Served with Mohabbat

With Eid mere days away, TNIE takes a look at the culinary delights prepared with love and devotion at the households of various regions in Kerala
Courtesy: Sameera Nizarudin @salu_kitchen
Courtesy: Sameera Nizarudin @salu_kitchen

KOCHI: As the sacred month of Ramadan draws to a close, hearts are filled with anticipation and joy for Eid al-Fitr, the festival of breaking the fast. The day, not only marks the end of a month-long journey of spiritual reflection and self-discipline, but it is also a momentous occasion which brings communities together.

Once the crescent moon is spotted, signalling the arrival of Eid, the houses will be filled with joy. The children will sparkle the brightest. They’ll adorn their hands with mehendi designs, wear attar, and slip into their finest new attire, traditionally bought by the elder members of the family.

“One of the specialities of the Muslim festivals is that there are a set of traditions which are followed globally. On the morning of Eid al-Fitr, people offer Namaz either at a Mosque or Eid Gah, an open space reserved for prayers. During the festival, everyone donates alms to the needy. There’s a common belief that on the day of Eid, no one should starve. So there’s a mandatory custom of providing rice or any food item,” explains M N Karassery, writer and social activist.

“Another tradition is offering Zakath, which is nothing but giving away 2.5 per cent of your income. Traditionally, eight categories of people are considered for it, including, those who are under a financial crisis, those in debt, neighbours, etc. And it doesn’t matter what religion they belong to. Zakath is mostly offered during the last week of Ramadan or on Eid. It is also a day where people rekindle relations, so people visit each other,” Karassery adds.

Another important facet of Eid is the delectable aroma of the feast spreading across neighbourhoods. Also, it is that inviting spread of innumerable dishes that many look forward to. Though customs are generally universal, the taste, smell, and textures of this feast vary as you travel from region to region in Kerala.

The Mappila Muslims (also called Moplah), settled on the Malabar coast, serve food which is believed to be descended from the Arab traders along with dishes tempered with locally available ingredients such as curry leaves, banana, grated coconut, etc.

“Eid is mostly celebrated in ancestral homes. Sweet dishes are a highlight of this festival. Once the moon is seen, ‘chakkara choru’ is served first. It is made by mixing whole wheat with jaggery and coconut milk. Another sweet dish is ‘kadalakka kanji’, a porridge made using coconut milk, cumin, sugar, egg and split chana dal,” explains Abida Rasheed, home chef and food writer.

Most houses prepare an early lunch, she says. “Mutton biryani is a staple in Malabar,” she smiles. “Then comes Aleesa, a porridge made with mutton and spices. Mutta maala is another must-have on the table,” she says. As a final touch, Kava drink will be served. This is a type of chai made with spices like ginger, cardamom, patta and black pepper. “It is soothing, especially after a heavy spread,” says Abida.

And some families make breakfast, instead of an early lunch. They will prepare a mouth-watering spread of goat head curry, liver fry, brain masala, etc, she says. “All of these would be paired either with mutta surka or kannu vecha pathiri,” she adds.

After feasting on the north’s Mohabat-filled hospitality, coming down to Kochi, the scene is a bit different. “Ask any child why they are fasting, the immediate response would be to have Iftar snacks,” quips food blogger Salman Faris. “I am not exaggerating. Snacks are important, especially for us in Fort Kochi and Mattancherry,” he laughs.

The staple is small-sized samosas made out of prawn or beef. Then there is the famous beef cutlet and the unique dish — appam with cutlet kept in the middle. “Eid breakfast consists of banana fritter (pazham pori) or boiled banana, puttu, beef or mutton curry and liver varattiyathu. After namaz, the houses would mostly serve Rooh Afza or milk-based drinks with fruits, for the guests,” he says.

For children, the main attraction of the day would be ‘perunnalpodi,’ or kayineettam. “After such customs, lunch is served. The main attraction would be scrumptious mutton biryani and chicken fry. The dinner would be mostly taken care of with the leftovers,” adds Salman.

Coming to the southern region, home chef Sameera Nizarudin says, generally, the breakfast would be a lavish affair. “The women of the house wake up early to prepare mutton curry, beef varattiyathu, chicken fry and orotti pathiri — all served for breakfast. Another delicacy served in the morning is nice pathiri mixed with coconut milk,” she adds.

For lunch, mutton biryani made with kaima rice is a must. “Our biryani has pineapple pieces. And the rice will be aromatic since it will be prepared with pandan leaf and tondan mulaku.”

For Thiruvananthapuram native Sheeba La Fleur, the Eid celebration starts with paal ada, mutton curry and brain fry. “Musara, a sweet delicacy prepared with banana and coconut milk is mandatory in the morning. Another special offering is Talbinah,” she says. “It is said that Prophet Mohammed’s wife Aisha used to prepare Talbinah, a comfort food. It’s made by boiling barley syrup mixed with milk. Some studies say it can soothe people and their stomachs,” says Sheeba. Along with traditional dishes, delicacies from the Middle East and some regions of Africa are also finding their way to the Eid feast, informs Sheeba.

Courtesy: Sheeba La Fleur
Courtesy: Sheeba La Fleur

“Moroccan dish Tajine or Tagine has a separate fan base here. It’s kind of like a semi gravy; and made with chicken and dry fruits and cooked in earthen pots. The taste is enhanced with sauce made of apricot and prunes.”

Sweets like Mahalabia and Layali Lubnan are also popular in the city. “The latter is made with fine semolina, fresh cream and rose water. They all taste heavenly,” smiles Sheeba.

Be it brain fry or biriyani, Eid comes calling with a set of offerings that are rooted in traditions. From Malabar to south Kerala, every household will be filled with the aroma of a tantalising spread.

Shole Zard

Ingredients

Kaima rice: 1/2cups

Water: 4.5 cups

Cardamom powder: 1/2tsp

Butter: 50gm

Saffron: 2tsp ( soaked in 3tbsp water)

Rose water: 1/4 cup

Sugar: 1.5 cups

Sliced almonds: 3tbsp

Garnish

Sliced almond: 2tbsp

Pistachio: 1tbsp

Rose petals: 1tbsp

Method

Boil water. Add washed rice, cardamom powder and butter. Cook on a medium flame. Stir occasionally. When the rice is done, add saffron water and sugar. Mix it well. Now add rose water and sliced almonds. Once it is ready, garnish with sliced almonds, pistachio, dried rose petals and serve it hot .

Makkan peda

Ingredients

Maid: 50gm

Khoya: 100gm, crumbled and at room temperature

Ghee: 50gm

Cooking Soda:  5gm

Almond: 10gm

Cashewnut: 10gm

Pistachio: 5gm

Raisin: 5gm

Oil: 200gm

Curd: 25gm

For sugar syrup  

Sugar: 250gm

Water: as required

Saffron: a pinch

Method: In a bowl, add khoya, maida, ghee, curd, cooking soda and mix well. Sprinkle water and knead well to form a dough. Keep aside for 10 to 15 minutes. For the sugar syrup, add sugar and water in a vessel and bring to boil. Once it starts boiling, let it simmer for 4 to 5 minutes on medium flame. As the sugar syrup gets ready, make the pedas. Knead the dough once again gently to make it smooth. Make them into equal-sized balls and then flatten them slightly. Stuff with a little of the mixed nuts. Gather the sides and cover the nuts. Pinch to seal and roll it once again. Flatten slightly and repeat to finish. Heat oil and lower the flame. Put pedas in the oil and cook them evenly on medium flame. Once deep golden in colour, drain on paper towels and soak in hot sugar syrup. Let it soak for 2 hours. Garnish with chopped dry nuts.

Mutta Sirka

Ingredients

Kaima rice : 1 glass

Eggs: 2 , Salt to taste

Oil: 2 cups

Method: Wash and soak rice in water for 2 hours. To the mixer, add soaked rice, water, 2 eggs and salt. The consistency should be very thin. Heat the utensil with enough oil. Then pour the batter and deep fry.

Awadhi Mutton Biryani

Ingredients

Rice: 80gm

Mutton: 150gm

Ghee: 20gm

Sliced onion: 1

Sahi Jeera: 3gm

Turmeric powder: 2gm

Coriander powder: 5gm

Ginger Garlic Paste: 10gm

Split Green Chilli: 5gm

Garam Masala Powder: 5gm

Mint: 5gm

Coriander Leaves: 5gm

Saffron a pinch

Salt as per the taste

Rose Water: 5ml

Kewra water: 5ml

For the Rice: In a bowl soak rice for at least one hour. Cook the rice till al dente 80%) and let it cool completely.

For the masala: In a pan, pour ghee, splutter jeera, add the chopped onion and cook till golden brown. Add the ginger-garlic paste and fry till the raw flavour goes out. Add the masala powders and sauté for a minute. Add curd to the masala mix and cook it for a few minutes. Next, add mutton, mix with the salt and cook it well. Once the mutton is cooked, add the boiled and cooled rice to the mix. Sprinkle a bit of rose water and kewra water and dum it for at least 30 minutes. Serve with a garnish of mint, coriander and fried onions.

Note: The ongoing Le Meridien Eid Buffet features a variety of traditional delights, including the signature Awadhi Biryani and a selection of Indian desserts.

Qatayef

Ingredients

Custard powder - 2 tbsp

Cornflour - 2 tbsp

Milk - 1/2 litre

Sugar - 2 tbsp

Semolina - 1/2 cup

All purpose flour - 1/2 cup

Yeast - 1 tsp

Sugar - 2 tsp

Baking soda - 1/2 tsp

Salt to taste

Method : Mix custard powder and corn flour in some milk. Make sure there are no lumps left. Heat the remaining milk and pour the mix into it, along with sugar. Stir well until it thickens. Mix all the ingredients starting from semolina. Use 1 cup of water to make batter.

Once the batter is prepared, keep it aside for an hour. Then pour the batter to a pan and make mini pancakes. Do not flip. To the centre of each pancake, place the prepared custard mix. Now stick the edges and keep them aside. Pour sugar syrup over the pancake and garnish with crushed pista. The item can be served both hot and cold.

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