Liyna and Anum's Big Feast: A Feast Fit for Moms

May 11, 2012

We want you to throw big parties and win big (big!) prizes from Le Creuset. (Find out more here.) All week, we've been featuring Liyna Anwar and Anum Arshad as they plan, prepare, and host a backyard South Asian-inspired feast for their mothers. 

Today: The big day! Anum and Liyna throw their Mother's Day feast. This is the fifth and final post in their Big Feast -- check out Shopping for SpicesBuilding the Tandoor OvenAll About the Hyderabadi Biryani, and Making the Sooji Ka Halwa

Big Feast Table Shot

Shop the Story

It was Saturday, the day before our big day, and we were stressed. We headed out to the grocery to pick up a few more last minute items for our Big Feast. There was no time to waste, so we made a detailed grocery list -- a list so thorough that it was organized based on the layout of the store so that we wouldn’t be hopping from aisle to aisle. We even marked when to place our meat order at the butcher so it would be ready to pick up by the time we finished getting all the other items. 

It was a great list. Naturally, we forgot it at home. Thankfully – and kind of miraculously – we remembered everything we needed, and we came back ready to cook.

Squeezing lemon Tandoor Oven

We decided to have our lunch in the backyard, and in addition to both of our moms, we invited Liyna’s cousin, Sama (who Anum is also very close with), Sama’s mom, and Anum’s little sister, Samar. We wanted our menu for the lunch to be traditional, since we were trying to wow our moms, but also a little modern to flex our creative muscles. 

While browsing the Internet one day, we saw a picture of a unique way to serve a popular sweet and spicy snack dish called papri chaat. Traditionally, the dish uses crushed up flour crackers called papri as the base, but the recipe we saw online served the papri crackers whole, with all the toppings piled on top of each individual cracker. They were little towers of cracker, potato, onions, tomato, cilantro, sev (an Indian topping made from gram flour), and homemade chutneys. We loved it because it instantly became a colorful finger food.


Our moms loved how cute they looked and more importantly, the snacks kept them satisfied while lunch was still getting ready. They also munched on our second appetizer, a savory dish made out of garbanzo beans called chole.

We knew it was going to be a sunny day, and since we would be outside we thought that mint ginger lemonade would be the perfect drink to pair with the lunch. 

Mint Ginger Lemonade

A little before the guests rolled in, we fired up our tandoor oven for its inaugural debut of tandoori chicken. After the coals got hot, we placed the chicken on long metal skewers and popped them into the tandoor.

Tandoori chicken

In addition to the tandoori chicken (and naan), we also wanted to serve a light side dish with the biryani. Oftentimes, Hyderabadi biryani is served with a spicy dish called mirchi ka salan, a peanut and chili curry. Although it is delicious, we wanted something lighter. We decided that grilled eggplant would be nice. We rubbed some slices with Indian spices and threw them on the grill—a super easy deviation from the regular side dish, and, really, who doesn’t like grill marks? And even though our moms were a little confused that we were serving eggplant with biryani, they seemed to really like it!

Grilled Eggplant

Something that we were nervous about for out Big Feast was the change to our biryani.  Because we were already serving chicken, we decided to make lamb biryani instead – something that we’d never tried before. But luckily, the lamb stayed moist and succulent.

Serving biryani

Finally. every dish was ready (we were a little behind schedule) and we were ready to sit down and eat. 

Set table

That brings us to another funny part of our party planning: table settings and decorations. Nice table décor always looks so effortless – but believe us, it’s not. At all. Our lunch was meant to be casual – a plastic cups and bare feet kind of affair – but we still wanted our table to look inviting and special. But when it came to decorating and styling we were completely clueless! All we knew was that we wanted to use one of our dupattas (those colorful, long scarves worn with desi clothes) as a table runner. We used that as a starting point and after some brainstorming and experimenting we came up with this:

Table Setting Lantern

After everyone finished eating, we cleared the table and brought out the desserts. We had made a huge batch of sooji ka halwa the night before and served that with crushed pistachios. Our second dessert, called qoobani, is another Hyderabadi specialty. It’s made by soaking dried apricots, then cooking them down with sugar until they become dark and give off a rich, caramelized aroma.

Sooji Ka Halwa Qoobani

The dish didn’t turn out as dark as it’s supposed to be, but our moms said the taste was just the same – deeply sweet and tangy. This apricot dessert is traditionally served with custard, but growing up we would always swap the custard for ice cream. This time, we chose pistachio saffron ice cream. The creaminess of the ice cream goes really well with the slightly tart flavor of the qoobani.

After desserts, everything was over! The event was a success.

Laughing mom Moms

Of course there were some chaotic moments (we broke a dish, our chicken took longer than expected) but in the end, our moms ate everything on their plates and had a wonderful time. We could tell they were impressed that we pulled this Big Feast off, and it was nice seeing them crowd around the oven in excitement as they watched us prepare fresh naan for them to enjoy.

They look all sweet in the photo but we’re pretty sure they were making fun of us for something when this photo was taken.

People make hosting parties look so effortless; we guess that’s the art of being a great host. But really, there are days and days of planning for something that’s over within a few short hours! This was our first time ever hosting a party where we made an entire menu on our own from scratch, and seeing our moms enjoy the party made the challenge and its accompanying bumps along the way more than worth it. From the day we pitched our idea to the end of the lunch we had a great time putting this together, and we hope it was a Mother’s Day that they remember for a long time.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there!

Passing naan

A big thanks to Liyna’s cousin Rahil, Anum’s cousin Rushane, and Liyna’s dad (gotta love the dads too) for all their help behind the scenes!

Le Creuset has generously offered to reward our Big Feasters for all their hard work, and as our third Big Feast, Liyna and Anum will win, in the color of their choice (flame, cherry, fennel, Caribbean, dune, Dijon, or Marseille): a 5-quart braiser, a 4-quart stainless saucepan, and a large serving platter. Pitch us your Big Feast at [email protected] for a chance to win up to $500 in Le Creuset booty.

BraiserCovered Saucepanserving platter

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Kitchen Butterfly
    Kitchen Butterfly
  • Anum&Liyna
  • AntoniaJames
  • LazizaBites
  • susan g
    susan g
One part photographer + one part food-obsessive = us :)


Kitchen B. May 16, 2012
Saw Alton Brown on good eats today make a tandoor oven (See http://www.foodwardthinking.com/?p=35)......its amazing how powerful the law of attraction is. First I see you guys make it and now every corner I turn, there's a homemade tandoor oven. Well done again!
Anum&Liyna May 14, 2012
Hello friends! The recipe for the Hyderabadi Biryani is now up:

The qoobani recipe is also on its way, and we will update when that's up too. :)

And as for the papri chaat, we took inspiration from these two recipes we found online and kind of combined them to come up with our final product:

Anum&Liyna May 15, 2012
Apologies, couldn't figure out how to hyperlink these, so please copy/paste the links into your address bar to view -- sorry! :(
AntoniaJames May 14, 2012
P.S. Even though I've told my sons and husband a hundred times that "Every day is Mothers' Day" and that they don't need to do anything special for me, and least of all go out to get me gifts, they do always mention it, just in case I've changed my mind. When both boys are home next (within a week or two, I hope) they're going to help me make my own tandoori, using your instructions! ;o)
Anum&Liyna May 15, 2012
hahaa nice! hope you and your sons have fun making it! :)
AntoniaJames May 15, 2012
Thanks so much. We will! It helps that making this wonderful new toy for Mother will result in tandoori meats, fish, veggies, etc. and naan! By the way, can the tandoor oven be used for phulka roti? I make those all the time in a hot pan on the stove, but would make them in the tandoor if it were fired up anyway. ;o)
LazizaBites May 13, 2012
what a lovely feast, and ingenious creation of a tandoor oven!
do you have the biryani and papdi chat recipes posted somewhere?
Anum&Liyna May 15, 2012
Yea, check out our most recent comment up above. and thanks for the nice message!
susan G. May 12, 2012
So many thoughts that I had have already been said. I do want to add that your table was inspired and just lovely. I love the way you have honored your family and your heritage.
Anum&Liyna May 15, 2012
Thanks susan g! We were definitely shooting in the dark with the table decorating so that means a lot!
cheese1227 May 12, 2012
Amazing meal ladies!! A great gift to your mothers.
Anum&Liyna May 15, 2012
Thank you! :)
mehrunnisa May 12, 2012
what a delightful feast! and i understand that entertaining requires much thought and effort. i realised that whilst cooking lunch for a my godmother and her friend. luckily, i learnt a lot from my mother and find that i often return to the tips and techniques that she showed me when i was growing up! i do hope you will post a recipe for khobani. it's delicious and i've always wanted to know how to make it.
mehrunnisa May 12, 2012
what a beautiful party and yes i totally agree, there is so much that goes into entertaining and making things look pretty. i was just thinking about it the other day when i wrote a post about a lunch that i cooked for my god mother and her friend. i was recalling all the things that i learnt from my mother. i do hope you'll post a recipe for khobani. i used to eat something similar in pakistan in my childhood but never knew where it came from.
Anum&Liyna May 15, 2012
yea sure thing! We'll let you know when we post it up :) thanks for reading!
Anum&Liyna May 12, 2012
Just would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who read/watched these posts and followed our story! It was crazy fun to put this together :) We're sad that it's over but we seriously cannot wait to see the next Big Feast! Thank you to our editors Brette and Miranda for being so great throughout the process! We'll post the biryani recipe on Anum's blog and if you want a recipe for any of the other dishes or have specific questions about the oven leave a comment or message us!! Most of the recipes aren't written down but we'd be glad to write it out for you if you're interested :o)
Miranda R. May 14, 2012
Just a totally beautiful, totally inspirational Big Feast! Nicely done guys - you totally nailed it!
Anum&Liyna May 15, 2012
Thank you so much Miranda!! This was such a fun and memorable experience for us :)
Shalini May 12, 2012
Congratulations on your delicious party! You have set the bar high for yourselves for mother's day, I'd better keep my mom away from this Big Feast article! The papri chaat and tandoor oven idea are something I'd love to try, the chaat is really cute and the tandoori chicken looks great! It's interesting you chose so many dishes from Hyderabad, really interesting cuisine. Your lamb biryani looks and sounds delectable! I have a great book called Biryani by Pratibha Karan, and suggest this for anyone wanting more information on this dish.
Anum&Liyna May 12, 2012
hahaa thank you for following our story Shalini!! :) And we gotta check out that book!! Love everything about biryani, even reading about it :p
Panfusine May 12, 2012
You had me head over heals over this feast at the Paapdi Chaat! Hats off & Fabulous to see a lovely North Indian Spread.
Anum&Liyna May 12, 2012
hahaa thank you Panfusine!! It was so fun to make them in that way!!
CarlaCooks May 12, 2012
Congratulations on a fantastic feast! I know what you mean about the hours (or sometimes days) of preparation for a party that ends after just a few hours... I think I sometimes get the post-party blues. You just want the fun and sharing to last forever!
If you are willing to share your recipe for the biryani, I would be incredibly grateful. I have used the boxed mixes that you mention in your first post, but I'm sure a from-scratch recipe would be a hundred times better!
Anum&Liyna May 12, 2012
Thank you CarlaCooks! Glad to know others feel the same way!! And yes, of course! Thanks so much for the interest :) I've been emailing it to those that wanted it since I have it on a Word doc and not online but perhaps it'll be easier if we share it on Anum's blog. We'll post a link when it's up on there!
hardlikearmour May 11, 2012
What a wonderful accomplishment! You and your moms should be thrilled and proud! Kudos!
Anum&Liyna May 12, 2012
Thanks for the nice words hardlikearmour! You're so kind!
AntoniaJames May 11, 2012
Congratulations! This has been perfectly lovely reading not just about what you've done, but how you've done it. My mothers-with-daughters envy has just reached an all-time high. ;o)
Anum&Liyna May 12, 2012
hahaa thank you AntoniaJames!! This whole process from pitching to planning to cooking to eating to writing/photographing has been so amazing. Thanks for following along!
Bob Y. May 11, 2012
I lost all interest in this "Big Feast" when the authors failed to give a complete recipe for their biryani. It seems counter to what Food 52 is about to withhold this kind of information.
Anum&Liyna May 11, 2012
Wow, that's a little harsh. That biryani post wasn't ever intended to be a how-to, but rather just an intro into what it's about and a little about it's background. But we were happy to send the recipe to all those who were nice enough to message us asking for it.
Kristen M. May 11, 2012
Bob, we'll make a point of seeking out recipes in future Big Feasts, but so far that hasn't been the focus -- this column has been about inspiring people to entertain. Anum & Liyna have been very generous in sharing and educating in all of their posts and put loads of work into not just the feast, but also writing 5 posts for us about it.
duclosbe1 May 11, 2012
What a wonderful meal! You did such a great job.
Anum&Liyna May 12, 2012
aww, thank you forester_lady!! This was so fun to do...kinda sad its all over. But we can't wait to see all the future Big Feasts!
fiveandspice May 11, 2012
Congratulations you two! What a splendid feast, and quite impressive for it being your first time! Your mothers must have been absolutely thrilled to receive such a meaningful, and heartfelt gift from you.
Anum&Liyna May 12, 2012
Thanks so much fiveandspice! We hope they enjoyed it as much as they said they did!
Kitchen B. May 11, 2012
What a wonderful tribute to mothers, parents and family who tirelessly nurture us, sometimes to many groans and complaints :-). Very well done. I enjoyed the colour and variety in your stories and dishes and mostly the construction of a tandoor oven.....
Anum&Liyna May 12, 2012
Yes, moms are so underrated! Thanks so much for reading Kitchen Butterfly and so happy you liked them!
creamtea May 11, 2012
You young women are amazing, and I'm so impressed when you say this was your first time hosting a party where you made everything from scratch--you pulled it off so beautifully. Bet your mothers are proud!
Anum&Liyna May 12, 2012
Thank you so much creamtea for following us along on the journey!! It was a fun challenge for sure! We definitely have a new appreciation for amazing party hosts!!
Greenstuff May 11, 2012
What a wonderful story! I've been away this week, so just read (and watched) your entire saga in one sitting. A very brave and beautiful undertaking. Hats off! You are inspirations to both mothers and daughters.
Anum&Liyna May 12, 2012
woah, in one sitting?? we're impressed you didnt get sick of us by the end of it! :p thanks for the sweet message Greenstuff :) So glad you enjoyed it!