Hashweh (a.k.a. Hushwe, Hushwee), which literally means “stuffing” is a classic Levantine dish made with ground lamb and rice, seasoned with sweet spices such as allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg. While Hashweh is a delicious stuffing for poultry or meat, it also makes for a satisfyingly flavorful entree or side that comes together in less than half and hour.
Most recipes for Hashweh make this in one pot, sauteing the aromatics and lamb before adding the rice and cooking them together. In theory this allows the lamb to release flavor, which gets absorbed by the rice. The problem with this approach is that it leaves the meat dry and flavorless.
I’ve found a better way to make Hashweh that doesn’t involve too much more work. The trick is to cook the meat and rice separately. Beyond preventing the meat from getting overcooked, cooking the components separately allows for the texture and flavor of each piece to shine individually, whether it’s the earthy pine nuts, the fragrant meat, or the savory rice.
To ensure the rice has plenty of savory flavor of it’s own, I fry some vermicelli in butter before adding the rice. The Maillard browning creates a wonderful toasty umami that gives the plain rice depth and character. Then the rice is cooked in chicken stock, which imbues enough flavor that the rice would be quite delicious on it’s own, but the real magic comes from the meat. There’s really no magic to the lamb, but the caramelized onions and aromatic blend of sweet spices adds a pleasant sweetness while reigning in the gamey taste of the lamb.
To finish the Hashweh, the cooked lamb just gets mixed into the cooked rice, along with the toasted pine nuts. The oils from the meat coat the rice, imparting loads of umami, and yet the meat remains juicy and flavorful, like zesty flavor-bombs just waiting to be found. A sprinkle of vibrant parsley and mint gives the Hashweh a vibrant burst of color and a provocative accent to this comforting dish.
I like serving this with a side of Tabbouleh and some hot sauce for an easy, well-rounded meal that’s sure to delight your senses.
- To make the rice, add the butter to a pot with a lid over medium heat. Add the vermicelli and fry until the noodles turn golden brown.
- Add the rice and saute until the rice is evenly coated with butter.
- Add the chicken stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover with a lid and turn down the heat to low. Cook the rice for 20 minutes, and then turn off the heat and let it steam for another 5 minutes.
- While the rice is cooking, prepare the lamb for the hashweh. Add the butter and pine nuts to a frying pan over medium heat. Roast the pine nuts until golden brown, stirring constantly to ensure they brown evenly. Transfer the roasted nuts to a paper towel lined bowl to drain, leaving as much oil in the pan as possible.
- Add the olive oil and onions and saute until the onions are translucent and soft and then add the garlic and cardamom. Continue sauteing until the onions are golden brown and caramelized.
- Add the ground lamb, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper and fry the meat, breaking it up into small chunks until it's cooked through.
- Add the lamb mixture and pine nuts to the cooked rice and stir the hashweh to combine. Serve garnished with chopped parsley and mint.