Like in any celebration, food occupies a central place during Islam’s Eid al-Adha traditions, which took place over the weekend. Eid al-Adha or the Festival of Sacrifice culminates the Hajj season, which this year attracted 2 million pilgrims from around the world to Mecca.
Let the meat eating begin! My first recollection of Bakr Eid celebrations (Eid-ul-Adha) is from an October of the 70s; I was five or six and sat fascinated as my father relayed the glorious religious history that marks the blessed event we celebrate today. I vividly remember going with my father and buying a goat for Rs. 700, a beautiful tall muscular animal that was to be pampered until the morning of the Qurbani (sacrifice), and then enjoyed as a delicious family lunch.
Karahi gosht is said to be a dish of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly known as NWFP). In the city of Peshawar, and its surrounding areas, meat rules supreme. Historically speaking, lamb and goat meat (mutton) has always been favored in South Asia, Middle East, Central Asia, and the Mediterranean. Perhaps it was it’s availability or size that made it the animal of choice to be hunted as a quick and easy dinner, or the fact that goat and lamb meat is deliciously tender and juicy.
Curry, A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors is a fabulous narrative of South Asian cuisine and the charming tales associated with its evolution:
At a garden party at Khyber in the 1920’s, a British civil servant sampled the sort of [goat] kebabs Babar would have eaten in the early 16th century. The local Afridis, a warlike nomadic mountain people, had invited the British to watch a display of guns, fireworks, and an exhibition of how they attack in enemy’s position. An old Afridi came up and offered a lump of sheep’s flesh freshly roasted in [tomatoes]. These had to be pulled off and eaten with the fingers. It is believed that the ruling Mughul’s hearty appetite for beef, lamb and goat clashed with the dietary habits of many of their subjects in the subcontinent. But the mountain people of Afghanistan and the Khyber were used to the hearty meat-based diet of the nomadic shepherds of the region.
The warrior nature of the Pukhtuns and some of the other Muslims in the mountainous region accentuated the consumption of the undomesticated animal, and vegetarianism was considered the diet of the people of the plains. Lizzie Collingham, a historian opines; The consumption of meat was associated with strength and valor. It was considered that environmental essences contained in the soil were transferred from plants and then into herbivores, which in turn were eaten by carnivores.
Each transference created a more powerful distillation of essences. Meat was thus the most intense of foods. How did the traditional lamb karahi come to be? My research pointed me to Landi Kotal, a rustic and traditionally Pukhtun town, sitting close to Afghanistan atop the Khyber Pass. The Shinwari and Afridi tribes hail from this region and it is also considered to be the historical home of the balti or karahi gosht. The karahi gosht is named after the utensil it is cooked in. The balti and karahi (the cooking utensil balti is referred to as karahi in southern Pakistan) are a somewhat similar heavy-based, round, wok-like pot. From Landi Kotal, the delicious balti gosht travelled to Punjab and then the rest of the world.
The mutton karahi essentially consists of small cubes of lamb or goat, which are cooked in tomatoes, green chillie, salt and preferably animal fat. The fresh meat is thought to provide the fat base for the cooking, and it is meant to be savoured directly from the karahi with a side of hot naan. From the book titled, Street Food of the World Chicken Karahi/Karahi gosht A specialty of Lahore’s food street, this dish is made by stir-frying pieces of chicken with tomatoes, green chili, ginger, and garlic in a karahi, the wok-like pan that gives the dish its name. The diner mops up the juice, pieces of naan. A variation of chicken karahi is karahi gosht and is made with mutton. This dish may have been the precursor of the popular British dish, Balti. Also see: Food Stories: Sheer Khurma Balti or karahi, this lamb and goat delight is all about the palatability of meat.
My two favorites every Eid-ul-Azha were namkeen gosht, for this was made just once a year with the fresh meat of the qurbani ka bakra (sacrificed animal), and the special karahi goshtmade by my dearest father Javed Hussain Tirmizi. My father travelled frequently on his job, and on one of his marketing ventures he travelled to Landi Kotal and got the recipe, right from its city of origin. Here it is, celebrating Eid-ul-Azha from my kitchen to yours.
Ingredients 4 lbs goat leg, cut in small cubes
2 lbs tomatoes
7 to 10 green chillies, or to taste (chopped)
Salt to taste
Oil ½ cup, but with fresh Qurbani meat the animal fat should suffice
Braise the meat on a high heat, adding green chillies and salt, cook for a few minutes adding tomatoes. Cook until the meat is tender and the tomato juice has all but evaporated. The orange-red tender meat is ready to be served with hot delicious naan. Eid Mubarak!
But you cannot talk Eid al-Adha in large areas of the Middle East without mentioning maamoul.
Eid al-Adha is often referred to by Muslims as Eid al-Kabir (Eid meaning celebration and Kabir meaning important or big). Christians in the region refer to Easter as Eid al-Kabir too, with maamoul also being their most famous dessert.
Holly S. Warah, an American married to a Palestinian, explains on her website Arabic Zeal how to make maamoul stuffed with dates. ”These pastries are all about the dates. Use the best quality dates you can get,” she says before giving the ingredients and the recipe.
On her part, Laila shares a YouTube video of how to make maamoul here:
Exciting thing too see in this city are the Palms farms all around and this explains the plenty of dates shops. Different kinds, different flavors and colors! It was like a “dates” heaven for those who love dates! This reminds me, who is excited for Mamoul this Eid?
Happy Eid Adha! 🙂
The dates market in Medina. Photo originally taken by Louloua from the blog “Pearl’s Powder” posted under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Some sweets might not be typically intended for Eid al-Adha, but are welcome especially when presented with twist. Take knefeh for instance. Anthony from No Garlic No Onions culinary blog highlights chocolate knefeh and croissant knefeh he sampled in Lebanon.
Lebanese-American Joumana Acad, blog owner of Taste of Beirut, shares another no less eccentric recipe: loukoum ice cream. Loukoum, more commonly known as Turkish Delight, is a sweet paste often mixed with nuts, pistachios and flavored with rosewater, mastic and other ingredients:
2 cups vanilla ice-cream
8 Loukoum, flavor of your choice
1. 30 minutes before serving the ice-cream, cut-up the loukoum and mix it with the ice-cream; place back in the freezer. Serve in individual bowls.
NOTE: I have noticed that the ice-cream ordered at restaurants ends up with the loukoum’s texture being too hard, which is why I’d try to do the mixing as close to serving as possible.
We continue our culinary trip to Morocco with Hasnaa and Lamia, who teach us how to cook Mrouziah, a caramelized meat cooked with dried raisins, on their H&L Recipes YouYube channel:
Egyptians can’t imagine their Eid meal without fatta to the extent that some of them have it for breakfast. But take note: the Egyptian fatta is different than the Levantine, made usually with chickpeas, onions, eggplants sometimes and yogurt.
2 cups steamed (cooked) rice400g beef5 tomatoes (juiced or pureed)3 Arabian bread (about 8 inch each), cut into squares5 cloves garlic, minced1 Medium onion4 tbsp vinegar1 cube chicken bouillon2 dry bay leave2 cardamom
salt, black pepper, cumin to taste40g butter3 tbsp vegetable oilParsley for garnish
And we finish this round-up of Eid dishes in Oman, with expatriate Antoinio Andrade, who got to taste and experiment with homemade shuwa, which consists of an entire goat or cow roasted and cooked for 24 hours in a sand pit.
Happy Eid al-Adha everyone!