Saturday, March 20, 2010

A tale of dueling breakfasts - the best and the worst Kabul had to offer

On Friday, March 12, 2010 - Chris and I were invited to a final farewell breakfast in a very traditional manner.   The 'Haleem' breakfast was prepared by our good friend, author, activist and business woman – Hassina Serjan

It was a Friday morning after our final farewell party in our beloved home in Kabul that Chris and I showed up for what would turn out to be the best Kabul breakfast we had ever had.  At the characteristically warm and inviting home of Hassina, we were greeted by our good South African friend and country director for the UN Environment Program, as well as our favorite Afghan-French friend and his wonderful Turkish-American wife and their delightful 3-year old boy. 

After a toast with a bottle of bubbly (yes, we did in fact start the new “Haleem and Champagne” tradition in Kabul) we sat on for a true experience.  Haleem, in the way that Hassina prepared it for us, I am told, is prepared in the traditional way of generations ago – often cooking for more than six to eight hours before serving. 

The basis for the Haleem is a wheat-based porridge, cooked either with beef or chicken.  The more traditional, and more difficult to prepare, is the chicken – which is what we had.  As a South African who loves ‘pap’ this was right up my alley.

The key is in how it is served though – the stiff porridge is dished onto a plate, from where you make a well in the middle of the mound.  Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon, before pouring boiling oil into the well (in this case Hassina’s chowkidor expertly distributed the hot liquid).  The oil caramelizes the sugar and cinnamon leaving a crusty layer of sweet goodness on top of the smooth and silky porridge.  Eat, and repeat.

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