now that we are grown up there is no eidi, the extra money that would fatten my pocket money. i spent most of it on customised collections of songs recorded by radio city or off beat. nor are there those family outings on chand raat to get stamps of inky henna on my palms and to buy churiyan. the glittery ones were rough, the glitter from them clinging tenaciously to skin and clothing. the plain glass ones had a blackened joint, a mark of the sear of the flame to close the circle. i remember the crudely made boxes holding an array of multicoloured glitter, matte and plain kinds. they were illuminated by naked light bulbs suspended on a slim wire. gone too are the multiple trips to the darzi to retrieve clothes never stitched on time.
since i left pakistan in two thousand and seven i haven’t celebrated eid. it is a custom and holiday best shared with family. but this year i got lucky as my maternal grandparents were in town, giving me a chance to celebrate. their presence revived images of eid’s past, like the time when mama put together a beautiful shalwar kameez for me - a sunflower yellow shirt with small silver paisleys on its buttoned round neck with a white shalwar. on the way back from eid prayers at the faisal masjid the clouds decided to burst and our car stopped in a deep puddle. we had to give it a push to get the engine started again. the dye of my shirt was not colour fast and ran mercilessly, dying my white shalwar yellow.
|faisal masjid on a rainy day|
eid is a time for feasting and breaking bread together. there was a constant flow of visitors. mama would ready the trolley in anticipation for this. she made dainty squares of egg sandwiches topped with a slice of tomato and gently spiced kofte secured with cocktail forks. sometimes there would be channa chaat and always that round blue glass bowl of dhood seviyan. dhood seviyan is a pakistani pudding of vermicelli in thickened milk. it is perfumed with cardamom and decorated with slivered almonds. slivered almonds are also mixed into the pudding which softens their crunch and because they are blanched they are imperceptible against the milk. sometimes mama would make kheer (pakistani rice pudding) in place of the dhood seviyan. the milk reduction is common to both puddings but kheer was more labour intensive than seviyan.
i can assuage my kheer cravings with rice pudding but there is no equivalent for seviyan. so this eid since we were celebrating with my grand parents i made a bowl of seviyan. mama had given me a recipe of sorts, one in which the ingredients were estimates so i had to feel my way through the recipe. dhood seviyan are not difficult to make provided you follow some simple and essential rules.
the first of these is to use a heavy bottomed pan. anything with a thin bottom will cause the milk and seviyan to stick. next, keep the heat on an all time low. another essential is patience. the process of thickening milk to a lovely caramel is languid, so only make this when you know you have two hours of almost undivided attention. lastly, do not be tempted to substitute asian vermicelli with the western kind. this is because they are very different. in london, seviyan are easily available at asian grocery stores. they look like a fine mess of tangled straw.
two hundred grams seviyan
two tablespoons sunflower oil
five cardamom pods bruised in a mortar and pestle
two and a half pints of milk*
three quarter of a cup sugar
a handful of toasted skinned almonds
*i used jersey milk to make my seviyan. this milk is naturally higher in fat than full fat milk and is the colour of clotted cream. however, if you cannot get jersey milk add two hundred and fifty ml of cream and reduce the quantity of the milk by a quarter of a pint.
break the seviyan with your hands into manageable strands.
set your heavy bottomed pan on medium heat and allow the oil to heat up. add the bruised cardamom pods and fry for a couple of seconds till they are aromatic.
now reduce the heat to low and add the seviyan. toasting the seviyan takes around five to seven minutes. keep moving the seviyan around with a wooden spoon. the strands should burnish and bronze very slightly.
when the seviyan are toasted add the milk and sugar to the pan. dial up the heat to medium and let the contents of the pan come to a gentle simmer, stirring constantly.
once the mixture is at a simmer reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and let the milk begin to thicken. the reduction takes anywhere between an hour and a half to two hours. you will need to stir the seviyan every couple of minutes to prevent them sticking to the bottom. bear in mind that the dhood seviyan will thicken further when chilled. i remove mine from the stove when they are still a little runny. if you like a more set consistency let it cook for a little longer. o likes the more set kind but that to me defeats the purpose as the dessert is meant to be a combination of vermicelli in milk (not custard).
i didn’t have time to blanch and sliver almonds so i cut up toasted and skinned ones and sprinkled them onto. in doing so i discovered that i actually quite liked the crunch.