Food. It really is a mirror into a culture and its people. Take Ramadan, which started this year on Aug. 1. It is a very special time for Muslims — a time of prayer, fasting and community. And it’s also a cherished family time. We’re taking you on a culinary tour of Ramadan through three delightful recipes from our Four Seasons chefs. But first, a little background…
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar (lunar). About 30 days long, it ends when the first crescent of the new moon appears. During Ramadan, many Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. After sunset, they break their fast with a prayer (maghreb) and an evening meal called Iftar. They also eat an early morning meal called Suhoor before sunrise.
The traditional family meal, and bonding around the dinner table, is central to Ramadan. Everyone observes the fast together, so Iftar is a highlight of the day. Our chefs say the sense of pleasure and community is palpable as everyone sits down to share a meal. Muslims use this time to visit their parents, in-laws, cousins, children and friends at their homes, and enjoy passing on recipes — the family’s most prized and best-kept secrets — from generation to generation.
Recipes have to be detailed and exact because the cook cannot taste anything during preparation. But favourites such as hummos are simple enough to memorize and recreate, and an easy way for youngsters to contribute by cooking dishes for the feast.
At the family-style Iftar, dates and water are often passed around to reenact how the Prophet broke his fast. Also, high-calorie dates and water are both reenergizing and easy on the stomach after hours of fasting. Meal staples are of light and nutritious fare, such as soup, bread and fresh salads — tabbouleh or fattoush — followed by hot and cold mezze: hummos, mouttabel, baba ganoush, fattayer, kibbeh, stuffed vine leaves; and a hearty main course followed by Arabic sweets for dessert. Traditional sweet Ramadan beverages are: rose-flavoured date juice, Jallab, and Qamar-el-deen, a drink made from apricots.
Festive main dishes are the stars of the dinner table (also a source of friendly competition) and a chance for the mother to showcase her prowess in the kitchen. Families wrap up the feast by catching up on the latest news, talking about events of years past and creating memories for next year — all over cups of light mint tea or aromatic Turkish coffee.
We will be sharing our recipes for Iftar dishes here over the month of Ramadan. For now, we hope you enjoy our Ramadan – A Cultural Cuisine Celebration Facebook Album!
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