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The perfect dish for a chilly morning

The perfect dish for a chilly morning

RAWALPINDI: Best served with diced green chillies, lemon juice and ginger and borrowed from Arabic cuisine, haleem is a complete meal in itself, taste and nutrition wise.

The dish is particularly popular in the garrison city, with the lanes of Raja Bazaar, Kashmiri Bazaar, Kartarpura, Saddar, Commercial Market, Murree Road and other markets lined with haleem shops, some of them altering the recipe just a bit in order to make it different.

Haleem is the subcontinent’s answer to the Arabian harisah and Persian harees.

The Arab countries mix in meat, wheat and barley to make harisah and in Iran, the dish is made with pulses and meat.

Hyderabadis in the subcontinent combined the two recipes, added in a few local spices and came up with haleem as we know it now.

The ingredients for haleem are simple and only require various pulses, beef or chicken and wheat to be mixed in and let to simmer on low heat for several hours, needing to be stirred occasionally till the mix turns into a thick paste.

“It needs to be cooked over low heat till the pulses are cooked and the meat is well done and shredded. It is preferable to stir haleem while it is cooking with a wooden spoon. After it is cooked, a tarka of ghee, vegetable oil or butter, according to preference, and chopped ginger, garlic and onion is also mixed in,” Malik Aslam, the owner of a restaurant in Raja Bazaar, told Dawn.

He said they cook haleem for the restaurant at night and that they are sold out by afternoon.

He added that at first, the dish was more in demand during Muharram and that lately, haleem is in demand all year round.

“Every cook makes his own variations to the recipe, to make it just a bit different. Chicken haleem has slowly become more popular than beef,” said Mohammad Akhtar, the owner of a shop in Kartarpura.

He said his restaurant serves chicken haleem and that those who want to have beef haleem have to put in their order some time in advance.

He added that beef haleem is mostly used for Niaz in Muharram.

“Haleem is a complete meal in itself, especially if eaten with naan, but I prefer having it without the naan, as there is already enough wheat in it,” said Mujtaba Ahmed, a customer waiting for his order of haleem in Commercial Market.

He talked about how Farzand’s haleem was popular in the garrison city once, with Farzand doing the city’s round with a daig of haleem on a cart after Maghrib prayers and how he would be sold out within an hour.

“Farzand ended up opening a stall at the Bohar Bazaar in front of Sheikh Rashid Ahmed’s Lal Haveli, but not many people know of him now because so many other shops have opened up in the same area,” he said.

“I will prefer a good plate of haleem, garnished with green chillies and diced ginger over biryani any day because it is easy to digest,” said another customer, Raja Ammar, adding that the dish is rich in fibre and protein.

“It is also so simple to eat,” he said.

Another diner, Mohammad Mukhtar said the dish is popular with his family in the winters and that he brings in an order of haleem for weekend breakfasts and couples it with kulchas topped with sesame seeds.

“I am not that fond of the more oily dishes like nihari and sri paye, which makes haleem the perfect choice for a chilly mornings’ breakfast,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2016

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