Chaand Raat (Night of the Moon)

Ramzaan comes to an end with a heavy heart. Lost some loved ones, didn’t get to fast this year. I can’t wait for next year when hopefully Sassi will be weaned and I can freely fast.

The end of this month is always bittersweet. The festive air somehow is infectious even if you’re not fasting. I love the way the air feels against your skin this month. I promise I’m not kidding. It’s different. And it isn’t just the hot oil vapours from the deep frying samosas and pakoras. I used to feel it in London too. The air just feels like a giant, big hug.

I don’t usually write about food as much as I did this past month but I don’t actually cook as often either. Ramzaan brings out the inner character, I feel and on the inside I am most definitely a mad scientist chef. I love playing around with my spices and potions in the kitchen. With this concludes the crazy food recipes obsession and we revert back to life!

The holy month typically ends with a public announcement of the Shavvaal Moon here in Pakistan, marking the inception of the following lunar month.

Now that public announcement becomes a joke. There’s a Moon Sighting Committee comprising of people, by the way, all of whom wear glasses (joke’s on us) who sit together and decide based on reports from around the country of moon sighting and declare whether or not the new month is to begin. Basically define if the preceding month had 29 days or 30. After much hullabaloo it was concluded last night that Ramzaan was to have a thirtieth day of fasting and Eid will be on Saturday.

The evening of the moon sighting is Chaand Raat when focus is ALL on Eid preps especially Glass Bangles and Mehndi (Henna). Neither of which we will talk of in this post. Ha! Since Mehndi needs time to dry up, having a one year old buzzing around the house, doesn’t give me much choice but to skip it. My bangles on the other hand are not glass. They’re probably metal inside but are wrapped totally in fine silk thread. Will update with a picture in the am. So yes. No glass bangles either!

But yes. More food for sure.

Lala had requested Chanay ki Daal Gosht for Eid lunch. Yes. He’s weird. He will ask for the most mundane stuff like a wooden toy from his childhood or a roadside truck hotel’s dish on a festive occasion. I don’t even strive to figure any more.

I had cooked Daal Gosht and Sheer Khurma already. Had it been Eid the next day I’d have gotten down to cooking the Karahi Gosht and Qivaami Sivayein the same evening too. So. Relief! I had another day.

My Daadi Jaan used to make this killer Chanay ki Daal Gosht that my father misses just as much as he misses her. Maybe a little less but through Ramzaan maybe just as much. Which is what leads to his fun requests for mundane dishes on festive occasions. If I ever ask him what he wants to eat, he will say Chanay Ki Daal Gosht inevitably. Though I’ve cooke dit differently earlier and he loves it every time, I’m trying this new recipe that I read on Karachi Chefs at Home and tweaked it a bit because of course. Me = restless.

1/2 kg Daal Chanaa

1 kg Mutton

Ginger Garlic Paste 3tblsp

Coriander Powder 2tblsp

Turmeric powder 3 tblsp

Red chilli powder 1/2 tblsp (if you’re a real human and not a bot, 2-3 tblsp)

MediumSized onions 4- chopped up. Not too fine. Just okayish.

If you’re using fatty meat then it’s alright if you have a leaner cut add a tablespoon of Ghee or clarified butter

Salt to taste.

1/2 tblspoon Tamarind pulp

Tempering and garnish

White Cumin

Round red chillies. Dried.

Curry leaves.

Red chillies. Coriander seeds. White Cumin. Black pepper. Dry roast these and grind for topping.

Mix Daal, Meat, Ghee (if need be), Ginger Garlic, Coriander, Turmeric, red chilli powder and onions. Add 15 (yes you read this right) cups of water and let it cook. Check after an hour. Then cook for another 30 minutes to an hour. Keep on checking. In the last 15 minutes add salt and let it cook.

When ready to serve, make the tempering and Top it along with the powdered Dry Roasted spices. Ta-DAA!

now moving on to some more fun with a touch of emotion (cue- me ugly crying)

Ammi (my Nani) passed away after briefly being ill in June/ July 2013. I miss everything about her. It’s like I am living with a ghost limb and every now and then the realisation of its ghostness is a tyranny to my nerves. Amongst other things I have extreme regret over never asking her for recipes of things. Also losing the chutney recipes I did pen down in her life. I will find them some day. That day is not here yet.

One of those is the gorgeous Qivaami Sivayein. The way she made it, none of her daughters can. I yearn for the taste and fragrance I found in her version and five years straight, I’ve been trying my hand at it. Only to come up with this lacking or that. Reaching somewhat close to what she made but not quite there.

A few days ago I posted in a cooking intensive Facebook group Karachi Chefs at Home and got a ton of advice. Some resonated with me, other actually felt like Ammi throwing a slipper aimed at my head if I even consider doing that to Sivayein. All in all, I got some interesting advice.

With a handful of new tricks up my sleeve, once done with cooking the alternates in case this one goes straight to hell fire, wobbly knee-ed, I embarked on Qivaami Sivayein

Prepared the Sheera first. Looked up this YouTube video to make sure I’m judging the Ek Taar k Sheera right. I was right.

Phew

Power on.

As the roughly crushed cardamom pods hit the warm, aromatic ghee, a whiff of nostalgia hit me so hard I swayed. Ammi.

As the spice crackled and sputtered, Ammi enveloped me in a hug. This is what her dupatta smelled of. Cardamom, paan (betel leaf) and faint chewing tobacco. The latter thankfully missing from my kitchen but the former, it was Ammi.

I started shallow frying the vermicelli, waiting for it to be ready and it reached out to me instantly at the 3 minute mark. The fresh roasted verm, with its warmth mingling with the heady cardamom, I needed to make sure it doesn’t burn and isn’t underdone either. Kept taking it off heat, spinning a bit in the pot and then returning to the heat until it was just the right shade of auburn.

Then, as suggested by my cooking fairies, added the Sugar syrup to the vermicelli instead of the other way round. It sounded like my daughter’s brand new glass bangles that she refused to take off when we were trying them on for size. This is where it started looking familiar.

With a lump in my throat and my heart beating in my ears, I added milk. Nothing. It spread making the entire solution milky. I added a sip more, stirred it once and placed the lid on. Praying so hard to make it work. A few minutes later I opened to check and Voila! There they were. The magical Khoya (Milk solids). Smiling back at me while they bobbed around in the rolling, boiling Sivayein. It still didn’t smell “right”. Like it didn’t smell bad. There was ghee and a whiff of cardamom. Still not there. KEWRA! I sniffed the bottle myself first. To ensure it fits what memory I was using to build this entire recipe on. Yes. Perfect.

Added a splash of Kewra and closed the lid, allowing it to simmer for just a tad longer before taking it off heat.

Poured it into a shallow dish and wiped the pot with the spatula to taste.

My vision started to blur with the tears welling up.

It had been a good 8 years since I had tasted this and it was everything Ammi meant to me. Warm, comforting, all encompassing, unconditional love packed with calories. Just like Ammi, luring me into having breakfast or another piece of halvaa she saved for me, or leftover rice. The mission to nourish was real.

I am saving it here so everyone can give it a try and then write me tons of hate mail for it being as crazy sweet as it is and lectures on what I was thinking!

1 cup of broken dry siwayen (vermicelli)

4 cups of sugar (I used 1:4 ratio. The original family recipe that no one uses any more was said to have 1:32 ratio)

Enough ghee for frying Sivayein

About 2 cups of milk at hand, you will probably need a little more a little less

1/4 a cup of slivered almonds

1/4 cup of slivered pistachios

2-5 cardamom

A pinch of saffron

A tblsp Kewra water or a few drops Kewra essence.

sliver leaf for decoration if desired. I didn’t.

Milk – warm if Sivayein is cold or cold if Sivayein is hot

OR

cream to serve

METHOD:

1. Begin by making sheera (sugar syrup). Now here’s the clincher. I think and merely I think, might be wrong but the much revered RATIO is not Sivayein to sugar. It’s water to sugar.

Here’s what I did (and next time I’m experimenting with a more potent ratio slowly to take it closer to 1:8.)

Add the 4 cups sugar to 4-5 cups water and throw in two cardamoms and a few strands of Saffron (because I have to throw in a spinner every time. How can I not change things up every frikkin time!?)

Let it come to a boil and then let it simmer over low heat until you can check the ek taar ka sheera! Once it’s ready don’t leave it on the stove. Take it off heat.

2. Temper the cardamon in ghee and then once the aroma develops fry the Sivayein in the tempered ghee in a pot (that you eventually wish to cook in) on medium heat. To ensure that they do not burn keep stirring until they turn a medium brown colour. You might have to keep moving the pan off the heat and stirring to make sure they don’t burn.

3. Now add the sheera (Sugar syrup) to the Sivayein. I think I left behind a quarter a cup of sheera.

4. Mix and bring to a simmer.

5. Now add 2 tblsp milk, stir ONCE and close the lid. (Let it cook over medium heat all this while.)

Then open and see if the milk has curdled into Khoya and risen to the top. Then add 2 tblsp more milk and repeat. until the whole milk is incorporated. You need to now keep this on low heat and cover until the milk is absorbed and the Sivayein are cooked completely. Add a few drops of Kewra essence or a couple of tablespoons of Kewra Water.

6. Finish off the Sivayein by pouring into a serving bowl and allowing to cool. Sprinkle with nuts and decorate with silver leaf.

7. Serve with cold milk if serving warm Sevayein or warm milk if serving cold Sivayein.

Fresh Cream goes with either temperature like a charm.

I finally have Ammi’s Qivaami Sivayein’s recipe figured out after failed attempts and help quite literally from around the globe.

I know no one will eat it except perhaps my sister, my mum or me.

Faisal made me keep the Sheer Khurma so bland it almost tastes salty because of the Rabri-ised milk. I’m sure him and Lala will enjoy the least meetha meetha in the history of meethas but for us saner lot, I’ve saved some sugar syrup from the Qivaami Sivayein to dole on top like the quintessential falooda from Old Anarkali, Lake Road Lahore to comfort the sweetest tooth ever found in these parts of he world.

Wannabe Sheer Khurma

One pack Dry Vermicelli (Sivayein) (I used a cup and a half less but you can use it all)

4.5 litres milk (you can do with 3 litres too. I go a little nuts with the Rabri look)

1.5 cup sugar (don’t listen to this loser talk I tell you. Go ahead and make it 2-3 cups. My husband and dad are an abomination)

250 gms slivered Pistachios (two fistfuls, don’t go on measuring now!

250 gms slivered Almonds (yup. Two fistfuls again)

150-180 gms sliced desiccated coconut (around one fistful and. A little more or as much or little as you like. No hard and fast rule here)

150-180 gms King Sultanas (hey I chose these because they become nice and plump, go with whichever kishmish you like and again. A fistful is fine unless you want more. Then Add more)

Dried Dates (Chuhaaray) soak and leave overnight or run in the microwave for a bit. Then forget them in the microwave and only remember when typing the recipe out at 3am)

2 tblsp Desi Ghee

4-6 Green Cardamom pods

1. Begin by boiling the milk a couple of times and then reducing the heat and allowing it to reduce to at least 3/4th of its quantity.

2. Once this is done, then add 4 lightly bruised green cardamoms to the milk along with the sugar and stir it till the sugar dissolves.

3. While the milk is boiling make yourself useful and dry roast the pistachios, almonds and coconut slices. Do these separate since they all Brown differently.

4. Now add the roasted batch and sultanas (holding back some pistachios and almonds for garnishing later) to the simmering milk and allow it to keep reducing, keep simmering. If you are me, you totally forget the Chhuhaaraas in the microwave but if you’re a responsible adult then this is where you pull it out and Alice them into fat sticks, adding them to the mix.

5. Now take Half the vermicelli and fry it in Desi ghee with two pods of bruised cardamoms. Once you can feel the aroma emanating, add it to the boiling milk along with uncooked leftover vermicelli.

6. Now stir once and let it simmer away for at least another 10-20 minutes. Check if the Vermicelli is soft and edible. You may or may not ladle Out a bowlful here and enjoy only because you HAVE to taste it and what if it isn’t right? Things we have to do. Sigh.

7. Pour out into the serving dish or bowl and wait for it to come to room temperature before you cover it with cling wrap and shove it at the back of the refrigerator so no one accidentally eats it or drops Aaloo Shorba in it.

* This mad mad recipe is my own and no one in my entire family makes Sheer Khurma. I’m the Lone Ranger in this quest to keep throwing it around every year with my own twists. So please forgive me if it disagrees with your family recipes. It’s just a wannabe Sheer Khurma like I said. Don’t take it too seriously.

Have a lovely Eid’s Day. I will revert with more on my gorgeous Bangles.

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