With Eid round the corner, it's time to look at these traditional recipes

What is a festival without the food? Some would say the reason most religious festivals are associated with special foods is only to ensure the love of a delicious treat will keep us observing the ceremonies!

However that may be, this is the season of fasting. As the holy month of Ramzan nears its end, Eid-ul-Fitr, which closes the month of penance and fasting observed in Islam, is expected within the week. In keeping with our penchant for associating food with festivals, Eid-ul-Fitr is often called Sevain Eid for the sweet dish of sevain (vermicelli) that is invariably a part of the feast on the day. Of course biryani is also an important part of the meal. Here are two recipes — one for biryani and one for sevain. Both the recipes are designed to serve four people.

Preparation and cooking time for the biryani is approximately one hour 50 minutes, while the sevain takes about 45 minutes. In the case of the biryani, the better the meat, the better the taste, and the rice must be Basmati and aged for a minimum of one year for that perfect flavour.

The perfect Awadhi biryani

Ingredients

Step I

250 gms lamb shoulder (boneless, cut into 2-inch cubes)

8 lamb chops

120 gms clarified butter

6 pieces green cardamom

4 cloves

2 cinnamon sticks (1 inch)

2 bay leaves

2 black cardamoms

3 medium onions (thinly sliced)

11/2 tbsp garlic paste

1 tbsp ginger paste

Salt to taste

1/2 cup yoghurt (whisked)

1 tsp red chilli powder

750 ml water

1 tbsp lemon juice

3 tbsp fresh dairy cream

1 tsp green cardamom powder

1/2 tsp mace powder

Step II

250 gms Basmati rice (washed a few times and soaked for 25 minutes)

11/2 litres water

Salt to taste

4 whole green cardamoms

1-inch piece cinnamon (whole)

2 cloves

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp rose water

Step III

1-inch piece ginger (cut into juliennes)

3 green chillies (medium) (deseed and cut into juliennes)

3 tbsp mint (finely chopped)

1/2 gm saffron (soaked in 1 tablespoon water)

2 tbsp clarified butter

Method

Put the garlic, ginger salt, red chilli and yoghurt in a bowl and mix well using a whisk. Heat clarified butter in a pan on medium heat, add both the cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves and sauté for a minute. Add onions and stir and roast until onions are golden brown. Remove one third of the browned onions and keep aside in a strainer or absorbent paper to remove excess oil. Add the lamb, increase heat to high, sear for 1-2 minutes, reduce heat to medium and continue to stir and roast until fat appears on the sides. Now add the whisked yoghurt mixture and stir and roast until fat starts to appear on the sides. Add water, increase heat to high, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for 30-35 minutes or until the lamb is tender. Add more water if required. At the end at least two-thirds the amount of water started with must be left. Remove from heat and keep aside to cool.

Once cool, pick out the lamb pieces manually from the gravy using a spoon or tongs. Strain the gravy through a soup strainer. Retain the gravy and discard the pulp.

Add the lamb pieces back to the gravy and the lemon juice. Mix well, add the cardamom and mace powders and the cream and mix again. Keep aside.

Add the water for the rice in a new pot, and add salt to the water. The water should taste extra salty when tasting it.

Add cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, rose water, lemon juice and bring to a boil on high heat.

Now add the rice, reduce heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring very gently until rice is almost but not fully cooked. Strain the rice and drain the water.

Take the strained gravy in a pot on high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to very low, transfer half the rice over the gravy.

Now sprinkle half the ginger, chilli, mint and coriander over the rice. Repeat the process over. Finally spread the clarified butter and the saffron over the top of the rice. Cover and stay for 4-5 minutes.

If it is difficult to achieve very low heat, a griddle can be used as a medium between the pot and the burner.

Remove from heat, transfer to a rice platter and garnish with the retained fried onions.

Serve immediately.

Eid ke Sevain

Ingredients

250 gms semolina vermicelli

1 litre milk

2 cinnamon sticks (1 inch each)

125 gms sugar

50 gms clarified butter

30 gms dry coconut (grated)

1/2 water

1.5 gms cinnamon powder

50 gms almond flakes

12 juliennes of dry dates

Method

Take the milk in a pot on medium heat, add cinnamon sticks, bring to a boil, add sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved. Strain to a new bowl.

Take the clarified butter in a pan and put on medium heat. Add the vermicelli and grated coconut and stir and roast until vermicelli is golden brown. Add water, stir well; add cinnamon powder, stir, reduce heat to low. Add the milk, increase heat to medium and continue to simmer for three-four minutes, stirring occasionally.

Transfer to a bowl, garnish with almond flakes and dry dates and serve at room temperature.

Mohammed Ilyas has an illustrious lineage, a legacy of seven generations. Most masters protect their biryani recipes as secrets, but Chef Ilyas shares some of the best kept secrets of the cuisine, indicating the ratio of 1:1 of the meat (or vegetable) to the rice. He demystifies the very hush hush Biryani masala for what it simply is — a mixture of cardamom and mace powder.

In celebration of Id ul Fitr, this biryani recipe is being served only at Kainoosh by the culinary genius from Lucknow, Mohammed Ilyas