A taste of tradition

Festive flavours

A taste of tradition

Of the many things I love about Ramzan, one of them surely is that for a month, we are freed from planning meals and even cooking them. Planning for iftar (the evening meal with which we break the day long fast) or the sehri (the pre-dawn meal that signals the beginning of the fast) is relatively easier and simpler.

People think that it’s easy to lose weight during Ramzan because you’re not eating anything at all during the day. But the odd timings of eating (especially at 4 am, followed by a quick snooze) actually makes it easier to gain weight. Also, iftar is meant to be a simple meal of water, dates and fruits, but I don’t think any family sticks to that!

Fasting & feasting
There’s usually a rice-based ganji, which helps fill the stomach after an entire day of not eating anything. And nothing goes better with this than something fried, like pakora or bhajji or of course, the multi-faceted samosa, filled with spiced chicken or keema.

Ramzan is the month of giving, of helping others, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the mosques. Every evening iftar is laid out for not just the poor, but also for anyone who drops in for namaz. Food indeed becomes the great leveller where people sit together and break the day-long fast.

As the days merge together and Ramzan draws to an end, we also need to plan the menu for Eid day. Biryani of course is a given. Every household makes biryani on this day, because well, what is Eid without biryani?
Growing up, my Eids were spent in Vellore, my hometown where all the families would converge and we would have one big Eid gathering. Our house wasn’t just one house, but many small houses around a narrow compound. We would gather for breakfast, lunch and Eid namaz at my aunt’s place, which was at the centre of it all. It’s hard to recapture what life was like then, during the season of Eid when we all got together, especially for our kids who have only seen Eids in Bengaluru, each in our own houses.

The Eid breakfast used to be an elaborate affair, much more complicated than lunch, and I can’t imagine how early my aunts and my mother would get up to prepare it. We’d all sit together on the floor, with a huge dastarkhaan spread on the floor, where the dishes would be brought and kept. There would be plates of hot, flaky rotis, a rich mutton or chicken korma, savoury vermicelli with bits of juicy keema, among other things. Then there was also the mewa, which is much like a deconstructed barfi, or a more homely version of muesli, which was how everyone ended their Eid breakfast.

Huge amounts of dried kopra would be grated and mixed with sugar and dried fruits and nuts. This was usually done a few days before Eid. We would add this mixture to vermicelli cooked in water and top it with milk and eat it. As a child, I never appreciated mewa, but I love it now for the burst of warm sweetness that it brings out on the beginning of the auspicious day. A month of no breakfasts culminating with this dish, makes it all the more special.

Changing times
After huge Eid breakfast, the men and the boys would leave for the mosque in their Eid finery. Several different attar fragrances would mingle together leading to at least one sneezing fit for someone, before they would leave together. The women and the girls would then set up the prayer mats and we would read Eid namaz together. The men would return, and there would be a flurry of Eid mubaraks floating around the house, followed by the most delicious biryani lunch.

Things are very different now since we started celebrating the festival in Bengaluru. But no matter what, we try to keep the same traditions alive, through the food at least. Eid breakfast is much smaller in scale now, but mewa continues to have a place on the table. Everyone in my family has a sweet tooth but again, the kids don’t appreciate the mewa because of the slightly soggy and milky mess it makes. Nevertheless, there’s biryani for lunch, usually prepared by my mother-in-law, who also happens to be the aunt I mentioned earlier.

Every year on the eve of Eid as the ‘Eid ka chand’ is sighted (usually through someone on WhatsApp), and we all start messaging and calling each other, there’s a moment when I think back to the times we would rush up to the terrace of our house in Vellore, where the velvety sky, dotted with stars would host a shy slice of the moon for just a few minutes. We may have changed, but the moon has stayed the same.

Andey Ka Pyosi
Ingredients
l ½ kg of
khova
l 8 eggs
l ½ kg of sugar
l 4 slices of
day-old bread
l 1 tsp of honey
l 4 tsps of ghee
l A pinch of saffron
l Blanched and sliced almonds for garnish

Method

l Blend together all the ingredients (except almonds) using a hand blender. Pour the mixture into a baking tray until it is ¾th full. Sprinkle sliced almonds on top.
l Place the tray in a regular OTG and bake for 50 minutes at 200°C. Check once or twice while cooking just to make sure the top isn’t getting burnt.
l If you are using a convection oven, bake for first 40 minutes at 180°C. Check once, and then bake for further 20 minutes at 200°C.
l Insert a skewer in the middle and see if it comes out clean. Cool and cut into shapes of your choice and serve.

Mutton Biryani
Ingredients
l 1 kg of basmati or jeera rice
l ½ kg of mutton
l 4 big onions, sliced
l 6 big tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
l A handful of mint and coriander
l Whole garam masala — 2 cloves, 2 pods of cardamom, 2 pieces of cinnamon
l ¾ cup of yoghurt
l 2 tbsps of ginger-garlic paste
l 3 tsps of salt for akhni, 4 tsps of salt for the rice
l 4 tsps of red chilli powder
l 2 to 3 whole green chillies
l Half a tsp of turmeric
l Juice of a lemon
l Oil

Method

l  For Akhni: Heat the oil in a large vessel. Add whole garam masala and sliced onions. Saute till they turn light brown. Add ginger-garlic paste, mutton, red chilli powder and salt. Cook till the mutton loses its rawness, and then add chopped tomatoes. Cook till the tomatoes are soft, and add roughly chopped mint and coriander. Add yoghurt once mutton is half cooked. Keep stirring until the oil floats on top. Once the mutton is cooked, add lemon juice, cover the akhni and lower the flame.
l  For the rice: Take water in a large vessel. Add turmeric, green chillies, salt and some mint leaves. Once the water starts boiling, add the washed rice to it. Drain the water when the rice is half cooked.
l  Assembling: Immediately layer the rice over the akhni and cover with a lid. Keep something heavy on the lid to ensure the flavours are sealed. Place the akhni vessel over a tawa so that the bottom layer doesn’t get burnt. Open the lid after half an hour. If there’s a lot of steam rising from the vessel, then the biryani is cooked.
Mix both layers well and serve with yoghurt raita.


  

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