At the sighting of the new moon, Muslims around the world began the holy month of Ramadan. I’m familiar with the holiday because of my friends and former Post workers Rahman Gholam, originally from Bangladesh, and C.B. Hanif, former oped editor from the U.S.
Both are practicing Muslims and both active in interfaith councils and activities here in South Florida. From them, I learned a great deal about the religion and the foods used in their holiday feasts.
Ramadan requires participants to fast daily sunrise until sundown, when families break the fast with a fairly light meal, shared with friends and extended family, and spend time in prayer and spiritual reflection.
One of the dishes served during this time is Sheer Khurma (or sheer korma, meaning “milk with dates”), a sweet custardy dish, made with vermicelli noodles, rice, and dried fruits. Exotically spiced with cardamom and saffron, and with a crunchy nut garnish, it’s a taste of the Middle East that’s seldom served in restaurants.
There are a plethora of variations on this recipe as different parts of the Muslim world make it using ingredients indigenous to their own lands.
Here’s one English adaptation, using sweetened condensed milk. You can cut back on the sugar by 1/2 cup if you like, without ruining the texture. The spices and other ingredients can be found in Middle Eastern or international markets.
Shahi Sheer Khurma
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 1 tablespoon butter (ghee is traditionally used)
- 1 teaspoon cardamom powder or 6 to 8 green cardomom seeds, crushed
- 1 cup dry vermicelli, broken
- 1 quart whole milk
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 6 to 8 dry dates, chopped
- 2 tablespoons basmati or jasmine rice, ground slightly
- ½ cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tablespoon raisins or
- 1/2 cup dried fruits (golden raisins, chopped apricots, currants)
- Pinch of saffron
- Slivered blanched almonds, cashews or pistachios, optional
In a skillet over medium heat, put oil and butter; stir till melted and heated. Add cardamom powder or seeds. When cardamom becomes aromatic, add vermicelli and fry until lightly browned. Remove from heat.
In a saucpan, combine whole milk and sugar; cook over medium heat until milk starts boiling and sugar dissolves. Add chopped dry dates and rice powder, and cook until rice is well done. Add fried vermicelli and condensed milk and mix well. Add raisins and cook, stirring, until mixture thickens slightly, approximately 15 minutes. Garnish with saffron and chopped dry fruits and nuts.
Variations: Other ingredients commonly used to flavor this dish include aniseseeds, cloves or rose water.
Makes 4-6 servings.