حلیم Haleem/Halim is a favorite traditional meal in Iran and it's usually served for breakfast. The main ingredients for haleem are wheat and meat ( beef, lamb or turkey). Haleem is a hearty and filling morning meal that is cooked slowly and requires some patience. In Iran there are also restaurants that serve haleem in the early hours of the morning or sell it as take-out. There are cooks who insist on cooking haleem the old fashioned way by cooking the wheat and stirring it all night long to have it ready for the hungry early risers. However, thanks to modern technology, which has brought about food processors and hand mixers, we can make haleem much faster.
Growing up in the south of Iran, I would witness the vast fields of wheat every spring and the harvesting of crops months later. I wish my New York born and raised children could experience and witness the process of ground cultivation by hard working farmers, and observe the blossoming wheat sprouts and the harvesting and all the work and effort that goes into it all. That has been an amazing childhood memory that has helped keep me connected with nature ever since and makes me appreciate what the earth generously offers us each season and in every corner of the world.
Haleem is a dish that is usually made with the intention of serving more than one or two people. After putting time, effort, and some love into making this porridge you will want to have your family and friends to join you in enjoying this creamy, nutritious and satisfying meal. In Iran they send out haleem bowls to the neighbors. I remember my mother spooning some haleem into my bowl and talking about how at the time of creation the wheat grain was cut in half to symbolize the equality of human kind and the sharing of food for generations to come. Cultivation of wheat dates back thousands of years ago and has been one of the staples in Iranian cuisine. Now, thousands of years later, I end this post with a well known poem by Saadi/Sa'di Shirazi, Iran's very famous poet:
The children of Adam are limbs from one body
having been created of one essence.
When the hardship of time afflicts one limb
the other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If you have no compassion for people's suffering
you cannot be called a "human being."
Ingredients: Serves 6-8
3 cups pelted wheat, rinsed, soaked 6-8 hours in 6 cups of water, drain before cooking
2 pounds meat (preferably lamb neck or turkey breasts)
3 cups milk
Salt to taste
Place the lamb or turkey in a medium sized pan, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and enough water to cover. Cover and cook for about 1-1/2 hours on medium heat or until the meat is tender. Remove from heat and let cool. Remove and separate meat from bones if using the lamb neck and shred into small pieces.
Place wheat in a heavy bottom large stew pot on medium heat, pour in 6-8 cups of water, bring to a gentle boil for a few minutes, reduce heat to low and cook for about 1-1/2 hours.
If you prefer not use a food processor then stir the pot frequently. Add more water if needed. Set aside to cool.
Pour the cooked wheat in a food processor in small batches and pulse till it becomes of a creamy and smooth texture. Using a wooden spoon is recommended.
Combine the meat and the wheat mixture and return back to the heavy bottom pot on medium to low heat. Add the milk one cup at a time. Simmer for an additional 30-40 minutes till it reaches the desired consistency and becomes sort of supple and stretchy. Taste and add salt if needed. If you don't like to add milk to your haleem substitute it by adding water instead.
To test the stretchiness, use a wooden spoon and gently scoop some haleem. If there is some stretch as you are lifting the scoop then that's the perfect haleem. Your chances of reaching the desired pull of the haleem is better if turkey breasts are used instead of using lamb. Personally, I don't obsess much over this!
Serve warm in individual bowls or place it in one big bowl. Top with cinnamon, sugar and drizzle with melted butter. If there are any left overs you may freeze them in small plastic containers.