As Ramadan comes to a close, Muslims around the world are breaking their fasts and marking celebrations with family and friends. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, although the dates change each year because the lunar and solar calendars are not exactly the same. The end of Ramadan occurs either 29 or 30 days from the beginning of the month, and is celebrated by the holiday of Eid ul-Fitr, where after morning prayers people exchange gifts, put up lights and decorations and feast on their favorite foods. The word Ramadan means scorching in Arabic and was designated as a Holy Month in honor of the Quran being revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in 610 CE. During Ramadan Muslims seek to purify themselves by forgoing material needs and focusing on spiritual devotion. They pray, read the Quran and carry out works of charity. Their self-denial of food and water helps them empathize with the less fortunate.
As Muslims celebrate Eid ul-Fitr, they are enjoying many dishes from a variety of cuisines. Here are two that are favorites of Tahrier Ahmad, who moved to the United States from Jordan and continues a long tradition of creating these Palestinian delectables for her family during Eid ul-Fitr.
Click on the following links to explore how other cultures observe Ramadan: “Iftar: Breaking Ramadan’s Fast” and “Eid Al-Fitr 2013: A Celebration At The End Of Ramadan”
(4 to 6 servings)
- Chicken, cut into serving pieces—1 (3-pound)
- Dried sumac (see variations) — 1/4 cup
- Ground cinnamon—1 teaspoon Ground allspice or cloves—1/2 teaspoon
- Ground nutmeg—1/4 teaspoon
- Salt and pepper—to season
- Olive oil—1/4 cup
- Onions, thinly sliced—3
- Lavash bread—2 large pieces
- Pine nuts
In a large bowl, mix the chicken, sumac, spices, salt and pepper. Refrigerate and let marinate for at least 30 minutes, or preferably for several hours. Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high flame. Add the chicken, a few pieces at a time, and brown on both sides. Remove to a plate and set aside. Add the onions to the skillet and saute, stirring often, until the onions are cooked down and beginning to brown, 15 to 25 minutes.
Line the bottom of a baking dish large enough to hold the chicken and onions with a sheet of lavash bread. Spread half the onions over the bread, then place chicken over the onions. Top the chicken with the remaining onions. Cover the whole dish with the remaining sheet of lavash bread, tucking in the sides to seal the chicken in. Sprinkle the lavash bread with water to lightly moisten it.
Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 1½ to 2 hours, or until the chicken is cooked through (an insta-read thermometer inserted into the dish should register around 180°F). If the bread starts to burn, cover it lightly with aluminum foil. Remove the dish from the oven and let it rest about 10 minutes. Remove and discard the top bread and serve the chicken in its dish, sprinkled with pine nuts.
Instead of sumac, use 3 tablespoons of paprika and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Palestinians use bread called shrak or marquq for this dish. More commonly available Armenian lavash bread is very similar. Or use 2 or 3 pieces of pita bread that have been split in two horizontally. Some cooks add a big pinch of saffron to the onions as they saute.
Qatayef is a dessert—often called “arabic pancakes”—that is filled with cheese and/or nuts and then fried.
- 3 tbsp. corn starch
- 2 3/4 cup cold water
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup semolina
- 3 tbsp. sugar
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- White Cheese, unsalted
- Walnuts, with a little sugar, ground cinnamon and nutmeg
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 3 tbsp. orange blossom water
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- Make the dough: Mix the flour, semolina, sugar and baking powder.
- Dissolve corn starch in cold water.
- Gradually add the starch/water mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. Set aside for 30 minutes.
- Make the syrup: In a sauce pan, combine the sugar, water, orange blossom and lemon juice and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and simmer until the syrup thickens.
- Heat a frying pan or griddle, Using a ladle or scoop, pour enough batter to make 3 – 5″ pancakes.
- Cook until the pancake starts bubbling on top then remove from the pan and set aside. (cook on one side only).
- Fill each pancake with either the walnuts or cheese, fold it in half and press to seal the edges.
- Fry or bake the Qatayef.
- Dip into the syrup for a minute or so and serve immediately.
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