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The Ramadhan Kitchen

Three of our favourite food writers, Karimah bint Dawoud, Christine Amina Benlafquih and Clara McQuaid, share their Ramadhan tips and foolproof recipes.


Christine Amina Benlafquih lives in Morocco. She writes the Moroccan Food at About.com website (http://moroccanfood.about.com) and is a regular contributor to the SISTERS Tastes section.



Q. What is your kitchen strategy this Ramadhan?
I’d love to say that I don’t spend much time in the kitchen during Ramadhan but with six kids (including four teens) I find that that goal is nearly impossible to meet. Insha Allah, I do try to stock up the freezer ahead of time with some of the traditional offerings of a Moroccan iftar but it often works better to simply make large batches of whatever is on the menu so that some of what I cook or bake can be frozen for later use on another day. Unless we have guests, I don’t serve dinner late at night after taraweeh prayers, so iftar must hold us over until suhoor the next morning. That means that I typically set out a variety of items which include sweet, savoury and filling. Alhamdulillah, my kids are old enough to help out with both cooking and kitchen clean-up tasks.




Q. Will your Ramadhan menu be changing due to the long days and the summer heat?
A summer Ramadhan means that my family enjoys more fresh fruit and juice than in the winter, but aside from that, the primary difference for the adults is that we tend to eat less overall. Call me crazy, but I still like to fill up with a bowl of soup.




Q. What are your signature suhoor and iftar dishes?
Some Moroccans enjoy a fairly heavy meal for suhoor, but in my home it’s more of a typical breakfast. The kids grab what they want from the freezer, usually a bread item such as krachel, which is a Moroccan sweet roll, or batbout, which is pita-like bread made on the stove-top. We make those ourselves in large quantities. Iftar is harder to peg down, since I rotate a large number of items into the daily offerings. One example, though, might be cheese briouats, a fried pastry with a savoury fresh cheese filling.





Moroccan Cheese Briouats
Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer.

Briouats are fried Moroccan pastries which may be stuffed with either sweet or savoury fillings. This cream cheese version is very easy to make and can be varied by adding other ingredients including fresh herbs (such as parsley or chives), minced preserved chilli peppers or roasted red peppers, chopped olives and/or small pieces of cured meats.




If using spring roll wrappers, be sure to purchase frozen flour-based wrappers and not dried rice paper.




• 1 lb. (500 g) cream cheese
• Freshly ground pepper
• 1 lb. (500 g) brik (warqa) pastry or spring roll wrappers
• 1 egg yolk, beaten
• Vegetable oil, for frying




1. Combine the cream cheese with coarsely ground pepper to taste.
2. Cut the brik pastry or spring roll wrappers into wide strips and add a generous spoonful of the cream cheese mixture to the bottom of a strip of dough.
3. Fold the long sides inward over the filling, and then roll snugly upwards from the bottom into a cylinder shape.
4. Seal the edge with a little egg yolk. Repeat with the remaining pastry and filling.
At this point the briouats may be covered tightly and refrigerated or frozen until needed. Frozen briouats do not need to be thawed before frying, but be careful of splatters.
5. To cook, heat one inch of vegetable oil in a deep skillet or saucepan. Deep fry the cheese briouats in batches until golden. Drain and cool slightly before serving.






Karimah is a published food writer and TV chef. Her book, ‘Heavenly Bites’ features the best of Muslim home cooking and is available now.




Q. What is your kitchen strategy this Ramadhan?
Preparation , preparation , preparation! I will clean out the fridge and cupboards before Ramadhan starts and stock up on lots of plastic containers. I’ll be making menu plans too. This Ramadhan, I’ll be keeping it simple with healthy food – no cooking competitions!




Q. Will your Ramadhan menu be changing due to the long days and the summer heat?
Not really as I tend to eat healthy food: loads of fresh salad and fruit, grilled meat and fish. This is what I’ll be promoting.




Q. What are your signature suhoor and iftar dishes?
My signature Karimah Bircher muesli for suhoor and my style pakoras for iftar.




READ MORE: Wholesome Delights – Huma Imam’s review of ‘Heavenly Bites – The Best of Muslim Home Cooking’ by Karimah bint Dawood






Karimah’s Bircher muesli
This naturally sweet dish combines fruits, nuts and oats to provide a delicious and yet healthy source of energy. Created by Dr Bircher-Benner in the 1890s for the patients in his Swiss clinic, it’s the ideal breakfast on warmer days before the porridge season kicks in. This dish can be prepared the night before or even made in bulk for a three day supply. It’s great for suhoor as you just get up, open the fridge and stick it in a bowl. I have added some eclectic Karimah touches to bring this muesli into the new millennium.




• 150g /6 oz/ ½ cup rolled porridge oats
• 75g /3 oz /¼ cup dried sultanas or raisins
• 235 ml /8 oz/ 1 cup milk
• 1 apple
• 15ml/ ½ oz/1 tbsp desiccated coconut
• 100ml/ ½ cup  natural yoghurt
• 25g /1 oz/ ¹/₃ cup flaked almonds,toasted
• 150g /6-7 oz  /1 ¹/₃ cups blackberries, strawberries, raspberries
• 5ml/1 tsp ginger
• 5ml/1 tsp cinnamon
• 7 dried dates
• 15ml/ ½ oz /1 tbsp clear honey
• 15ml/ ½ oz /1 tsp black seeds




1. Place the oats and  sultanas in a plastic lidded container.
2. Cut the dates  open and remove the stones. Chop and add to oats and sultanas.
3. Add the cinnamon and ginger to the oat mix, stir in the coconut.
4. Add the milk and make sure it is well mixed into the oats.
5. Wash the apple and cut into small pieces and add to the oats immediately otherwise the apple will go brown.
6. Wash and drain the berries, removing any green bits. Halve or quarter the strawberries and add all to the oat mixture. Some people add the fruit at the last minute but proper Swiss muesli has a lovely pink colour as the juice from the berries has infused while soaking into the oats.
7. Cover with an airtight lid and place in fridge overnight.
8. Take out of fridge when ready to eat and place desired quantity in bowl.
9. Pour yoghurt on top.
10. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with Black Seeds…up, up and away!





Clara is a confirmed baker and foodie and has been writing for SISTERS for many years.



Q. What is your kitchen strategy this Ramadhan?
This Ramadhan, due to the long days and the hot weather, I plan to cook big quantities and rely on leftovers to save time in the kitchen.




Q. Will your Ramadhan menu be changing due to the long days and the summer heat?
I want to keep the salad drawer filled and load simple salads onto the side of main dishes. I am a puritan with salads: tomatoes in a dish of their own, cucumber simply sliced, also in its own dish, lovely crunchy red bell peppers sliced, and lots of crisp lettuce leaves. I just bought a salad spinner after years of patting my freshly washed lettuce between two tea towels, so life just got that little bit easier. With desserts, I think this time of year calls for cold things and also desserts which will keep for a few days so you can keep going back to them. The best time to put the desserts together is at night in a spare half hour so they can cool or benefit from an overnight stay in the fridge.


Q. What are your signature suhoor and iftar dishes?
For me, the rest of the year is food focused but in Ramadhan I take time out from any big ventures in the kitchen. Suhoor is minimal in our house: dates, porridge and the occasional piece of toast. When I do cook, I have it in my mind that I would like to be able to rely on it as leftovers for the next few days. It’s more about sustenance than indulgence. This being the case, I really don’t have any signature iftar dishes: it’s my lazy food month when I try to let ‘ibadah take over.






Tray Roast Chicken with Potatoes
If you have a large oven, roast two or three chickens at one time and save any leftovers for the next day. This is so simple to prepare as it’s just a case of putting everything in the oven and leaving it to cook.


Serves 6


• 2 large free range chickens
• 1.5 kg potatoes
• Olive oil
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat the oven to 200° C.
2. Peel the potatoes and chop into quarters.
3. Divide the potatoes between two roasting trays and drizzle about 3 tablespoons of olive oil over each tray. Using your hands toss the potatoes well in the oil so they all have a thin coating of oil. Sprinkle over the salt and pepper and toss again.
4. Now set the chickens, one on each tray, in the middle.
5. Rub some olive oil on the chicken and season. The chicken juices will come out during cooking and seep into the potatoes, so they should be deliciously full of flavour.
6. Cook for about one hour and 15 minutes.
7. Take the chickens out to rest on a board and put the potatoes back in the oven on 220° C for 5 minutes to crisp up.
8. Serve with a simple salad on the side, or some sweetcorn.




The Prophet’s (SAW) Favourite Dish