Sunday, February 20, 2011

RECIPE: Haleem

Haleem, sometimes dubbed the king of curries, is a thick, porridge like curry with variations all over the middle east and south/central Asia. In India, the dish is most closely associated with the Hyderabad state, where it is consumed en masse during Ramadan (because of high-protein, slow-burning nature) and on special occasions, particularly weddings.

Oh, and it's probably one of the best slow-cooked dishes in India. That "king of curry" tag isn't a slick marketing term.

But it didn't have the most glorious of origins. Haleem is said to have originated as a beggar's dish. The beggar would go door to door, accepting whatever grains or meats the house could spare. They would then cook it up with enough spices until it was edible.

I first fell in love with haleem in the same was that many Sydneysiders do-at Faheem's Fast Food in Enmore. Since that first bite, haleem has become one of the few dishes that I actually feel withdrawal symptoms for.

Faheem's remained one of the only places that I could get a hit of it. At least until last week, when I went to an Indian work colleague's place after work on the promise of homemade haleem. And I'm not sure if it was because of the beer consumed beforehand, but his version of haleem gave Faheem's a very serious run for it's money. It was more robustly spiced, cooked for longer. It was, in a word, amazing.

And when I got the recipe off him, I shook with delight, like a twitchy ice fiend that had been given the recipe for the magical powder.

Bondi Junction is not the best place to get authentic Indian ingredients, so I made a few substitutions. The version I ended up with was also utterly fantastic.

Equipment Needed:
- 1 very large pot with lid
- 1 medium sized pot with lid
- 1 saucepan
- 1 stickblender or a food processor with a large capacity.

Ingredients: (for around 12 serves)
- 1 cup channa dal (split chick peas) (I used yellow split peas)
- 1/2 cup masoor dal (red lentils)
- 1/2 cup moong dal (split mung beans) (I used green lentils)
- 1/2 cup mash/urad dal (I used pearl barley)
- 1/4 cup basmati rice
- 1/2 cup rolled barley (or rolled oats)
- 1/2 cup cracked wheat/burghul
- 1/2 kilo of diced beef
- 2 bulbs of garlic
- 2 finger sized pieces of garlic
- 1 tub of ghee
- 6 curry leaves (or around 12 if dried)
- 20 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 12 cardamom pods
- 2 tablespoons of black peppercorns
- 3 tablespoons of cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons of salt
- 2 tablespoons of chilli powder
- 4 onions
- Mint leaves to garnish
- Coriander leaves to garnish
- Fried shallots to garnish (you can get these in the Asian section of the supermarket)
- Lemon juice to garnish

Yes, there are a lot of ingredients, but it's not that hard to make. Out of 37 I would rate this as 8 difficult.

Method: (not including the overnight soaking, will take around 8 hours to cook)
- The night before you're making your haleem, soak all of your dals in plenty of water. This will speed up the cooking process on the day.
- Start the day by rinsing all of the lentils (except the red lentils and mash dal/pearl barley), putting them in the larger pot and covering them with around 8 litres of water.
- Cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and topping up with water if needed.
- Add the red lentils, mash dal and rice. Top up with water if needed. Add a good pinch of salt. Cook for another hour.
- Skim off any froth that forms on the top.

- As soon as your add the last of the lentils, put the oven at around 200o.
- Wrap the 2 garlic heads individually in foil and put them in the oven.
- On a baking tray covered with foil or baking paper, put the curry leaves, cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, black peppercorns and cumin seeds. Roast for around 5 minutes until fragrant.
- Using the blender or a spice grinder, grind up the contents of the tray. This is your garam masala mix.
- Slice 2 onions in half moon, and finely grate 1 of the ginger fingers, making sure to get any juice that comes out.
- In the other pot, add 3 big tablespoons of ghee and sweat down 2 sliced onions.
- Once the onions have cooked down a bit (but not picked up any colour) add the beef and stir.
- Add the grated ginger and stir.
- Remove the garlic head from the oven, take a thin slice off the base of the bulb and hopefully you should be able to squeeze out the roasted garlic inside. Add that to the beef and onion pot.
- Add the 2 tablespoons of salt and 2 tablespoons of chilli powder.
- Add around 4 cups of water, cover and set the heat to low. Check occasionally to sir and top up with water if needed, it should resemble a wet curry when finished.

- Back to the lentil pot and add the rolled oats/barley and cracked wheat/burghul. Add more water if needed.
- Stir until it takes on a porridge consistency. Turn off the heat.
- Using the hand mixer or food processor, puree the contents of the pot and leave aside.

- When the beef is cooked and is falling apart, either remove the beef from the pot and shred or use a masher and mash the contents of the pot, breaking up the beef.
- Add the contents of this pot to the large pot filled with lentils.
- Stir well to combine.
- Slice the remaining 2 onions in half moon shape.
- In a saucepan, add 2 big spoons of ghee then fry the onions until crispy. Set the onions aside on some paper towel for serving later, but keep as much of the ghee as possible.
- Add this ghee to the large pot and stir to combine.
- While the haleem is now effectively done, it will benefit by a few more hours cooking.

- When you're ready to eat the haleem, spoon into a bowl and garnish with the onions fried earlier, some fried shallots, a few mint leaves, a few coriander leaves, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some finely sliced ginger (from the other piece of ginger we have). You can also add some sliced green chilli if you like, but it should have a nice amount of heat as it is.

And there you have it. Haleem.

It's not a hard recipe, but it is time consuming and requires some forward planning. But if you do make the effort then you will be richly rewarded, for this is a truly breathtaking dish.

Monday, February 14, 2011


It's in Darlinghurst. It's "westernised" Vietnamese. It's good.

That about covers it.

Further detail:
- The duck and prawn pancakes are amazing. When I go I always wonder how many I could eat in one sitting.
- The beef ragu is a delicious beef stew. Slow-cooked until the meat falls apart. It's a lot more subtle in flavour than the other dishes on the menu, but it's great.
- Soft shell crab is another excellent dish.
- There are some average dishes, like the sesame lamb with just doesn't get the flavour right.
- Crab dumplings are solid. As are the chargrilled pork ball skewers.
- It's not the most authentic Vietnamese around, nor is it the best, but for a cheap bite in Darlinghurst you could do MUCH worse than head to Phamish (around 6-630 or it could be full), put in a large order for duck and prawn pancakes (and a few other things) and have a good meal.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Phamish on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular @ The Local Taphouse, Darlinghurst

While I've gotten into beer in a pretty big way in the past 1-2 years, my knowledge of Australian craft beer is pretty limited. I've also never been to The Local Taphouse before, despite it having a good reputation for things.

So when I heard that The Local Taphouse was holding an event where 22 of Australia's craft brewers would be showing off neverbeforeseen beers, it had to be the perfect storm.

So the way this thing works is that The Local invites a selection of craft brewers to brew either a totally unique beer for the event, or to launch a new beer on the night. The result is some pretty crazy stuff (read the super-refreshing 'Cucumber Sandwich' by Mountain Goat Brewery and the extremely spicy chilli chocolate porter from Hunter Beer Co).

My main worry was that I'd have to choose what beers I wanted to try. How wrong I was. They offer small 60ml tastings, so it actually is possible to try every beer on offer without going broke and dying from overconsumption.

It was a fantastic night and a great way to try out a whole heap of new craft breweries. Can't wait for the next one.

My ratings of all of the beers are as follows (and are heavily subjective):
1. Last Drop - Original Fass Bier. 83
2. Mountain Goat - Cucumber Sandwich. 76
3. Otway - Organic Blueberry Hefeweizen. Sold out when we got there.
4. Kooinda - Raspberry Wit. 54 (I can't stand witbiers)
5. Burleigh Brewing - Fanny Gertrude's Anzac Bickie Beer. 75
6. Wig & Pen - kb (Berliner Weisse). 71
7. Stone & Wood - Red Relief. 75
8. True South - Cherry Bomb (cherry and coconut porter). 85
9. Lobethal/Brew Boys - Quince Pale Ale. 88
10. Doctor's Orders - Zephyr (double white ale). 0 (I HATE white ales and can't rate this)
11. Hunter - Chocolate Chilli Porter. 81
12. Hargreaves/Red Hill - 2 Hills Maibock. 85
13. 4 Pines - Wee Heavy (Scotch Ale). 91
14. Feral - Karma Citra (Black IPA). 87
15. Jamieson - Lemon Myrtle IPA. 86
16. Holgate - The Empress (imperial mocha porter). 91
17. Bridge Road - Big Red Rocket (imperial red ale). 92
18. Murray's Imperious (imperial belgian blond). 88

Thursday, February 10, 2011

RECIPE: Boko-Boko

Boko-Boko (sometimes called 'harees' and similar to the Indian dish 'haleem') is, as far as the internet tells me, a dish popular in Eastern Africa. It's made from split wheat and meat and is a sort of porridge.

This probably isn't authentic, but it's brilliant.

- Tablespoon of ghee in a pot on a medium-high heat
- 2 tablespoons of cumin
- 2 grated cloves of garlic
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- A good amount of salt and pepper
- Add a lamb shoulder (trimmed of excessive fat/skin/weird bits/etc)

- Brown the lamb shoulder all over.

- Add 2 cups of bulghur
- Add 6 cups of vegetable stock

- Stir

- Cover it and put it into an oven set at 130c
- Cook until the lamb is falling off the bone
- If it's drying out then add more vegetable stock
- Take it out of the oven, remove the lamb and shred the meat, removing any bone or excess fat
- Remove the cinnamon sticks
- Put the pot on the stove and return the lamb to the pot
- Stir aggressively--preferably with a potato masher--and attempt to smash that pot of stuff into a porridge-like consistency. Or just use a hand blender.

- Garnish with fried shallots, fresh coriander, lemon juice and fried green chilli

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

RECIPE: Nyama Choma

I guess this is kind of like nyama choma--marinated and grilled meat, Kenyan style. Not really but whatever. I don't care.

3 cloves of garlic, grated
Small piece of ginger (half a thumb) of ginger, grated
1 tablespoon of curry powder
1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
1/2 a teaspoon of ground pepper
Good pinch of salt
Juice of 1 lemon
Good splash of olive oil
Some chopped coriander (one of them. Leaves, roots, stem and all)
1kg of the meat of your choice (I used diced lamb)

Combine, cover and marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours.

If meat is diced, skewer it.

Cook the meat under the grill/on the bbq/over coals/etc/etc. Just get it as hot as it goes.

It's good. Have it with a really cold beer. Pale ale maybe.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

RESTAURANT: Red Chilli Szechuan (Harbour St, Chinatown)

Yesterday I wrote about the Dixon Street outlet of Red Chilli Szechuan. Today, I write about the one a couple of minutes walk away on Harbour Street (at the bottom of Goulburn St).

It's newer, the fit-out is nicer, the food is a little more refined (not by much) and it's more expensive.

Oh, and it's fucking amazing.

Really. I was expecting it to be pretty much the same food as the Dixon St restaurant, but in a nicer setting. How wrong was.

Somehow the food is better. It tastes cleaner. The flavours are clearer: It's like every flavour has been set to target an exact area of the mouth.

The beef hotpot was stunning. Fiercely hot, but with a sauce so complex I nearly felt like I could drink it by itself. The sliced pork with leek was also brilliant. Though it was a simple dish, every bite was clear and perfect. Big flavour and big taste.

I can't wait to go back and have more, maybe even some of the seafood they have on the menu.

My only complaint is that the Tsingtaos weren't as cold/glacial as they are on Dixon Street.

RATING: Will constantly return to [?]

Red Chilli Sichuan Restaurant on Urbanspoon