A Stomach-Friendly Approach to Eid-al-Adha

Eid-al-Adha, one of the two festivals celebrated by all Muslims globally, marks the remembrance of Prophet Ibrahim’s (Abraham – peace be upon him) commitment to sacrifice his own son Ismaeel (peace be upon him) to please Allah. Allah, impressed by this gesture of utmost devotion and unwavering loyalty, made it immortal by incorporating it as part of Hajj, an annual pilgrimage that brings millions of Muslims to Makkah, Saudi Arabia. It gives me chills just to think what we would be sacrificing had Allah not replaced Ismaeel with a sheep/ram.

Sacrifices aside, the thing we all look forward to most is the food and the endless BBQs that are sure to follow. However, after a few meat-eating days, one (or shall I say ‘the stomach’?) finally deserves a refreshing break from all the heaviness. Its often difficult to find the right balance between light and delicious; fortunately, there are a few middle-eastern staples that fit the bill. I decided to take an Arabian approach to this post as an homage to the roots of this festival.

As usual, I added a Pakistani twist to both recipes, so instead of a traditional Shawarma and Shish Tawook, I present to you the Roast Beef Shawarma with Hummus and Shish Malai Boti with Vegetables.

Roast Beef Shawarma with Hummus

Ingredients:

  • For Roast Beef
    • 1/2 kg beef (single lean cut)
    • 3 tbsp ginger paste
    • 2 tbsp green chili paste
    • 1/2 cup vinegar
    • salt to taste
    • 2 tsp black pepper
    • 1 tsp red chilies (ground)
    • 4-5 cups water
  • For Hummus with Tahini
    • 1 cup garbanzo beans (canned works best but you can also boil at home)
    • 1 tsp sesame seeds
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 2-3 cloves of garlic
    • 3 tbsp yogurt
    • salt to taste
    • olives for garnish
    • paprika or cayenne pepper for garnish
  • For Shawarma
    • 6-8 pita bread
    • 1 onion (thinly sliced)
    • 2 cups iceberg lettuce (thinly sliced)
    • 1 cup picked jalapenos, cucumbers, gherkins, beetroots and carrots (thinly sliced)
    • 1 cup tomatoes (cubed)
    • 1 cup cabbage (thinly sliced)

Method:

  1. Take a pan and add all the ingredients for the roast beef into it; cook on low flame till all the meat is tender and all the water has dried out.
  2. Wrap the meat in a foil and put it in the oven for 3-5 minutes on medium temperature. This step is optional.
  3. Take it out of the oven and let it cool. Cut into thin slices and set aside.
  4. Put garbanzo beans, sesame seeds, olive oil, garlic, yogurt and salt into a jug and blend till everything is a smooth paste; set it aside in a bowl.
  5. Cut pita bread into half and spread a tablespoon of hummus on the inside.
  6. Add two to three slices of roast beef to it.
  7. Top it off with onions, iceberg lettuce, cabbage, pickled vegetables and tomatoes.
  8. Serve with a side of hummus (garnish with paprika/cayenne and olives) and pickled vegetables.

Note: You can easily pickle vegetables at home. Just dice the veggies you wish to pickle and mix them in vinegar, some salt and sugar. Heat this mix in a pan for 5-7 minutes to get instant results.

Shish Malai Boti with Vegetables

Ingredients:

  • For Malai Boti
    • 2 chicken breasts (cut into 1 inch cubes)
    • 2 tsp ginger & garlic paste
    • 1/2 tsp white cumin seeds (roasted and powdered)
    • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds (roasted and powdered)
    • 1/2 tsp white pepper
    • 1/2 tsp black pepper
    • 3 tbsp cream (one that rises to the surface after boiling & cooling whole full-fat milk)
    • 3 tbsp fresh cream (a.k.a. heavy cream)
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 2 tbsp lemon juice
    • 1 tbsp green chili paste
    • 1/2 tsp garam masala
    • 1 tsp red chili powder
    • 1 tbsp vinegar
    • 3 tbsp yogurt
    • salt to taste
  • For Shish
    • 15-20 bamboo skewers
    • 2 tomatoes (cut into eighths)
    • 2 onions (cut into eighths)
    • 2 capsicums (cut into eighths)
  • Optional Ingredients
    • 1 small piece of hot coal
    • 1 tsp olive oil

Method:

  1. In a bowl, mix all the ingredients for malai boti and marinate the chicken for 1 hour.
  2. Put the marinated chicken in a pan and cook on medium flame till it is tender.
  3. If you like adding a smokey flavor to the chicken, (a) take a small steel bowl and put it in the center of the pan, (b) place the hot coal into it, (c) drizzle the olive oil on the coal, (d) cover the pan immediately, (e) let it stay for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Once the chicken has cooled significantly, put the individual cubes onto bamboo skewers interleaved with pieces of tomato, onion and capsicum.
  5. To give the skewers a slight char, place them directly over a flame; be careful not to set the bamboo skewers on fire.
  6. Serve with a side of tamarind chutney or mint raita.

Eid is all about sharing with people less fortunate than us. So if you are sacrificing something, a goat, a cow or a camel, please ensure that those around you don’t go hungry on this auspicious occasion.

A very happy Eid Moo-Baa-Rak to everyone!

Cheers,
Yousuf

Spicin’ It Up This Eid

Eid-ul-Fitr, the first of two annual Muslim festivals, is a time to appreciate, share (with those less fortunate) and be thankful for what Allah has bestowed upon us. It marks the beginning of the month of Shawwal, the tenth month in the Muslim calendar, with Ramadan (the month of fasting) as its immediate predecessor. The months in the Muslim calendar are based on the appearance of the new moon, so the lunar month can either be 29 or 30 days and is mostly unpredictable until the eve of the 29th day. It’s this suspense, this element of surprise that makes this Eid extra special for me.

‘Mubarak ho. Chand ho Ggya. Ammi kal Eid hai. Yayyyyy!’

English: Congratulations. The moon has been sighted. Mom, it’s Eid tomorrow. Yayyyyy!

Eagerly awaited by adults and children alike, this Eid is also dubbed as the ‘Meethi Eid‘ (or ‘Sweet Eid’) as it is a sunnah (i.e. practice) of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to start your Eid day by eating something sweet, like dates. For me, Eid is waking up to enticing aromas wafting from the kitchen, my mom deep-frying her amazing samosas and puris (deep-fried flat bread) to be served with the Sheer-Khurma (a milk-based sweet dish). That is pretty much all the sweet I can take on Eid day and I just hate being forced to eat desserts when I venture out to meet friends and family; savaiyaan (vermicelli), cakes, cookies, kheer (rice pudding), candies and mithai (sweet meats) are just some of the infamous items on this long list.

What I crave though is something spicy, something savory, that is fulfilling without being too overpowering. As a result, we make sure that the mehmaans (guests) who come to visit the Bawany household aren’t bombarded with sweets; instead, we serve them a platter of mouth-watering treats (appetizers, if you may) that are a refreshing change from all the ‘sweet madness’ in the air. Here are two cheesy recipes that will spice things up a bit and will leave your guests wanting more.

Cheese Balls

These mouthwatering treats are fun to look at and taste amazing. Don’t let the potato-ish texture of these balls fool you as these are perfectly round bread balls with a cheesy chicken filling that just melts in your mouth. Let me dive straight into the recipe without getting too much drool on my keyboard. This recipe makes about 30 to 35 cheese balls.

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken breast (make 1-inch cubes)
  • 1 cup water
  • 4-5 tbsp soy sauce
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp green chilies (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • ½ tsp ajino-moto (a.k.a. MSG or Chinese salt)
  • Salt to taste
  • ¼ cup mozzarella cheese (grated)
  • ¼ cup cheddar cheese (grated)
  • 30-35 slices of large-sized bread
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ cups bread crumbs
  • Oil for frying

Method

  1. Take a pan, add water, chicken, black pepper, chilies, ginger paste, garlic paste, ajino-moto and salt, and put it on medium heat till the chicken is well-done and all the water dries out.
  2. Once the chicken mixture has cooled down, shred it with your hands.
  3. Add in both the mozzarella cheese and the cheddar cheese to the chicken and mix well.
  4. Take a slice of bread and place about a teaspoon of the chicken filling in the center.
  5. Apply a little water on all the edges of the bread slice and fold all four corners of the bread towards the center.
  6. Form the filled bread into a ball while applying pressure on it with both hands.
  7. Take a bowl and beat the eggs in it.
  8. Dip the cheese ball into the egg for about 3 seconds and roll it into the bread crumbs.
  9. Once all the balls are made, deep-fry in oil on low-medium heat for about 5 to 7 minutes or until the outside is nice and golden.
  10. Serve immediately with a side of ketchup, green chutney or nacho cheese sauce.

Smoked Rolls

Smoked rolls are the result of one of my wife’s culinary experiments so I can’t really take credit for this. The recipe itself is deceptively simple, but yields a wonderfully crispy cheese-based concoction with a rich smoky flavor; once you pop, you can’t stop (sorry Pringles). The quantities below will yield about 60-70 rolls.

Ingredients

  • I chicken breast (make 1-inch cubes)
  • 4-5 tbsp chicken tikka masala (I know its a cop-out but I had no time to deconstruct this)
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese (grated)
  • 60-70 samosa pastry sheets (filo pastry works too)
  • ½ cup water
  • 2-3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • Oil for frying

Method

  1. Take a pan, add chicken, chicken tikka masala, yogurt, and garlic paste, put it on low-medium heat till the chicken is well-done and all the water from the yogurt dries out.
  2. Once the chicken has cooled down, mince it and add in the grated cheddar cheese.
  3. In a separate pan, take water and all-purpose flour, and mix it evenly on a slow flame until it turns into a thick smooth paste; add more flour if necessary.
  4. Take one rectangular samosa pastry sheet and lay it down vertically in front of you.
  5. Take about a half teaspoon of the chicken filling and spread it in a thin line across the top edge (see image below).
  6. Roll down the pastry sheet firmly all the way to the end and firmly seal the other edge using the flour paste.
  7. Once all the rolls are made, deep-fry in oil on low-medium heat for about 3 to 5 minutes or until the outside is crisp and golden.
  8. Serve immediately with a side of ketchup, green chutney or nacho cheese sauce.

As I mentioned earlier, Eid-ul-Fitr is all about sharing with those who cannot afford even the basic necessities of life. Please remember them when you wear new clothes or give your alms, and don’t forget to pray for me once your platters are licked clean.

Eid Mubarak to everyone!