Monday, August 20, 2012

Eid ... my first away from home

Yes, Eid came and has gone! This is the first time I can think of that I wasn't with my family on this occasion. Well, over the past year, I have come to accept that there will be several such events that I will not be with the family in. I tried to re-create some of the Eid magic by preparing the traditional sheer-khuma. Most of the ingredients of this milk drink are available in Al Muwayh, although I had some difficulty in procuring dry dates (what is known here as Tamr Nashif). Eventually, I got this item from the Yemeni supermarket here. The two ingredients that I could not get were saffron (which is normally added at the end to flavour and fragrantise the milk) and charoli ... the small, pulse-sized dry fruit that we get easily in India. Even so, the result was acceptable.

To prepare sheer-khuma, you first need to blanch, deskin and then chop almonds and pistachio nuts (and charoli too, if available, though it is too small to be chopped). You also need to dice cashew nuts (without blanching them),  and dry dates. To start with, you need to place a big-enough vessel on the fire. Add a small quantity of oil or ghee, then add broken vermicelli, saute till brown, then all the chopped dry fruit (and the dates). Saute till they are slightly brown. Then, add milk and sugar, and cook over slow fire for up to 40-60 minutes, or till about 1/3rd of the milk has reduced. During the boiling process, stand by the stove to keep an eye on the vessel, or the milk will boil over and create a mess in the kitchen. Add some dried raisins to the mix and let them boil with the rest of the mix. The raisins will swell and become round globs which add fantastic texture to the drink. Towards the end, take a little milk in a small bowl, add some saffron twigs to it, stir and add to the milk and take the milk off the stove. Stand for a short while, adjusting the taste of sugar by adding more sugar if needed. 

Your sheer-khuma is ready. Remember to have it hot, or you won't enjoy the flavours. 

I am told that the south Indian payasam is similar to this preparation, but will await confirmation from some authentic source. To me, the sheer-khuma is the embodiment of what Eid is all about ... and I really enjoy eating it (yes, eating is a better word, since it has thick consistency ... which improves each time you store the remnant in the refrigerator, and take it out the next time and re-heat it ... plus, it has so many solids in it!).

I took about 750 ml of the drink in a can to the hospital and shared it with some of the doctors and nurses here, including the pharmacy guy Mr. Mohammad, Dr. Shehab, Dr. Ahmed Ouf, Dr. Moataz, and sisters Maui, Melody and a few more people. They all seemed to like it. 

I am afraid that unlike all my previous cooking experiences, I have no photos of my attempt or the finished drink this time ... so please bear with me.

Thank you for reading, and have a glorious Eid, all of you. Also, my best wishes for the coming festive season to all my Hindu brethren.

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