Friday, June 20, 2014

Vegetarian Haleem

Haleem replete with garnishes

*Can be made vegan by omitting the yoghurt

Haleem can be made with beef, chicken, or goat. But what about a vegetarian version? Here I have created one. This is not a low fat dish. It is rich and heavy due to all of the nuts, seeds, and oil. Vegetarians will enjoy this veg version of this classic dish which is eaten in many Muslim communities, but those who are used to rich, meaty versions of haleem will also enjoy this recipe.

For this you need a box of Shan Shahi Haleem. This box will contain a packet of lentils/grains and a packet of ground spices. For those of you who have not used Shahi haleem mix, this makes a HUGE amount of haleem. Since this is a labor intensive recipe with a lot of steps, I usually freeze half of the batch of haleem, or even divide it into thirds and freeze it. That way you can enjoy haleem without having to do the work every time. Alternatively, you can half the recipe.

Open packet of Shan Shahi Haleem lentil/grain mixture. Optionally, and 1/2 cup extra pearl barley. I do this because I like the chewy texture of the barley in the haleem. Wash the lentils/grains well and soak overnight.

So you need:
1 box Shahi Haleem Mix (take care not to accidentally buy the Shan Easy Cook Haleem)
1/2 cup pearl barley

Making the Masala Yakhni

To cook them make a vegetarian masala yakhni. You will need 10 cups of water. (I make this in two sessions in a glass bowl in the microwave, rather than all at once.) To the water you will add:

2-3 tbs medley of whole garam masalas. I buy a bag of mixed whole garam masalas, but if you need to assemble your own medley----a few bay leaves, pieces of cinnamon bark, a few cardamom pods, 1-2 black cardamom pods, whole coriander, cumin, fennel, cloves, black pepper, a tiny bit of nutmeg and mace, 5 dried red chiles.

Optionally, you can add Hyderabadi potli masalas. Don't worry about this if you don't have it. It just adds an extra level of flavor, but this is already a flavorful dish with lots of masala. I ordered my potli masalas online, but if you live in an area with a lot of Hyderabadi Muslims, the Indian/Pakistani store will have some of these masalay, and some ingredients will be in the ayurvedic section of an Indian grocery.

1 tbs stone flowers (pathar ka phool)
1/2 cup dried rose petals (sukhe gulab ke sej)
a 3 inch chunk of dried root of betel plant  (paan ki jar)
1 tbs all spice (kabab chini)
1 tbs naag kesar (I have no idea what word exists for this in English) 
1 tbs kapoor kachri """"
1tbs dried Vetevier roots (khas ki jar)
3 pieces pipli (long black pepper corn, piper longum)

In a large microwave safe bowl, add these masalas in 5 cups of water. Microwave for 6 minutes. Strain the water twice (use a fine sieve) and keep aside. Repeat with the same wet spices. Once you've microwaved and strained the spices in water twice, you can toss them out. They have done their job. You will end up with brown colored masala water. 

Optionally, you can boil the water and spices together on the stove top for 10 minutes. The result is called a yakhni, or broth.

The Lentils/Grains

Cook the soaked lentils/grains in the masala yakhni that you have made. This can be done by boiling and then covering on simmer for about 1 hour, pressure cooking (in 2 split batches), or even left overnight in a crockpot. Add 1/4 tsp turmeric to lentils/grains as they cook. You can add 3-5 green chiles to the lentils when you boil them to make it extra spicy. But don't add salt unless you are cooking in a pressure cooker.  Otherwise add salt after the lentils/grains are completely cooked. You need about 2 tbs salt. (This is going to end up being a huge pot of haleem, but you can split the recipe in half if you use half the Shan lentils.)

Keep the cooked lentils aside in the vessel in which you want to finish the dish (large pot, crockpot, etc). You will have a bunch of cooked lentils in starchy water. Take care that the pot you use have room to add more ingredients because you will be adding your vegetables and spice paste and you don't want overflow or difficulty in pureeing later.

The Vegetables

For the vegetables which will be cauliflower and eggplant. You can really use any vegetable but avoid veg that will give the haleem a strange color. Haleem varies in color from khaki tan to yellowish to golden no large quantities of green or orange veg.

Chop one medium head of cauliflower in florets and deep fry them until tender. The cauliflower does not have to be completely cooked from frying because it will cook further when you add it to the haleem.

Roast 2 large eggplants in the oven. Do this by stabbing them a few times with a knife, coating lightly in oil, and wrapping in foil, then baking on a foil covered tray at 400 degrees for 1 hour and 20 mins. When the eggplant cools, skin it and remove the seeds and keep aside.

The Spice Paste

For the masala:

1 whole packet Shan shahi haleem masala spice.
1 heaping tbs garam masala
1/4 heaping cup almonds
1/4 heaping cup cashews
2 tsp roasted ground white poppy seed (khashkhaash or khas khas)
3 tbs roasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup shredded coconut, browned (I use frozen Indian coconut from the desi store and toast it in the oven)
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
5 fresh green chiles
3 tbs Greek yoghurt, whipped
pinch of salt
3/4 loosely packed cup of red fried onions/birishta (linked instructions for making birishta)
1 cup oil (best if you have oil from frying the birishta)
2 tbs ginger/garlic paste

Soak the cashews and almonds in warm water for 1+ hours. In a blender add the nuts and soaking water. Add the fried onion, sesame seeds, coconut, and green chiles, and pinch of salt. Grind, adding a little more water as necessary.

Heat  the cup of oil in pan. Fry the ginger garlic paste. When this looks golden, stir in the masala paste. Fry this for 5 minutes. Add in the mint leaves. Turn off the heat and add in the yoghurt. Keep stirring until the oil starts to rise to the top of the mixture again. (Turning off the heat and stirring like this prevents the yoghurt from splitting.) VEGANS: just omit the yoghurt. Turn the heat back on and keep stirring, frying for 5 more minutes. Add in the roasted poppy seed and the full packet of Shan Masala (use less for less spicy) and stir for 1 more minute. Turn off flame and stir in garam masala. You should have an oily, spicy mixture.


Take out 1.5 cups of cooked haleem lentils grains + liquid and keep aside. This will be added back to the pot after you have pureed the rest of the haleem to give some chewy, grainy texture to the dish because of the pearl barley. Some people like a pure paste with no texture, so you can skip this if you want. I like the texture of some pearl barley in the haleem.

Add the vegetables and spice paste into the grains/lentils. Puree well with a stick blender. (This can be done well in a blender, too. That's just more work.) Add back in the un-pureed lentils/grains. Allow this to cook on low for a while so the flavors blend well. You can add water to get the consistency you like. Some people prefer haleem like a thick daal, others like a thicker paste. It shouldn't be too liquidy or too thick, though. If you add water, be sure to taste for salt. You've added a lot of salt but this is a huge degchi/pot of haleem, so check the salt. I think based on the recipe I have given that I usually add 1 cup to 1.5 cups water towards the end to achieve the consistency that I like.

Cook on low for 20 mins or so to let the flavors blend well.

Finishing with a baghaar

2-3 tbs oil
3 tbs birishta/brown fried onions

Lastly, give a baghaar/tarka of oil and birishta/fried onions. Use about 2-3 tbs oil and 3 tbs brown fried onions. Take care not to burn the already fried onions in the oil. Rather than just tossing the pre-fried onions into the haleem, awakens their caramelized sweetness and flavor. Pour this hot oil-onion tempering on the haleem. You may stir in the baghaar or leave it showing on the top, as per your preference.

Oila. You have vegetarian haleem!

Optional: Traditionally, haleem was made over a wood fire. Haleem cooked this way has a special smoky flavor. To replicate this and make your haleem extra fancy, add a "dhungar" (smokey flavor) by heating a small piece of coal on the stove, then placing the hot coal in oil inside of a little metal katori/dish to the haleem, and covering the pot so it can get smoked for 20 minutes. Then pour in some of the oil from the dhungar and mix well. Be sure to use pure charcoal and not a chemical filled briquette. This blog has instructions with pics on giving dhungar...there are also some youtube vids on it if you search.

Don't forget the garnishes! 

fried cashews, matchstick ginger shards, finely chopped green chiles, fried onions (birishta), fresh chopped cilantro, a tiny squeeze of lemon juice, and optionally, some chaat masala. This haleem is rich and spicy, so you may not want the chaat masala, though.

You'll have to prepare a small amount of these garnishes and set them on a platter next to your haleem as your serve it for each diner to add to their own dish.

Serve with naan.

*This dish is rich and fattening. You've used more than a cup of oil plus all kinds of fatty nuts and seeds. But this is a large batch of haleem, so don't worry too much. You can likely get 20 or more cup sized servings out of this recipe.


Pakcola said...

Looks so good and great idea to make it veggie, will try this during Ramadan iA! Can you also explain how to do with chicken or beef?


Pakcola said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
luckyfatima said...

Hi Pakcola, I use the same box of Shahi Haleem plus my own garam masala. For this is brown the meat with ginger, garlic, and fried onions, 2 tbs Haleem masala, plus some whole garam masala, then pour on water and make a stock (yakhni). For chicken I mix bone in thights (about 8 for the whole box of haleem) plus a bunch of stock bones/cuts like necks, wings, backs. After about 20 mins, the thighs are cooked and I remove them, but allow the rest of the stock to continue cooking for about an hour. For beef I brown and do the same thing but I use bone in nihari meat and cook it for like 6-8 hours. Then I remove the meat from the broth. Once the beef/thigh has cooled, I remove it from the bone and shred it into chunks. I Pour the stock and shredded meat into the cooked lentils. I mix well and add more Shan Masala, then remove 1.5 cups for some texture of pulses and meat, but blend/stick puree the rest. Then I stir back in the unground portion, adjust for water/thickness, salt, and masala. I allow this to cook for 30 mins more to let the flavors blend. Then I stir in 1 tbs ground garam masala, and give the baghaar of fried onions. That's all. Some people cook the meat and pulses together, but I like to use bone-in meat for rich flavor and it is a headache to pick out the meat from the pulses to shred it and add it back in without the bone.

mohamedali khimji said...

it's really good to see other people cook veg haleem.
hahahaaa i thought i was the only one who cooked it.
please check out other way to cook veg haleem

mansureh said...

Just loved it..

mansureh said...

Just loved it..