Centuries-Old Recipe Hashweh, Enters Modern Thanksgiving
By: Blanche Shaheen/Arab America Contributing Writer
Many of us promise ourselves every year that we will not give in to the Thanksgiving holiday feast bombardment – this time we are just going to keep our mouths shut, except for a bowl of lettuce. Then we break that promise after the first temptation.
Let’s face reality: Low-carb Thanksgiving dinners are not a thing. The holidays are the ideal time to set aside the green smoothies, chia seeds, and egg-white omelets and celebrate togetherness by reveling in some luxurious carbohydrates.
My mother is known for putting everyone in a sleepy stupor after her lavish dinners, as this is the Arab way. Fortunately, she always has antacids on hand for those who need a dose after their carb-fueled coma.
If you are hosting Thanksgiving this year, you might face social pressure to create a decadent spread – you are the purveyor of gastronomic merriment, after all. Perhaps you are searching through dog-eared recipes in old cookbooks for a tried-and-true stuffing recipe or browsing Pinterest for a new dish to spice up your holiday table.
I can save you some time with my family recipe for hashweh. Hashweh is the Arabic word for “stuffing.”
For Thanksgiving, my mother would stuff Cornish game hens or turkey with hashweh instead of making traditional bread stuffing. This meat-and-rice-based dish is great as a hearty side, as a stuffing for game or as a filling for hollowed-out vegetables such as acorn squash, bell peppers or even artichokes. This Lebanese and Palestinian recipe is centuries old, yet still versatile for today’s palate.
The addition of aromatic spices such as allspice, turmeric, and nutmeg sets hashweh apart from other rice-based dishes, as do the crunchy, pan-fried nuts that go on top. Pine nuts are the traditional topping, but my mother uses slivered almonds when pine nuts aren’t available. You can use both if you are nuts about nuts.
Middle Eastern home cooks traditionally like to use long-grain converted rice because the dish turns out fluffier, but jasmine or basmati rice will do. Just make sure that you rinse the rice with water in a sieve several times before cooking to prevent clumping and remove any excess starch.
Traditional hashweh uses lamb, but you can use any kind of meat you wish, or peas and cubed carrots for a vegan version. I prefer to use meat that is cut into cubes, but ground meat is a great time-saver and tastes delicious as well.
Once your guests take that first bite of hashweh with the spiced meat, fluffy rice, and toasted, crunchy nuts, you might have to give them some of your antacid stash, too, because they just might break their own promises and finish the entire thing.
To see the video tutorial for this popular dish, click on the video below:
Thanksgiving Hashweh Recipe (Serves 8):
- 3/4 pound lamb, cut in cubes or ground
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon allspice, ground
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- Scant dash of cinnamon (optional)
- 1 cup rice (long-grain, jasmine or basmati)
- 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
- 1 1/4 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds, or a mixture of both
To make rice fluffier, rinse, soak for approximately 30 minutes, then drain in a sieve. While rice soaks, brown lamb in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onion, garlic, salt, nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon. Sauté until lamb is browned. Set aside.
Add butter to saucepan and stir in rice, salt to taste and dash of turmeric. Stir until butter is melted. Add chicken broth. Once the mixture starts boiling, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 25 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed by the rice.
In a separate skillet, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to nuts and sauté until golden brown. To serve as a side dish, plate rice and top with meat, then nuts. To stuff, a bird, mix everything together so that flavors and textures are evenly distributed.
Blanche Shaheen is a journalist, host of the YouTube cooking show called Feast in the Middle East a cookbook author. You can now purchase her brand new cookbook: “Feast in the Middle East, A Personal Journey of Family and Cuisine” by clicking HERE:https://secure.mybookorders.com/Orderpage/2189
Blanche specializes in Arab cuisine of the Levant and beyond. You can also check out her cooking video tutorials and other recipes at https://www.youtube.com/user/blanchetv or her blog at: https://feastinthemiddleeast.wordpress.com/