Showing posts with label eid. Show all posts
Showing posts with label eid. Show all posts

Sep 4, 2017

Monsoon Blooms & Eid al-Adha 2017

As the Monsoon winds down the holidays begin in South Asia! We celebrated Eid al-Adha this weekend with plenty of treats and my summer garden is still blooming. Above is the very buggy and messy but beautiful rose of Sharon in luminous lavender and cerise pink.

A gorgeous double apricot hibiscus is one of the few flowers that consistently endures the constant rain and humid heat of the Monsoon. 

This is a blackberry lily or leopard lily. Belamcanda chinensis is actually not a lily at all but a member of the iris family. In the US I've only seen these grow to about 3 feet tall but here in Nepal they grow to an amazing 5 feet in height. 

If you're wondering why they're called blackberry lilies it's because the flowers are followed by shiny dark purple seed pods that look like blackberries.

And yes, it was one of the holiest days of the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Adha! Also known as Baed Eid or the Feast of Sacrifice, it's a celebration of the sacrifice Abraham almost made when he was commanded by Allah to kill his son, Ishmael. Abraham was about to kill his son, (who was a willing offering) when Allah stopped him and rewarded him for passing this test of devotion.

Here are our guests of honor! We opted for proper sheep this year. (NOT @#$%%!! GOATS) I prefer the long-haired mountain goats called chang-rah but it was too hot for them to come down from the mountains yet. Anything's better than goat in my humble opinion.

I did some baking last week for the celebration. Date and crispy rice laddoos are on the top tier, chocolate crinkle cookies on the second tier, and a new recipe I'm trying out for eggless sugar cookies on the bottom. Trying to bake with random electricity outages is a PAIN!

Snacks a'plenty were served alongside numerous pots of noon chai (salt tea) and masala chai (spicy tea).

Here's what's in those bowls- Haldiram's! Haldiram's is kind of like the Frito-Lay of India. Founded in 1937 they are a major Indian sweets and snacks manufacturer. Personally, I think they make the best snacks on the planet! Spicy, salty, sweet, crispy, crunchy- with over a 100 different products Haldiram's has you covered! My favorites are any of the savory and spicy fried chickpeas, a great low carb treat.

The Sheikh (my husband) bought some local ghee and honey for the occasion. We live towards the edge of town and porters carrying goods from the mountains come walking by our house frequently. One porter was selling this 'homely' ghee and honey so the Sheikh bought all his wares. That was one happy porter! That's like a good 3 liters of ghee and at least a liter of honey. (The teacup is in the photo for size reference.) There's enough ghee and honey there for at least 3 years in our house so I gave some to the maid. The honey is quite floral while the ghee is very smoky in taste. The smoky flavor in the ghee is from being rendered over a wood burning chulo or stove in the mountains. I like to put a scant tablespoonful in meat curries and dal for richness and smoky flavor. Any more than a tablespoonful though and your dish will have a distinct and unpleasant creosote note.

And here's the inevitable food coma after partaking of all the goodies! The kitties crashed on Bibi's potting bench after feasting upon mutton all day. My potting bench is probably the only shady and dry spot outdoors in the yard. Those are some very happy kitties!

Hope all of you who celebrate Eid had a happy one!
How's your Summer going where you're at?
Ready for Fall?

Calmly Currying on,

Jul 10, 2017

Goin' Bananas!

Yep, we're goin' bananas in the miserable pre-Monsoon heat and humidity here in Nepal! Time for an update on my garden, HIMself, and what we did for Eid-Al-Fitr.  And here's a stunning foot-long banana blossom in my garden to prove it!

Bananas are the weirdest plants. This photo is of a different type of banana than the top photo. This entire stalk dangling with the baby bananas and the bottom blossom is about 5 feet long. Bananas are the type of plant that you want to grow way, waaay, waaaaaay away from your home. Bananas are actually considered to be  perennial herbs! A banana plant takes about 9 months to grow up and produce a bunch of bananas. Then the mother plant dies. But around the base of it pop up baby banana plants from the main corm. They attract bugs a'plenty and continuously drop debris. Ants, bees, wasps, hornets, lizards, beetles, spiders, snakes, fruit flies, -you name it and banana trees attract them in multitudes. If they aren't dropping their huge leaves they're shedding sap, dead blossoms, and those purplish maroon bracts you see on the buds. Nepalis make pickles and a sort of stir fry out of the purple blossoms. I've not tasted the pickle but the stir fried blossom and it kind of reminded me of artichoke hearts, bamboo shoots, and hearts of palm. 

I planted Mexican sunflowers again from seed I gathered in my garden last Summer. I love their satiny orange blooms! They've done much better this year. 

Here's our gardener Khashi watering the tomatoes alongside the border of Mexican sunflowers. Khashi is about 5'5" so you can see the Mexican sunflowers are about 6 foot tall. This is the south side of the house so both tomatoes and sunflowers get maximum hours of sunlight daily. As long as you keep rigorously deadheading (removing spent flowers) those multi-stemmed Mexican sunflowers keeping putting out more buds. The stems range from 10 inches to about 4 inches on the Mexican sunflowers and they make great cut flowers.

We have tomatoes! This is the second crop of tomatoes this year. I have no idea why I planted tomatoes as they're dirt cheap in the market this time of year. I wanted to grow something! I'm curious to see it they'll make it through the Monsoon without rotting. They're planted beneath the overhang of the house with the aforementioned southerly exposure. We're going to be eating a lot of tomato chutney!

This has been the buggiest Spring and Summer. Yes, this is the 'tropics' but the insects this year are out of control. Caterpillars, giant land snails, some sort of cicada looking things, ants, mosquitoes, beetles, scale, aphids, wasps, dragonflies, june bugs, crickets, giant cockroaches, - you name it we've had it this year. The above weirdness was some sort of caterpillar infesting the mint plant. I have never seen a caterpillar on a mint plant. I have no idea what those silk/wooly egg looking things are. The different varieties of caterpillars in Asia is amazing. Caterpillars are heavily parasitized here. It's not unusual to find caterpillars mummified by weird fungal infections or being eaten alive by wasp larvae hatched from eggs on their backs.

A lone moonflower open in the shade of a western wall. All the morning glories I planted this year were eaten by snails. I planted a red morning glory called Scarlett O'Hara. All the seeds rotted. Even the good old reliable Grandpa Ott's fell pray to snails or fungus. The moonflowers have the front trellis all to themselves.

If you're wondering what that red stuff is it's chili powder. This was an organic attempt to keep snails and mealy bugs from eating my chili plants. I don't spray or put poison out because we have animals and we eat the veg from our garden (duh). The Sheikh (my husband) says we can't use stale beer and rotten fruit in a strategically placed saucer to lure snails to a drunken doom because it's not halal. So I read on an organic gardening blog that chili powder will burn snails' tummies. It works. But only if you place fresh chili powder out daily and rain doesn't wash it away. I still lost 12 of my 20 chili plants to snails. Boo!

The chenille plant (Acalypha hispida) is covered with sixteen inch cerise pink catkins. I've pruned it into a six foot by six foot hedge blocking the view of the compost heap. Chenille plants are also known by the interesting common name of Phillipine Medusa. Like poinsettias they are members of the Euphorbia family and all parts of the plant are poisonous. Despite being toxic the chenille plant is a little universe of all sorts of critters from lizards to bugs. It dies down to the ground every Winter but quickly comes back when the weather warms up.

The dwarf crepe myrtle is blooming away in brilliant fuchsia pink glory! I always wonder why crepe myrtles aren't more widely planted in South Asia. They are native to India and do beautifully here. Crepe myrtles are a common landscaping plant in my native California. With rigorous deadheading I can get 2 to 3 bloom cycles out of my dwarf crepe myrtles. They do lose their leaves in Winter but have a beautifully picturesque branching habit and interesting white bark.

I was going to show you what a nice container plant dwarf crepe myrtles are when our favorite feline photobomber showed up. Yes, that's the proud matriarch of our kitty clan- Granny Chinger. Grinning maniacally and rolling around in front of the crepe myrtle so I can't possibly get a shot without her in it. Do not underestimate Ms Chinger. (Chinger means ratty). Despite her often goofy demeanor she has the heart of a lioness. Ms Chinger battled a 4 foot rat snake who ventured into our stairwell the other day. This was not our usual, calm, 6 foot rat snake who perambulates the garden monthly. Ms Chinger puffed herself up and smacked the new snake in the face with her paws when it repeatedly tried to strike her. Amazingly she did not get bitten and the snake finally fled into the huge bougainvillea over the carport. Ms Chinger's daughter, Tikka, and Ms Dawg held back steady about 8 feet away from the battle. HIM the Baacha Khan took off running to the back of the house.

HIM the Baacha Khan peeps forlornly from inside a discarded rice bag I was collecting recycling in.
Speaking of His Imperial Majesty the Baacha Khan: HIMself has not been himself lately. He got into a horrific fight with an intact tomcat earlier this year which left him covered in scratches and with a badly bruised ego. We took him to the vet as he began running a high fever for some IV fluids and a jab of antibiotics. He seemed better but when we came back from our trip to Kathmandu he suffered a nasty upper respiratory infection that left him weak and dehydrated again. His respiratory situation improved but he was still spiking high fevers and not eating nor interacting with the other kitties. The vet was out of town so we put him on the usual empirical-seriously-sick kitty-regimen of IM ceftriaxone, meloxicam, and paracetamol for 5 days. The fever came down and he seems to have made a speedy recovery.

Of course HIMself's sister Tikka and mother Chinger have been giving him extra love and attention. He's definitely doing better and eating well but he's still not quite back to his old feisty self.

And we celebrated Eid-al-Fitr with lots of great food and guests. At our house it's a sort of Eid tradition that we breakfast on sweets. Above you see the date laddoos, brownie bites, and Kashmiri cardamom cookies I made for the holiday. This was after the boys tore into it.

I made a poundcake from a recipe in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook too. This was the only shot I got of it before it was sliced up for guests. Guests started arriving at 10 AM! This poundcake required a whopping 6 eggs. It baked up beautifully despite a 20 minute lapse in electricity while in the oven. Martha promised that this recipe had the most delectable crumb. It was a bit too spongy for me. The recipe called for a single teaspoon of vanilla but I put 2 teaspoons of a posh gourmand Mexican vanilla suspension, a half teaspoon of California Meyer lemon oil, and a half teaspoon of Boyajian's almond extract. I still thought it was a bit bland and not sweet enough for my taste. I suppose it would be fine if you spooned some stewed berries or peaches over it. I prefer my grandma's 7-Up poundcake to Martha's swank version. Come to think of it, I've never been truly WOWED by any of Martha's recipes I've made. Hmmmm.....

The Sheikh made a few dishes for Eid too. The Sheikh is a very good cook. He made his famous rista which is a mutton meatball with peas and (you guessed it!) lots of Kashmiri mirch. He also made delicious tamatar chaman which is Kashmiri style paneer with tomato sauce. Above you see the results of the Sheikh's culinary exuberance. This sparked a rather unusual conversation:

Me: Do we have any turmeric left?
The Sheikh: Why? 
Me: I was just looking at the stove and wondering. I still have to make a mutton dish and a chicken dish and I'm going to need a little turmeric. 
The Sheikh: What you are saying?
Me: Oh never mind. 

And here's our littlest guest on Eid! Ms Sita stopped by with her grandmother to enjoy some treats. If you are wondering what that black dot is over Ms Sita's eye is it's a purposefully placed dab of kajal to ward off the evil eye. Ms Sita isn't quite up to chewing yet but she did enjoy slobbering on some biscuits and petting the kitties.

And last but not least an unwanted visitor! Lurking on a window screen in the house was one of those !@#%^!! Asian hornets I had a run-in with last year. It is breeding season and there must be a nest nearby. I blasted this hornet with a can of bug spray from a distance of about 7 feet. If I injured this critter in a way that it was still living it would signal it's comrades to attack by chemotaxis. I shall be on the lookout for any of their soccer ball sized nests outside. 

So anyway, I missed last week's post as lightning knocked out my internet service for a week. Hopefully that won't happen again but it is the Monsoon here in Nepal and thunderstorms are weekly events during this season. Hope all is well with you & yours!


Sep 12, 2016

Labaniah (Saudi Milk and Pistachio Candy)

Labaniah Saudi Milk and Pistachio Candy recipe easy simple no bake

From Saudi Arabia comes this sweet treat. Indian Muslims on Hajj brought milky mithai with them on their pilgrimage to Mecca. The Saudis liked the traditional Indian sweets so much they made their own version! Humble milk powder is transformed into delicious bite sized candies with the rich flavors of saffron, cardamom, and pistachios in this easy recipe.

The best milk powder ever!
(No, Nestle did not pay me to say this nor provide any products in this recipe.)
When I first tasted labaniah as a gift from a friend who had visited Saudi Arabia I thought they tasted a lot like doodh peda or kalakand (the traditional Indian fudge like milk sweets.)  A little research proved I was right! Labaniah was most certainly inspired by milk sweets brought Indian Hajj pilgrims to Mecca. I found the original recipe for this candy on Nestle's Saudi Arabian website. I thought it was a bit too sweet so I halved the sugar. I also wanted to make it a bit luxe and a tad more Indian so I added some Kashmiri saffron. The result was delicious! So simple to make but elegant enough to serve with afternoon tea, as dessert at a posh dinner party, or for Eid al-Adha tommorrow.

1 C sugar
1/2 C water
1 tsp lemon/nimbu juice
Seeds of 5 green cardamoms/elaichi, ground finely
8 to 10 strands of saffron (optional)
1/4 C pistachio nuts, chopped finely
4 C  full cream milk powder
Extra whole pistachios for garnishing

Here's what to do:
1) Place sugar, water, lemon juice, cardamom, and saffron in a medium saucepan. Stir and bring to a simmer over medium heat low heat for 4 minutes or until it turns into a thick syrup. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

2) Add 2 C of milk powder and chopped pistachios to cooled syrup and stir until well combined.

3) Gradually add the rest of the milk powder and stir until a stiff dough forms. Add more milk powder if necessary.

4) Form the dough into small smooth balls. (I used a tablespoon sized scoop as you can see in the photo to get uniform amounts of dough.) Garnish by pressing one whole shelled pistachio into each ball. Keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer for up to one week.

Helpful Hints:
Labaniah tastes like doodh peda but has a slight chewy texture, not fudgy like kalakand or malai burfi. 

To make the labaniah taste even more Indian try wetting your hands with a few drops of kewra or rose water when rolling the dough.

Sep 9, 2016

Baed Eid

Next week starts the most holy celebration of the Islamic year called Eid ul-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice) in Arabic or Baed Eid (Big Eid) in Kashmiri. The festival begins at the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca called the Hajj.  During the Hajj, Muslims remember and honor the trials and triumphs of great patriarch and Prophet Abraham. This holiday honors the willingness of the Prophet Abraham to follow Allah's (God's) command to sacrifice his son. Just when the Prophet Abraham was prepared to perform the sacrifice, the angel Jibra'il (Gabriel) intervened telling him that his sacrifice had already been fulfilled.

The Sacrifice of Isaac  by Caravaggio 
With this act of obedience the Prophet Abraham had shown that his love for Allah was above all others, and that he would willingly lay down the lives of those dearest to him in submission to Allah. Muslims commemorate this trial of the Prophet Abraham by the halal slaughtering of an animal such as a sheep, camel, cow, or goat. Allah has given us dominance over animals and allowed us to eat meat, but only if we pronounce His name at the solemn act of taking life. 

Kashmiri women at Eid prayers
On the first morning of Eid ul-Adha, Muslims worldwide attend morning prayers. Men, women, and children are expected to dress in their finest clothing to perform Eid prayers. Prayers are followed by visits with family and friends, the exchange of greetings (Eid Mubarak), and give gifts called Eidi.

Kashmiri men at Eid prayers
At some point during the festival Muslims who can afford it sacrifice a halal domestic animal such as a goat, sheep, camel, yak, or cow in commemoration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. The sacrificed animals are called qurbani and must be of a certain age and standards of perfection or the animal is considered unacceptable. (In Kashmir a sheep fattened up on cashews and other goodies is preferred. Every once in a while some affluent Kashmiri buys a camel or yak to show off I suppose. Camel and yak really don't taste that great.)

Sheep being sold for Baed Eid in Kashmir
The animal (qurbani) is slaughtered in the halal manner and the meat is traditionally divided into three portions. One-third is eaten by immediate family and relatives, one-third is given away to friends and neighbors, and one-third is donated to the poor. This act symbolizes our willingness to give up things that are of benefit to us in order to follow Allah's commands, to strengthen ties within the community, and to help those who are in need. 

Traditional Kashmiri mutton-a-palooza!
(Every part of the sheep is used in a specific dish)
In addition to distributing qurbani to the poor the meat is prepared and often served at mosques so that those less fortunate do not miss this sacrificial meal. Many Muslims also take this opportunity to invite their non-Muslim friends, neighbors, co-workers, and classmates to their Eid festivities to better acquaint them with Islam and Muslim culture. (This means Bibi's going to be cooking a lot- not just meat but treats too!)

Eidi or the gifts given over Eid traditionally take the form of money, presents such as smartphones and perfume, or even flowers. Usually it is children who receive eidi from uncles and their parents.

From our family to yours:
May the blessings of Allah bring you hope, faith, and joy!  Happy Eid ul-Adha 2016!

Aug 5, 2016

Eid in Kashmir

So we finally made it to Kashmir for Eid al-Fitr!
Usually everyone dresses in their finest new clothes (specially bought for the holiday) and goes to visit close and immediate family on Eid al-Fitr. While visiting gifts of money are exchanged, all sorts of foods and treats are served.

This is an example of all the goodies typically served to Eid guests. Kashmiris don't bake at home but purchase their baked goods at neighborhood bakeries. Kashmiris have a lot of unique breads that are cooked in tandoori ovens and are similar to what you'd find in Iran or Afghanistan.

Here's a smaller spread of treats, the brown round breads in the center are called kulchas and are baked in a tandoori oven. The large round cookies on the right are giant coconut macaroons. The swirly and squiggly bits and bobs in bowls are delicious savory, spicy, and crispy fried batters made from dals. The pale round cookies on the far left are Moroccan goraybah biscuits I made and brought from Nepal. (I'll be featuring the recipe later on the blog.) Either Lipton chai (Lipton tea boiled with milk and sweetened with sugar) or noon chai (Kashmiri salt tea) is always served to the guests.

This stunning supermodel to be is my niece, Minha. She wins Bibi's prize for best Eid ensemble. She chose the elegantly gold embroidered and white stone embellished navy velvet lehenga over yellow lace palazzos lined in satin herself. A matching dupatta dip dyed navy over pale yellow with gold lame ribbon trim completes the look. I wish you could see her matching bejeweled gold sandals better but such is the nature of palazzo pants. Carefully coordinated earrings, bangles, and pendant provide the perfect accents for Ms Minha's festive attire. I was trying to get her to pose in a manner that would show the gorgeous mehendi on her hands but unfortunately she ended up looking like she's going to give someone a karate chop. I think we'll have to watch a few episodes of Top Model to develop a more graceful pose and perfect that that smize or "smiling with your eyes" look as Tyra Banks calls it. Oh well, plenty of time for that. Everyone says Ms Minha looks and acts just like her Aunty Bibi. I have to admit she does indeed favor me in looks, taste, mannerisms, and temperament. In fact many of the neighbors think Ms Minha is really my daughter because, you know, us white women just squirt out babies and leave them all over. 

Speaking of fabulous clothing, my brother in law sells Kashmiri textiles wholesale and had a huge bundle of these beauties! This is a traditional Kashmiri embroidered coat. The traditional tulip pattern is hand embroidered in chain stitched silk on the blue wool of the coat. Kashmiri arts and crafts have a heavy Persian influence. The ancient Persians loved flowers as an artistic motif, in their gardens, and for their fragrances. 
This is another traditional chain stitched Kashmiri floral pattern hand embroidered in peacock blues and teals on black hand loomed silk. 

Here's is a modern floral pattern chain stitched by hand in bright corals and cool fuchsia silks. This coat is full pashmina (that's right I said FULL PASHMINA). We're talking beaucoup $'s here! That particular muted pink shade of the pashmina coat is quite popular and called noon chai as it is the same color as Kashmiri salt tea. 

After all that dressing up, chatting, visiting, and eating we went for a ride around Dal Lake in Srinagar. What a mistake that was. Traffic was horrendous. Due to the depressed economy in Kashmir there's always a lot of unemployed young males standing around (which usually means trouble anywhere on the planet). In addition to the horrific traffic night people seemed extra loud and obnoxious. Something seemed to be going on. Anyway, I got this lovely photo of the sun going down over the lake.

And then all hell broke loose. 
A militant commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen and two accomplices were killed in an encounter by Indian security forces in a village in southern Kashmir. This set off protests, riots, stone pelting, and attacks on police stations and kiosks across all ten districts of Kashmir. Tear gas, lathi charges, pepper gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition, and pellet guns were in use. Curfews were set, internet suspended, land and mobile lines cut being off, news and media bans intermittently imposed- this was to be the ongoing 2016 Kashmir unrest.
To be continued...
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