Armenian harissa, also known as keshkeg, and sometimes transliterated as hariseh or herriseh, is similar to a risotto but made with pearl barley instead of rice. You will need to soak the pearl barley overnight.


Skill level

Average: 3.3 (175 votes)


500 g (2½ cups) pearl barley, soaked overnight
1.8 kg whole chicken
1 tbsp ground cumin, plus extra, to serve
150 g butter, chopped
2 tsp berbere (see Note)

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Drain pearl barley and rinse under cold running water. Place in a large saucepan, cover with 2.5L water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, adding more water if necessary, for 2½ hours or until water is absorbed and barley is very soft; don’t stir too often as this will cause barley to stick to the pan.

Halfway through pearl barley cooking, place the chicken in a stockpot and cover with water. Bring to the boil, skimming any impurities that rise to the surface, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 1 hour or until chicken is cooked through and starting to fall apart. Remove chicken from water and reserve 1.5L stock. When chicken is cool enough to handle, using your fingers, finely shred the meat, removing and discarding the skin and bones.

Add shredded chicken and 1L reserved chicken stock to the cooked pearl barley. Place pan over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until thick. Blend with a handheld blender until the consistency of fine porridge; add more of the reserved 500ml stock if necessary to achieve the desired consistency. Season with salt, white pepper and cumin.

Just before serving, melt butter in a small pan and cook until a nut-brown colour. Pour over harissa. Serve with extra cumin and the berbere sprinkled over.


Berbere, from selected spice shops, is an Ethiopian spice mix including allspice, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves, that’s used in many of the country’s dishes, particularly stews (wots). 

As seen in Feast Magazine, Issue 15, pg47.

Photography by Sean Fennessy