A taste of Ramadan

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SHAFAQNA – It’s that special time of the year: Ramadan. Also known as the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar during which 1.6 billion Muslims around the world will observe a fast from sunrise to sunset. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and no food or drink is allowed between those hours. Not everyone is obligated to fast of course, such as the elderly, someone who is sick, prepubescent children or a person who is travelling.

 Ramadan is not only about abstaining from food (which is called “Sawm”), but about being charitable and giving to those in need, showing repentance and forgiveness, practicing self-discipline, spiritual renewal and much more. I cannot describe what this month means to all Muslims around the world, but for myself it’s a new beginning and another chance to really focus and train myself to become a better person in every aspect of life: religiously, as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and ultimately a human being.

 Ramadan is only four weeks long but our entire schedules change. In a sense, day becomes night and night becomes day. I usually stay up until sunrise, ensuring my family gets a hearty meal. Otherwise if I sleep I find it difficult to wake up and will be cooking with one eye open! For the first few nights it’s difficult adjusting to becoming a night owl, but a few cups of coffee do the trick, then it’s a piece of cake. Heavier meals are usually served during Sahoor (the meal before sunrise), such as oatmeal, dates, plenty of fruits and veggies, protein and lots of water. Fatoor (dinner after sunset) starts with a variety of appetizers–usually fried foods–and veggie and fruit salads but only after, of course, breaking your fast with dates and water. Breaking your fast with dates is considered a Sunnah (a ritual that the prophet Mohamed PBUH did).

 Majority of mosques aka masjid, provide both Sahoor and iftar meals on a daily basis during Ramadan. Having iftaar at the Masjid is quite the experience. My family will occasionally go and break our fast there and it’s so nice to see so many people from different nationalities come together to eat and pray. It’s a little difficult with the children–especially picky eaters–so we don’t go as often. Dinner at the Masjid is later followed by long set of prayers called Taraweeh. Taraweeh come after the last prayer of the day known as Isha (Muslims have five mandatory prayers a day: Fajr, Dhuhr, Asr, Maghreb and Isha). Even if we don’t break our fast at the Masjid we still make it out after dinner to pray the Taraweeh prayer. As you can imagine, it’s the busiest time of the year for Masjids. Every Masjid I have been to is always packed with people from all over to perform the Taraweeh prayer together, it’s an absolutely amazing feeling!

 Ramadan is also about lots and lots of cooking! Oh yes, during a fast all you think about is what will be for dinner! (OK, it’s obviously not all you think about, but you do get hungry.) Anything that can be fried (fried samosas, fried veggies, fried cheese!) are always a hit. Here are my family’s favorite fried appetizers:

Fried date and coconut wraps

Spring roll wraps. I use the TYJ spring roll wraps.

½ C pitted baking dates

1 C dry unsweetened coconut flakes

Flour and water paste (1 cup flour to a half cup of water mixed together to make paste).

Mix the coconut flakes with your baking dates by hand or in a food processer. Mix well until it is all incorporated. Then take your spring roll wrap and cut the sheet into three vertical strips. Place about a tablespoon of the filling onto the strip and roll upwards making into a log shape as you roll up. Before you reach the end about ½ inch away add some of the flour paste to seal your coconut date roll. Than deep fry for about five minutes or until golden. I usually preheat the oil to about 375 degrees F.

Fried mozzarella

Spring roll wraps

String cheese cut in halves horizontally

Flour paste

Place your half piece of string cheese on a wrap like you would wrap an egg roll. Close ends with your flour paste making sure there aren’t any openings otherwise it will pop while frying and create a large mess which can be dangerous. Fry until golden brown, let cool and use some pizza sauce for dipping. Tastes like a mini pizza! Kids love it!

Fried rice balls

Leftover cooked salted white rice, or you can make it fresh ahead of time.

Cooked and shredded chicken (seasoned to your liking), you can also use ground beef minced with veggies or fish. I love it with tuna.

2 eggs mixed with salt and pepper

Flour mixed with seasonings of your liking

Bread crumbs also seasoned

There are so many different ways and types of fillings you can do with this recipe so I didn’t narrow it down. I just want to give you the basic idea of how it’s prepared and you can take control of the rest and make it your own!

Set up your assembly line of rice, filling, flour, eggs and bread crumbs. Oil up your hands to prevent the rice from sticking to them, place a golf ball size of rice into your palm and flatten it out. Place the filling in the center about half a tablespoon or more depending on the size of the rice patty you will know how much after making a few, now gather the rice around the filling and roll between your palms forming a ball. Dip the rice ball into the flour then into the eggs and finally into the bread crumbs. Fry until golden brown about 10 minutes. Fryer should be preheated to 375 degrees F. Check out my quick video on Instagram.

Fried zucchini

2 zucchinis cut into 1/4 of an inch thick circles

garlic powder

onion powder

paprika powder

ground lemon pepper

black pepper

season salt

Parmesan cheese

1 C flour in a plate

1 C breadcrumbs in a plate

Mix the dry seasonings in the plate of flour and the plate of breadcrumbs. I don’t really measure the amount I add but to estimate I would say it’s about 1/2 tsp of each except for the season salt which would be one teaspoon. In the breadcrumb mixture I also add 1/4 cup of freshly grated parmesan. In a separate bowl add two eggs in with a tablespoon of water and mix well.

Dip the zucchini rounds in the flour, then egg mixture, then into the bread crumbs. In a deep pan or deep fryer heat oil to 375 F, fry the rounds for five minutes or until golden in color. Enjoy with a side of ranch or ketchup! Check out step-by-step pictures here. You can follow this same recipe with cauliflower and it is just as delicious.

I hope you enjoy these recipes. Happy Ramadan!

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