Eid-ul-Fitr, celebrated after Ramadan, is an important festival for Muslims. It is marked on the first day of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic calendar. Early in the morning, Muslims take a bath and put on new clothes. Some have already applied henna (mehndi) and wear bangles and other accessories. Women decorate their houses in their own special ways. Breakfast includes sweets and different cookies. Then they go to the mosque for special prayers.
Children get gifts, clothes, sweets, and love from their near and dear ones. They also make special handmade Eid greetings for their friends. Women cook special foods. It is a time to create an ambience of triumph, love, and happiness. Relatives and friends visit each other’s houses to share a delicious meal.
My father is the eldest member among our relatives, so they all come to our house on the first day of Eid. Some stay for lunch with us. Thus my mother, my sister, and I wake up early in the morning and spend most of our time in the kitchen preparing food. The food I most like to prepare on this day is biryani, a special rice dish made with mutton, peppers, and spices. I learned how to prepare this this food when I was in Pakistan. My neighbor cooked this food for us one Eid-ul-Fitr. Biryani has a special smell and taste. Family members like to come to the kitchen while it’s being prepared just to keep asking when it will be ready for them to eat.
This is my own personal recipe for biryani:
500 grams basmati rice
1kg mutton (cut into small pieces)
2 tsp garam masala
6 red chilies
7 cashew nuts
2 cinnamon sticks
2 pieces of cardamom
3 green chilies (add more according to your taste)
6 chopped fresh coriander
1 small bunch chopped ginger
3 tsp saffron (dissolved in ¾ cup milk)
beaten curd one cup
juice of 2 limes
4 boiled eggs
5 tbsp ghee or oil
First grind the chilies and cashew nuts. Then mix the mutton pieces with the ginger-garlic paste and beaten curd and put aside. Heat four tablespoons ghee or oil and fry the chili paste, add the mutton, ¼ of the fried onion, 1 tsp garam masala, and salt to taste. As the ghee separates from the mixture, add one and a half cups warm water and pressure cook until it softens. Take a wide vessel, fry the whole spices in 1 tbsp. ghee/oil, add the rice and fry a little, add green chilies and salt to taste and enough water for the rice to cook. When the rice is cooked, spread it on a plate and add the spices mixed together. Afterwards, take another wide vessel (thick bottom) and line it with ghee, spread a layer of rice in it and cover it with half the mutton, spread half of the spice mixture and lime juice, put a layer of rice followed by a mutton layer and finish with a final layer of rice. Cover the rice with saffron milk and some ghee, cover it tightly, and cook for twenty minutes over a slow fire.
Basically, I am responsible for cooking the biryani, but my sister and my mother help me a lot. From morning until lunch, my brothers and sister-in-laws who live with us wait eagerly to eat, smelling the food.
Preparing and cooking biryani brings back the memory of our neighbors in Pakistan. They were from Khost Province in Afghanistan, and had a large family. Most of their relatives lived in Peshawar. Sometimes they had 60 or even 70 relatives for Eid lunch. I always wished to be one of their guests. During Eid lunch, I didn’t eat the food my mother prepared. Instead, I waited for them to bring over a plate of delicious biryani.