It will be the quintessential Bakra Eid lunch. Roasted leg of lamb, potatoes (crisp and juicy), along with the family essential, kaleji fry in methi masala, served with piping hot naans from the mini-tandoor on the patio. And of course, fresh mutton yakhni pulao (takes hours to prepare) and can be umami in its own right, speckled with gentle spices and fresh home-grown herbs. And flowers. There can never be Eid without flowers brightening up a room. They will fix anything missing on the menu.
Preparations begin the day before by making of a marinade that is a combination of homemade BBQ sauce, fresh turmeric, grated chillies, grated garlic and ginger, salt to taste, soy, dill and the secret ingredient, which is oyster sauce. And reminder messages to my guests.
This year, among family and other animals, this second Covid-19 Eid will have a lot less human presence, so one’s imagination will have to fill the seats. In the words of Emily Gilmore, ‘you have to fill the seats’.
So my seat fillers will be Jock Zonfrillo (Masterchef Australia host), Rick Stein (of BBC Food fame) and Gordon Ramsay (no introduction needed) – and because I am a sadist, I want Gordon to have a vile reaction and call someone an idiot sandwich.
Jock and my sister will get along well; they are both scientific about food, so I will seat them next to each other. Rick and my housemate Maryam, will have loads to talk about; she loves authentic vindaloo recipes and the process of fermentation infused with seafood. And smack centre of it all, will be good old Gordon, who has recently stopped calling people out on their unhygienic kitchens and instead taken to travelling the world to learn about different cuisines. I reckon Karachi with all its different cultures and migrant recipes will be the perfect potluck for him.
One must digress here to appreciate the versatility of Karachi cuisine, thanks to the various communities that have contributed in creating this smorgasbord of ethnic foods. There is Afghan cuisine, with its succulent dumba boti and charred charbi, the coconut-infused Burmese influenced khow suey (there is always a heated debate on social media about the origins of the dish). Then there are the umpteen variations of Mughlai cuisine, which are so mainstreamed that it is now just regular Pakistani food. Or western influenced food, ranging from Mexican, to Italian to French; from the East there are the variations of Chinese, Japanese and pan Asian cuisines.
Back to Eid lunch, where I must roast the leg of lamb to perfection. I think I will serve my mother’s recipe of daliya, which is her version of a Middle Eastern shorba; meat cooked in fresh herbs and spices and then oats and broken wheat are stewed in with the yakhni of the meat, until it resembles haleem.
Now will Rick be upset because there aren’t enough vegetables or seafood? Jock is a meat-eater, so is Gordon. I must think this through. Gordon likes high shock value for entertainment (like cooking on the banks of a river with a rhino about to charge him) I have no rhinos here, but I do have a house filled with cats and dogs.
It’s almost time; I should really start preparing for the conversation management of the meal.
I can imagine Rick with his wide smile simply pleased to be there. Jock, with his usual sceptical expression (or is this only reserved for the competition?) and Gordon exploring the garden with a glass of coconut water and fashioning a paper umbrellas after the fruity cocktails they must be used to.
Letting my imagination run wild, I pretend that Gordon will love my raan. Not my raan, but the goat’s… but you know what I mean. The super moist shank is spiced to perfection, so Gordan will coo. Jock will lap up the crunchy potatoes laced with garlic and dill that I dust in semolina before triple cooking them. The quiet one is Rick; I Think I will take him crabbing off Keamari Port for his crab and jumbo prawn fix. I can’t imagine him being entirely satisfied with the methi gravy of the kaleji - although the naan will be the hero that ties in all the different dishes together.
My dog Basanti barks at me, because it’s time to let her out in the garden. Clearly, my whirlwind daydreaming has taken us to the Michelin stars for my Bakra Eid lunch.
Alia Chughtai is an interactive producer and designer.