August 18, 2010

The Story of Aleesa and Haleem..


This is a  story I have angling to tell for a long time. The main characters are Aleesa and Haleem..kind of like Heer Ranjha, right? It could also be delusions brought on by the heightened state of the mind when it wanders while fasting.The one on the right is Aleesa and the one on the left is Haleem.

Aleesa is a winner in looks and has good taste. She has a gentle sweet personality evident in her creamy complexion and mild nature. Happy to take a shy side seating in a crowd, you notice her only when you take the first step in the conversation. Sugary, buttery, creamy..that's the first set of words that pop into your vocabulary. Then the mid tones of spice..cinnamon, cloves, cardamon hit the back of your throat and you take a second look at the unassuming Aleesa. She is not a fool, you decide, she's different..is she an appetizer or a dessert... and as she walks away, there is a lingering memory that you just can't place.(Not my place to tell you what that is.:))

Haleem, on the other hand, is a commanding presence. Happy to be in the center of attraction, he is popular with outstanding people skills. Though he is a bright yellow in complexion, with an assortment of colorful accessories, he manages to win over anybody willing to talk to him for a second. Spicy, tangy and hot run the chit chat initially till you get into the meaty part of the conversation and then everything gets serious. Frivolities aside, this is a serious person and needs to treated with respect.
They both come from the same ancestors and maybe centuries earlier, there was a love story between them which was forcibly broken apart by warring families and send to different parts of the world.
Now they no longer recognize their common traits and have forgotten their similarities. If they were to meet their Pakistani cousin, Hareesa( not the condiment), Mumbai cousin Kichra, or Turkish cousin keshkek,they would both know they once belonged to the same royal family in the Arab states. See this wonderful post on Turkish weddings if you still doubt the similarities.

If you wondering what am I blabbering about, its about two dishes, Aleesa and Haleem popular in the Muslim Communities in North India and Malabar. Haleem is found only in Hyderabad and Lucknow and Aleesa is a North Kerala dish popular in Muslim salkarams.

According to this site, Haleem is a soup-like Indian and Pakistani dish, brought to India from Persia. In Anatolia, Iran, the Caucasus region and northern Iraq, it is known by the names Keshkek or Harisa. Although the dish varies in other regions, it always includes wheat and meat. It is a tasty soup that is made from wheat ,barley and oats. Meat or Chicken can be added for different variations. It is generally made during Ramadan and in cold weather and can be eaten with naan(indian bread) and a dash of lemon juice. 

Well, its definitely not soup like (though I don't mind it like a soup too) and a measure of its quality is the thickness. The density( yeah,  getting technical.. this was told to me by my butcher)should be such that a spoon placed vertically in it should stand as is without any support. It's eaten as a thick porridge(worst word to describe a delicious recipe)and it has a stick to your bones kind of richness that is good in cold weather and also after a hard long fast. So its popular as an Iftar food everywhere. Both are very thick goopy food only as good as the flavorings and the ghee in it, so most people either love it or detest it.

Now Aleesa on the other hand, however the recipe reached Northern Kerala's Malabar region, is a sweet version of this Haleem. I wouldn't have thought it was till I cam across the a post on sweet wheat porridge(that word again.) called Haleem. Again there was this wheat and meat Persian breakfast also adding ghee and sugar instead of spices. No lentils in aleesa though  but still I am assuming there is a connection between these recipes..one sweet and one savory version of the same meat and wheat stew.
As for the recipe , see below.

Aleesa Recipe
You will need
Skinned whole wheat(Haleem Wheat)-1/2 cup
Cloves-2
Cinnamon-1 small half inch long thin piece
Onion- 1 small one quartered
Cardamom-1 whole pieces
Chicken or Mutton- 1/2 cup cubes

Preparation:
Soak the wheat in warm water for 15-20 minutes. Add all the ingredients in a pressure cooker or thick bottom stock pot. Add 3 cups of water and pressure cook ( or slow cook with lots of water on medium low heat) till the first whistle comes and then cook on very low heat for 10-15 minutes. After the cooker cools, open, and blend to a coarse consistency. Not fully smooth and not fully granular. You could mash it by hand too using a potato masher. Add 1/2 tsp of salt and mix well. If its too thick, add some water and cook well. If its too thin, let it thicken over low heat. Transfer to a serving shallow bowl.
Now season it by frying 3 shallots sliced in 3-4 tablespoon( use more if u like it) of ghee till it browns well. Add some cashews and raisins and fry that too. Pour the seasoned ghee over the whole cooked aleesa. Serve with lots of sugar sprinkled on top or on the side.

Traditionally, the haleem is made over 7-8 hours in a slow cooking method that ensures the flavors meld together and there are traditionalists who only prefer that. With pressure cookers and food mills, it has a faster cooking time now. If I had a slow cooker, I would use that, but I make it in a pressure cooker for ease. There are videos on you tube which show how the real deal is made in Hyderabad. From the look of it, they don't use turmeric and their haleem looks different. Any feedback on that will be welcome.

As for the Haleem recipe, since that's something I have tasted only after coming here, and hence my recipe for that may not be accurate. There are lots of Haleem recipes blogged by able bloggers now, namely Zaiqa and health nut, but the one below is what I usually use and here it as it was blogged by Nabeela, whose blog I can't find now.  Shaan masalas also has a haleem mix which comes out pretty good too, except that I feel the garam masala and salt in that is overpowering. Try it either way or follow the directions on the back of the Shaan masala.

Haleem Recipe
You will Need:
2 BIG onions, sliced thin and deep fried to golden brown, then crushed
Bulghur wheat(about 2/3 cup), Masoor dal(1 handful) & Chana Dal(1 handful) - together 8 ounce
3 cups water
1 tbsp oil
1.5 lbs chicken/beef/goat, boneless
1 cup water
1.5 cups yogurt
1.5 tsp salt
4-5 green chilies
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
3 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 tbsp minced fresh garlic
8 cloves + 1/2 tsp cumin - ground
1/2  tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground pepper
1 1/3 cup water
Juice from 2 limes
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 cup chopped mint leaves
Lime wedges to serve
Procedure:
Cook bulghur wheat with masoor and chana dal in 3 cups water in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes. Set aisde and clean pressure cooker. Marinate chicken, water, yogurt, red chili, turmeric, garlic, ginger and salt for some time and then add them along with oil in same pressure cooker and cook for 30 minutes till the meat has fallen apart totally. Using a food mill or a food processor, puree the wheat mixture and meat mixture into a 5 quart pot. Add 1/2 of the crushed deep fried onions, ground cloves and cumin, 3/4 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ground pepper, water and lime juice. Cook it on medium heat, stirring constantly. Taste and see if it needs more cinnamon and pepper. Adjust to your taste. Cook for 10-15 minutes till its thick and goopy. Add chopped cilantro and mint. Cook for a minute further. Serve hot with lime wedges, fresh cilantro and the rest of the fried onions sprinkled on top.

34 comments:

foreverhungrygal said...

hello shaheen

thanks a ton 4 d recipe.. my things 2 cook wishlist is simply expanding...
being from north malabar ive eaten aleesa many times mostly from my friends place and during muslim weddings...the first time i had it i thought it was bland and lacked flavour...but i guess it was the 2nd or 3rd time that i started appreciating the dish and finally got hooked...
as for haleem its my all time dream 2 go 2 hyderabad and eat like anything and haleem tops the list..
and thank u 4 d amazing pathiri and chicken recipes..u r my all tym favourite..

shirin said...

awesome story!!

? said...

Haleem was a favourite and we searched out old Irani cafe's and their newer compatriots in and around Hyderabad...

Nitha said...

Have heard of these.. But never got a chance to taste.. Thanks for the recipe..

Sreelekha Sumesh said...

Hey Shaheen , Nice story.Aleesa othiri kettitundu.Haleem first time anu.ethe vare kazhichitumilla.btw njanum kannur kari anu:)

Jayashree said...

Loved reading the intro to this post.

nappymom said...

Thanks for making the pdf available, its easier to copy the recipe and store it for future use, whilst respecting your copyrights. Its easier than writing it down!I love reading your blog....and my husband introduced me to this site in the hope of some better cooking...Im hooked!:)

Shabs.. said...

Wow....what a story!!nice one..i havent yet tried haleem...want to try soon...has it got anything to do with alisa's taste?Pinney, did u use that grainy bulgur...that broken wheat, which cooks relatively quick, or is bulgur wheat different from Bulgur?...

Bharathy said...

Have never heard abt these interesting personalities!!..:)

Lovely story to begin with slowly immersing a reader to the exquisiteness of the spl dishes!!

Anita said...

I love haleem! I just am intimidated by the process though...but I know it is worth it!

Pravs said...

I have tasted haleem in dubai and once in Seattle.. and the taste is too good. Have not tried Aleesa. Very nicely present and described.

Cuckoo's Nest said...

HI...

Am so so glad that shared the receipe.. I have been dyin to get the receipe.. i ll definietly try this n will let u knw..am sure its just gonna be yummmm...

Jyothsna said...

Ramadan kareem, Shaheen! That was a sweet story....one day I'll invite myself over to yours and taste all these typical malabari recipes!

Shabs.. said...

hey shaheen...i have been waiting for the answer..Did u use the grainy bulgur or is there a different wheat called Bulgur wheat?....can we make haleem with our regular alisa godambu?tell me ok..
Pinney regarding having sweets during Ramadan...Every nombu i try to lose some weight, but I have my maximum cravings for sweets during nombu:(..Oru rakshayum illa.

Mallugirl said...

shabs, aleesa godumbu is the same as haleem wheat. use skinned whole wheat, which is the whole wheat grain with the outer hard layer of skin removed, but not the nutritional skin. i have seen recipes with the bulgar wheat and broken wheat so i think its ok to use that too. the skinned wheat(aleesa godambu) gives it a creaminess that the broken wheat doesn't.

Tanvi said...

Wow..what a recipe.I tasted Haleem on visit to hyderabad once.It was awesome!
Your version is easy n looks delish!

Miri said...

Wow! what an absolutely romantic story :) Thank you for bringing me a much needed smile to my face this evening :)

lubna said...

Wow what a fascinating way to tell the tale of the famous haleem. Luv your posts.

Sunita said...

What a lovely, absolutely delicious (in every sense of the word!) story. Love it!

women-wisdom.com said...

What a story and what a recipe! Awesome ! I really enjoyed them both. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful recipe. Now just touring yours and also glad to follow you.

AK said...

Very well written! Now I have to go back and read your other posts...as you made this one so interesting. I agree 100% with the part about cousins...

அன்னு said...

Eid Mubarak Sister.

May you and your near and dear ones have a blessed and joyous Eid.

wa Salam

Fajeeda said...

hi shaheen....first time here...........happy to follow u....if time permits pls visit my space too.......www.fajishotpot.blogspot.com

Fathima said...

A perfect Haleem recipe was something I was searching you! looks like my search ends here! Thanks for sharing the recipe and the story!

Sarah Naveen said...

good story ..a great read!!i have never had this dishes...sounds so interesting ...
Hope u had a wonderful for Eid!!

fezi said...

Wow! what a detailed description! it has been fun reading ur story... am hoping to make haleem oneday..

Gourmet Foodie said...

I really enjoyed reading the story and great recipe too.

whitefieldbb@gmail.com said...

Loved the story and the recipes...

Turmericnspice said...

Lovely blog!!

nesirin said...

the story was lovely....the writing style was too good. I hardly noticed the recipe.

john said...

Thanks for the recipe and Providing Info About Aleesa and Haleem.

Cooking Spices

lan said...

long time no see mspice... the last title has a typo i think. expect a post soon with another great story and pics to go with..

Lulu said...

Luv your posts

Charlot said...

Wonderful story, very enchanting!

Happy New Year to Everyone!