porridge
- Add all the Porridge items into a deep saucepot or pressure cooker.
Pressure cooking method
- Pressure cook on low to medium flame for 2 to 3 whistles. Let the pressure cool on its own.
- Check if the chicken and wheat are cooked, adjust salt, add more water if required and pressure cook again for 2 to 3 whistles and switch off.
Saucepot cooking method
- Bring the mixture to boil on high and then reduce the flame to low. Cover and cook for the next 1 and ½ hours making sure to stir every 10 minutes.
- Once the mixture thickens, keep a heat diffuser or flat pan underneath the pot for even heat and to prevent burnt food.
- Remove and discard any bones and whole spices (my mom had mentioned tying the whole spices in a cloth and dropping them in the pot to cook so they can be removed once done.)
- Use a hand immersion blender to grind the wheat and chicken to a porridge consistency. You may add more hot water to your desired consistency. If you don't have an immersion blender, then wait for it to cool down and pulse the content in batches in a food processor or mixie to a coarse paste.
- If the mixture is too thick, add a cup of very hot water and bring it to a boil before switching off.
Prep the garnish items
- Heat ghee in a small saucepan and fry the raisins until puffed. Remove and keep aside in a bowl
- In the same pan, fry the cashews, remove and add them to the bowl of raisins.
- Add more ghee if required and fry the thinly sliced shallots or onions. Remove and add them to the bowl. Mix and use them to garnish.
- Pour the remaining ghee after frying into the pot of aleesa.
- Serve aleesa while warm in a shallow place, topped with fried garnish items and a drizzle of ghee. Place a bowl of sugar on the side so each can add as much as they want.
Did you make this recipe? Let me know!