Help me cook large halal meal
June 27, 2020 1:29 PM   Subscribe

I have a need to cook a large halal meal for an observant family, with enough for leftovers, but don't have good recipes. Help!

Ideally I am looking for things you cook for your family on the regular - things that are always crowd pleasers. It's okay if you usually cook for less if the recipe is easy to double or triple. Simple, more delicious and able to be served in pans and tupperware is better than fancy, but I could also put something in a platter and throw plastic wrap on it if it's extra nice. I want to strike a nice blend between 'easy enough not to be crying while cooking for hours and hours' and 'not so easy that it looks like I didn't care enough to try.'
posted by corb to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Major factor is if you have access to halal meat. If you don't, you can simplify this by going vegetarian (although there are some cheese/gelatin issues that can come into play.)
posted by cobaltnine at 1:45 PM on June 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It looks like there’s a halal butcher nearby so that should be taken care of, though I’d like to make sure there’s some vegetarian food in case anyone wants to be absolutely 100% sure. My biggest concern is making people feel comfortable eating without worry.
posted by corb at 1:56 PM on June 27, 2020

Mujadara is easy, vegetarian, scales and cheap.
posted by Ferreous at 2:02 PM on June 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

This vegetarian (and easily vegan-ed) yellow dal scales up well and has always been received well when I make it for meal trains etc.- I almost always get asked for the recipe. Leftovers are even better than the first day and it freezes well. You could have some sautéed halal meat on the side to just add between the dal and the rice for those who want it, and add a big pan of roasted green veggies or a salad as a side.
posted by charmedimsure at 2:02 PM on June 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Tip: all vegan food, if it contains no alcohol or alcohol-derived products (vanilla and other extracts are the big offenders, and here's a page on vinegar), is halal.

I potluck a lot with vegans, Muslims, and Hindus, and these are my go-tos:

a) a big tub of salad (see above for vinegar notes for dressing), either standard green or something more like Shirazi or tabbouleh salad; if you want leftovers make a dry salad with all wet elements segregated and dressing on the side, or buy enough to mix one big salad for the meal and a second serving all segregated out to mix for leftovers

b) if you're serving halal meat, or grilled vegetables, include a rice dish, like "Spanish" (tomato-y) rice, or just good rice if you have or can borrow a big rice cooker. Go for a basmati or jasmine white rice.

c) vegan lasagna - this is my go-to vegan potluck dish, I just print out the ingredients on paper to stick under the corner so everyone is comfortable that their restrictions have been respected - in part because it's so damn good people don't think it's vegan. I add a bunch of roasted veg either to the sauce or the layers - charred sweet peppers, roasted eggplant + mushrooms + zucchini, and the last time I was feeding a very big hungry crowd I made about 2 cups of lentils in veg broth and added that into the layers for more oomph. I make this in a giant foil roasting pan in order to contain it all, and I never use lasagna noodles because I can't be bothered, I just soak rotini (or medium shells, or big macaroni, penne's probably good too) in warm water for ~20 minutes and layer with that. Be heavy handed with the seasoning - black and white pepper, oregano, mild but quality chili powder, garlic and onion. If you've got a big enough freezer, this absolutely can be frozen in advance but it takes ages to thaw in the center, so it's almost better to bake it and portion it out into 2-3 serving sections to freeze.

I'm cooking for potlucks, so I often just make halved loaves of deli french bread into garlic bread and there's never any left to take home, just use vegan butter. If you want to step it up a notch, one-hour pull apart garlic rolls.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:03 PM on June 27, 2020 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I've said it here before, but here it comes again:
When I was young-ish and poor-ish and regularly hosted large parties for people of various observances, they were always based on couscous. I'd make a basic stew and a large mountain of buttered couscous and a lot of side salads.
For instance:
The couscous was most regularly just the instant type, but I would give it a lot of love with a fork before serving to distribute the butter and make it as fluffy as possible.
The stew would be made with chicken, veal or lamb, root vegetables, onions, garlic, tomatoes and courgettes + whatever chopped fresh herbs were available. The mixing of different meats gives a very special extra flavor. Everything chopped up into large pieces and put into the pot at the same time with some olive oil. Seasoned with salt and pepper. 20 minutes before serving, I'd add canned chickpeas. Just before serving, I'd grill some merguez sausages and put them on top of the stew. I'd take some of the liquid from the stew (there should be plenty from the courgettes and tomatoes, but if your stew looks too dry during cooking, add some chicken stock) and mix it up with a generous amount of harissa in a sauceboat, so each person can spice their serving up as they like it.
If I thought there would be vegetarian or vegan guests, I'd make a vegan stew as well, it's not a lot more work, and it looks so generous when you serve two stews.
You can use olive oil instead of butter in the couscous, and I do it if I know there will be leftovers, but butter is better.
Sides: There would definitely be hummus and lots of bread. Probably also baba ganoush. Little hand pies with spinach and feta cheese, either made with fillo dough (a bit fiddly) or with store bought puff pastry. Lots of fresh salad with tomato and cucumber and mint and parsley dressed with olive oil, lemon and salt and pepper. Grilled vegetables dressed with olive oil, lemon and salt. Crudités with a yogurt-based dip. Maybe a spread made with tuna and butter or chicken liver and butter, or both.
This sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn't, you just need to plan ahead. Specially, the concept of just chopping stuff roughly and putting it in the same pot at the same time for the stew is really liberating.
That said, if you are making a big main course, no one will blame you for buying the sides at a store.
We had this very frequently back then, and people would expect it. At some point, my kids said "never more", and I only made it when they weren't home, the guests still loved it. But now both kids request the big old timey feast quite often.

This isn't "authentic" in any way. The couscous is inspired by the Parisian couscous royale, and the sides come from all over the Mediterranean. But it's homey in a good way and was always popular.
posted by mumimor at 2:25 PM on June 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

PS if you need recipes, I can perhaps make them, depending on the time frame. I'm living with four hungry young people, so I cook a lot these days.
posted by mumimor at 2:41 PM on June 27, 2020

1. Why not pick your favourite recipe and then just use halal ingredients in it? That way you can share something you like and also respect their dietary requirements.

2. How observant is this family? I know people who wouldn't eat anything served by a non-muslim because they'd be too worried that there was some additive or by-product in the food that wasn't obviously Haram - like if you have an ingredient that has diglycerides in it you'd need to make sure they came from a plant or halal animal source (ie not just that it came from a cow, but that that cow was properly slaughtered). If they're at that level, a hunk of meat or fish, a plain starch and some veg is the way to go. I'm observant but not that observant so when I was eating meat I'd have been ok as long as there's no pork or the more obvious pork products like lard or gelatin.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:52 PM on June 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: How observant is this family?

The difficult part is I don't really know, and I'm not sure how to ask without them thinking I'm trying to ask 'what's the least effort I can do' which is thoroughly not the case! Like: I've had Muslim friends in the past who ate shrimp, so I could just make paella, but I know that's not universal so I don't want to assume.
posted by corb at 3:39 PM on June 27, 2020

With people who are really strict there's almost no end to what you have to be careful with so you'd need to buy all your ingredients from the halal butcher or grocery store.

It's summer, can you do a BBQ? Everyone loves a BBQ and then you can grill some fish or halal meat and some corn and veg. Make a salad (vegetables only no croutons or cheese) and you're golden.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:00 PM on June 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Go with the most basic ingredients you can

Fresh fruit

A salad bar

Grilled meat bought fresh from the halal butcher. Lamb grills very well because of the high fat content.

Steamed rice, or couscous, beans, baked potatoes or any starch that has an ingredients list of only one word.

Vegetables grilled with olive oil

Vegetables cooked in a big slow cooker, such as turnips, carrots and onions

Prepare a dressing bar:

Olive oil, vinegar, chopped fresh garlic, salt, pepper and fresh chopped herbs. Also maybe yogurt and butter but leave the butter and yogurt off the table and offer to bring them out if people want them.

Buy some things for extras like sweets and olives that are clearly packaged as halal, and don't take them out of the packages: Get help from your guests to serve and have them open the packages. You want them fresh enough for tomorrow after all.

Keep in mind that if there are several adults they may have different levels of observant, so just because one person eats yogurt on the lamb doesn't mean any of the rest will.

Have all your packages handy, where anyone anxious can double check the ingredients printed on the box or bag or can. When I say handy, I don't mean handy for you if they ask, but rather in a visible stack you can point at and say, "If anyone has questions about ingredients there they are."
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:32 AM on June 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

This site has an Eid cookbook, seems like a good start. if you search Eid potluck recipes, you'll get popular foods. Chicken Biryani, Rice, Kebabs are good ideas. Make a list of all ingredients; in addition to religious concerns, some people don't eat dairy or wheat, etc.
posted by theora55 at 10:30 AM on June 28, 2020

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