BY ANNISA ESSACK
This modest dish, also known as Harees or Hareesa, Keshkek, Kichara or Daleem, is a star of Arabian, Turkish, Persian, Pakistani, Bengali, and Indian cuisine.
The Indian subcontinent is blessed with a decent range of spices making Pakistani, Bengali and Indian haleem/hareesa spicy, whilst the Arabian palate prefers less spiciness. It is also eaten in a variety of different ways, in each of the different countries.
A concoction of healthy ingredients including pounded barley, oats, pure ghee, meat and can contain several healthy ingredients such as cardamom, cumin, cashew, pistachio, etc.
Haleem is not just a healthy and tasty dish but one that provides energy and nutrition that the body craves after a long day of fasting. Depending on its composition, Haleem can provide the body with essential fatty acids, carbohydrates, proteins together with other healthy elements. A smart chef can vary the composition of the ingredients to ensure that maximum benefit is gained from a healthier Haleem.
For us South Africans, who may have only eaten the local variations, you may be surprised to know that Haleem comes in a range of different versions depending on the availability of ingredients and the palate of the nation where it is prepared.
For instance, a newly added version is Meethi Haleem, which includes honey and is appreciated by those with a sweet tooth. But there is also a Khaari Haleem or salty Haleem. I, for one, will not be trying those as I, adventurous as I am, prefer the traditional version of the dish.
For the health fanatic or calorie-conscious, there is Diet Haleem, high in taste and energy but low in calories. Then, there’s organic Haleem, prepared with ingredients that are obviously organic but also include dry fruit. Also, this Haleem is totally free of any preservatives and additives.
Not forgetting the vegan, vegetarian Haleem comes packed with almonds, cashew nuts, soya nuggets, green chillies, curd, milk, coriander, garlic paste and other vegetarian ingredients, forming a dish that can only be described as a vegetarian’s delight! It may appeal to the fitness and diet-conscious too as it is low on calories.
Let me take you on a trip around the globe to find out how Haleem is enjoyed by different nations.
In most Arab countries, Harees is made with mutton, beef or camel meat, ghee, wheat, rice, and whole green pulses, spiced with garlic paste, black pepper and salt. You are then served with a bowl garnished with ghee or olive oil, black pepper, and fried onions.
Another version served mostly in the Persian parts of the world and very similar to the Arabian Harees is cooked with turkey, wheat, and oats, spiced with onion, salt and cinnamon. Persian Haleem is topped off with melted butter, sesame, and sugar.
Now in the subcontinent, where spice is life, Kashmir has its own style of Haleem. This concoction came from the Turks and blended into Kashmiri cuisine. Kashmiri hareesa is cooked with mutton or beef, wheat, lentils and spiced with salt, black pepper, and allspice. Here is it accompanied by a chutney sauce, dainty meat kebabs and is eaten with naan-bread.
Jetting off to Bengal where Haleem is cooked firstly by marinating the meat (lamb or chicken) overnight with ginger-garlic paste, red chilli, salt, turmeric, and allspice. It is then cooked with wheat and mashed up. Bengali haleem is topped off with chopped mint, fried onions, lemon wedges and roasted cashew nuts or almonds. Rather decadent.
In Hyderabad, you will find the popular and much liked Pakistani and Indian Haleem. Akin to the South Africa version, this Haleem is created using mutton or beef, wheat, lentils, salt, ginger-garlic paste, allspice, red chilli, turmeric, and ghee, cooked together and then mashed up. Hyderabad Haleem is finished with sizzling golden onions in ghee (bhegar/tarka/vagaar) and topped off with sliced ginger, chopped coriander and mint, green chillies, and fried onions. It can be enjoyed directly with a spoon or naan-bread.
Kichara or kichroo is a version of Haleem made with mutton or beef, wheat, lentils, salt, allspice, red chilli, and ghee. The difference between haleem and kichara is that the grains are not mashed up in a paste. Kichara is left with its whole grains in thick gravy of mashed meat.
However you enjoy this ever-popular, satisfying, and tasty dish, make sure you do so in the company of good friends and family.
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