This year we were not able to celebrate Eid together, so I tried my hand at it for my husband. This pudding is known as sawayan in Urdu, named after the vermicelli which are the base of this dish; or shir khurma, in Dari/Farsi, shir meaning sweet milk and khurma referring to the dried date with which this pudding is flavoured. Her recipe omits the khurma as we find the fragrance and the leathery texture rather unappealing.
In my ancestral home in Lahore, on Eid-ul-Fitr our table is laid out with a spiced fruit salad; soft, finger-thin sandwiches slathered with a mix of chicken, grated carrots and mustard; a spicy chickpea, tomato, onion and kidney bean salad squirted with lime juice; sweetmeats in kitsch colours and Shir Khurma as the centrepiece. Dainty glass bowls are placed on the table, ready to be filled with shir khurma, which arrives from the kitchen for the guests. Tea is served in my grandmother’s red Russian Gardner cups, which her mother-in-law brought back from Afghanistan in the late 1800s. As the elders of the family trickle in after offering Eid prayers, they present children with “Eidi“; cash gifts to buy enough sweeties to bore holes into their teeth. This celebration marks the end of the period of Ramadan. I spoon the shir khurma into my bowl far before any of the others who, unlike me, have actually observed Ramadan. It is the pull of the vermicelli, you see.
Shir Khurma is not traditionally served on the second holiday of the lunar year, Eid-ul-Adha, but my mother still makes it twice a year for us. Eid is certainly not Eid without her sweet, creamy pudding. Even days later, I am found dipping a spoon straight into the bowl in the fridge. A spoonfull of thick, cardamom-scented cream.
To prepare it, she sautés some cardamom with vermicelli in some corn oil to deepen the bronze colour.
Then she adds the milk, sugar, almonds, raisins and stirs. She whirls and stirs all day till the milk thickens. I took a short cut- adding full cream to the milk, upon her suggestion, as she knew I was not going to be able to stir that pot all day long.
Active Time: 1½ – 2 hours
*2 tbsp corn or sunflower oil;
*75 g (½ packet) Vermicelli, found in Pakistani or Indian specialty food stores, broken into small pieces by hand;
*5-7 cardamom pods, seeds extracted, pods discarded;
*2 litres full cream milk;
*¾ litre full cream;
*¾ c sugar (you may want to use a full 1 or 1½ cup, depending on the intensity of sweetness you prefer)
*200 g slivered almonds
*100 g golden raisins;
*Having a large, heavy-bottomed pan is a pre-requisite for preparing this pudding as the sugar and milk burns rather easily if using a light-bottomed pan;
*Place pan on medium-high heat and add cardamom seeds and vermicelli. Sauté for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly till the cardamom is fragrant and the vermicelli begins to change colour slightly;
*Add milk, full cream, sugar, almonds, raisins and stir;
*Turn heat to low and let it cook, uncovered, for 1 -1½ hour;
*The pudding will need to be monitored and stirred every 10-15 minutes. Be sure to stir all the way into the bottom of the pan so the base of the pudding doesn’t burn;
*When it reaches the desired consistency, turn the heat off, allow to cool at room temperature for 1 hour, then refrigerate overnight;
*Serve with a sprinkle of slivered almonds.