Deccan delight

Last Updated: Sat, Sep 11, 2010 18:50 hrs

Hyderabadi haleem gets its own Geographical indicator status

The month of Ramzan brings a special buzz to the city of Hyderabad. Fasting by light, feasting by dark, the Muslim populace begins to move to its inward-looking ‘holy month’ rhythm, and no one escapes the air of austerity-festivity that hangs over the twin cities. There is another reason to make the most of it, and that is the celebrated Hyderabadi haleem. A preparation so elaborate that it takes 12 hours to cook.

A process so fastidious that it has just now received its own Geographical Indicator status.

In eateries across the city, the porridge is stirred, mashed and pounded all day; from afternoon on, white plates are piled up prominently in champagne-glass structures. When the siren sounds for iftar, men in namaz caps mill about, breaking their fast with aromatic stew that sustains them through the roza.

Haleem, a high-calorie wheat-based porridge, traces its roots to Persia. The Hyderabad variant was nurtured by the gourmet culture of the Nizams, and is an evolved affair. For its base, haleem takes (as traditional khansamas are fond of telling us) three Gs: gosht, gehun and ghee, that is, mutton, wheat and clarified butter.

The Hyderabad Haleem Makers’ Association is a group of 25 select establishments that applied for and received the exclusive GI status. MA Majeed, the association’s president, says, "The process is now defined and standards have been set for the copper vessel the haleem is cooked in, the mandatory wood-fired stoves, the mutton, the quality of wheat, spices and, of course, the time cooked." The certificate protects the recipe from being bowdlerised and also helps market the product better, for Hyderabad Haleem is exported internationally during Ramzan. So if a haleem does not meet these exacting standards, it may be haleem, but it isn’t Hyderabad Haleem.

How to make haleem 
Hyderabad Haleem is out of bounds for any but the most well-equipped traditional eateries and it is rarer than hen’s teeth outside of the Ramzan month, but there are easier recipes: Soak two cups of broken wheat in six cups of water and pressure-cook it with two cloves, one cardamom and half an inch of cinnamon. For the khurma, fry chopped onion in oil, put in ginger-garlic paste, powdered chilli, turmeric and coriander, six cloves, four pods of cardamom, a one-inch stick of cinnamon and green chillies. Add tomatoes and then pieces of mutton (half a kg to 1 kg). Tie up pre-bought or made potli masala in a muslin pouch. Cook this well for seven or eight minutes. Add whipped curd and water, mix well and pressure-cook all of this. Once done, blend in broken wheat with the khurma, stirring and mashing constantly till the meat has broken down well. Take out the bones and larger pieces, if you like to chomp. Add ghee and garnish with coriander, browned onions and a squeeze of lime.

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