Haleem is a classic South Asian dish because of the simplicity in ingredients: lentils, meat, spices. It was also a favorite dish of kings and nobility because, even though the ingredients are simple, it is a rich dish that takes hours to cook in order to develop the velvety, smooth consistency. There are many tales of cooks trying to sabotage and bribe other worker’s for their secret ingredients. Think Indian Downton Abbey. That’s totally a show I would watch…
Haleem is still made all over the subcontinent because of the delicious flavors and comfort that come from this one-pot meal.
I will be honest and say that this stuff doesn’t photograph as the most beautiful dish but if you’ve ever had it, you know that it is AMAZING. It’s warm, smooth, fibrous, rich, and comforting. You can individualize your haleem by topping it off with your favorite garnishes so it’s perfect for you every time. This is one of those dishes that transports you on vacation instantly.
Haleem is also the perfect dish to entertain with. When I made this big pot of haleem, I invited some friends over last minute and there was nothing left by the end of the night. It’s comfort food at it’s finest and when made the way I’m going to show you, you’ll be an instant hero. I’m totally serious about that too.
Forewarning: It is pretty time consuming and you will need two big pots to make this dish.
But the way that I will show you how to make this will differ from what people might tell you because I don’t inundate my haleem with typical spices. I want my haleem to taste like haleem and not like everything else that I make. So no cumin or coriander powder here. We’re going for the big flavor guns on this one. You’ll see what I mean.
This takes quite a while, kids. So gather around. We’re gonna be here for a while.
First, we need to soak a mixture of lentils overnight.
I am using 1/4 cup each of urad daal, masoor daal, split mung daal, barley, and split chana daal. These are the names of all these daals if you were to go into a Pakistani or Indian grocery store to look for them.
Bring this entire mixture to a boil and then simmer for two hours. Yes, it takes a while. Also, feel free to add water as it’s boiling to make sure that it doesn’t dry out. This will depend on your lentils so you have to keep an eye on it to make sure you have something that looks like this:
You want the daals to get to a consistency where they are mash easily but aren’t swimming in liquid. Like this.
First, we’ll want to get another large, heavy bottomed pot and heat up 1/4 cup of oil and one tablespoon of clarified butter (ghee) together over medium high heat.
To the remaining onions add three teaspoons of ginger and garlic paste and two teaspoons turmeric powder, two teaspoons of red chili powder, and four teaspoons of kosher salt mix this all together and allow to cook for 30 seconds.
Now we’ll need to add the beef. The glorious, glorious beef. I used two and a half pounds of boneless stew beef. I also asked the butcher for one pound of bones. I like doing it this way because I can get the flavor of the bones with the ease of just picking it out of the pot and tossing it.
To make saffron milk, mix one teaspoon of milk with a pinch of saffron and allow this to sit for 10 minutes to bloom. This adds a beautiful scent to the dish as it cooks.
Now we’re ready for the fun stuff – add in the entire pot of blended beans. We’ll need to mash the beef and the beans together using a potato masher. Sounds weird, but it’s the best tool for the job. We don’t want to use an immersion blender again because we want texture from the meat to shine through.
After this mixture has mashed together until its a cohesive mix, we’ll want to add in more spices. Two teaspoons of black cumin seeds, four kabab chini (a type of allspice), a 2 inch stick of cinnamon, six bruised green cardamom pods, six cloves, and two teaspoons of fresh garam masala.
Cook this entire mixture together for an additional 30 minutes, mashing the mix as you go. There is a beautiful protein that forms when protein, salt, and agitation meet and you are trying to extract that. Haleem is definitely a labor of love, but it’s totally worth it.
After 30 minutes or so your glorious pot of beans and meat should will change color a bit and look something like this.
At this point we’ll want to adjust the seasonings. I added an additional two and a half teaspoons of kosher salt, two teaspoons each of chopped cilantro and mint, two tablespoons of ghee, and the juice of one lemon – fresh please!
I serve mine alongside my favorite haleem garnishes: chopped mint, julienned ginger, chopped green chilis, lemon wedges, and chopped cilantro. I also serve this with some extra chaat masala and fried onions for those that want to add more goodness into their bowl of haleem.
I hope you guys dedicate some time to making this dish. It freezes beautifully as well!
I will add a step-by-step written out recipe for it soon!