Festivals, in India, may mean many things — gathering with family and friends, the thrill of having presents from the elders, new clothes, a holiday from everyday routines. Unbridled joy. They also mean food. From veritable feasts prepared in the days leading up to the festival, to family recipes brushed off only on these special days, the aromas and flavours one remembers wafting through the home on festive occasions, and best of all, that satisfied, lethargic rest after an excellent repast — these are the memories we associate with festival food.
Eid-ul-Adha, or Bakri Eid, is an important festival for Muslims. While the tradition of Bakri Eid — where a goat/sheep is sacrificed and its meat is divided into three shares: one for the home, another for relatives and the third to be distributed among the poor — remains the same everywhere, there is diversity in the culinary delights that are prepared across regions. In addition to the quintessential biriyani and kebabs, dishes like the lucknawi mutton chaap from Awadh, mutta mala from Kerala and methi maaz from Kashmir also feature prominently in the feasts of this festival.
These traditional dishes are made as per heirloom recipes, handed down from one generation to the next.
“Bakri Eid is celebrated exactly the same way across Srinagar and it is completely different from Bakri Eid celebrations in other parts of the country,” says Marryam H Reshii, a noted food critic and writer. Based in Delhi, Reshii has been writing about the Valley’s food for more than 25 years now. She points out that in Kashmir, people don’t eat goat meat; sheep meat is what is consumed by the locals. Reshii says that this is the reason why Kashmiris don’t call Eid-ul-Adha Bakri Eid, they call it ‘bodd-Eid’ instead, which means ‘the big Eid’ in Kashmiri.
On the subject of distinct flavours in the food, Reshii credits the women as being “the keepers of traditions”. When a new bride moves into her husband’s house, she carries the flavours of her maika (maternal home) to the sasural (in-laws). Reshii also sheds light on the culinary homogeneity in Kashmiri culture. “In Kashmir, one can’t really say that a certain dish is a ‘speciality’ of one’s family,” she says, “Kashmiris themselves are a very traditional people. Everybody is fine with maintaining that uniformity in the culture, no one really wants to stand out in any way. So, individualism is not prized.” Considering the socio-political environment of the state, this cultural unity is considered a pleasant constant.
Refrigerators in Kashmiri households have a strong connection to Bakr-Eid. In Kashmir, one ideally doesn't need a refrigerator at home since the weather is usually cold throughout the year. A limited amount of meat is eaten on a daily basis with vegetables, and the meal is consumed the same day that it is prepared. However, these refrigerators are bought only keeping Bodd Eid in mind, as there are several kilos of meat at home that comes from the sacrificial sheep of the house as well as that which is given by the neighbours. Hence, storing all that meat under refrigeration becomes paramount. For the rest of the year, the fridge remains marginally used.
Kashmiris make a plethora of dishes with just meat as the base; no vegetables are used at all. Reshii says while people across the country talk about biriyanis and kebabs during Bakri Eid, in Kashmir, there’s none of that. “For us, it is rogan josh, all the dishes that go into making a wazwan, except rista and gushtawa, that no household prepares. We have one chicken dish, we have one dish cooked in curd called yakhni.” Methi maaz is one of the dishes that makes abundant use of meat. It is a starter, served on rice. A tablespoon or two per person at the start of the meal suffices.
Sheep stomach and large intestine — 500 grams
Dried fenugreek (methi) leaves, reconstituted in warm water — 2 tablespoons
Garlic, peeled and chopped — 2 tablespoons
Small cardamom (green) — 2
Large cardamom (black) — 2
Cinnamon stick — 1-inch piece
Clove — 1
Turmeric powder — 1 teaspoon
Chilli powder — 1 teaspoon (levelled up)
Fennel powder — 1/2 teaspoon
Salt to taste
Wash the stomach and intestines thoroughly in several changes of water and a final soaking in hot water is necessary. The stomach needs to be scraped with the blunt end of a knife till smooth.
Chop the stomach and intestines coarsely till the pieces are more or less the same size: an inch in length and a quarter of an inch in width.
Tip the meat into boiling water, to which a pinch of turmeric, salt and a bit of chopped garlic is added. After 3 minutes of rapid boiling, turn off the gas and discard all the water.
In a wok (kadhai), fry the stomach and intestines in ghee or a combination of ghee and oil with the garlic, turmeric and fennel powder. Add the whole spices and saute on low heat, adding a ladle of stock from time to time.
When the intestines are soft and the water is absorbed, add the chilli powder and the reconstituted methi leaves on a slow fire. It is at this moment that the magic happens and the scent of the methi fills the room.
There should not be any flowing gravy in the dish, but it shouldn’t be completely dry either. Blend well, check the seasoning and serve.
Malida is a famous Bohri sweet made during this festival. While sheerkurma has come to represent Eid-ul-Fitr, malida is a feature of Bakri Eid and signifies celebration, happiness and togetherness. It is a healthy concoction of whole wheat flour, jaggery, ghee and a generous amount of dry fruit. In some Bohri families, malida is enhanced with gundar, charoli and some dry coconut shavings.
The Bohri Kitchen has made its mark in the food and hospitality sector, offering a number of traditional dishes. Its founder, Munaf Kapadia, says he owes the entire concept of this kitchen-delivery system to his mother and chef Nafisa Kapadia, whose recipes form the menu of The Bohri Kitchen.
“Malida has been passed on through the generations and has evolved. Originally, it was bread filled with dry fruits. Over the course of time, people kept adding and innovating it and the final product now is what we term malida,” says Kapadia. At their home, the Kapadias wait for Eid so they can enjoy the homemade malida; they eat it through the week. It is said the longer the malida is stored, the more flavourful it gets.
Nafisa prepares malida on the first day of Eid; it's kept in the refrigerator and re-heated as and when consumed. “My mother was told this by her mother and mother-in-law: basi (stale) malida is tastier as the flavours are absorbed and it only gets richer. We have been following this household tradition, and my mother wishes to pass it on too,” Kapadia says.
Whole wheat flour (atta) — 1/2 kilo
Semolina (rawa) — 200 grams
Ghee — 1 kilo
Almonds, soaked in water, skin peeled and cut into small slices — 200 grams
Cuddapah almonds (charoli/ chironji) — 200 grams
Edible gum (gundar/ gond) — 100 grams
Milk — 2 cups
Jaggery — 1 kilo
Eggs — 3
Coconut shavings for garnishing
Mix atta, rawa, eggs, then add warm milk to it and bind into a hard dough. Form small balls and flatten them to make muthias (dumplings).
In a kadhai (wok) add ghee. When hot add the muthias and fry them till golden brown. Remove in a covered vessel and let it cool.
In the same ghee add gundar and fry till it pops like popcorn.
Add the muthias in the food processor and grind them. They should blend into small crumbs.
In a big flat vessel, take a little ghee from the kadhai and add crushed jaggery. Keep stirring and cook on a low flame till all the jaggery melts and a good consistency is achieved. Be careful not to overcook.
Remove from flame and add blended crumbs, gundar and all the dry fruits. Mix thoroughly and garnish with coconut shavings.
Writer and food blogger Hazeena Seyad has been actively working on reviving the Ravuthar cuisine and ensuring that the traditional recipes of this community are not forgotten. The Ravuthars are a sub-community of the Tamil Muslims and are based in Tamil Nadu and parts of Kerala.
Seyad talks about how Eid-ul-Adha means there is an abundance lot of meat – and meat-based recipes – in the house. Uppu Kandam is an authentic recipe from Seyad’s paternal grandmother. “Back then, people did not know to prepare as many dishes using meat [on the same day]. In addition to this, they did not have access to refrigeration. They wondered about how to preserve meat and eventually came up with this dish,” Seyad says, adding that uppu kandam is a salty, peppery, crispy and rustic mutton preparation in which the taste of the sun comes through as the most dominating factor.
Usually, the preparation of traditional delicacies requires time, but the uppu kandam cooks quickly. Though it is comfort food, the dish is still very much part of the Ravuthar cuisine. “Growing up, my school lunch box used to be mostly filled with uppu kandam rice. Mom used to just mix rice with the oil and fried meat,” says Seyad.
Boneless mutton, cubed — 1 kilo
Turmeric powder — 1 ½ tablespoon
Pepper — 1 cup
Cumin seeds — 1/4 cup
Coconut oil — 3 tablespoons
Rock salt — 3 tablespoons
Coconut oil or ghee (to fry) – 1/2 cup
Thick twine, a thin rope or thin metallic wire
Grind all the ingredients except the mutton together into a smooth paste, while adding a little water. Taste and adjust the ingredients; the salt and heat should be more than necessary to ensure it seeps into the meat and dries out well.
Wash the meat, drain and pat dry (in the past, people didn’t really wash the meat). Apply the ground masala to the pat-dried meat and mix well. String the masala-mixed meat with the help of a needle and heavy twine (alternatively, a thin metallic wire can also be used. It is rather hassle-free). Tie the stringed meat over a high place where there is good sunlight, which helps the meat to dry out fast. Ensure that no cats or dogs can access the meat hanging. A gap of half an inch must be maintained between each piece of meat. Dry it in the sun for at least one week or so, till the meat is completely dried out. When it is dropped on your kitchen counter, it should sound like a fallen pebble. This dried meat can be stored in airtight containers for a year or more.
Whenever required, take 8 pieces of meat (serves 3-4 people), place them over the ammi kal (grindstone) and beat them with the hammer till they become a thin, spread-out meat piece. Then shred the hammered meat piece into thin shreds.
Heat coconut oil or ghee and fry the dried shredded meat for one and a half minute until it cooks entirely and becomes crisp.
Drain and serve when it has cooled a little, as the crispness is felt only at a lower temperature (The fried remaining oil can be mixed with boiled rice and eaten). One can also fry in advance and store it in airtight containers. It is best served with boiled white rice for lunch or with kanji (rice porridge).
MUTTA MALA with MUTTA SIRKA (KINNATHAPPAM)
Kerala’s Malabar region owes a lot to the various interactions it had with foreigners; Calicut (now Kozhikode) was one India’s prime ports for spice trade. Thus, much like the art and culture of the region, the culinary flavours also bear a huge influence of the Arabs, Portuguese, Dutch, Syrians, French, British and Jews. Over the years, the food of the region — more popularly termed as the Mopilla/Mapilla cuisine — has adopted a thing or two from here and there and devised a new-yet-old, native-yet-foreign style of cooking.
Gazeena Sulu Kunhamed, a self-taught home cook who also runs a video channel and a food blog, has been documenting a wide range of recipes from the trove of the Mopilla cuisine. “The cuisine has many influences, thereby having a different version of every dish from town to town. If you travel from Kannur to Kozhikode — merely a journey of 2.5-3 hours — you'll have the same dish served to you in different styles, each one claiming theirs to be the best,” she says.
She talks about the Eid celebratory dishes in detail: aleesa (a chicken variant of the Mughlai haleem, it is a gift to the Malabar from the Middle East) is traditionally served right before the main course arrives. And then, there is mutta mala with mutta sirka (also known as kinnathappam) which draws its roots from a Portuguese dish that was presumably known as “egg chains.” Kunhamed says that Bakri Eid, like any other festivity in the community of Mopilla Muslims (a term used to refer to the Muslims in the Malabar region of Kerala), has some signature desserts.
Mutta mala and mutta sirka are slowly fading away from the household kitchens and are only (and rarely) cooked by caterers. “People are drawn to a lunch or dinner plan when they get to know that mutta mala is part of the menu,” Kunhamed says, explaining how a dish with so few ingredients could be a daunting task. “In the olden days, mutta mala was a measure of the ladies’ cooking skills. Trust me, not many can get the long strings and the right texture. And if it doesn't hit the nail, you are looking at a bad dish,” she says.
Eggs — 7
Sugar — 1 cup
Water — 3/4 cup
Milk powder — 1/4 cup
Cardamom pods (green), crushed and powdered — 1 teaspoon
Ghee — 1/2 tablespoon
For mutta mala
Separate the egg yolks and whites in separate bowls and set aside.
Beat yolks well and strain through a fine strainer or muslin cloth so as to get a smooth mix.
Meanwhile, boil sugar and water till you get a syrup of one-string consistency. Allow it to simmer on medium flame.
Pour the yolk mix into a plastic container with small holes or traditionally a coconut shell with three small holes. Close the holes with your fingers and bring the container over simmering syrup and slowly remove fingers to get thin strings of yolk mixture falling into the syrup. Allow yolk to cook in syrup till stringy. Strain and set aside.
Cool and set the remaining syrup aside.
For mutta sirka or kinnathappam
Beat the whites well. Add in the milk powder and crushed cardamom. Beat well and add in the remaining sugar syrup (from the mutta mala recipe) and mix well.
Grease an edged steel plate or edged baking tray with ghee. Pour in the white mix and steam till done (for approximately 15 minutes).
When it gets cooled down, cut into squares or diamond shapes. Serve with the stringy mutta mala.
DUM KI SEVIYAN
For Chef Anees Khan of Star Anise Fine Foods & Leisure Pvt Ltd, Bakri Eid brings back a lot of childhood memories. “The Bakri Eid ritual was wearing a fresh new pathani dress and visiting the eidgah along with my abba. After the prayers we used to rush home because of two reasons, one was to wish my ammi and sister Eid Mubarak, and an even more important reason was to savour the dum ki seviyan,” he says.
Khan’s great grandfather came from Afghanistan and settled in Brahmapur, a small coastal town situated on the Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border. The flavours in the cuisine of Muslim families in these areas of Odisha have developed as a result of this border culture and are also influenced by South India. (During the mid-18th century, the southern part of the state was part of the larger Madras Presidency).
“Bakri Eid has always been my favourite because of the food that was prepared and spread on the dastarkhwaan. The meat was distributed among the poor and needy, and friends and relatives. Most of it was also marinated, skewed on bicycle spokes and roasted on charcoal... what flavours!”
Khan and his siblings would eagerly wait to savour this version of seviyan. “The roasted seviyan with desi ghee, nuts and mawa add a fantastic twist to this dish once this goes on dum. The aroma and the fragrance of the seviyan would dance around the house and we would dig into bowls of this delicacy,” recounts Khan, adding that the same tradition continues in his own home with his children.
Broken vermicelli (seviyan) — 500 grams
Sugar — 250 grams
Condensed milk (khowa/mawa) — 250 grams
Ghee — 250 grams
Almonds — 8
Pistachios, thinly sliced — 8
Cashew nuts, thinly sliced — 4-6
Raisins — 8
Saffron (zafran) strands — 8
Heat the ghee in a deep-bottomed pan. Fry all the dry fruits until brown and add vermicelli to it and fry till brown.
Dissolve sugar in another pan; add the saffron and heat up till the syrup is thick.
Add the sugar syrup to the roasted vermicelli and keep the flame low.
Add mawa to the vermicelli and cook on low flame with a lid on — thus giving it dum — till the vermicelli is cooked and is dry enough.
Plate it and garnish with dry fruits and edible silver leaves (varak). Serve hot.
CHITUA and MUTTON TIKIYA
For veteran chef Syed Mustaque Murshid, who hails from the Syed clan of Murshidabad in West Bengal, Bakri Eid delicacies mean a blend of both the foreign and native. Murshid says that their family was among the first Muslims who settled down in Murshidabad along the banks of the river Bhagirathi. He can trace his roots back to 22 generations on his maternal side and claims a certain ancestor named Milki Jahan supposedly came to India along with the army of the dreaded Turkic conqueror Timur, the Lame.
This history of his family and the local produce of the region both inform the food that is cooked in his house. One such ancient delicacy happens to be the chitua, which is a kind of pancake that is prepared during festivals like Bakri Eid both in the homes and the streets of Murshidabad. It is usually served topped with molten palm jaggery, an ingredient the Persians brought to the Indian subcontinent, says Murshid.
The cuisine of Murshidabad also bears a strong Mughlai influence, which means that biriyanis and kebabs are an integral part of Eid celebrations. Meat was a luxury back then for the locals. During Bakri Eid, when they would get meat from the nobles and royals, they would try to make the best use of it, Murshid says. The Murshidabad version of kebabs, named tikiyas, are made of dried pea lentils and minced meat. Murshid explains, “The use of dried peas is also something gifted to the Murshidabad cuisine by the Persians due to its cheap availability and higher shelf life.”
Gobindobhog rice — 1 kilo
Jaggery dates — 50 grams
Yeast — 5 grams
Cow milk — 250 ml
Lukewarm water as required
Salt to taste
Activate yeast in a little lukewarm water.
Soak the rice overnight. The next day, drain the water and air dry the rice. Grind it to a fine powder. Use a sieve, if required, to ensure the powder is fine.
To this rice powder, add the activated yeast, a little water and salt. Ferment it for 2 hours.
Add milk and adjust the consistency. Ideally, the consistency should be that of the dosa batter.
In a specialised clay tawa (flat pan), pour to make circles of 4-inch diameter and cook over low heat.
Sprinkle the date jaggery on top and cover it till done. Serve hot.
Boneless leg of lamb — 1 kilo
Ginger — 20 grams
Garlic — 30 grams
Green chilli — 15 grams
Brown onion — 100 grams
Dry pea lentil, soaked — 200 grams
Garam masala* — 40 grams
Raw papaya paste — 25 grams
Breadcrumbs/puffed rice — 120 grams
Peppercorn, crushed — 15 grams
Ghee — 100 grams
Salt to taste
*(for Garam Masala)
Clove — 15 grams
Small cardamom (green) — 15 grams
Star anise — 10 grams
Big cardamom (black) — 10 grams
Bay leaves — 4
Shahi jeera — 10 grams
Cinnamon — 10 grams
Nutmeg — 5 grams
Mace — 5 grams
Kababchini — 7 grams
Wash, trim and cut lamb into chunks.
Coarsely grind pea lentil and set aside.
Mince the meat finely along with all other items except breadcrumbs.
Mix the coarsely ground lentil into it and add breadcrumbs.
Make small patties out of it and shallow fry in ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan on medium heat.
Serve it hot with green and mint chutneys.
HYDERABADI KOFTA KHORMA
The Nizams of the Deccan (dakkhan) and the Nawabs of Awadh were the most influential when it comes to food and gastronomy in the Mughal era. With its legacy of the rich Mughal cuisine and the Nizams’ patronage, Hyderabadi cuisine has held its own over the centuries and continues to be cooked in home kitchens and restaurants.
Chennai-based self-professed foodie and successful entrepreneur Anisa Arif (who owns an online spice store named Zaiqa) believes there’s a lot more to Hyderabadi cuisine than biriyani, especially during Bakri Eid. “There is usually a lot of meat in the house during Bakri Eid,” says Arif. While conceptualising her spice store, Arif did thorough research on the spices of the Mughlai cuisines, especially the exotic spice blend named ‘lazzat’. Her research also took her to the cooking classes of the legendary doyen of Hyderabadi cooking, Begum Mumtaz Khan (also known as Begum Aapa by her many students and fans).
The Hyderabadi kofta khorma is a recipe from Begum Aapa's treasure trove; it is also featured in the book Hyderabadi Khasa, written by Begum Aapa’s daughter Parveen Khan. “I was really fortunate to have learnt this recipe directly from her. I have treasured the hand-written notes on the recipe that she gave me,” says Arif and adds that this dish has now become a must-have for her family during Bakri Eid.
Minced mutton (keema), cooked — 1/8 kilo
Minced mutton (keema), raw — 1/4 kilo
Garam masala — 1 teaspoon
Coriander leaves, finely chopped — 1 teaspoon
Mint leaves, finely chopped — 1 teaspoon
Green chillies, finely chopped — 6
Mutton bones — 100 grams
Curd, beaten — 1/2 cup
Coriander leaves, finely chopped — 2 tablespoons
Mint leaves, finely chopped — 2 tablespoons
Green chillies, finely chopped — 4
Onion, sliced — 1
Ginger-garlic paste — 2 teaspoons
Red chilli powder — 1 teaspoon
Turmeric powder — 1 teaspoon
Chickpeas, roasted and powdered (phutana chana) — 1 tablespoon
Garam masala powder (cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and shahjeera) — 1 teaspoon
Poppy seeds (khus khus) — 2 tablespoons
Cuddapah almonds (chironji) — 1 teaspoon
Cashew nut (kaju) — 1 teaspoon
Saffron — 1 pinch
Oil — 4 tablespoons
Grind the raw keema with the garam masala and the finely chopped coriander leaves, mint leaves and green chillies. Mix it with the cooked keema, knead it and make balls out of it for the koftas.
Dry roast the khus khus, chironji and kaju, and grind it (with some water) to form a fine paste.
Mix the phutana chana powder with a quarter cup of water and form a paste.
Lightly brown onions in oil in an open pressure cooker. Add ginger-garlic paste, turmeric, red chilli powder and salt, stir and brown the mix.
Add bones and stir well. Then add one cup of water and pressure cook for 10 minutes.
When it has cooled, open the pressure cooker. Add beaten curd and all the pastes. Stir it well and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Add a pinch of saffron and a cup of water.
When it starts to boil, add the koftas and cook on a low flame for 10 minutes.
Serve hot with rice/ roti.
LUCKNAWI MUTTON CHAAP
“In the earlier days, whenever the Nawabs travelled, they took along their personal khansamas. As a result, there was a wide exchange of recipes and styles among chefs and cooks. That’s the reason why lucknawi mutton chaap, a favourite of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, reached Delhi and with some minor tweaking here and there, became a part of Mughlai cuisine as well,” reveals Chef Shadab Ahmed Qureshi, Chef De Cuisine at Jyran, Sofitel Mumbai BKC.
Qureshi is the seventh generation of the legendary family of Qureshi chefs of Lucknow. His maternal grandfather is the renowned chef and Padma Shri awardee Imtiaz Qureshi, who revolutionised the Indian culinary scene with his inimitable dum pakht style (cooking on low flame) which is an attribute of the Nawabi cuisine of Lucknow.
“While the Awadhi cuisine and Mughlai cuisine both stemmed from the same school of culinary art patronised by the Mughals in Delhi, there is a distinct touch to each of them in terms of flavours,” remarks Qureshi. He explains the difference: Awadhi cuisine relies more on the aroma and is considerably lighter, while Mughlai cuisine is richer and is slightly less aromatic. Awadhi cuisine relies on longer marination of the meat and then cooking it on low flame. “Awadhi cuisine uses kewra water, rose water and meetha itr (edible perfume) in great quantities. Some of the Mughlai dishes do use kewra and rose water but in very little portions; itr is not used at all.”
Speaking about his memories of food at home during Bakri Eid, Qureshi recounts how his family would pick out all the chops from the three shares of the sacrificial meat. “From the earliest memories I have, I remember my mother making these chops. It used to be my grandfather’s favourite dish during Eid, and it has remained so. The whole idea of festivity during Eid is to sit with the entire family and savour these delicious chops.”
Mutton chops — 1 kilo
Raw papaya paste — 50 grams
Yoghurt — 150 grams
Ginger-garlic paste — 30 grams
Garam masala — 25 grams
Red chilli powder — 25 grams
Onion, finely sliced — 150 grams
Cumin powder — 10 grams
Almond paste — 50 grams
Melon-seeds (charmagaz) paste — 50 grams
Cashew nut paste — 25 grams
Ghee — 50 grams
Saffron, dissolved in water — 1 teaspoon
Kewra and rose water — 1-2 drops
Salt to taste
Wash the mutton chops and place them in a bowl. Add chilli powder and salt in the bowl and mix well. Add the raw papaya paste and some ginger-garlic paste. (Each of these ingredients should be rubbed separately into the mixture.). Keep aside for 1.5 hours and wrap it with cling film and refrigerate.
In a flat fry pan, add one teaspoon of ghee. Fry the sliced onions till they become translucent in this pan. Add the remaining ginger-garlic paste. (Please note that the garlic and ginger do not turn brown). Cool it and make a paste in the mixer.
In the same pan, add another tablespoon of oil, warm it and slowly add the chops along with the marinade. Braise it on a high flame for 5 minutes.
Add the fried onion-ginger-garlic paste now and keep braising on a medium flame. Then, add the almond paste, melon-seeds paste and cashew nut paste. Next add spices (make a paste of garam masala, cumin powder and red chilli powder) and keep braising on a medium flame.
Cook well and sprinkle some salt. By now, the meat should leave enough fat. If not, then add a few drops of ghee.
Once satisfied with the colour of the meat and when the braising is done, check the seasoning and mix well. Stir in saffron water and a few drops of kewra water and rose water. Cover the pan tightly and let it simmer on a low flame until done.
Once it is cooked, put a lid on it for some time before serving. Serve the mutton chaap with mint chutney.
About the artist: Shawn D'Souza is a textile designer and illustrator. Follow his work on Instagram.