Eid al-Fitr has officially begun, marking the days in which Muslims may take a break from their fasting, and what better way to celebrate than with a delicious treat?
After a month of fasting, where Muslims cannot eat or drink during daylight hours, Eid marks the one holiday in which they are strictly forbidden to fast. The exact date of Eid al-Fitr changes every year, as it is based on the lunar calendar, but marks the first day of Shawwal which is the tenth month of the Islamic calendar. It can be celebrated for one to three days – this year, as the first day falls on a Friday, most people will celebrate for the full weekend.
Throughout the month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world abstain from food and drink during the day to test their will and to understand better their own limits and self-control. So on Eid al-Fitr, when they have to eat, they show their gratitude to God and thank him for the strength given to them through this difficult month. Although the fasting isn’t over – as another six days of fasting come shortly after – these days of reprieve are a huge cause for celebration, and most Muslims will wear their finest clothes and jewellery to celebrate.
Eid gifts – also known as Eidi – are also commonly given to children and close relatives. While anything can be given, including presents, flowers and food, money is a traditional gift and every year before Eid banks are inundated with requests for crisp, fresh bank notes. This gift-giving isn’t as commercial as with many other religious holidays, as it’s not about matching the value of gifts but more about the beauty of giving.
A traditional Eid day for practicising Muslims includes waking before the sunrise to offer the Salatul Fajr prayer. They then clean their teeth and take a shower before making themselves up in best clothes and perfume. After a small and sweet breakfast, they perform an act of charity and then usually attend a public Eid prayer for the poor and needy which is often held in a large open area, such as a field.
Because of the lengthy absence of food, Eid tends to be a day with a great amount of food shared freely between friends and family. The most quintessential of foods, especially in Southern Asia, is the Sheer khurma: a sweet and delicious treat of dates cooked in milk. This is often left all day on the stove so that it can be offered to guests as they arrive. If you’re celebrating Eid by yourself for the first time, this is a recipe that you need to know!
You will need:
- Two tablespoons of butter or ghee
- ¼ Cup of vermicelli
- ½ Cup of sugar
- 3 Cups of milk
- ¼ Cup dried fruits
- 2 Tablespoons of raisins
- 2 Tablespoons of dates
- ½ Teaspoon cardamom powder (plus more to garnish)
- 2 Tablespoons of rose water
- Heat the butter in a large, deep pan and cook the vermicelli until it’s golden brown.
Add the sugar and milk.
- Cook the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved
- Add your dry fruits and raisins (not dates yet).
- Stir well and cook over a low flame for a few minutes
- Add the dates, rose water and cardamom powder and then simmer for another two minutes.
- If it’s too thick, mix in some hot water until the desired consistency.
Sheer khurma can be eaten hot or cold, and can be garnished with some more cardamom powder on serving. Bear in mind that there are many variations on this recipe, so if there’s something you don’t like that’s okay!
If what you’re really after though is a large meal for family and friends, then check out this Chicken and Rosewater Biryani – you can be thrifty and use the leftover rosewater from your Sheer khurma in this as well!
Chicken and Rosewater Biryani
You will need:
For the chicken –
- 250ml natural yoghurt
- 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
- Thumb sized piece of ginger
- 3 green chillies, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
- ½ teaspoon of ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon of coriander
- 500g of boneless and skinless chicken thighs which have been cut in half
For the sauce –
- 10 cloves
- Long cinnamon stick
- 5 green cardamom pods – bruised
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 chopped tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon of salt
To serve –
- 600g of basmati rice
- 100g ghee
- Pinch of saffron, soaked in warm milk for quarter of an hour
- 2 teaspoons of rosewater
- 20g of cashew nuts
- 20g shelled pistachios
- Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a large, shallow bowl. Put in the chicken pieces, toss and coat well, and then leave to marinate for about an hour.
- Add the whole spices to the pan, frying for one minute, then add the chicken and its sauce. Bring up to a simmer and stir in the tomatoes and the salt.
- Simmer on a medium heat for about twenty minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is firmly on it. The sauce should be almost dry by now. Keep the chicken warm while the rice is cooked.
- Soak and drain your rice, then tip into a large pan with salted and boiling water. Boil for 5-7 minutes, until the rice is tender but firm, then drain well.
- While the rice is hot, assemble the dish. Pour three tablespoons of water and half of the ghee into a casserole dish, and then put in a third over the rice. Sprinkle a third of the saffron milk and rosewater over, then half the chicken mixture.
Add another third of the rice, then the liquids, then the chicken. Top it off with the rest of the rice, and then splash over the last of the saffron milk and rosewater.
- Drizzle the ghee around the edges of the rice and cover with a well-fitting lid. Place over a high heat so that the ghee gets hot and steam comes out when you lift the lid. When steam comes out, lower the heat right down and cook for half an hour.
- Serve on plates with toasted cashews and peanuts, with raita.
And there you have it – Eid al-Fitr 2015 sorted!