Saudi Aramco Week - 28 October 2004
Photograph by Nimah Ismail Nawwab
DHAHRAN, SAUDI ARABIA (October 26, 2004) - The spirituality of fasting makes Ramadan a time of contemplation. In addition to the religious duties of fasting and nocturnal vigils, taking care of the body, as well as the spirit and mind, results in a wonderful array of Ramadan specialties across the globe.
The diversity of dishes makes it a real pleasure to get invited to break the fast in various houses, because each household prepares dishes in their own special way. Some countries are famous for their Ramadan specialties.
As an air of excitement pervades homes, women take on the fulfilling and often time-consuming task of feeding their families. A sense of urgency builds up with the approach of the sunset call to prayer, as meals are laid out with juices, desserts, dates and family favorites.
Photograph by Nimah Ismail Nawwab
As the sunset call to prayer is heard, the devout start the iftar meal. It generally starts with a few sips of water or Zamzam water, if available, juice and dates. Zamzam water is drawn from the ancient, sacred well in the Holy Mosque in Makkah.
The dates are a staple item used in the days of the Prophet Muhammad to break the fast.
These are followed by a delicious main meal with Ramadan specialties.
Iftar is also supposed to be light - to slake thirst and assuage hunger - not to shock the empty stomach with heavy food. Light soups, salads and dishes with yogurt are therefore a staple of breaking the fast in various countries. Many enjoy fasting because they know that fasting in such a manner is healthy. It gives the stomach and the whole system a chance to rest.
In most countries, meals are geared to fasting by including light starters, followed by more filling dishes and culminating with desserts.
The recipes below are light, nutritious and easy to prepare at a time when days are short, with Ramadan falling during the winter, allowing women little time to prepare their meals. They originate from places across the Muslim world.
Yogurt Soup (Turkey)
The following is a delicious light soup, often served during the summer.
5-6 cups meat or chicken broth
1 cooked chicken cut in small pieces
1 cup yogurt
2 Tbsps. flour
4-5 Tbsps. pre-cooked rice (preferably "Egyptian rice")
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. minced mint
2 Tbsps. butter
In a pot, let the broth boil and put in the small pieces of chicken. Let boil for 5 more minutes. Place yogurt, flour and egg in a bowl and mix well. While the broth is boiling, mix in the yogurt mixture and keep stirring for about 3 minutes. Add the cooked rice and let boil for another 2-3 minutes. In another pan, melt the butter and mint and stir for a minute or two, then put the mint in the soup. Add salt and pepper and cover the pot. Ready to serve.
- Contributed by Abeer Zaki
Kubbat al-Bulghor with Eggplant (Iraq)
This is one of the most famous dishes in Iraq. It is nutritious and can be cooked any time of the year because its ingredients are always in season. It is usually served with white rice or freshly baked bread.
½ kilo ground meat
2 tsps. oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
Salt and favorite mixed spices to taste
2-3 tsps. golden raisins
Fry the chopped onions in oil. Add ground meat and continue to stir until it is cooked well and all the meat's juices have been absorbed. Add salt and spices to taste. You may add chopped celery leaf and golden raisins to your liking.
Kubbah and Eggplant
1½ cup bulghor
1 kilo eggplant
½ cup cracked wheat
Small piece of lean meat
½ kilo tomatoes (half sliced, half pureed)
Lemon juice to taste
4 tsps. chopped celery leaf
Salt and black pepper to taste
Oil for frying
Clean, wash and drain the bulghor. Add it to the cracked wheat and mix in the blender with the small piece of lean meat, salt and pepper until texture is dough-like. Cut formed dough into small, circular sections. Fill with the above meat stuffing and close (forming a flat, round shape). Deep fry in oil, taking care when turning that it doesn't break. Cut eggplant into round slices. Sprinkle with salt and fry until golden. Using an oven cooking pan or dish, place the kubbah as the first layer. Add the sliced eggplant as the second layer and the sliced tomatoes as the final layer. Add lemon juice, salt and spices to the pureed tomato and pour into pan. Cook in medium-heat oven until sauce is dry (about 20-30 minutes). Sprinkle the chopped celery leaf over the dish 15 minutes before taking the dish out of the oven.
- Contributed by Umm Abdulaziz Alkhayyal
Apricots Stuffed with Cream (Turkey)
This light dessert is excellent served with coffee and makes a fitting end to a main meal.
400 g (14 oz.) sugar
600 ml (1 pint) water
450 g (1 lb.) whole apricots, soaked for 6 hours in boiled water
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
6 heaping tsps. marscarpone or clotted cream
30 g (1 tsp.) pistachios, finely ground
Heat the sugar and water in a pan and stir to dissolve. Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, then drain the apricots and add to the syrup. Bring to a boil and simmer for 12 minutes over medium heat or until apricots are soft and water has become of a syrupy consistency. Turn the heat up for 3 minutes, then add lemon juice and cook for another minute. Remove apricots onto a dish with a slotted spoon and allow to cool. Mix the cream and stir with 2-3 tablespoons of the cooked apricot syrup. Fill the cooled apricots with cream and sprinkle on pistachios.
- Contributed by Huda Ismail Nawwab
This is a low-fat version of a dish prepared throughout the Gulf. It is often a staple at iftar.
2 cups cracked wheat
3/4 cup Egyptian rice
1 large tomato, diced
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
4 cubes of Maggi chicken bullion
1/3 cup of butter or sunflower margarine
400 g (or three) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
7½ cups water
2½ cups low-fat buttermilk
Rinse cracked wheat and soak for an hour. Slice chicken breasts into smaller pieces. Place the drained wheat, rice, tomato, onion, garlic, allspice, salt, pepper, tomato paste, chicken bullion cubes, butter and chicken all into one large aluminum pot. Pour the water over the ingredients and lightly mix. Cover the pot with aluminum foil and secure the lid over the foil. Bake at 380 degrees F for 3½ hours.
(to be prepared in the meantime)
1 large finely diced onion
3 Tbsps. canola or vegetable oil
3/4 tsp. ground black lemon
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Saute the onion until clear in the oil. Add spices. Gently stir over heat for an additional minute until spices are blended into the onions. Set aside. Remove the cracked wheat from the oven and beat the mixture for 5 to 10 minutes with a large wooden paddle. Slowly beat the buttermilk into the mixture until creamy. Pour into 9-by-13 inch serving dish or two smaller oblong ones and garnish with the topping.
- Contributed by Aisha Kay