Eid lunch – For the love of family and food

Published: July 5, 2016

Food took centre stage – from breakfast of seviyan, hot cardamom chai (tea) and jalebis (fried sweet sugar syrup doughnuts) and dahi baras (lentil fritters with yoghurt) made by my mother, followed by ‘elvensies’ of sheer khurma (hot sweet vermicelli saffron milk drink) at my Nani’s (maternal grandmother) house. PHOTO: SUMAYYA USMANI

Eid will always remind me of my childhood and growing up in Pakistan. I have a clear sensory memory of awakening to aromas of cloves and cardamom wafting from the kitchen into my bedroom. This is a day that revolves around family togetherness and a celebration of food, after a month of abstinence and contemplation.

Though a global Muslim festival, Eid is celebrated differently in each country, highlighting the fact that this is not just a religious day, but a time to celebrate our culture and identity. But, the one unifying similarity is that Eid is a celebration of food, authentic flavours and family togetherness.

As a child I would eagerly await Eid, as children we would receive eidi’ in tiny colourful envelopes from older family and friends, and I would always look forward to collecting my ‘king’s ransom’ from my father, who would promise me this only if I woke up early, changed into my pretty new clothes and bangles!

Food took centre stage – from breakfast of seviyan, hot cardamom chaijalebis and dahi baras made by my mother, followed by ‘elvensies’ of sheer khurma at my nani’s house. Before lunch we would distribute food from our homes to the needy, this is a big part of the Eid culture in Pakistan, feeding those who may not be able to afford it themselves. Our lunch would always be at my dadi’s (paternal grandmother) place, which always promised to serve a lavish spread of biryanishami kebabskoftas, and always ending with mithai and her version of seviyan. A day of family visits, sitting together, being force-fed an obscene amount of food, laughing and cherishing what is on our tables is how I would describe Eid in Pakistan.

To me, Eid is a moment of thankfulness – for the food we receive, for our necessities being fulfilled and the presence of our loved ones in our lives. These recipes for me provide the essence of Eid in Pakistan. I learnt them from my family and still cook in the UK today.

Bavette shami kababs with black cardamom, black cumin and cinnamon

I have adapted a traditional recipe and used bavette steak which is cheap and just beautiful.

Shami kababs are usually melt-in-the-mouth, pureed, spicy meat whisked in channa daal (chickpeas) based kababs found in nearly all homes in Pakistan, with a history as far back as the Mughal Empire. Often a laborious task, I have adapted a traditional recipe and used bavette steak which is cheap and just beautiful, and instead of purred mince beef – as it is traditionally done – I leave the meat to cook slowly until it pulls apart, mixed with spices and channa daal. When it is dry and cool, add fresh herbs and ginger and mould together into burger patties, dip lightly in egg and shallow fry; perfect Eid guest treats with some spiced tamarind chutney.

Makes six to eight kababs

Cooking time: Two to three hours


Bavette steak – 400 g

Channa daal – 50 g (soaked for about 30 minutes to overnight before cooking)

Cinnamon stick – 1

Black cardamom – 2

Black cumin (or regular cumin if not available) – 1 tsp

Coriander seeds – 1 tsp

Star anise – 2

Dried red chillis – 2 to 3

Black peppercorn – 1 tsp

Cloves – 8 to 10

Ginger – ½ inch (chopped into tiny pieces)

Coriander– ½ bunch (chopped finely)

Mint leaves – 20 (chopped finely)

Green chillies – 2 (chopped finely)

Egg – 1 (beaten)

Vegetable oil to shallow fry


1. Add the first 10 ingredients in a heavy based saucepan and add one and a half pint of water. Bring to a boil and then return to a simmer, cover and leave to cook for about three hours on low flame. Keep checking to make sure the meat doesn’t stick at the bottom. Ensure that you stir it occasionally. Do not add any more water.

2. After about two hours or so check to see if all the moisture and gone, the meat is tender and falling apart and the lentils are mushy.

3. Break and pull the meat apart, add the finely chopped ginger, chopped mint, coriander and green chillies. Mix until all is well combined with the meat.

4. Take about two tablespoons of the meat mixture and, using your hands, make flat burger patties. Dip each into egg and set aside on a plate.

5. Heat vegetable oil in a shallow frying pan, once hot add about three to four patties in the pan. Fry for about one minute on each side, until both sides are medium brown.

6. Serve hot with any hot sauce or ketchup.

Pakistani festive beef biryani

This recipe is a labour of love, as is the Eid lunch

This recipe, as well as lunches that one prepares on Eid, are products of affection.  Your loved ones deserve such dedication when you cook for them.

Red chilli powder – ½ tsp

Braising steak/ beef chuck pieces – 400 g

Greek yoghurt – 200 g

Saffron – ½ tsp (seeped in 2 tbsp hot boiling water for 15 minutes)

Mint leaves – 10

Lemon – ½ (sliced)

Rose water/ kewra essence – 2 tsp

Melted ghee – ½ tbsp

Green chillis – 2

Pistachios – 1 tbsp

Edible rose buds – 10 (or 1 tbsp edible dried rose petals)


1. Begin by par boiling the soaked rice, drain and set aside. It should be firm but not entirely raw.

2. Heat a heavy based saucepan on medium low, add the oil and ghee. When hot, add all the whole spices and cook for 30 seconds, or until you can smell the oil aromatised by the spices.

3. Turn heat to medium. Add the red onions and fry until light golden. Next add the ginger and garlic. Cook for 30 seconds or until you can smell that the garlic no longer smells raw.

Add tomatoes, cook until the moisture of the tomatoes is gone. Add about one to two tablespoons of water if the tomatoes burn. The result should be a thick, rich sauce with no hard tomato bits and oil rising to the surface of the sauce. Add the turmeric and red chilli powder.

4. Next add the beef and stir fry until sealed. About two to three minutes. Add the Greek yogurt and continue to stir fry until the moisture of the yoghurt evaporates and you are left with a sauce. Cover the pan and turn the heat to low.

5. Allow to cook until the sauce is thick reddish brown sauce with, oil rising to the top. This will take a patient 15-20 of cooking. At this point you may need to add a little water if the meat isn’t cooked through and cook covered for a few more minutes until the sauce is thick again.

6. Once the meat is cooked through, it’s time to layer the rice on top and infuse the aromatics of saffron, lemon, mint, green chilli and rose water or kewra. Layer the rice evenly on top of the meat.

7. Poke the aromatics into the rice, pour over the saffron and rose water or kewra and then, using a piece of foil cover the entire surface of the saucepan and place the lid firmly over to create a seal, so the steam does not escape the pan. Turn the heat to its lowest setting and steam cook for 10 minutes. Once done, remove the foil and let the steam escape.

8. Gently mix the rice and meat with the sauce using a dessert spoon to prevent breaking the rice.

9. Serve hot in a serving dish and scatter pistachios and rose petals or buds.

My Nani’s Muzaffar seviyan served with clotted cream – sweet vermicelli with saffron and cardamom

Muzaffar Seviyan served with clotted cream – Sweet vermicelli with saffron and cardamom.

There are many ways to make the quintessential Eid dessert called seviyan. This is a sweet roasted vermicelli that can be made in either milk or water and sugar. The flavour is one that always reminds me of Eid and the excitement it brings. This is my maternal grandmother’s recipe, traditionally served with khoya (milk solids), but I think clotted cream works equally well, giving it a British touch!

Serves: 6-8 people

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10-15 minutes


Ghee (clarified butter) – 2 tbsp

Chopped pistachios – ½ cup

Green cardamom seeds – 4-5 (discard husks)

Fine wheat vermicelli – 1 ½ cup crushed into small pieces

Boiling water – ½ pint

Saffron – ½ tsp, seeped in 1 tbsp boiling water for about 5 minutes

Caster sugar – 60 g

Silver leaf to decorate (optional)

Desiccated coconut (to garnish) – 2 tbsp

Sultanas – 1 tbsp (to garnish)

Silvered almonds – 1 tbsp (to garnish)

Pistachios – 1 tbsp (to garnish)

Clotted cream – 100 g


1. Heat the ghee in a wok style pan over medium heat and melt until hot. Add the chopped pistachios and cardamom seeds and stir-fry for 30 seconds. The cardamom should be fragrant and the pistachios very lightly brown. Turn the heat to medium low.

2. Add the crushed vermicelli and stir-fry until evenly light brown (takes about three to four minutes of stir frying). The vermicelli will now smell toasted and the colour should be a medium brown.

3. Add the boiling water to the vermicelli together with the seeped saffron, mix until combined and cook until the vermicelli is tender and all the water is absorbed (about three to four minutes).

4. Next sprinkle over the caster sugar, stir until dissolved (about one to two minutes).

5. Turn heat off, place in a serving dish. Decorate with silver leaf (optional). Serve warm and top with nuts, sultanas, coconut and clotted cream.

(Keeps on its own for about three to four days covered in a cool dry place)

All photos: Sumayya Usmani

This post originally appeared here.

Sumayya Usmani

Sumayya Usmani

She is a writer and cookery teacher based in London, UK, specialising in the cuisine of Pakistan, where she was born and raised. She blogs at www.mytamarindkitchen.com/ and tweets as @MyTamarindKtchn (twitter.com/MyTamarindKtchn) She is also the author of a cookbook, Summers under the Tamarind Tree.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.