Iftar’s Hero Dish: Hyderabadi Haleem


May be the “Hero” Mariah Carey referred to in her famous song (1993) may be different from the Hero I am going to bring to you now. While Mariah sang along –

There’s a hero
If you look inside your heart
You don’t have to be afraid
Of what you are
There’s an answer
If you reach into your soul
And the sorrow that you know
Will melt away…

My take will rather be like this –

There’s a hero
If you look inside your heart fridge
You don’t have to be afraid
Of what you are eat
There’s an answer
If you reach into your soul kitchen
And the sorrow hunger that you know
Will melt away….

And this Hero to salvage your appetite is the Hyderabadi Haleem. Today is the 27th day of Ramadan. Every single day of Ramadan what is considered by the believers as ‘holy’ month, shows a big importance in Muslims’ lives but the most important and recommended to all Muslims is the 27th day of the month. According to the Quran, the 27th day of Ramadan, also called the Night of Destiny or Laylatul-Qadr in Arabic, is the best night of the year in the Muslim calendar. The day being significant and just 3 days away from the big celebration of Eid-ul-fitr, the spread of iftar is also celebratory and if I’m allowed to announce, it is also full of gluttony. Now I’m the last person on this planet to educate anyone on religions. I don’t follow one. Having said that, give me good food and new clothes, I am UP for celebrating any and each one of them minus performing the ‘prayers’ or any rituals. 

Iftar's Hero Dish: Hyderabadi Haleem

For those who don’t know, ‘Iftar’ means ‘the meal eaten by believers of Islam to break their fast after sunset during Ramadan. So, keeping up with the spirit of food and drinks prepared for Iftars during Ramadan, I have attempted to cook Hyderabadi Haleem- the quintessential hero dish in every grand Iftar parties or menus.
Iftar's Hero Dish: Hyderabadi Haleem

Why Haleem for Iftar?

The Hyderabadi Haleem is very popular across the globe. Over the years, I have gathered that Haleem, the puréed meat, pulses and grains cooked in South Asian flavours and served with lemon juice, green chilli, coriander leaves, cucumber and freshly cut ginger is a hot favourite Iftar dish for many followers observing the Ramadan fast. It is known by different names in different cultures; for example; the Arabs call it Jareesh. The preparation method may vary from culture to culture. I tried to keep it as authentic as it gets in the Indian sub-continent. So, my take on traditional Haleem is a stew composed of meat (I used mutton), pulses and wheat berries made into a thick paste. You can always modify or make some changes in this recipe, depending on which ingredients you have on hand. There is one thing that never changes, however, and that’s the fact that it is a lengthy process and needs to be cooked slowly. Start the day early to prepare some of the ingredients. Then, on the day of cooking, keep yourself available for at least 4.5 hours. Yes, 4.5 hours. Officially. Slow. Cooking.

Iftar's Hero Dish: Hyderabadi Haleem

Ingredients I used:

Key ingredients: Wheat berries, Mung Dal, Urid Dal, Chana Dal
Key ingredients: Wheat berries, Mung Dal, Urid Dal, Chana Dal
Iftar's Hero Dish: Hyderabadi Haleem
Mutton on the bone

½ cup each chana dal, urid dal, mung dal
½ cup wheat berries
1 kg lamb on the bone, meat cut into chunks (You can use beef too)
2 tbsp crushed garlic
2 tbsp grated ginger
2½ litres water
2 tbsp clarified butter (ghee)
1 pinch saffron color (optional)
¼ tsp ground fenugreek
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp chaat masala spice mix (buy ready made from Indian grocery stores)
1 tbsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
salt
125 ml (½ cup) vegetable oil
2 onions, sliced
1 tbsp garam masala

To serve

Chaat masala spice mix (optional)
finely sliced green chilli
julienned ginger
coriander leaves
sliced lemon
Cucumber cut into small pieces

Lets cook now

Preparation time: 4.5 hours (Soaking time overnight)

Serves: 6 – 8

Note: You will need to begin this recipe 1 day ahead.

Step 1: Soak the pulses and wheat berries together overnight. You may crush the wheat berries in a mortar and pestle and soak for 1½ hours. Alternatively, you can also soak them first and then give them a blitz in food processor to crush them a little. Just one blitz is enough. Drain the  grain legumes, keep them aside.

Soak in cold water
Soak in cold water
After an overnight soaking, ready to cook
After an overnight soaking, it turns fluffy and ready to cook

Step 2: In a large heavy-based saucepan, heat oil/ghee, add the meat, garlic, ginger and shallow fry them for about 5 minutes. Add the grain legumes and water to bring them into boil. Simmer for around 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Iftar's Hero Dish: Hyderabadi HaleemIftar's Hero Dish: Hyderabadi HaleemIftar's Hero Dish: Hyderabadi HaleemIftar's Hero Dish: Hyderabadi Haleem

Step 3: Remove the bones and continue to cook for about 1 hour or until the meat starts to fall apart. You can also use a potato masher to break the meat pieces if they are big.

Step 4: Add the ghee, saffron colour, fenugreek, coriander, cumin, chaat masala, chilli powder, turmeric and salt and cook for another 1 hour, stirring regularly to help the ingredients break down and blend into each other. The stew will start to look very thick and sticky.

Iftar's Hero Dish: Hyderabadi Haleem Iftar's Hero Dish: Hyderabadi Haleem Iftar's Hero Dish: Hyderabadi Haleem Iftar's Hero Dish: Hyderabadi Haleem Iftar's Hero Dish: Hyderabadi Haleem Iftar's Hero Dish: Hyderabadi Haleem

Step 5: Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and fry the onion until brown and caramelised. Add the onion (reserving ¼ cup) and garam masala to the stew. Cook for a further 15 minutes.

Iftar's Hero Dish: Hyderabadi Haleem Iftar's Hero Dish: Hyderabadi Haleem Iftar's Hero Dish: Hyderabadi Haleem

Top tip: To get the exact professional-kitchen color for the Haleem, add saffron or orange food color.

Step 6: Scoop onto plates and garnish with the remaining fried onions, chaat masala (optional), chilli, ginger, cucumber, coriander and lemon. Serve with roti, naan or chapattis, or eat on it’s own, the latter is the beautographer’s favourite.

Iftar's Hero Dish: Hyderabadi Haleem

Iftar's Hero Dish: Hyderabadi Haleem

Bon appetit!

 

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