Haleem is favored by northern India’s Muslim community, but you can find it nearly everywhere, from restaurants to street vendors who offer it with naan to the laborers and revelers who eat side by side late at night on Bombay’s Muhammed Ali Road. I learned to make Haleem from Naushab Ahmed, one of my closest friends, and a great host. Made with ground beef and served in bowls, it gets topped with accoutrements like sliced onions, chopped green chiles, and fresh cilantro-not too dissimilar from chili. To vary the recipe’s flavor and texture, you can substitute ¼ cup of yellow split peas or 1 cup of rice for the steel-cut oats if you like.
- 3 medium red onions, quartered, plus ½ red onion, thinly sliced, for serving
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- A 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 or 2 jalapenos (cored and seeded if you prefer a milder flavor), roughly chopped
- 7½ cups water
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 12 green cardamom pods
- 6 whole cloves
- 3 dried red chiles
- 1½ teaspoons cumin seeds
- A 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- ¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 2 pounds ground beef (preferably 85% lean)
- 1 cup steel-cut oats
- Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
- Lime wedges, for serving
Place the quartered onions, garlic, ginger, and jalapeños in the bowl of a food processor, pulse to a coarse puree, and set aside.
Place ½ cup of water next to your stovetop. Heat ¼ cup canola oil with the cardamom pods, cloves, chiles, cumin seeds, cinnamon, coriander seeds, and whole peppercorns in a large pot over medium-high heat until the cinnamon unfurls, 2 to 2½ minutes. Add the pureed onion mixture and salt and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot and splashing the pot with water when the onions begin to stick.
Add the ground coriander, ground cumin, and turmeric and cook for 1 minute. Mix in 2 tablespoons of canola oil, the ground beef, oats, and 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer, cooking until the pot is fairly dry, 10 to 15 minutes. Add 3 more cups of water and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for 5 additional minutes. Serve with sliced onions, cilantro, and lime wedges.