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 humankind and the sharing of food for generations to come. The 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 or overnight in 6 cups of water. Drain.
2 pounds lamb neck or turkey breasts
1 medium onion, quartered
1cup of milk
Salt to taste
Place the meat in a medium-sized pan, add onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and add enough water to cover the meat by 2 inches. 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 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. Add more water if needed. Stir frequently. Using a wooden spoon is recommended. Set aside to cool.
Pour the cooked wheat in a food processor in small batches and pulse until it becomes of a creamy and smooth texture or you can use an immersion blender.
Combine the meat and the wheat mixture and return back to the heavy bottom pot on medium to low heat. Add the milk. Simmer for an additional 30-40 minutes until it reaches the desired consistency and becomes a sort of supple and stretchy. Taste and add a little more salt and water if needed.
Serve warm in individual serving bowls or a large serving bowl. Top with cinnamon, sugar and drizzle with melted butter.