Ramzan: A period of bonding over food
The month of Ramzan beautifully blends the spirit of fast, feast and faith. With prayers, celebrations and delicious food at its core, the holy period of joy and compassion will be more of an intimate affair this year, owing to the Covid-19 safety protocols.
Staying indoors and collectively praying for the world to heal and win over this pandemic, it is also the perfect time to bond with your friends and family over food. “One is supposed to spend the month in devotion, worship and charity. I also run a daily Dastarkhan E Ramzan, where I post food recipes related to the festival along with a post on some monument related to it. Since we can’t talk about devotion as it is supposed to be personal, food becomes a topic of discussion. That is why there has always been an emphasis on food, and that’s the connection between food and Ramzan,” says historian and author, Rana Safvi.
And what makes the Ramzan feasts more special is the fasting period that’s the focus of the month. Fasting during Ramzan involves not eating food or drinking water between sunrise and sunset for the entire month. “Food is an integral part of Ramzan’s traditions. Family and friends gather to share and enjoy the two meals that are served – Iftar is held at sunset when people break their fast, and Suhoor/Sehri is consumed early in the morning before the day starts,” says Indian masterchef, Sadab Qureshi, from The Westin Gurgaon. During Sehri, people usually have things that would not make them feel thirsty. Food like milk, dates, sooth pheni, eggs, fruit and vegetable salads are preferred for Sehri, while pakodas, sharbat, kabab, fritters, chole are a staple on every iftar table. The dinner consumed after is usually pretty heavy.
While the core rituals and significance of Ramzan have remained unchanged, the spread of Islam over the globe gave texture and diversity to the global Ramzan experience. “Iftar, until a few years back, was more about serving the poor and consisted of three-four items to break the fast, which included dates, fruits and a simple meal. Today, it has become a grand affair,” says Qureshi.
Moreover, every country and region has a particular delicacy that’s especially enjoyed during this month. Food flavours that erupt In India are stews, paaya, kormas, biryani, nihari, sheermal, keema, kaliya, zarda, haleem, shawarma, sheer kurma, seviyan, malpuas and more.
“Dates are common as they contain nutritional value. Few years ago when I was in Ladakh during the month of Ramzan, I asked owner of a shop about how he opens his fast and he replied it’s usually by eating momos. For us, in UP the usual is samosa and pakodi. In South, I’m sure people would be eating idli and dosa. It is about comfort food,” says Safvi.
Several food walks were conducted earlier to introduce people to Ramzan special delicacies . “Everything has changed due to the pandemic. People who love going for food walks are waiting for better days to come. I used to lead some Ramzan food walks in Old Delhi but this year, I am strictly at home and doing some restricted Iftaar dawats through our home cooked meals by our delivery kitchen,” says chef Osama Jalali, founder of The Mughal Plate by Jalalis. This year, they have Ramzan special haleeem in menu.
Over the years, food patterns have also changed. “Nowadays people are more health conscious. Food items such as milk, cheese, yoghurt, eggs are being consumed, as they raise the blood sugar level slowly and also keeps an individual’s stomach full to sail through the day. As drinking water is not permitted during the day, one adds fruits with high water content in the respective meal. Fruits such as watermelon, pineapple, mangoes, plums along with dry fruits and rich salads are widely consumed,” says chef Brajesh Ghansiyal from Pracheen, India before 1947. The restaurant has curated a special menu in Ramzan that includes nihari mutton, gosht biryani, chicken korma and mutton seekh, informs Vidit Rawat of the restaurant.
Seekh Kabab recipe
Mutton leg 500gm
ginger paste 70gm
garlic peeled 70gm
coriander green chopped 15gm
green chilly chopped 50gm
mutton fat (minced to consistency of Keema) 100gm
amul cheese grated 100gm
garam masala 10gm
Fried onion paste 30gm
deggi mirch 40gm
butter for basting 10gm
In a bowl mix together the mutton mince by your hands and add ginger-garlic paste to it along with onion paste, red chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, powdered pepper, Butter, Mutton fat, Cheese grated and mashed salt, green chilly, fresh green coriander, Mix nicely.
Add a little bit of besan to control the extra moisture.
Mix well and keep it in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour.
Wrap the mince on a skewer and cook on a coal sigdi. Baste the kebab with melted butter.
Once cooked, take out and add chaat masala, chopped dhaniya and serve with laccha onion and lemon wedge
By chef Brajesh Ghansiyal
Author tweets @ruchikagarg271