Celebrating Eid al-Fitr

Since the middle of April, Muslims around the world have been observing the holy month of Ramadan by praying and fasting. Eid al-Fitr is the ‘festival of breaking the fast’ which marks the end of fasting. It sees families and communities come together to pray and to eat a festive spread following the month of abstinence.

This year, the Eid al-Fitr celebrations start tonight, and will end tomorrow (Thursday 13 May). Eid is a time of feasting with delectable meat and vegetable dishes ranging from biryanis and dals to tagines, all accompanied by a wide variety of side dishes. 

A traditional Eid spread is also a melange of delicious desserts and indulgent sweets to complete this joyful occasion. One of the most quintessential festival desserts of Eid al-Fitr is sheer khurma, a vermicelli milk pudding with nuts, dates and sugar. ‘sheer’ translates as milk and ‘khurma’ as dates.

Sheer khurma

I was privileged to receive this recipe from a friend who remembers her mum and grandmother making this recipe for family celebrations. She tells me that there are many variations and different nuts and dried fruits can be used.

What you need

2 tbsps butter ghee
20g flaked almonds
25g pistachios
50g raisins
2 tbsps dates (chopped)
150g vermicelli (seviyan) 
1½ litres full fat cream milk
75g sugar
½ tsp rosewater
½ tsp saffron powder (or a few strands) 
4 cardamoms (seeds crushed) 
50g pomegranate seeds (optional)

How to make

Heat the ghee in a large pan on a medium heat. Add the nuts, raisins and dates to the pan. Cook for 1–2 minutes until the nuts turn golden brown. Then remove this mixture from the pan and set aside.

Add the vermicelli to the pan and roast for around 2 minutes on a medium heat until it is light golden brown but don’t let it burn. Add the milk to the pan, increase the heat so the milk comes to a boil. Stir frequently so that vermicelli doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Lower the heat but continue to let the milk mixture boil for around 8-10 minutes so it will thicken slightly. Add in the sugar and mix in well. Stir in half the nut and fruit mixture and also the rose water, saffron and cardamom seeds.  Cook for 2–3 minutes on low heat, stirring frequently so the mixture doesn’t stick to the pan.

Remove from the heat and scatter the remaining nut and fruit mixture and pomegranate seeds over the top before serving. It can be served hot or cold.  

Last year, Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr were impacted by Covid-19 lockdowns and this year too, celebrations will be smaller in scale because of current restrictions. The Muslim Council of Britain provides the latest advice :

“With COVID19 lockdown easing still ongoing, 2021 Ramadan will be a very different experience for British Muslims … Whilst restrictions will be more relaxed compared to 2020, many of the usual practices normally observed such as going to the mosque for iftar and visiting friends and family indoors will sadly still not be possible this year.”

During this time, let us reflect on the most appalling loss of human life and the unprecedented challenge to public health, food systems and the world of work. The words of The Muslim Council of Britain demonstrate so poignantly how we need to work together to overcome the intertwined health and social and economic impacts of this terrible pandemic:

“We might be physically apart from each other in order to stay safe, but that won’t stop us from connecting together emotionally and spiritually insha’Allah (God willing)!”  

Read more about Grandma Abson’s life, her passion for baking and more recipes on www.grandmaabson.com.

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