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Journal entry

Haleem – a slow-cooked delicacy

The origins of Haleem are deeply rooted in history.

Some time ago, we made Haleem our Chef’s special at Dishoom Covent Garden. Of course, we’d served it before in other forms, usually around Eid; and we were always touched by the reverence in which this traditional dish is held. Our Executive Chef-walla, Naved Nasir, explains why Haleem has found a home on our menu.

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“I love to truly understand and appreciate the origins of a dish, and learn how communities have adapted a recipe over time to make that dish unique to them.

I believe Haleem is so special because it has been around for so long, though its exact heritage is uncertain. It’s believed that this was originally an Arabic delicacy and was served for centuries in the royal palaces of Saudi Arabia. The story goes that it was first introduced to the Hyderabadi State in India by the Nizam rulers. They were known for eating a variety of rich foods, as their cooks used to prepare a variety of aromatic delicacies such as biryani, kababs and of course, haleem. It then slowly gained in popularity among the Hyderabadi community.

Even today Hyderabad is famous for selling its ‘Hyderabadi Haleem’ – which has recognised geographical indication status – at places such as Pista House. They’re known for exporting internationally to places such as Dubai, and it’s not uncommon for Bollywood types to place an order when the craving hits them.

When I was a child, I remember first trying a dish similar to Haleem called Kichdha, another authentic Hyderabadi speciality. After the first mouthful I became addicted to it! It consists of lamb, lentils and wheat, but it differs in texture because you notice the visibility of each grain. The lamb was so succulent… it’s funny how the first taste of something can become a lasting memory.

The cooking process of Haleem is very lengthy, and it’s not easy to cook to perfection at home. For around 8 hours, we let the wheat, lamb and lentils simmer with precise quantities of coriander, turmeric, cumin and many other aromatic spices. Then the ingredients are pounded to intertwine and infuse the spices, release the flavour, and create a thick, smooth texture, almost a savoury porridge. The ginger, fried onions, and chillies provide a certain crunch and texture that compliments the consistency – and try dipping in our sesame-onion seed naan – aap ko pasand aiye ga (you’ll love it!)

Haleem is most special to me as a dish that brings people together – it’s commonly eaten at wedding celebrations, events and religious occasions such as Ramadan. You may have heard of Ashura, the tenth day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar – it commemorates the death of the grandson of Prophet Mohammad. To mark this occasion, in Mumbra, Dhongri and Mughal Masgid in Bombay, Haleem is cooked in large copper vessels on the roadsides and handed to everyone after the processions. It’s a simple gesture, but it creates a lovely spirit amongst the whole community.

At Dishoom, we want to continue this tradition of sharing the joy of Haleem. It has many rich, energising and nutritious ingredients, but it’s the love and care put into the making of the dish which creates the true flavour. And most of all I’m glad to see our guests – Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Parsis alike – enjoying this dish as it truly deserves to be enjoyed.”

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Haleem is served at Dishoom Covent Garden.

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Samira

Please can you advise on any halal options in the menu

Sara

Hi Samira - all our lamb and chicken is Halal. (We do also have pork and alcohol on the menu, but these are prepared separately.)

Marlene Soundy

Hoping to eat in your restaurant before seeing The Railway Children on Sunday 29/3. Do we need to book for lunch. There will be 5 of us. We ate at one of the cafes in Mumbai a few years ago. Brilliant. Can't wait to try your food

gill fitzpatrick

Do you cater for gluten free food

Sara

Gill - we do! Check out the 'Special Menus' tab under Food & Drink.

Ro Wickramasinghe

We went for lunch last Saturday in your Covent garden location. We are regular visitors, but I was shocked to discover that you have taken the haleem off the menu despite it still being on the paper menu! That is the main reason I go to Dishoom. Could you please bring it back as it is delicious!

Sara

Hey Ro - we are in the process of switching the menus over. So sorry to disappoint! Hopefully you'll enjoy the new Prawn Moilee special just as much!

SYED

How can the food be Halal, if there is Pork & Alcohol served in the Cafe. Not possible, even if you say that you cook seperately. Better to avoid eating here @Dishoom......

Ginny

Hi Syed - thanks for your comment. I completely understand your concern. All of our lamb and chicken is Halal and is sourced from HFA-certified suppliers. The only place on our menu where we serve sausages and bacon is on our breakfast menu and we are incredibly careful about stripping out all the equipment we use to prepare these items and ensuring that it is thoroughly cleaned and stored separately before we serve lunch and dinner. All breakfast meats are contained and stored separately to our other food. Many of our chefs strictly only eat Halal - so they are very conscientious in making sure all of this is observed. I hope this has helped to ease your concerns - and we look forward to seeing you soon.

Ali Kham

When and where can I get the Haleem - your Kings cross location weren't aware of the dish.

Sara

Hey Ali - this has now been changed to Prawn Moilee as the Covent Garden special. (King's Cross special is Nihari, Shoreditch special is Lamb Raan.) We may bring it back e.g. as an Eid special though!

Anju

Hello Are all your outlets halal?

Ginny

Hi there, Yes they are. Please email hello@dishoom.com if you would like any more info :-)

Farah

Hi, do you have any set menus for big groups? I'd love to have my birthday party at Dishoom!

Ginny

Hi Farah, We do indeed, if you email reservations@dishoom.com they will be able to help you :-)

Ferdousi

Will your haleem be back on your menue?

Ginny

Hi Ferdousi, No plans to bring it back at the moment, I am afraid!