Haleem on Toast
Photo: Ajna Jai / Contributor
The holy month of Ramadan ended this week with a celebration of Eid-al-Fitr, the breaking of the fast. While Ramadan is mostly about abstinence from material pleasures, it also brings communities together to celebrate with age-old traditions and delicacies like kebabs, meat stews and crispy breads. One such delicacy popular in India during the month of Ramadan is haleem. Originally an Arabic dish called ‘harees’ or harissa from the 10th century, haleem is said to have come to India via Iran and Afghanistan during the emperor Humayun’s reign in the Mughal period. It was evolved and upgraded with aromatic spices and ingredients to become a local specialty in Hyderabad. Traditionally prepared in ‘bhattis’ or brick-and-mud ovens during the holy month of Ramadan, it is a slow cooked sludge like delicacy made from meat, wheat, and pulses, often cooked for seven to eight hours over firewood.
Just like most dishes in India, there are dozens of variations on haleem, some are made with goat, some with beef, different kinds of lentils or grains but here is a recipe that reminds me of the haleem my two older brothers would sneak into the house at night for late night treats. This recipe utilizes a lot of ginger, remember to not peel it. Haleem can be made up to 3 to 4 days in advance, freezes well for up to 6 month and can be eaten with flatbreads like naans or roti, or on warm toast.