Harissy pieces on a plateThe versions of making Harissy are seemingly endless. With yogurt or without, using coconut or not, having yeast as the traditional leavening agent rather than baking powder, etc… The use of the fragrant rose water is a must, however, for it lifts Harissy from the ordinary to the “Hey! This is sensuously different! “

Harissy improves with age; ideally it is made a day or two before it is to be served.


500 mL (2 cups) sugar
250 mL (1 cup) water
5 mL (1 tsp) lemon juice
45 mL (3 tbsp) rose water

500 mL (2 cups) smeed/wheatlets (wheathearts/semolina) – preferably coarse
250 mL (1 cup) sugar
10 mL (2 level tsp) baking powder
250 mL (1 cup) butter – melted
250 mL (1 cup) plain yogurt
60 mL (4 tbsp) melted butter or tehina
handful of halved almonds – blanched


Make the syrup ahead of time as it must be cooled by the time it is used. Combine sugar and water and bring to a hard boil. Add lemon juice (to stop syrup from crystallizing when cooled). Cook the syrup over medium heat for about 5 minutes–or until thick enough to coat a spoon. Add rose water, remove from heat and bring to room temperature.

In a large bowl, mix together the smeed/wheatlets, sugar and baking powder. Add the melted butter and yogurt and mix. Leave for half an hour to solidify. Grease a 23 x 33 cm (9 x 13 inch) pan with 30 mL (2 tbsp) of the butter or tehina. Pour the dough into the pan and spread out evenly. Brush with the rest of the butter or tehina. Dip a knife in water and mark the batter into 5 cm (2 inch) squares or diamond shapes. Secure an almond in the centre of each square. Bake in a 180 C (350F) oven for 30-45 minutes, until the bottom is deep golden in colour. Broil the top until golden. Take out and immediately pour on the cooled syrup. As the cake is absorbing the syrup, slice through the marked lines with a knife.

Cool thoroughly and serve. Taste and texture improves with age. You may keep at room temperature for twenty four hours; refrigerate after that.

Makes about 30 pieces.

Piece of harissy with cheeseIf you choose to make Harissy with cheese then do the following: Spread out half the batter into the baking tray, smooth over 1 kg (2 lbs or 4 cups) of ricotta cheese, then cover the cheese with the rest of the batter, and proceed as noted above.

Note: Harissy freezes quite well – even the one made with cheese.