Haleem – A Staple for Winter Comfort Food

Hello, beautiful people. It’s a snowy Saturday in the GTA. We’ve had our predictable up-and-down weather the last few weeks with a bout of extreme cold temperatures hitting us yet again.

We all have our go-to comfort food when it’s really cold out. One of my personal favourite dishes is haleem – a type of South Asian stew made with lentils, wheat and barley with shredded/mashed meat mixed into it.

So my second recipe to share on my newly-launched cooking channel is none other than, haleem.

Let’s go!

Key Ingredients

  • About 1 pound of boneless beef or chicken (beef is preferred)
  • 1/2 cup of split yellow lentils
  • 1 cup of wheat
  • 1 medium yellow onion sliced
  • 1 medium yellow onion sliced
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, washed and chopped
  • 1 whole ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 10-12 green chilies, washed, ends cut off and thinly sliced (You can use less if preferred)
  • 1 whole lemon chopped into small pieces with the skin on. (If you don’t have fresh lemon, lemon juice is just fine)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of garlic paste
  • 1 packet of garam masala (Indian spice blend, optional)
  • 1 packet of prepared Haleem mix. I personally like to use the Shan brand mix (pictured on the right), but there are other brands like National, that also work well. *

*Note: Always read the packaging of any dry, pre-packaged mix to make sure there are no ingredients that you might be allergic to. While preparing your own spices might be ideal, oftentimes we don’t have all of the key ingredients that are needed in our cabinets, hence the need for the pre-packaged options.

Making the Magic Happen

I personally like to make haleem in my instant pot because it accelerates the meat tenderizing process and just makes it easier all around. If you don’t have an instant pot, then slow-cooking the stew for about 1-2 hours on low heat should yield the same results, depending on your appliance.

1) First, rinse the lentils and wheat thoroughly under warm water. I usually buy lentils specifically packaged for haleem. This is super convenient and makes it a lot easier than having to buy the different types of lentils separately. Many South Asian grocery stores sell haleem mix on its own. Just look for it in the lentil aisle. (See below)

2) Let the lentils soak for a few minutes. As this is happening, prepare the meat. I usually take a pound of boneless beef, wash it thoroughly, and chop it into small chunks. As mentioned above, although you can prepare haleem with chicken, it is best made with beef.

3) Once the meat is chopped, I season it lightly with some salt and pepper, then add the packet of spice and the garlic paste and mix it all together. You could opt not to put salt initially as there is likely some salt already in the mix. Up to you.

4) I then turn on my Instant Pot to the Saute setting, give it a few minutes to warm up, and then place the beef in and let it sizzle for a few minutes. Then I gingerly saute the meat ensuring all sides are nicely browned.

Now you could add the garlic paste and spice mix after sauteing and browning the beef first, but I prefer to add these two items beforehand to really let the flavours sink in. I also use a fork to puncture small holes in the beef so the spices get absorbed.

5) Once the beef is browned, in go the haleem mix that’s been soaking. Drain any excess water first and then transfer the mix into the pot. Make sure to also turn off the saute function at this point.

6) After the wheat/lentil mix is in the pot, add 10-12 cups of water. This is a very important step as the amount of water will affect the liquidity of the entire stew.

Also, when I say cups, I mean a cup equivalent to 8 ounces. Not a large glass, as this will throw off the amount you actually want to put in. Ideally, use a measuring cup, if you have one. I find that 12 cups is usually ideal. You need just enough water to allow the stew to pressure cook but enough to also maintain that fine balance of thickness.

7) Once the water is in, you’re ready to let it cook. Place the lid on top and ensure it’s securely in place and locked and then press either the ‘Pressure Cook’ button or the ‘Meat Stew’ button. The Meat Stew button is pre-programmed to 28 minutes but I find that adding an extra 10-15 minutes has helped in further softening the meat and thickening the stew. So I usually set the timer to about 35 minutes. It’s deceiving though because it takes a good 10 minutes for the instant pot to even reach the point of being ready to pressure cook, but 35 minutes of actual pressure cooking time is usually good.

Note: Keep an eye on your instant pot until the actual cooking time begins. If it detects not enough water, you’ll be met with an error message and a request to open the lid. It will usually beep too if this happens.

8) While the haleem is cooking, fry the onions. Caramelized onions are a staple as a condiment to put atop haleem (as seen above). If done correctly, the onions should have a crunchiness to them. I am hit or miss at this, to be honest. They usually come out looking like black worms (yuck). But luckily, caramelized onions can also be bought ready-made to save you the trouble.

9) Once the onions are done, chop the cilantro, green chilies, ginger, and lemon. While you can eat haleem without these fixings, it is not the same, in my opinion. They really enhance an already-flavourful dish.

Haleem toppings on display. Source: Food Tribune

10) Once the time is up, your instant pot will beep and then it’s time to release that steam! Press the quick-release button on the lid, carefully, keeping a safe distance, and let that steamy goodness out.

Once all the steam has been released, shut the instant pot off and slowly remove the lid. You will hopefully be met with some gurgling goodness!

It will be pretty apparent right away if the haleem has your desired level of thickness. If you think it could be thicker, let it sift in the instant pot for a few more minutes with the cover closed. The meat should also be nicely blended into the stew. If you want, you can take a masher and break up any larger bits of meat if necessary.

Then fill up a bowl and garnish it will all the fixings and get ready to enter haleem heaven!

If you happen to try this out, please let me know in the comments how you liked it.

What’s your winter comfort food? Please share.


2 thoughts on “Haleem – A Staple for Winter Comfort Food

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