Photograph by Instagrammer: @Aniseeds
When we were little breaking our fast at iftaar was usually with sweet dates, milky falooda and the obligatory samoosas, pies or savoury of some sort. Then in my teens we were introduced to Haleem. Note a shining light over the horizon and the sound of angels singing aaaaahhhhh….. it was like a revelation. Ok, maybe I exaggerate, but it certainly was the best thing since, well, since vegetable soup.
My uncle Aleem was the bearer and chef of our first bowl of haleem. He started making it during Ramadaan and religiously would deliver a bowl to his close family every year. It affectionately became known as Aleem se Haleem and as the weather got colder every year with Ramadaan moving back 10 days each year against the Gregorian calendar, this hearty soup with it’s depth and body of flavour from the fresh dhalls and wheat it was prepared with was ever more welcome.
According to Wikipedia the origin of Haleem lies in the popular Arabian dish known as Harisah (also written as Harees, Hareesa). It was introduced by Arab traders and conquerors of South Asia. The people of the Subcontinent later modified it to suit their palate.
Haleem is sold as a snack food in bazaars throughout the year. It is also a special dish prepared throughout the world during the Ramadan and Muharram months of the Muslim Hijri calendar, particularly among Iranian, Pakistani and Indian Muslims.
In India, Haleem prepared in Hyderabad during the Ramadan month, is transported all over the world through a special courier service. Haleem is traditionally cooked in large, wood-fired cauldrons. It is also very popular in Bangladesh, especially during the holy month of Ramadaan, when it is a staple dish. In Pakistan, Haleem is considered a normal dish not tied to a particular month or any festival. It is available all year round in most Pakistani restaurants around the world.
Haleem has become quite a popular Ramadaan dish among lots of families in Cape Town too. Put forward with fresh lemon to drizzle into your bowl as you break your fast, or with crispy fried biryani style onions and crushed green chillies the way I learned to enjoy it during my time in Malawi. Today it has become quite easy to prepare it quickly from pre-mixes available in most Indian food stockists. I must admit to falling back to that convenience more often than not. But nothing beats preparing it from scratch with fresh ingredients to really bring out the flavour. My uncle Aleem has handed over his wooden spoon to his wife who now makes the haleem and she was kind enough to share the recipe with me and here it is for you. I hope it creates as many happy memories for you as it did for me….
Aleem se Haleem
600 gram mutton/chicken
1 cup wheat
½ cup barley
¼ cup chana dhall
1¼ dessertspoon salt
1½ dessertspoon garlic/ginger
1½ dessertspoon dhana/jeero
1½ dessertspoon chillie powder (you can use 1 dessertspoon chillie powder and ½ dessertspoon crushed chillies
½ dessertspoon turmeric powder.
1 large onion
- Soak the dhalls overnight and cook till tender. Grind them through a mincer or liquidiser.
- Braise onion in 2 tblsp ghee with whole jeero, elachi, tuj, cloves and 2 green chillies till golden brown.
- Add the meat coated in spices, braise till golden brown..
- Fill pot with water and cook meat till it starts breaking into small pieces. (takes a few hours)
- Add the ground dhalls. Fill the pot with boiling water and cook all together stirring continuously.
- When done add vagaar (sliced onions, jeero, 2 dry red chillies fried in ghee)
- Add gharam masala.
- Add chopped fresh dhunya
- Serve with lemon
NB: if you use chicken , remove chicken from bones before adding dhalls.