Haleem

We moved from our 1-bedroom matchbox apartment to a plush (in my humble opinion) duplex some time last year. And Suraj’s parents moved back from Dubai to cohabit with us. One of the several perks of our home in June 2015 was that it was a mere 10 minute walk from the iftaar stalls in Frazer Town, Bangalore. For years, the mosque at Frazer Town has been the hub of numerous stalls selling kebabs, grilled meat, biryani and a variety of Islamic cuisine around Ramazan. Every single year since 2013, I’ve made several visits to these stalls during Ramazan, to sample everything from seekh kebabs, patthar gosht and veal kebabs to baida keema roti(1) and phirnis(2).

This year, however, the Bangalore Municipal Corporation decided there would be no stalls.

Of course we were disappointed! But then, you’ve heard that thing about not being discouraged when fate closes a door on you, right? And that another one always opens? We decided to make our own keema samosas one evening. And then again, another evening. And finally, towards then end of Ramazan, we thought, “Hey, we should try making our own haleem!”

With day jobs and hectic weekends, Ramazan came and flew right by us, and the Sunday after Ramazan, we FINALLY got around to slow cooking our own haleem.

We read a handful of recipes online and this one seemed to appeal to me best.

We bought some whole grains – we usually don’t keep wheat berries or barley at home, and soaked them for a few hours. And we bought a kilo of lamb curry cuts. We got out Suraj’s father’s ginormous biryani pot and got started at about 3 pm Sunday afternoon. About 6 hours of arm work outs later, we were ready with dinner.

I’ve only loosely followed the recipe in the link above, so here’s my version of it.

Prep Time: 4-6 hours
Active Cooking Time: 3-4 hours
Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients:

  • For the haleem
    • ½ cup each chana dal, urad dal, mung dal and barley
    • ½ cup wheat berries
    • 1 kg lamb on the bone, meat cut into chunks
    • 2 tbsp crushed garlic
    • 2 tbsp grated ginger
    • 3-4 litres water
    • 3-4 tbsp clarified butter (ghee)  + more for frying
    • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • Spices for the haleem
    • ¼ tsp ground fenugreek
    • 1 tbsp ground coriander
    • 1 tbsp ground cumin
    • 1 tbsp chaat masala spice mix
    • 1 tbsp chilli powder
    • 1 tbsp garam masala
    • 1 tsp turmeric
    • salt to taste
  • For the garnish
    • 2 onions, sliced
    • A handful of chopped coriander
    • Several wedges of lemon

Procedure:

  1. Soak the lentils and the barley in some warm water for 3-4 hours minimum (overnight, if possible).
  2. Grind the wheat berries rough and soak in some water for a couple of hours.
  3. For a utensil that’s about ‘x’ inches tall and has grains/lentils filled up until ‘a’ inches, I add water into the utensil to submerge all of the grains/lentils, and then add another ‘a’ inches of water.
  4. Drain the water from the grains/lentils and keep it aside. Transfer the grains/lentils into a large pot along with the meat and bones, crushed ginger and crushed garlic and add the drained water (plus more, if required), to just about cover the meat mixture.
  5. Bring this mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat so that the mixture continues to simmer for about 2 hours.
  6. You will need to stir every 7-10 minutes (or more frequently, if required), to ensure the grains don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
  7. Add a cup of water a couple of times through the process, if you think the mixture is drying up and sticking to the base of your pot too much.
  8. After the 2 hour mark, remove separate the bones from the meat and toss the meat back into the pot and continue to cook for about 1.5 hours or until the meet starts to fall apart.
  9. Make the spice mixture at the 3-3.5 hour mark by grinding the fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, chaat masala, chilli powder and turmeric to a powder.
  10. Add the ghee, the spice mix and some salt to the pot and continue cooking for another hour stirring ever few minutes, so that the ingredients break down and blend into each other.
  11. The mixture will begin to look very thick and sticky about 4 hours into the process.
  12. Simultaneously, fry thinly sliced onions (all three) until they are brown and caramelized.
  13. In the last 15 minutes of your cooking, add in about a third of the sliced +  fried onions along with the garam masala to the haleem mixture and stir well to incorporate.
  14. Serve the haleem with lots of chopped coriander and some fried onions. Squeeze some lemon onto the haleem and add a dollop of ghee when serving.

And here’s my rant on twitter about the colour/consistency when I compare it to what we’ve usually had at the iftaar stalls.

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Here’s my post on Instagram:

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(1) Baida Keema Roti:
Baida means egg
Keema is meat mince, typically lamb
This dish is made by layering spicy mince and egg in dough and making parcels of dough, which are then fried crisp before serving.

(2) Phirni:
Phirni is a rice pudding made by slow-cooking broken ground rice with milk and cardamom.