Persian Halim(Haleem) Wheat and Meat Porridge
The word Halim comes from the Arabic language meaning shredded meat. Halim is a very popular food in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. There are many varieties of Halim based on different regions. Persian Halim is different from the Halims served in the Arabic countries, and here is what you need to know about this Persian cuisine.
About a thousand years ago, the Alawites used to cook Halim only on sacred nights, and by morning they would hand out the food they had prepared to people. This act was called “giving out Nazri”, and “Nazri” meant free food. They believed that Halim was the most difficult and most time-consuming food to cook, making their Nazri more meaningful.
Time passed. Persians kept the holy meaning of cooking Halim, but they also added a new sense to it. Halim was served warm, and it counted as breakfast. So on the long cold nights of winter, the people of Jasb (a city in the middle of Iran) cooked this food throughout the night. They served it as a hot breakfast to their family members, warming them up for the cold day ahead. They did this for the entire season.
Nowadays there are Halim shops all over Iran; those who want Halim for breakfast, often buy theirs from these shops. It is served year-round and in varieties too.
The original Halim, the one that started it all, is made from barley, shredded meat (beef, lamb, chicken or turkey) and spices. This dish is cooked for several hours, which results in a paste-like consistency, blending the flavours of spices, meat, barley, and wheat.
The ingredients of different Halims are basically replacements of the ingredients of the original. I’ll explain in more detail further on.
- 2 cups Barley/wheat germ 1302 Cal
- 4 cups Water
- 300 g Shredded meat chuck meat is best (750 Cal)
- 1 Medium-sized onion 41 Cal
- 1 ½ tsp Salt 1 Cal
- ½ tsp Pepper 1 Cal
- 2 cups Whole milk 298 Cal
- 2 tsp Cinnamon 1 Cal
- A generous pinch of sesame seed 52 Cal
- Sugar or salt as desired typically Halim is served with sugar and most often than not it’s a sweet dish, but some don’t like it that way, so they add salt
- In a medium pot, add two cups of water, the meat of your choice (beef, lamb, chicken or turkey), two halves of a medium-sized onion, 1 ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper.
- Turn the heat on low and let it cook overnight
- In another pot, boil the remaining two cups of water and add two cups of wheat germ or barley.
- Let it simmer overnight on very low heat until cooked.
- Strain the broth and shred the meat.
- Mix the shredded meat with cooked barley, pour 2 cups of whole milk to the mix, and let it simmer for thirty to forty minutes. Don’t worry about over-cooking because Halim has a paste-like consistency.
- Once everything is completely cooked, get your trusted blender and blend until you can’t visually tell the ingredients apart.
- For garnish, use cinnamon, sesame seed, and a little bit of shredded meat.
- You can also add a tablespoon of vegetable oil on top if you want an unhealthy but incredibly delicious version of this Halim.
- Mix the garnishes with the Halim and enjoy with bread.
- Wheat Halim is originally bland, and you can season it with salt or sugar and cinnamon. (depending on if you have a sweet tooth or not).
- Back in the day, when calorie counting wasn’t a thing, chefs used to make Halim tasty, the best way they knew how; By using a ton of fat. So if you want a tastier Halim, you can use oil and cream too.
- If you want to make oats Halim, use oats instead of barley.
- If you don’t have milk lying around, but you want Halim, just don’t add milk, and you will have an equally tasty wheat Halim.
Milk Halim counts as a special breakfast; that’s why in Isfahan, milk Halim is widely served only on Fridays, which is the Persian weekend.
Halim Bademjan or eggplant Halim
Halim Bademjan is mostly served throughout the country during the Islamic holy months of Ramadan and Muharram of the Muslim Hijri calendar.
In the month of Ramadan, after fasting for most of the day, this is a go-to dish for Muslim breakfast (Iftar); it’s high in nutrition, protein, carbs, providing energy for the fasters after a long day of not eating food. In Muharram, people of Iran serve it as Nazri to their neighbours, or strangers passing by.
As I said, wheat Halim is the base of all other Halims; once you know the recipe of one Halim, you can pretty much cook the others just by changing a couple of main ingredients. For eggplant Halim, you will need to use rice instead of wheat, Kashk instead of cream, and add eggplants to the list.
Let me break it down for you.
According to Wikipedia, “Kashk is a fermented food that is made from grain mixed with sour milk or yoghurt.” Kashk can be found in many forms and varieties. The Kashk that Persians use for cooking has a sour-cream like consistency, it is very salty, and depending on what animal-milk it is made from, it tastes different on the tongue, having an effect on the overall taste of your food.
Kashk can also be found in ball shapes, and be used as a snack throughout the day. Some people like to have a salty treat from time to time, and because Kashk is a dairy product, some consider it as a healthy snack.
My advice to you, taste the Kashk you bought for cooking and keep in mind its saltiness; this will come in handy when you are seasoning your food with salt.
While peeling your eggplants be sure to remove the stem, and for a faster cooking process, you can cut the eggplants into three-inch pieces. Since everything is going to be blended together, you don’t need to be specific in how you cut them.
Halims can be a simple snack on your busy days, or they can be a full three-course meal, sweet or salty, burning hot or semi-cold, you can enjoy them however you like. They are extremely versatile, and you can’t go wrong with this amazing Persian cuisine.
I hope this post makes you want to try it, let me know in the comments if you do.