Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Party Piece - Haleem Goes Vegetarian

This is a party piece even when it’s non-vegetarian. Come Ramzan, and visitors to Hyderabad would be whisked off to the Old City to try the Haleem and other dishes that would make an appearance only that month, apart from the kababs and khubani ka meetha (stewed apricots with custard) that the city is so famous for.
Now Haleem seems to be available everywhere in the city – I visited last year during Ramzan and every restaurant big and small worth its name had banners advertising its availability. I even remember Hareesh (a dish, not a guy), but am not too sure what it was or even whether I tasted it.
However, in the after-life (life after Hyderabad, that is, this is no ghost writing this piece), most of my friends are vegetarian, and pulaos, fried rice and “variety rice” (that favourite Madrasi term for various flavoured rice dishes) soon pall as they are commonly found. I had just begun collecting cookbooks then, and was thrilled to find this dish which proved to be the delight of every get-together we had since. Sadly, though, work and different schedules ensured we couldn’t meet often, but as a ‘welcome back’ dish for someone who loved it but told me not to bother with it, it’s just right.
The basic recipe is from Rotis & Naans of India by Purobi Babbar (Vakils, Feffer and Simons, 1990) but I made a few changes based on what I found in my fridge. On to the recipe, then!

1 ½ cups broken wheat (I used coarse wheat rava)
4 tbsp red gram/toor daal/kandi pappu
2 tbsp green gram/moong dal/pesara pappu (the book suggested masoor daal)
2 tbsp split Bengal gram/channa daal/senaga pappu
100 gm altogether – peas, yellow pumpkin, and carrots, cut into pieces (the book suggested peas, cauliflower and brinjals)
2 capsicum/green bell pepper, cut
3 medium onions, sliced

8 cloves garlic and 2 tbsp grated ginger, ground to a paste
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp curry powder/garam masala
1 tbsp coriander/dhania powder (the book suggested 1 tbsp each of coriander and cumin seeds ground to a fine paste)
2 level tsp salt
6 cups of water
8 tbsps of ghee or oil (I used my flavoured ghee)

For garnish:
1 onion, sliced and fried crisp
Coriander leaves/hara dhania/kothimeera, chopped

Soak wheat and dals separately overnight. Wash well. Drain and keep aside for 20 minutes.

Heat half the melted ghee or oil. Fry onions until brown. Stir in garlic, ginger paste, fry for a few minutes. Add coriander powder, turmeric, chilli, salt and add wheat and dal mixture. Stir well.

Pour in the water. Cover and cook slowly over low heat for one hour till the wheat is soft and pulpy and the daals are tender. Add vegetables. Stir well. When ready, add curry powder and the remaining ghee or oil.

Keep stirring often. Despite all my heroic, conscientious efforts, it did keep sticking to the bottom of the pan between the stirs. Cook over low heat even now, but without the lid until the ghee floats to the top and the colour turns golden.

Once you’ve transferred it into a serving bowl, sprinkle the fried onions and coriander on top. Serve hot with lemon slices, mint leaves and a simple salad of cucumber, onion and tomato.

Warning: This takes at least two hours to make and a tremendous amount of patience. You also need to be alert. This stew can splutter and burn your arms and fingers. The end result is worth it, but then, make sure you serve it in limited doses to those who shouldn’t be eating all that ghee or oil!

As I was finishing it off and reached for something in my shelf, I noticed my bottle of olive oil looking down at me. Given that most of the ingredients are also used in Mediterranean cuisine, this dish would have probably tasted as good but lighter with olive oil, if any of you try, don’t forget to drop me a line.
And to borrow what many of my vegetarian friends unfamiliar with paneer/mushroom/tofu would say: “I believe it tastes just like non-veg.” It does.



  1. Me first again!:D

    Veg. Haleem , never would have thought of it sra:) Looks mouthwatering and had a good time reading about all the info too. I was expecting a Jaggery dish!:D

    Thanks sra,beautiful dish.

  2. sra, i have only had haleem here and read abt it. so getting ur recipe is a good way for me to try making it.thanks.

  3. I have never had Haleem, though heard about it. Was telling someone the other day about it and that person said "Are you sure that's a dish ?" Imagine if I now go and say "Hareesh" :)

    Did you try the non-veg one, if you do, please post your version of the recipe

  4. oh you must have seen the sign for "harees", not "hareesh" :)...harees is made of chicken while haleem is made of lamb.

  5. Earlier this year I was in Hyderabad and wanted to taste all the local specialties but didn't get to try haleem. Maybe someday....

  6. Veg. haleem looks delicious ! Gonna try this.

  7. Hi Sra, thanks for visiting my blog. Once I reached here, I was so excited looking at the recipe of something that I've been searching in vain for soooo long. I've asked so many people in Hyd if I could get Veggie Haleem somewhere but in vain.
    Now this one is on my "must try" list.
    By the way, I like your style of writing...that after-life thing cracked me up :)).

  8. Hi Sra!
    We r from hyd. My husband loves haleem. After coming to tokyo he is badly missing the haleem.
    good day!

  9. Hi Asha,
    Thanks! I'm posting a jaggery un-dish, have a look!
    Shaheen, am sure yours will be a masterpiece!
    Sandeepa, Haleem and Hareesh do sound like brothers, don't they? Like Amar, Akbar, Anthony, we just need a Henry! I've never tried the non-veg one because the recipes I've seen involve grinding meat, and kheema doesn't quite do the trick. Maybe I will try one of these days.
    Nabeela, someone who told me about it called it hareesh, but harees sounds right.
    Pepper, may you go back and try those ethnic dishes soon!
    Krithika, bon appetit!
    Tweety, thanks for appreciating my writing, and let me know how the dish worked out.
    Bhargavi, here's wishing you and hubby get to eat haleem soon!

  10. hi sra, i tried out the veg haleem without the veggies. hubby & i njoyd it very much. btw, tried it with olive oil.only difference was that i pressure cooked the whole lot & i think it needed more mashing.It smelled heavenly & tasted just as good as a non veg one.Thanks !!.i write this post inspired by Trial & error nabeela's stong wording on "ghost readers".i am a HUGE fan of many food blogs but only in the ghost capacity.hope this'll mend my ways !!

  11. Farah, thanks for becoming 'flesh-and-blood' now :) - it really thrills us bloggers when someone tells us they've tried our dishes. Thanks for letting me know.

  12. Hi Sra,
    I was so excited to find another great blog from a hyderabadi(I LOVE Nabeela's Trial and Error). I have that cookbook you mentioned and tried this recipe about four years ago. Thanks for refreshing my memory, will definitely try it this weekend. Have a great one!


  13. Hi,
    Other day I saw Prahlad Kakkar preparing Haleem at some TV program on his B'day it looked very yummy but being a vegeterian I was on a look out of a veg recipe and yours is perfect.
    Though Prahlad suggested using masala cubes and potato to take away the excess salt in the cubes and use of whole spices as the secret.
    I tried your recipe today along with whole spices and it turned out excellant. everyone loved it. the quantity is huge it can serve six people easily .
    I used presuure cooker without whistle and after 25 minutes cooked it without lid for 10 minutes and finally presuure cooked it for like 5 minutes.all the ingrediants were well cooked.It actually very healthy if you see loaded with proteins, carb and roughage. Be lil miser on the ghee and really vvery healthy dish.
    Thanks for the wonderful recipe.

  14. Thank you Neff, for the detailed comment, and for bothering to tell me that you tried it. It makes it worthwhile. And next time I make it in the pressure cooker!

  15. this blog is copying your recipe i think

  16. Really cool that you came up with this recipe! All the versions of haleem I see around have meat. I'm surprised there aren't more veggie options b/c India has so many vegetarians. Anyway, neat blog


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