It’s said that once you have experienced the taste of a rich haleem, you can never forget it. The rich Mughlai mutton-lentils wheat stew dish -which traces its origins in Arabia, where it is known as Hareesah – is a nutritious meal in its own right. Slow-cooked for 6-8 hours with lots of labour and love, the mix is as wholesome as it gets.

Some say Haleem originated in Iran and Afghanistan region. This Persian dish was introduced to India during Akbar period. We can find the early documented recipes from the royal kitchen of Akbar in Akbarnama. Haleem is also spelled as Halim. Literally, Haleem mean ‘Patient and Merciful’. It is served for breakfast during the month of Moharram and Ramadan, considered ideal to break the fast.

Others believe that the original recipe of Haleem as an Indian experiment with an old Arabian dish called Hareesah. It contains meat, wheat, cinnamon and ghee. The dish made its way into the Nizam’s kitchens and became popular sometime in the 1930’s. As per norm, Indians added their own dash of extra spice and masala. This addition of ingredients according to Indian taste gave birth to the present day “Haleem”.

How it’s made: The preparation of Haleem is considered to be an art as it is slow-cooked for hours together on firewood. If it is to be made in bulk, two or three persons are needed to keep stirring it continuously with a large wooden ladle throughout its preparation. The ingredients include meat, barley, pulses, pounded wheat, spices, specially kababchini (all spice) and ghee. The meat is cooked along with the spices. It is then shredded and added to the pounded wheat and barley mixture and cooked for hours. The garnish includes fried cashews, golden fried onions and a slice of lime.

Bohri-style: The delicacy , made Bohri-style is special too. Bohra Khichda is a creamier variety that is subtly spiced, unlike the spicy Hyderabadi variety, which uses turmeric. The spices used are whole (tej, clove, tejpatta, black pepper) and a bit of garam masala to round off the kick from the whole spices. The creaminess comes from the milk that is added instead of water while stirring and beating the grains. Fried onions, mint and lemon are condiments, without which the Khichda would be deemed incomplete.

While it can be made all year round, Bohras start soaking the broken wheat on the 10th of every month of the Islamic calendar (in remembrance of 10th of Ashura),” she informs.

An Iranian one too! Irani-style Haleem is different from the Indian or Arabian version. It calls for a certain blend of spices. You have to use elaichi, shahi jeera, cinnamon, peppercorn, cloves, rose petal, pista, almonds, a mix of lentils, rice as well as the soup made from mutton bones. While making this, the meat/wheat ratio has to be 1/4. You may also put loads of saffron in the Haleem, but using turmeric is a big no-no.

Haleem and khichda: the two are different…

Though Haleem and Khichda are often confused with each other, each has it’s own distinct appeal. When it comes to the Khichda, you have chunkier pieces of meat and the dish is not as smooth.

Haleem has a unique taste, unlike in Khichda where one can easily distinguish each of the lentils and the mutton cubes, haleem is more of a melt-in-your-mouth affair. The meat is cooked halfway through, pulverised and cooked again to blend with the rest of the ingredients. Also, Khichda is more dal-like in texture leaving behind trails in your plate, not something that you see with Haleem.

Khichda is one of the variants of Haleem. Khichda is also yellowish brown and it includes wheat, pulses and an additional ingredient, which is rice. Additionally, the wheat, pulses and rice are soaked overnight separately and also they are boiled separately before adding them to the cooked mutton/chicken. Another difference is that Khichda also uses red chilli powder along with green chilli, whereas Haleem just uses green chillies. Another point of distinction is that in Khichda, the meat cubes are not shredded as in the case of Haleem.

‘A power breakfast dish’

Haleem finds it’s place on Iftar menus in Ramadan owing to its fortifying nature. It is often made during the community dinners, with tandoori roti being its companion. The dish is high in calories and it provides instant energy with slow-digesting and fast-burning ingredients. The dish is also said to be a `one-dish meal in itself” with the meat stock and lentils. Tasneem agrees, “That is definitely so. When you have all the goodness of fibre from the wheat and dal combined with slow cooked meat proteins, it becomes a healthy , wholesome treat. In some Middle Eastern cultures, it is also considered a power breakfast dish.”

Spice checklist

According to Tasneem one of the secrets to a great Haleem at Tasneem’s Kings Kitchen is its blend of spices. When cooking, six spices are tied in a Muslin cloth and used in the preparation. The list… hmmm… some other time perhaps.

RULE: The dish is served hot, topped with ghee, lime, chopped mint. Sliced boiled eggs and fried onions are used as garnish.

You can enjoy authentic Haleem every weekend (Thursday, Friday & Saturday) during the holy month of Ramadan at Tasneem’s King Kitchen, Jhamsikhel Road, next to Pulchowk Damkal, Lalitpur, Nepal. To book your Haleem call 9801121212. We also make Haleem by the kilo by order.