Main menu


Hashweh Recipe

Why It Works

  • Hand-dicing the meat makes for uniform pieces that are evenly dispersed throughout the rice.
  • Adding the spices at two different points—blooming them in the ghee and infusing them into the broth—extracts more layers of flavor.
  • Sautéing the rice before adding the broth allows the fat to coat the grains and prevents them from clumping together. 

Celebrating With Stuffing

One of the most celebratory dishes in Arab culture is a whole lamb stuffed with rice and meat. It both signals respect to the guest and marks a momentous occasion because of the cost and labor associated with preparing it. In fact, most stuffed dishes are considered worthy of guests and special occasions, and Palestinians stuff a wide variety of animals from lamb and chicken to squab and rabbit. The most typical stuffing is made of rice and meat with spices, and oftentimes pine nuts as well. While these elaborate dishes remain an indispensable part of the Arab culinary repertoire, in recent times, as meat has become more accessible, simplified versions have come to prevail and feature more commonly on dinner tables. In these versions, the stuffing is served as a meal in its own right. For a slightly more elaborate version, short of stuffing a whole animal, shredded chicken or lamb can be scattered on top.  

The word for stuffing in Arabic is hashweh, and that’s what Palestinians call this dish even when it doesn’t function as an actual stuffing. Other cultures in the Arab world have different names for similar preparations, including quzi (the Arabian Gulf), ruz bilkhalta (Egypt), or ruz mtabal (Syria).

The Meat

The complex flavor of the dish belies its simplicity. Because of that underlying simplicity, though, the quality of the ingredients is especially important, in particular the meat and broth. Although it is possible on a very busy day to make this meal using ready-ground beef and store-bought broth, the flavor is incomparable to one made with hand-diced (or home-ground) beef and homemade chicken broth.

When you dice or grind beef at home, you are able to control the cut of meat you are using and its fat content, so both the flavor and texture will be superior. When broth is homemade, you control the aromatics that go in and ensure it has a rich, clean flavor that compliments the spices in the dish.

I make hashweh on an almost weekly basis at home and have experimented with all kinds of variables. I have found that for the beef, any cut trimmed of excess fat will do, from sirloin and flank to chuck, boneless rib, or skirt. What I most often do is trim and semi-freeze the meat (broken down first into smaller chunks if it’s a big piece like chuck or brisket), which makes dicing it into very small cubes much easier. This piece explains that process in more detail, although you will need to freeze meat for longer than a fatty cut like bacon since it takes longer to firm up. You could also grind it while semi-frozen, just make sure to use the coarsest setting on your machine.

For broth you can use chicken, beef, or lamb. I personally prefer chicken because it offers a rich taste without overwhelming any of the other ingredients. For a quick weeknight meal, I will often use homemade chicken broth from my freezer, but when serving this to guests, I will make the broth using a whole chicken and then top the final dish with the reserved shredded chicken and nuts. You could use lamb shanks or beef short ribs in place of the chicken (although they would require longer cooking time in the broth to tenderize) for an equally delicious, but slightly different flavor.

The Rice

In terms of rice, my favorite variety for this dish is Calrose, although jasmine is a good substitute. Basmati, while its grains are less likely to clump up, just does not absorb the flavors as well or yield the same cohesive taste. In either case, it is imperative you wash the rice until the water almost runs clear (it will never be crystal clear with rice, but you should see a marked difference from the milky water that first appears when you start washing); removing the loose starchy powder from the surface of the rice grains will help ensure the grains remain separate and don’t become gluey or clump.

Some people add the broth to the diced or ground meat once it has been cooked and then drop the rice in after that. I find that sautéing the rice with the meat and then adding the broth yields a fluffier texture that is much less likely to clump or become sticky—high heat from the sautéing breaks down the rice’s starch, reducing its ability to thicken and helping to keep the grains even more light and fluffy instead of clumpy and sticky.

The final “trick in the book,” if you will, is to set a tea towel or some paper towels between the pot and its lid once you’re done cooking and to let it rest for a good 15 to 20 minutes before fluffing up with a fork and transferring to a serving dish. This resting step not only helps the flavors to settle and meld better, but also allows the rice to finish cooking in the remnant steam in the pot. The towel, meanwhile, ensures that condensed water doesn’t form on the underside of the lid and drip back down onto the rice, which can make it mushy. The result: delicious rice with the perfect texture. With little more than a bowl of yogurt and a Palestinian farmer’s salad served alongside, the meal will be perfect too.

table of contents title