By: Shaima Al Tamimi – www.potsandpatterns.com
As we welcome Ramadan, I felt the urge to write a post about this holy month and what it means to us Muslims. Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic Lunar Calendar and it is also the month when the Holy Quran was revealed to the last Messenger of God, Prophet Mohammed Peace Be Upon Him via the Angel Jibril. Whilst all of you know that Ramadan is a month of fasting from dawn to dusk, the purpose of this month is to teach us patience, to be pious, restraint from temptations, food, drinks, sexual activities and to seek greater things beyond worldly pleasures.
As Ramadan moves closer to the summer months (according to the lunar calendar, Ramadan always fall 10 days earlier than the previous year), fasting becomes tougher as the time we break our fast (Maghrib) pushes on to 7:30 pm as opposed to 5:30pm during the winter season. Who am I to complain though when Muslims in Europe observe Iftar around 9:30 pm in the summers!
It is a month when many special dishes appear on the Iftar Menu, recipes that are not usually cooked in the Emirati Kitchens during other times of the year – Harees and Lgeimat in particular. Even if you’re not a foodie, Ramadan is an interesting month as food is the only thing that is on your mind before breaking the fast. It’s almost funny because you’re bound to catch at least 2 or 3 co-workers browsing food sites at 11am in the morning, in search for inspiration for that evening. Bear in mind that come Iftar time, you’re prepared to eat a whole a cow! Speaking of which, over eating is a very common practice during Ramadan. As I mentioned earlier, restraint is one of the things that Ramadan teaches you to practice and it ought to be applicable even after a person breaks the fast. It’s not that you’re not allowed to eat whatever you want, rather, you need to learn to consume food in moderation. It’s common sense anyway.
Our culture calls for eating in two installments upon breaking our fast. The first installment is when Maghrib call to prayer prevails. We eat a few dates with a glass of laban or soup. The men go to pray in the mosque whilst the women pray at home and after the have finished, they help setting up the dining area. By this time, half an hour would have passed so that your stomach starts to accept more food. While you’ll still be hungry, you will also notice that you get full after a few bites. The problem is, when you’re fasting your mind flashes you images of all the dishes you want to eat, so by default you end up cooking or putting more food on your plate than you can handle and end up feeling bloated and wasting food.
Talking of wastage, it’s certainly not a respectful way of using up resources, no matter how abundant or scarce they are. Ramadan is a time to reflect upon your actions and give more to the less fortunate. So when making meals, always leave aside a plate or two to give away to the man who washes your car, or guards the building you live in. At least that way, you’re making sure that you won’t end up with leftovers to throw. Unless you’ll utilise it for Suhoor of course.
Suhoor is not the easiest meal to wake up for it occurs anytime past midnight to just before Fajr timing. The later you observe Suhoor the better it is, because then the food can serve as a source of energy through the fasting hours.
Fasting is a rewarding experience for the mind, body and soul and as you intensify on praying and reflect on habits to make a change for good not just during this holy month.
Lgeimats (translated it means mini-bites) are light, deep-fried, mini balls of dough that are traditionally drizzled with date syrup. It is an Emirati tradition to make lgeimats in Ramadan. The main challenge is to give the lgeimats a well-rounded shape. Traditionally, the dough is dropped into the oil by hand and it takes a lot of practice to achieve the right shape. However, Lgeimat dough-droppers are easily found in most of the big supermarkets here and any Middle- Eastern specialty store. Another method that can be used is to fill a large sandwich bag with the dough, snip off the end of the bag, squeeze the dough into a tablespoon that has been dipped in salted water and drop bit by bit into the oil.