I always associated Aleesa or Alsa with a dessert, because it used to be served with sugar. Though they serve it first before the biryani, I used to save it and have it at the end. 😆 Only after my marriage, I learnt Aleesa is made with chicken or meat and so it is an appetizer dish!
Alsa is yet another dish inspired by the middle-eastern Jareesh or Harees that is prepared during the month of Ramadan in most Arab houses. When Aleesa is made at home, I have only relished it oblivious to how it is prepared. I heard that it was a huge task and needs a lot of energy to churn etc. Even then, I never imagined it was prepared with meat.
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. Quick research I learnt that even Harees sometimes can be made with pearl barely so I hope I am forgiven and this recipe can stay as it is... because it works charmingly and deliciously!
How to make alsa aka aleesa?
Aleesa | Wheat berries with Chicken in Coconut Milk
- 1 cup pearl barley or wheat berries soaked for 5 to 8 hours or overnight
- 300 to 500gms Chicken boneless skinless (I use thighs)
- 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
- 4 cloves
- 3 cardamoms
- 1-inch cinnamon stick
- 2 cups thick coconut milk
- 2 to 4 cups of water
- 1 teaspoon of ghee
- Salt to taste
- 4 tablespoon ghee
- 1 medium onion thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons raisins
- 15 split cashews
- Sugar while serving (optional)
- Add all the items listed under "For Porridge" 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 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 distribution and 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 blender or wait for it to cool down and pulse the content in a 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.
- Heat ghee in a small saucepan and fry the raisins until puffed. Remove and keep aside.
- In the same pan, fry the cashews and keep them aside.
- Add more ghee if required and fry the thinly sliced onions. (do not step away and get them burnt)
- Mix these in a bowl and use them to garnish each plate.
- Stir in the remaining ghee after frying into the aleesa pot.
How to serve aleesa?
Can Aleesa be prepared without a pressure cooker?
Yes! I had to make a big batch and I don't own a big pressure cooker so dumped all the ingredients in a deep pot and cooked covered on a low flame for an hour stirring occasionally. I did 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.