Haleem – a slow-cooked delicacy

A firm Eid favourite, Chef Naved’s Haleem has made a number of appearances on the Dishoom menu over the years. This year, Eid celebrations must take a very different shape, but we are delighted to share Chef’s much-cherished Haleem recipe, which we hope might bring some comfort in difficult times.

This does require some skill and (especially in these times) acquiring online the requisite ingredients may require some patience. We sincerely hope that Chef Naved’s words on why Haleem has found a home on his Eid table might provide some small entertainment whilst you wait.

“I love to truly understand and appreciate the origins of a dish, and learn how communities have adapted a recipe overtime 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.

I learnt to make this dish while working with the esteemed chef Imtiaz Quershi in Bombay. Chef Imtiaz was awarded one of the highest honours in India, the Padma Shri, for his contribution to the culinary arts. My time with him was much cherished, and it was him who introduced me to making Haleem with milk, which is a different version to the traditional preparation. The dish we serve in the cafés on special occasions, and which is found in our cookery book, is inspired by Chef Quershi to whom I owe a great deal. 

The cooking process of Haleem is lengthy – some practice and patience will be required for this recipe, but it will be richly rewarded. The required ingredients list is lengthy, try to source as much as you can online, but don’t worry if you’re unable to find the more obscure ingredients, such as betal flower root and black stone flower – your Haleem will be perfectly nice without. 

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 and Eid. 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. Whilst Eid celebrations this year must necessarily take a different form, we still strongly believe in the power of food to bring people together, even when we are apart. In our cafés I’m always glad to see our guests – Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Parsis alike – enjoying this dish as it truly deserves to be enjoyed. I hope this year you will try Haleem at home, and share in the heritage of this most-loved dish.”

HALEEM 

Haleem is a thick, savoury porridge, made of cracked wheat, daal, lamb and spices, cooked over several hours and pounded to a smooth consistency. 

SERVES 6

INGREDIENTS

18g urad daal 

20g cracked wheat (bulgur) 

10g pearl barley 

50g white rice 

750g boneless lamb leg, cut into 2–3cm cubes 

600ml milk 

50g garlic paste 

35g ginger paste 

10g green chillies, chopped 

75g butter 

2 tsp fine sea salt 

10g coriander leaves 

10g mint leaves, chopped 

125ml double cream 

1⁄2 tsp ground cardamom 

1⁄4 tsp ground mace 

Two big pinches of saffron

FOR THE POTLI 

2 cloves 

1⁄2 cinnamon stick, broken into a few pieces 

1 tsp dried rose petals 

1 bay leaf
1 tsp black peppercorns 

1 tsp fennel seeds 

TO SERVE 

Crispy fried onions 

Ginger matchsticks 

Coriander leaves

Mint leaves, shredded 

Green chillies, sliced 

Lemon wedges 

Crispy sesame onion seed naan 

METHOD

1.     Tip the urad daal, cracked wheat and pearl barley into a bowl. Cover with cold water, mix well, let it settle, then pour off the water. Cover generously with fresh cold water and soak for 3 hours. 

2.     Meanwhile, for the potli (spice bundle), tie the cloves, cinnamon, rose petals, bay leaf, peppercorns and fennel seeds in a piece of muslin, with kitchen string. 

3.     Warm a dry frying pan over a low heat. Turn off the heat and add the saffron strands to the pan. Allow to toast for 3 minutes, then transfer to a bowl. Cool and pound to a powder using a pestle and mortar. Add 2 tbsp boiling water and set aside until needed.

4.     When the grains’ soaking time is up, tip the rice into small bowl and cover with cold water. Whisk with a fork, let it settle, then drain. Repeat twice more and drain. 

5.     Tip the grains and rice into a small saucepan and add 750ml boiling water. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Cook, stirring regularly, until very tender, about 40 minutes. The grains should break up and you should end up with a thick porridge. Add a splash more boiling water if it gets too thick towards the end of cooking. 

6.     Meanwhile, place the meat in another pan. Cover with boiling water, leave for 3 minutes, then drain. Return the meat to the pan and add the potli, milk, ginger and garlic pastes and green chillies. Simmer over a medium- low heat until completely tender, about 11⁄2 hours. 

7.     Add the grain mixture to the meat and simmer, stirring often, until the meat starts to fall apart, 30–45 minutes. Add a little water during cooking if it becomes very thick. Remove and discard the potli. 

8.     Transfer half of the haleem to a blender and pulse until fairly smooth. With the remaining half, use a spoon to crush the pieces of meat up a little in the pan. 

9.     Return the smooth haleem to the pan. Add 60g of the butter with the salt, coriander and mint. Stir well and simmer for 25–30 minutes, stirring very regularly to stop it from burning. The mix will start to form a thick, almost dough-like consistency and darken slightly. 

10.   When the mixture starts to come away from the edges of the pan, cook for a further 5 minutes. Pour in the cream and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Add the remaining 15g butter, ground cardamom and mace and stir well. 

11.   To serve, spoon the haleem into warmed bowls and drizzle 1 tsp saffron water over each portion. Top with the crispy onions, ginger matchsticks, coriander and mint. Serve the lemon wedges and naan on the side. 

Extract taken from Dishoom: From Bombay with Love, which is available to purchase for your at-home enjoyment from the Dishoom Store.  

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