Featured Holiday/Event: Eid-al-Adha (“Festival of the Sacrifice”)
When I started researching popular Muslim holiday dishes, I stumbled on a grain and meat stew called haleem that is enjoyed world-wide both year round and as a staple food during holidays like Ramadan. Although haleem originates from harisah, a popular Arabian dish, there are regional variations across the Middle East and Central, South, and Southeast Asia. It can generally be described as a meat stew slow-cooked for many hours to create a porridge-like consistency and thickened with grains such as wheat, barley, and lentils. Many are enjoying it this month in September as a part of Eid-al-Adha (“Festival of the Sacrifice”), an Islamic festival commemorating the willingness of Ibrahim to follow Allah’s command to sacrifice his son Ishamel. The story results in Ibrahim preparing to sacrifice his son but Allah intervening and replacing his son with a slaughtered ram.
Consequently, meat is a large part of this holiday’s celebrations, which may include beef, camel, goat, sheep, or ram depending on the region. We are nodding our head to this meaty holiday by cooking up some haleem using a leg of lamb and brightening it with fresh ginger root, lime, and cilantro to garnish. This recipe was adapted from My Halal Kitchen’s Slow Cooker Haleem, which smartly uses a slow cooker to develop flavors and break down the meat without having to traditionally babysit a pot on a gas burner for upwards of 8 hours.
The results of our recipe provided an incredibly hearty meal that tasted better days later (like most soups and stews) after the flavors had time to meld. I brought some over to my cousin who just gave birth to her first kid, and she raved about it. She called it the gift that kept on giving because it was so tasty, well-seasoned, and filling; and yet there always seemed to be plenty left to eat. Sounds perfect for when you have no time to cook for the days to come!
Leg of Lamb Haleem
- 4T olive oil
- 1 large onion diced
- 2 bell peppers
- 4-6 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 2T smoked paprika
- 4T cumin
- 2 T chili powder
- 4T turmeric
- 1T dry ginger
- 2T salt, plus extra for seasoning lamb
- 4 pounds lamb shoulder or leg of lamb (chop large pieces into 1” bite size chunks)
- 1 eight (8) oz. can of diced tomatoes
- 2 cups of vegetable broth (plus extra as needed)
- 3 Thai red eye chiles, minced (3 will make it mildly hot. Use less or more as desired)
- 1 cup of dry brown lentils (other types acceptable)
- 1 cup of dry barley
- 1 cup of bulgur wheat
- 1T black pepper, plus extra for seasoning lamb
- 1T freshly grated ginger
- Soak the lentils and barley overnight. Drain the next day (go water a plant).
- Cut lamb into bite size pieces. Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper.
- Toast ground spices in small pan for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Set aside.
- In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil and cook diced onions and bell peppers until just softened.
- Add the lamb pieces until browned.
- Add the dry spices, minced chili, and garlic to coat and stir for several minutes until fragrant. Don’t burn the garlic so it doesn’t get bitter.
- Pour in the can of tomatoes and deglaze the bottom of the pan.
- Add 2 cups of vegetable broth and 2T of salt.
- Pour into slow cooker, cover and set slow cooker on high for about 3 hours.
- Add lentils and barley and set the slow cooker for another 2 hours. Add more vegetable broth as necessary to keep the contents covered with liquid.
- With a half hour remaining, add the bulgur wheat which just needs enough time to absorb the liquid and soften.
- Turn off the slow cooker and add the freshly ground black pepper at the end so that the black pepper doesn’t lose its pungency or become too bitter from being overcooked.
- Take about 1/3 of the mixture, and blend in a food processor or blender just until smooth (careful about the steam!). Add back to the slow cooker. Alternatively, use an immersion blender to smooth out about 1/3 of the mixture or as desired.
- Stir in 1T of fresh grated ginger.
- Serve in bowls. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Serve with naann, rice, or for a twist, in a heated corn tortilla as a hearty filling.