In my ancestral home in Lahore, on Eidul Fitr, our table is adorned with Bohemian crystal bowls filled with fruit or chickpea chaat and mithai in kitsch colours, laid out on silver platters. But as in many homes across Pakistan, it is the vermicelli pudding,the seviyan, which is the pièce de résistance on the table.
This Eid, why not add other items to your menu for the feast?
Present your guests with a saffron-imbued cold drink – Shahi Zafran ka sherbet – upon their arrival. The dollop of fresh cream on top with pistachio dust is a lovely way to do something a little extra special on Eid.
After your guests have eaten and enjoyed a few spoonful’s of seviyan (which is a rite of passage on Eid), there is always room for more dessert when the tea trolley comes around. Make a gorgeous date cake for your guests, and serve it alongside a cup of cardamom-fragranced green tea. In my ancestral home, green tea was always served in my paternal grandmother’s red Russian Gardner cups, which her mother-in-law brought back from Afghanistan in the late 1800s.
And for those guests who will be coming for lunch or dinner, prepare some Kebab-e-dayg – tender kebabs prepared on a slow flame, in a spicy tomato base, which pairs beautifully with some basmati rice and a kachumbar (salad). And for dessert, enjoy some goeey Date Cake!
Yassi sits on her stool in the kitchen, kneading the glossy détrempe for la pâte feuilletée (puff pastry). There is no beurre sec, but Lurpak will do. Her silver and black hair is in short waves and immaculate as always; her pastel kurta is starched. Yassi’s slender, milky fingers are bare as they push the dough back and forth, like a potter with her clay. Her mother’s vintage ring bearing three overlapping leaves in rose, yellow and white gold removed and placed in the porcelain Wedgewood jewellery jar given to her by her daughter-in-law. She looks at the granite counter,
“It would be lovely to have a cup of champagne resting there for small sips while the dough rests,” she thinks.
Champagne is now reserved only for special occasions.
To her daughter-in-law who visits once a year, every day is a special day in Yassi’s home. Yassi serves her daughter-in-law a date cake between meals.
“Oh, you’re on holiday, you must enjoy it,” she tells her, while dropping thick, heavy spoonful’s of double cream on a slice of the cake in her daughter-in-law’s plate.
A recipe passed down to Yassi by her own mother, a recipe older than her marriage; even older than her son. A dense, dark, earthy cake moistened with the gooeyness of dates, almost like a steamed pudding.
As I said, every day is a special day in Yassi’s home. You can have that cake, and eat it, too.
For a gluten-free version, you can use a combination of gluten-free ‘flours’, for the recipe, please refer to the Gluten-Free Goddess’ website here.
You will need a 10-inch (25 centimetres) spring form pan and some parchment paper. (If you use a pan with a smaller diameter, the cake may remain raw from the middle and cooked from the sides, so please do use a 10-inch pan).
Plump dates with seed – 250 grams (If using stoned dates, you’ll have to adjust/decrease the amount)
Boiling water –250 ml
Baking soda – 1 tsp
Unsalted butter –100 grams (brought to room temperature)
Granulated sugar –180 grams
Eggs – 2
Flour – 150 grams
Baking powder – 2 tsp
1. Preheat your oven to 175C / 350F.
2. Place parchment paper on top of the spring form pan base and trace a circle. Line pan with parchment circle and butter and flour the sides.
3. Deseed your dates by gently tearing them open from top to bottom.
4. Chop dates fine.
5. Bring 250 millilitre of water to a boil (I boil it in my kettle and then measure out 250 millilitres to be exact).
4. Pour into saucepan, when water starts to boil, add baking soda (it will froth).
5. Add chopped dates and stir the mixture for two to three minutes.
6. The date mixture should be on the thick side, not watery.
7. Take off the stove and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.
8. Now prepare the batter. Whip butter with sugar till light and fluffy.
9. Add eggs slowly; they may curdle at first but keep whipping; the mixture will come together and become smooth.
10. Slowly fold in flour and baking powder and keep whipping/mixing.
11. Add in date mixture, with a spoon/spatula and gently stir.
12. Batter will seem slightly thin, but since we’re using a pan with a wide base, don’t worry, the cake will cook through. Remember, this is a moist, pudding-like cake.
13. Pour into spring form pan.
14. Bake for 35 minutes, test to see if the toothpick comes out clean after 30 minutes. I like this cake moist and goeey, please don’t over bake it.
Allow cake to rest half an hour before taking out of from pan, or serve by the spoonful’s immediately, like a soft pudding, with double, triple or clotted cream on top.
Wishing everyone a lovely Eid with your loved ones.
This post originally appeared here.
All photos: Shayma Saadat