Warning: this post isn’t about finding the mother of all haleem recipes. I’m not even gonna say it will give your grandma’s a run for her money (though it’s darn good). No, this post is about accessibility. Haleem is not an enigma. Sure, there’s barley, wheat, lentils, even dried papaya. But you don’t have to go out of your way looking for ingredients you don’t usually stock your pantry with. Nor do you have to run to Jamaica or Jackson Heights, or wherever you go for your fix. Instead, you pick up a box of Shan’s Easy Cook Haleem mix and get ready to wow the salwars off your friends and family.
Let me first back up a bit for those of you who aren’t familiar. Haleem is a thick, spicy stew made by creating a flavorful broth of spices and meat (usually goat meat or chicken), then thickening with lentils, barley and wheat. It is traditionally eaten during Ramadan, at iftar (or evening breakfast). But it’s so warm, spicy and hearty – it’s really ideal for the dead of winter!
The box includes a spice mix (which you totally don’t need all of). It is really, really spicy and salty, so I only use like 2/3 of the packet. Use 1/2 if you’re a spice eating lightweight. It also includes the lentils and grains, pulverized, so you wouldn’t need to soak them overnight like in a traditional haleem. Again – accessibility! The instructions neglect one very important ingredient: garlic/ginger paste (or finely minced garlic and ginger). Make sure to add a good heaping tablespoon to the meat as it cooks. And finally, contrary to what it says on the box, it is not ready in 30 minutes, even if you have a pressure cooker! For me, goat meat (or mutton) takes a good hour and half over a low flame, with the lid on, to get fully tender. I also get the onions going very early on, because I like to caramelize my onions low and slow. Once you do add the grains, they tend to clump up. So add them slowly, and stir continually, to breakdown any clumps.
Traditionally, you serve it with chopped cilantro, grated ginger, crispy onions, a slice of lemon/lime, and perhaps some green chilis. Not here. I loathe fresh ginger and raw chilis. I just like to add the cilantro and citrus to brighten up an otherwise long-going stew (cook time was 2 hrs!). This serves about 8-10 people. And even though Ramadan is coming to an end, it’s a great dish for your Eid spread!
- 1 box Shan Haleem mix (including spice mix and grains)
- 1/2 cup oil
- 1 heaping tbsp garlic/ginger paste
- 1.5 lbs mutton or chicken (don’t cop out and make the chicken one!), cut into pieces
- 15 cups water
- 1 large onion, or 2 medium
- cilantro, fried onion, ginger, green chilis and/or lemon wedge for garnish
- In a large pot, heat up half a cup of vegetable oil or ghee over medium high heat. Add 1/2 to 2/3 of the spice packet. Add the meat and garlic/ginger paste and stir to combine.
- Add water, bring to a boil over high heat. Then lower the heat, put the lid back on and simmer for an hour, hour and a half. Stir occasionally to make sure no funky stuff is going on. Meat should be tender and falling off the bones when done. Taste for seasoning.
- While the meat is going, thinly slice the onion and add to a separate fry pan over low heat, to two tablespoons oil. Stir occasionally, increasing frequency towards the end. It take a bit of babysitting (after about 20 minutes) to make sure the edges don’t burn. Once they’re browned, turn off the heat.
- Meanwhile, from the haleem pot: take the meat out, and shred it using your hands or two forks. Then add the meat back into the broth along with the contents of the grains packet. Stir continuously to make sure there are no clumps. After 20-30 minutes, add caramelized onions and remove from heat. Add a cup of water if it looks too thick.
- Serve with cilantro, fried onion, slices of ginger, green chilis and/or lemon/lime.
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