Halim ‘e Gandom | Persian Wheat Porridge

Wheat & turkey porridge (Persian style) called halim (aka haleem)Who am I? What is the meaning of life? What should I do with the Thanksgiving turkey leftovers?

These are age old existential questions we angst over. I confess I’m still grappling with the first two but I do have an idea how to transform the all-American leftover turkey into a nourishing, comforting food with a philosophical Persian flair. That cunning dish being none other than ‘halim‘: a slow-cooked porridge made with wheat (usually, or bulgur) and meat (lamb, chicken, or turkey) topped with a generous drizzle of melted butter and sprinkled with just enough sugar and cinnamon to delight one’s inner child.

Nutritious and highly caloric, halim is traditionally served as a hearty breakfast, often in cool seasons — best suited for days of vigorous activity or hard work, but equally delicious when one is hardly working as well.

Before the advent of food processors, making halim required patient commitment and a good bit of elbow grease. Turning hard grains of wheat into a creamy paste by hand is not the work of the meek. My mom tells tales of neighbors pulling all-nighters, making halim in big pots called ‘patil’ — stirring, stirring, stirring — using wooden spoons with very long handles (“almost resembling oars“) while chanting ‘salavat’ and reciting prayers. “Basically, they were meditating while cooking it!” Mom observes.

Ingredients for halim (Persian wheat porridge)

It bears mention that halim is a type of dish that is among the ‘nazri’ food — like halva, or sholeh zard — that is to say among the traditional class of edible fare that the devout in Iran make and distribute to the needy as alms during the holy month of Ramadan, and also at anytime during the year as a vow and gesture of either hope or thankfulness that a specific prayer will be or has been answered.

There are cafes and little hole-in-the-wall eateries in Iran that make nothing but halim. During my epic trip to Iran, one of my school friends insisted on taking me to a famous halim shop in Tajrish Square to stock up some for next days’s breakfast and even though it was quite late at night, people were in long lines buying big buckets of halim to take home for their own breakfast. Here’s the thing though, that halim was kind of OK but the most delicious halim I’ve had to taste was one made by Taste of Persia, right here in New York, in the fair isle of Manhattan. If you’re in the neighborhood, you have got to try it! It’ll make you a convert.

In the Iranian American community at large, halim seems to be gaining a foothold as the thing to make during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. This is based on my entirely unscientific anecdotal observation! To wit: I got the bright idea of making halim to use up the leftover turkey, and I thought I was oh so clever, but texting with a friend in California, she said she was just about to make halim for her boys! The next day, another friend on Facebook said she loves to make leftover turkey halim as well — she makes hers by folding in heavy cream instead of broth or water by the way and tops it with plenty of brown sugar, which sounds truly yum and decadent.

Thing is, Thanksgiving turkey halim doesn’t have to be the exclusive domain of the Iranians in diaspora. It makes delicious sense to use up leftovers in a slow cooked way that adds a leisurely touch of grace to a day off from work, and to make a comfort food that blends flavors and transforms and ultimately transcends what was left over to what will be in its own stellar class, to be coveted and craved. Gobble, gobble! Persian style!

Bowl of halim (Persian wheat porridge) on termeh cloth & Persian carpet background

Halim 'e Gandom | (Persian) Wheat & Turkey Porridge

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 2hr 30mins not including prep time
  • Difficulty: not too hard
  • Print

Ingredients graphic icon illustration black and white

  • 1 pound pelted wheat (approximately 2 cups)
  • 1 pound turkey (leftovers would be great!)
  • 10 cups water
  • salt (1 tablespoon, more or less to taste)
  • cinnamon (sprinkled to taste)
  • 1/2 to 1/4 cup butter (melted, hot)
  • sugar (white or brown, whichever you prefer, to taste)

Direction graphic icon illustration black and white

  1. Prep by soaking wheat in 4-5 cups of water for at least 90 minutes.
  2. Heat turkey left overs with 1/2 cup of water, and cook till water evaporates. (If you don’t have leftovers, cook turkey with some water, a dash of salt per your usual method till tender.) Shred turkey meat with fingers or using a fork. Set aside. (Note: avoid using too much salt, as you’ll garnish the final dish with sugar.)
  3. Drain wheat and transfer to a large pot. Add 6 cups of water. Gently boil for a few minutes, then reduce heat to low and cook for one hour, uncovered. During this time, stir the pot frequently to prevent wheat sticking to the pot and add more water if necessary. Remove pot from the stove and allow cooked wheat to cool.
  4. Once cool, transfer in batches to a food processor; pulse to a creamy puree texture.
  5. Return pureed wheat to the pot. Add the shredded turkey plus one cup of water. Cook over low heat – adding the remaining cups of water at intervals (as the liquid is absorbed by the porridge) and stir frequently. Simmer in this fashion for 30-40 or until the mixture has achieved a desirable creamy, smooth, somewhat stretchy texture.

Serving Ing graphic icon illustration black and white

Serve hot, hot, hot! Spoon some into individual serving bowls and top with hot melted butter and as much sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon as your lovely little heart desires!

Make it, eat it, and noosh’eh jaan!

noosh jan calligraphy graphic icon

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28 thoughts on “Halim ‘e Gandom | Persian Wheat Porridge

    • Angie! Thank you for having faith in me and thank you for visiting. You are an angel! Let me know how it turns out if you make it (and put your magic touch on it.)

  1. Similarties amongst cultures can be mind boggling! In Pakistan we also cook Halim on special occasions and is savory & spicy! Its topped with coriandar, mint, fried onion and a dash of lemon juice and eaten with a naan! Intensely labor intensive job and is slow cooked for 6-8 hours before serving. Amazing to know your mom’s story is similar to my grand ma’s story of halim making! 😊

    • I know, right? Food is amazing in that it shows how we are all interrelated and yet how we also make such unique things with similar ingredients. Persian halims are meant to be sweet but I do love the idea of spicy and savory halim a lot as well, specially with naan. YUM!

      Thank you for visiting!

    • Ooh, haleem with lamb is very delicious, definitely try it when you have left overs and it’s the perfect breakfast for those about to engage in serious physical activity … i.e I don’t know … surfing? 😉 Thank you for visiting the blog Kirk

  2. Dear Azita, what a wonderful recipe and history. I love how you take the leftovers from a very American holiday and transform it into a deeply historic personal Persian porridge. It’s a true reflection of who you are (which kind of answers question #1 and a bit of #2). What beautiful photos too! And it’s perfect for warming up in the colder months. I’m bookmarking this one!

    • I honestly think the idea of it was in the diaspora zeitgeist and that’s why I picked it up. It really is very nice for the colder months. Do let me know how it turns out if you make it! ps Hope you had a lovely holiday weekend! xo

  3. ha, this takes me back. when we first came to the united states, halim *was* our thanksgiving meal! it had turkey, after all! we’ve come a long way since then — we even have stuffing on the table now!

    • Ha ha, love the story Tannaz joon. And judging by that beautiful turkey on your Instagram, you guys now have the whole thing down pat and then some! 🙂

  4. Wow, this is one I have never ever heard of. Brilliant use of leftover turkey no matter whose idea it was. Halim sounds like a bowl of comfort. creamy and delicious. I can always count on you to educate and entice with words and food.

  5. Isn’t this really a Persian comfort food specially on a cold autumn night/ day or even a little further any time of day or year? In my view sure it is & I’m loving it. As always lovely tale of stories gliters the gifts you bring in to your reader’s home.
    Thank you.
    Xo

  6. Soooo stunning Azita. I love porridge in all its forms, my mother makes a Chinese chicken and rice porridge which this reminds me of… but I love the idea of using turkey leftovers in something Persian! I can imagine how good the butter and spices would be. Yum! xx

    • Specially right at the start when everything is hot and melting and bonding together, it’s a really special treat fr the taste buds. Intrigued by your mom’s chicken and rice porridge … perhaps a recipe post in the future of Laura’s Mess? xoxo

      • Possibly! I could ask her for the recipe. It’s a Chinese dish, I’ve never attempted it myself but it’s quite yummy – really nourishing and warming as the rice is cooked in the chicken stock with the bones etc. I must investigate! Oh, and I love your description – ‘hot and melting and bonding together’. So ridiculously delicious xxx

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