Forget Eid brunches and other shenanigans. Eid Al Adha, chefs across the nation say, is all about family.
Often called the Big Eid, this holiday is described as more spiritual than Eid Al Fitr, which ends the month of fasting that is Ramadan. As my Lebanese neighbour Claude Al Hachache tells me: “It’s like Christmas and Easter. The former is more of a party, the latter more spiritual.” Another friend says it’s a feast of gratitude, which is why the faithful head to mosques for congregational prayers on the morning of the feast — in many cases as early as 6am.
Eid Al Adha commemorates Ebrahim’s (Abraham to Christians) willingness to sacrifice his son as a sign of his devotion. Before he was able to do so, however, the angel Jibra’il (Gabriel) intervened, placing a sheep (lamb in some versions) on the altar instead. That explains the centrality of lamb —or beef, mutton or camel meat depending on the region at the Eid table — but it also indicates the importance of Eid Al Adha as a family gathering.
We asked UAE residents from four different countries for their favourite family recipes, so you can try something different this Eid Al Adha. Instagram us on @gulfnewtabloid to let us know how they turned out.
UAE: LAMB HAREES
Musabbeh Al Kaabi, an Emirati chef at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, loves his harees, a celebratory wheat and meat porridge. He says it was one of three special dishes his family ate, besides whole baby lamb mashwi, which was slow-roasted in a sandpit for hours, and chicken machboos, a one-pot dish of chicken, rice, tomatoes, onion, garlic and lemon.
Al Kaabi grew up on a farm, where he learned to cook from his mother. “I’ve got endless memories of Eid. One of them was when we were all together one Eid, and we prayed together as a family early morning. The best [Eid] feeling is when the families get together and wish each other, and enjoy the best home-cooked cuisines by our Michelin chefs — our mothers!” he exclaims. “Each Eid, we cook the same dish as our signature dining choice — that’s what we do as a custom.”
A new tradition is a response to health scares. “We started incorporating healthy options as part of our Eid meals. For example, preparing dessert that is sugar-free, and simple yet delicious.”
• 1kg Lamb, bone-in
• 800g pearl barley or wheatberries
• 1tsp ground cardamom
• 20ml local ghee
• 2l water
1. Wash the barley and soak it overnight in water.
2. In a pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the barley and cook for 45 minutes. Add the lamb and continue cooking for two hours on a slow flame.
3. Add the cardamom and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook for another 20 minutes.
4. Remove it from the heat and debone the meat. Blitz the mixture to a porridge-like consistency. Top with ghee before serving.
ALGERIA: GRILLED CUTLETS WITH DERSA
Algerian chef Boumaza Mohammad Mehdi returned to the UAE in February to join the Dusit Thani Dubai from the Maldives. The sous chef, 29, has a sweet boyhood memory of Eid Al Adha.
“I remember we would usually wake up early to go to the mosque for prayer. But before that, we would visit the lamb in the garden. We treated it as pet, so we would say goodbye before they sent it to the butcher,” he says. Across the world, many Muslim families acquire young goats or sheep months before the feast of sacrifice, feeding and raising the animal in their homes. Now, Mehdi, says wistfully, nobody keeps animals at home.
Cooking the lamb fell to his mother, but each person had a role to play, he says — whether cutting vegetables, preparing the ingredients or washing the dishes. “I will always remember three dishes: pan-fried lamb liver with extra virgin olive oil, char-grilled lamb cutlets prepared by my dad and the holy grail of it all, my mum’s specialty, couscous with douara, which is a mix of lamb intestines marinated overnight.” He couldn’t source the offal in time for our feature, so he gave us his recipe for cutlets instead.
• 4 lamb cutlets
• Sliced onions, for garnish
For the dersa (garlic paste)
• 6 garlic cloves
• 1/2 red chilli pepper (deseeded)
• 2tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
• 1tsp cumin powder
• 1tsp paprika
• 4tbs olive oil
1. In a large bowl, mix together two tablespoons of oil, one crushed garlic clove and salt and pepper as desired. Add the cutlets and allow to marinate for 15 minutes.
2. Make the Dersa by pounding together the garlic and red chilli in a mortar. Add the cilantro, cumin powder, paprika, some salt and pepper, and two tablespoons of olive oil, grind together, adjust the seasoning and set aside.
3. Grill the cutlets over hot charcoal for 30 seconds on each side or until done to your liking. You can cook them in a non-stick pan if you like. Garnish with sliced fresh onions. Serve with the dersa on the side.
INDIA: MURGH MUSSALAM
New Delhi native Dirham Haque understands the ennui of eating the same dish every Eid. His contribution to the festive table is Murgh Mussalam, which is often taken to be chicken masala, but the chef at Ananta restaurant at the Oberoi Dubai says otherwise.
“The term Mussalam is very peculiar to royal Awadhi cuisine and denotes a dish which has something whole cooked together in a rich gravy,” he says. In this case, he stuffs and trusses a whole baby chicken before baking it with saffron, rose, nuts and onions.
“As children, we began Eid by getting ready in new clothes, followed by the morning Eid prayers, and friends and relarives coming over. We were given Eidi or spending money, and a sinful lunch and dinner followed. There would be three or four types of seviyan, lamb liver masala, lamb biryani, gosht korma, boti kebabs and shammi kebabs, all especially prepared from the fresh slaughter of that day,” he says.
As a Dubai resident he says he cannot always get away to India for Eid, so if he’s here, he starts the day with prayer, and then joins friends for lunch and dinner.
For the whole chicken
• 1 whole chicken (450g)
• 20ml malt vinegar
• 30g ground Kashmiri red chillies
• 3tsp ginger paste
• 2tsp garlic paste
For the Gravy
• 20g desi ghee
• 2tsp green cardamom
• 1tsp cloves
• 2 bay leaves
• ½tsp mace
• 2tsp ginger paste
• 1tsp garlic paste, fried
• 25g curd
• 1 medium onion, sliced
• 2 garlic cloves, sliced
• 4tsp almonds
• 4tsp cashews
• 2tsp freshly grated coconut
• 25g tomato puree
For the stuffing
• 75g chicken mince
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 1 medium tomato, chopped
• 20g granular khoya
• 2tsp rosewater
• Pinch of saffron
• 2tsp almond flakes
• 1 egg, boiled
• 2tsp almonds, fried
• 2 tsp cashews, fried
• 2tsp raisins, fried
• Ghee, for frying
1. Clean the whole chicken thoroughly. Remove the wings, cut the passing snoar, remove the gizzard.
2. Rub the whole chicken with a mixture of 3 teaspoons of salt, ground red chillies, malt vinegar and ginger and garlic pastes. Allow to marinate for six hours in the fridge.
3. In a pan, separately fry the onions and garlic cloves until golden brown and grind to a paste. Set aside. Repeat with the almonds, cashews and grated coconut, frying each separately before grinding.
4. To make the gravy, in a pan, add the ghee, green cardamom, cloves, mace, bay leaf and allow to crackle. Add the ginger and garlic pastes and curd and saute for a few minutes. Add the pastes of fried onion and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes, then add the tomato puree, nut and coconut paste and cook until the oil separates.
6. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
7. Infuse the saffron in 50ml warm water for about 20 minutes. Divide into half, and soak the almond flakes in one portion.
8. To make the stuffing, in a pan, add some ghee. Add the chopped onions and tomatoes, and khoya and saute well. Add fried almonds, cashews and raisins, rose water, saffron water (without almond flakes) and chicken mince. Cook until done.
9. Stuff the whole chicken with the mince mixture, truss properly and fry in hot oil until brown. Pour the gravy on top of the chicken and roast in the oven for 15 minutes at 180 degree Celsius. Garnish with boiled egg, and saffron-soaked almond flakes.
These traditional Moroccan cookies are an Eid Al Adha classic, says Ali Zaroual, Pastry Chef at Ramada Hotel and Suites Ajman. The Casablanca native learned how to cook them from his mother, who also made kaab el ghazal, a dessert from almond powder and Arabic gum.
He says, “The first thing that comes to my mind for the Eid celebration is the family get together We had an early breakfast, then, we all visit my grandfather. The day’s menu revolved around lamb, he says, starting with boulfaf or charcoal-grilled lamb liver and fat.
“We also have qlaiah, which is stir-fried lamb kidney cooked with onion and garlic and topped with coriander. For lunch, we have the traditional lamb tagine, a slow-cooked lamb stew, and we partner it with couscous.
“My mother would cook, with his father occasionally helping out, and each member of the family had a task. We make special sweets, where all my family helps my mother to prepare. Sometimes, we share the cooking tasks with our neighbours. We will have a big table set up on our rooftop, so all of us — our family and neighbours share the meals together.”
• 1 cup corn flakes
• 50g whipping cream
• 1/2 cup butter
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 1/2 cup flour
• 1tsp baking powder
• 1/2 cup raisins or dried fruit
1. Preheat the oven to 175° C.
2. Combine the cream, butter, and sugar and mix until light and fluffy. Add the egg and combine.
3. Add the flour, baking powder and the raisins or dried fruits. Mix until all ingredients are well-combined.
4. Shape the dough into balls and roll the balls in cornflakes. Place on ungreased baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.
5. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes at 175° C.
— Keith J Fernandez loves to eat but his gluten intolerance and ongoing battle with the bulge have forced him to take a closer look at what he puts into his mouth.