If this Eid gets your goat, I have your back

When the pain of sorting blood-soaked animal body parts gets too much, think outside the box

Urooba Rasool June 17, 2024

It's that time of year again when your inner vegetarian puts in its annual appearance to remind you that butchery was never in your top 10 - nay, top 100 - list of dream careers.

Deciding which bits of your heretofore pets Vincent van Goat (or Elle Cowchino, as the case may be) are going to end up as tomorrow's karahi gosht (or beef nihari) is, let's face it, not the ideal way to spend a festive occasion when freshly tailored outfits beckon and blow-dried hair awaits.


Blood, bone and meat


Both karahi gosht and beef nihari may outdazzle the sun with their culinary exquisiteness, but to be involved in their culmination at this embryonic stage of the cooking process (sorting blood-soaked goat bits into plastic bags and dumping them into the deep freezer) is, well, best left to someone else. Not only have you spent a week emptying and defrosting that deep freezer (a task you should definitely, and actively, wish upon your worst enemies), you now have to fill it with that special raw-meat-stench that was once Vincent van Goat, and then spend the next three months eating nothing else. Of course, you dare not speak your traitorous vegetarian tendencies out loud to the family elders, lest you end up going the same way as Vincent.

If you are working in a kitchen with multiple volunteers upon whose sad shoulders the sorting and labelling of meat falls, I suggest you quickly opt for the 'labelling' part of the task, which, involving just a plastic bag and a marker, will at least spare you a desperate, furtive search for those K-95 masks. If you have been historically wimpy during meat-related chores, this is not the year to bravely announce you have mended your errant ways. Someone will take you at your word, and you can wave goodbye to labelling forever.

Of course, there is no escaping food-related trauma on this festive occasion, because once you are past the meat factory part of the morning, you may well hail from a family who feel that there can be no finer meal for lunch than kaleji ka Salan (not quite the culinary exquisiteness of nihari, I'm afraid), or fried chops that are mainly bone and contain about an atom's worth of meat. If you are fortunate enough to escape kalejiand chops at home, you will most likely visit someone who unveils their kaleji with the flair of Dynamo producing an ace out of thin air. In exchange, your host will expect a standing ovation, and the mandatory devouring of at least one plate. And don't think the hardship ends here, by the way, unless your web of relatives ends with this one kaleji-loving family.

Once you have put on your Oscar-winning eating performance, you will be expected to put it in again for every house you visit. In this case, I have no useful advice. I have only my deepest apologies.

(I have since been informed that kaleji is actually a bit of a whizz in the nutrition department and keeps those red blood cells pumping iron, so please don't follow me for any health tips.)


Cunning inoffensive alternatives


For those of you who want to go rogue and cook chicken, but don't want to risk being walloped by your family, there are still ways you can survive qurbani gosht. You can always throw your qurbani meat into the food processor and turn it into qeema for lasagna. If boneless beef can survive a sojourn in the food processor during its transformation to shamikabab, it can surely do the same to produce lasagna qeema. I have successfully attempted this with chicken (on a day I forgot to get qeema), and both the chicken and food processor survived with no ill effect. Cook your lasagna filling the same way you cook your lasagna qeema, and throw it into the food processor. Just don't get carried away and dump a whole kilo in at once; this is how food processors die. (Don't ask me how I know.) Do it in three segments. Once you have blitzed your gosht to the consistency you want, assemble your lasagna the way you always do. If you have never made lasagna in your life, check out any Pakistani food channel for recipes. Do not attempt Western (or even Italian) sources; we must bravely sacrifice authenticity if we want any hope of flavour here. Go overboard with the garlic, and you may even reduce that special raw meat aroma by the tiniest of fractions.

Once you have survived all this kitchen hideousness, what you deserve is the gold medal of desserts. Forget buying a bog-standard offering from a bakery. Baking is therapy, and today, you have earned it in spades. For me, the ultimate reward dessert is a fridge-cold Hummingbird bakery butterscotch pecan cheesecake. Google the heart out of it, and get to work.

If you have never made cheesecake before, do not be put off; cheesecake requires no fiddling with baking powder or baking soda and is generally forgiving, as long as you remember to bake it in another pan of hot water so it doesn't crack. And most important of all - I cannot stress this enough - do not serve this to your guests. Those selfish ingrates will not leave you a single crumb, not even the serial gym-goers who are otherwise afraid of cheesecake. This beautiful dessert is yours for the taking. Hoard it and don't let go.

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