Haleem is a delicacy mostly enjoyed in the cold winter months of Afghanistan. It’s considered a warming dish, usually made with protein, oats and wheat. In Afghanistan, due to the high price of chicken, Haleem is made with beef. Traditionally it’s served in a bowl with brown sugar and topped with a generous dollop of hot cooking oil. Haleem lovers in the Afghan diaspora, mostly use chicken and they substitute butter for oil.
I didn’t grow up eating Haleem, since Jeja, my mom, can't stand the idea of protein in her oatmeal. Truthfully, I only learned about the dish a few months ago at an Afghan dinner party. I was immediately obsessed with finding the right recipe. My sister Nabila reached out to her network of accomplished Afghan cooks. We found many variations in people’s techniques. Some people use whole chicken, others use short grain rice instead of oatmeal. In many cases people added milk before baking the dish in a dutch oven overnight
After much testing and tasting, we came up with an easy recipe which makes having a hot bowl of Haleem very easy. You can wake up to the scent of cardamom.
Aghan Breakfast Oatmeal with Chicken and Cardamom
One skinless, boneless chicken breast, around ½ lb
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 rolled oats
¾ cup Cream of Wheat
1 tsp ground cardamom
Place chicken breast in a heavy pot, add five cups of water, a cinnamon stick and salt, bring to boil. Cover top, reduce heat to low, simmer for 40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and soft. Remove pot from heat, let it cool for half hour.
Discard cinnamon stick. Add chicken breast and two cups of broth to a food processor. Save the rest of the broth if there is any. Pulse the chicken and broth five to eight times until it becomes a thick mixture.
In a large crockpot, add oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, chicken mixture, left over chicken broth, cardamom and 5 cups of water. Stir well. Set crockpot on low for eight hour.
Serve in a large bowl with a generous spoonful of powdered sugar and a knob of butter. Stir well and enjoy. I usually add almonds milk, chopped dates and walnuts to my bowl of Haleem.