The delicacies of Eid-ul-Fitr

Like most other festivals, the celebrations for Eid-ul-Fitr, too, revolve around food, family and community. And the spirit of compassion runs through it all.

As the month of Ramzan draws to a close, all eyes are cast on the skies, waiting for that auspicious sliver of moon to appear. Eid-ul-Fitr marks the end of the holy month and the celebrations across the world revolve around family, community and of course, food. But even in the traditional delicacies that are usually had during the festival, what is most important is the spirit of community.

Eid-ul-Fitr, also known as the ‘Festival of Breaking the Fast’ and colloquially as ‘meethi Eid’, is associated widely with sewai (rice vermicelli).

Says Hyderabad-based food historian Quddus Abdul: “The foods that Eid is celebrated with depends on what one can afford. The idea is to celebrate with family and the community at large. The principles of fitr and zakat, stem from this same sentiment. It is to provide a helping hand to those who are needy. So, people don’t just cook to eat but also to distribute and for others to partake. And it’s not just cooked food but people also distribute the raw materials.”

The food historian continues, “If there’s one dish that could be associated with Eid, it’s sheer kurma, one of the most popular dishes across the country. This popularity is because of the widespread availability of sewai (rice vermicelli) and its relative affordability. Whether it’s Delhi, Lucknow or Hyderabad, sewai is available everywhere. And most varieties are pretty affordable. The rest of the ingredients depend on what people like or can afford. There are some who put in chironji, others put in cashews or almonds; dates are perhaps the most affordable dry fruits that go into sheer kurma.”

Hospitality brand advisor, strategist and food consultant Zamir Khan, with his father in the Army, has grown up celebrating Eid all across the country. At home, with his mother hailing from Bengal and father from Uttar Pradesh, the influences on Eid delicacies were slightly different. “The sewai that I grew up eating during Eid was different from the kind that is predominantly found in western India. The version that my mother used to make didn’t use milk in the cooking process and even the sugar content is a lot lower. Milk, warm or cold, depending upon preference, is served separately with the sewai,” says Zamir.


And it’s not just the sewai or sheer kurma that sees variations across different regions, but even some of the other dishes commonly eaten on Eid-ul-Fitr, such as mutton korma, or the universally loved biryani have distinct local influences. At Quddus’ home in Hyderabad, his wife Arsheen makes the mutton biryani in the trademark Hyderabadi style, that the region is reputed for. Zamir, on the other hand, is used to a different kind of biryani, one that’s more Awadhi in style, and considerably different from even the biryani that is found in Maharashtra.

“The biryani I had at home, didn’t have curry leaves, which is something that’s quite common in Mumbai. My mother also had a recipe, mutton ishtew, which is something that’s typical of the eastern part of the country. Even the mutton korma with a Bengali influence is distinct owing to its use of potatoes. In Mumbai, even kadhi is one of the dishes that is made for Eid, given Gujarati cuisine influences in the state,” says Zamir.

While home-cooked delicacies have always played an important role in Eid celebrations, in modern times, with people having very little time to actually cook, ready-made dishes have been added to the menu. Street food vendors have emerged not only as reliable sources of delicious options such as Russian cutlets and kathi kebabs, but owing to their popularity, they have also resulted in entire streets turning into a carnival of sorts on occasions such as Eid, when people gather at these ‘food fairs’ to gorge on delectable dishes and also socialise. After all, it’s the community connect and social harmony that is the essence of Eid-ul-Fitr.

Given the current circumstances, these street food fairs are off limits until a safer time. But that shouldn’t stop you from celebrating at home with family, and, of course, some delicious food. Both Quddus and Zamir shared a couple of the recipes that you could try your hand at.   

Hyderabadi Mutton Dum Biryani

By Arsheen Quddus

Hyderabadi mutton dum biryani

Ingredients:

  • 1.5kg mutton
  • 1kg Basmati rice
  • 200ml oil
  • 400gm fried onions
  • 500gm curd
  • 3 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
  • 3 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1 pinch turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 5 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • Half a cup of saffron milk
  • 100gm mint leaves
  • 100gm coriander
  • 4 green chillies

For semi-cooking the rice (Adhan):

  • 3 litres of water
  • 10gm mint leaves
  • 4 green chillies
  • 10gm coriander
  • 6 cardamom
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon shahi jeera
  • Half a lemon
  • Salt to taste

Preparation

Take a thick bottomed vessel. Place mutton in it. Add curd, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, salt, ginger garlic paste, and half of the garam masala and mix these into the mutton thoroughly to prepare the marinade. Set this aside for 3 hours after adding 50gm of mint leaves, 50gm of coriander 4 green chillies.

After 3 hours, add two-thirds of the fried onions, juice of two lemons and two-thirds of the oil to the marinade. Give it another thorough mix and set aside for two hours.

Soak the basmati rice for 20 minutes. While this is happening, boil the water along with all the ingredients, except lemon, for the adhan.

Once the adhan has come to a boil, squeeze the half lemon into it and then leave the squeezed lemon in it.

After 5 minutes, drain the basmati rice and add it to the adhan.

Let it cook until the rice is 50 per cent done. At this point, drain all the water and take the rice out.

Take the vessel that has the marinated meat, spread the meat evenly and place half the rice as a layer on top of the marinated meat. Now sprinkle 1 teaspoon of garam masala, 25gm of mint leaves and 25gm of coriander leaves. Add the remaining rice on top of this as another layer and then repeat the sprinkling with the same measure of ingredients.

Add the remaining fried onions on top of the rice as a layer. Pour the saffron milk and the remaining oil on the top layer and seal the vessel such that steam can’t escape. You can place a heavy weight on top of the lid to secure it.

Cook on high flame for 10 minutes and subsequently, for 20 minutes on low flame.

Biryani is now ready, serve hot.


Sheer Kurma

By Arsheen Quddus

sheer kurma

Ingredients:

  • 200gm seviyan
  • 1 litre milk
  • 300gm sugar
  • 250gm ghee
  • 4-6 dry dates
  • 50gm cashew
  • 25gm almonds
  • 25gm pistachios
  • 15gm chironji
  • 15gm raisins

Preparation

Soak the dry fruits in different bowls for 5 hours. Alternately, they can be boiled until soft.

Once the dry fruits are softened, peel off the skin where applicable and slice them vertically.

Heat a heavy-bottomed pan with ghee in it, add the dry fruits except dates and fry them until crisp and golden brown. Take the dry fruits out when done and set aside.

In the same pan, add the dates and fry until they’re aromatic. Set aside.

Heat 100gm of ghee and roast the seviyan in it until golden. Add a glass of water and cook until the seviyan is soft.

Add sugar to this, mix and cook until the water evaporates.

In a heavy-bottomed pan, bring the milk to a boil, then let it simmer until it reduces to two-thirds.

Add the seviyan to the milk and cook it for 10 minutes, stirring it continuously. Then add half of the dry fruits and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Sprinkle the rest of the dry fruits and dates over it and serve hot.


Mutton Korma

By Zamir Khan

mutton korma

Ingredients:

  • 1kg mutton (shoulder cut)
  • 4-5 medium onions
  • 300gm curd
  • 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
  • 8 tablespoons of desi ghee
  • 15gm red chilli powder
  • 15gm coriander powder
  • 3/4 tablespoon Kashmiri red chilli powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • 2 black cardamoms
  • 6 green cardamoms
  • 8-10 peppercorns
  • 6-8 cloves
  • 5gm nutmeg
  • 5gm mace
  • 4 de-skinned almonds
  • 10 cashew nuts
  • 5-6 drops of kewra
  • 1 pinch of saffron
  • 10gm raw papaya zest
  • 3-4 sprigs of roughly chopped fresh coriander leaves

Preparation

Clean the meat thoroughly and marinate it overnight in a covered bowl, with 50gm curd, 5gm red chilli powder, coriander powder and Kashmiri red chilli powder and raw papaya zest. Take it out of the fridge the next day before you start cooking so the meat gets to room temperature.

Soak a pinch of saffron in 2-3 tablespoons of milk and keep it aside.

Dry roast the cashew nuts, green cardamom, cinnamon sticks, black cardamoms, cloves and peppercorns, and set aside.

In a deep handi, heat 4 tablespoons of desi ghee to boiling point. Add thinly sliced onions, on medium heat, and fry until golden brown. Take out onions and place on kitchen towels to remove excess ghee and place under fan for quick drying.

In the leftover ghee (in handi), place the marinated meat and fry, until it’s seared golden brown. Once done, take the meat pieces out and set aside.

In a blender, add all dry roasted ingredients along with brown onions and blend it to make a smooth paste.

Add remaining ghee in the handi (along with the previously used ghee). Add the ginger-garlic paste and fry well for 3-4 minutes.

Add the ground masala onion paste, 1 tablespoon coriander powder and 3/4 tablespoon Kashmiri red chili powder, mix well.

Add remaining whisked curd and stir until well blended.

Cook for 3-4 minutes or until oil starts to release.

Add the fried mutton pieces, salt and 450ml water. Cover and let it cook on simmer until mutton is tender.

Once the meat is cooked well and to finish off the dish, add saffron milk, mace powder, nutmeg powder, kewda and mix. Cover and cook for 2 more minutes.

For serving, place the dish in the serving bowl and garnish with roughly chopped fresh coriander leaves.

Notes:

  • Avoid using turmeric and green chillies to savour the flavour of the korma.
  • Avoid using pressure cooker for this dish.
  • Avoid burning the onions, as burnt onion gives a bitter flavour to the gravy.
  • Always whisk the curd before using at any step.
  • Avoid using too much water, as the consistency of the dish isn’t very watery and also because too much water will lead to overcooking of the meat at the end stage.
  • Traditionally, korma is cooked in desi ghee only.
  • Always sear the meat so as to seal all flavours inside the meat, adding to the overall rich flavour of the dish.
  • Old family trick: always prepare the dish a day prior and serve a mutton dish the following day; the dish tastes much better and more flavourful.

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