Herbel is a sweetened porridge-like soup which is popular for breakfast, particularly on Eid. Wheat berries (wheat kernels) are cooked until tender in salted water and then simmered a second time with milk, butter and sugar. Mildly flavored but very satisfying, herbel may optionally be garnished with orange flower water, honey and additional butter.
Traditionally the wheat berries were very slowly simmered overnight, but a long soaking in water will also tenderize the wheat. Plan to soak the wheat berries overnight if preparing herbel for breakfast; allow 10 hours soaking if preparing the soup in the evening.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
- 250 g (about 1 1/3 cups) wheat kernels (wheat berries)
- 1 1/2 liters (6 cups) water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 liter (4 cups) milk
- 4 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 to 2 tablespoons orange flower water (optional)
- butter and honey (optional)
Ahead of Time
Wash the wheat berries in a large bowl filled with water. Drain and repeat the washing several times or until the water runs clear. Place the washed wheat back into the bowl, fill with cold tap water, and leave the wheat to soak overnight or at least 10 hours.
Cook the Herbel
Drain the soaked wheat and transfer it to a large pot. Add the water and salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and gently simmer the wheat for about 40 minutes, or until most of the water has been absorbed and the wheat tests tender.
In a separate pot, bring the milk almost to a boil. Add the hot milk, sugar and butter to the wheat and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer and gently cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until the milk is reduced almost to the level of the wheat. Remove the soup from the heat and add orange flower water to taste.
Serve herbel warm or cold. Honey and butter may be offered on the side to add to taste at the table.
Note that the soup will thicken as it stands; in that case, more milk may be added to thin the herbel as desired.