Suhoor and Iftar Recipes from Around the World
The Islamic month of Ramadan is currently being observed by people all around the world. It is a month of fasting and abstinence, from sunrise to sunset for a 30 day period, that is based on the crescent moon. It may seem odd to discuss a holiday with a focus on not eating, but food during this time is extraordinarily important for sustenance and strength to endure the month.
Dishes from this tradition are a great way to learn more about international food customs and incorporate a variety of flavors and spices, like cumin, ginger, and cayenne, into your cooking at home. As so many countries around the world celebrate with these meals, menus vary depending on geography, but there are two mealtimes observed throughout Ramadan tradition, Suhoor and Iftar.
Before dawn each day Muslims eat a pre-fast meal, called Suhoor, to sustain them throughout the day. In Egypt one item commonly eaten during this time is a Fava Bean Breakfast Spread on pita bread. The beans provide much needed protein, and the bread provides sustenance to withstand the fasting period. This dish is easy to incorporate in your cooking at home for any meal or as a midday snack.
After the sun sets, it is common for families to gather in homes, community centers, and places of worship to break the fast together in a meal called Iftar. The fast is broken in fellowship with family and friends.
Often the first item eaten at Iftar is dates followed by a buffet of various foods. For starters, traditional Arabian Fattoush Salad is a delicious appetizer or side salad. It is a light and crisp combination of cool veggies and warm fried pita bread. This salad can accompany spicy lamb schwarma in the Middle East or chick pea curry from India, or just be a new way for your family to get in their five vegetables a day.
From further west in Morocco is the common Iftar dish of Lentil Soup. This is another way for those fasting to stay strong and get vital nutrients—with carrots, celery, lentils, and beans—in a spicy, warm, and flavorful dish. (Be sure to have a glass of water nearby for those who can’t handle the heat.)
Even if your guests won’t be fasting this Ramadan, they will be eager to taste these delicious, international recipes. At the end of the day, these dishes make meals family and friends can enjoy together in fellowship. Salam!
Egyptian Fava Bean Breakfast Spread
Yields: 6 servings
1 can (15 ounce) fava beans
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large tomato, diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Ground red pepper to taste
Pour beans into pot and bring to a boil. Mix well and add onion, tomato, olive oil, cumin parsley, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and red pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Serve with warmed or grilled pita bread.
Yields: 4 servings
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 small pieces of pita bread, torn
1 large English cucumber, finely diced
3 cups grape tomatoes, halved
½ red onion, fined diced
¾ cup chopped Italian parsley
¾ cup chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or to taste)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or to taste)
1 clove garlic, crushed
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Crumbled feta cheese to taste
Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place pita pieces into the skillet without crowding. Fry batches until golden brown and blot dry with paper towel.
Combine cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, parsley, mint, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, kosher salt, ground black pepper, and sumac in a bowl. Gently toss salad with fried pita pieces.
Season to taste.
Moroccan Lentil Soup
Yields: 6 plus servings
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
6 cups water
1 cup red lentils
1 can (15 ounce) garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained
1 can (19 ounce) cannellini beans
1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes
½ cup diced carrots
½ cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
In a large pot sauté onions, garlic, and ginger in olive oil for approximately 5 minutes.
Add water, lentils, chick peas, white kidney beans, diced tomatoes, carrots, celery, garam masala, cardamom, cayenne pepper, and cumin. Bring to a boil for a few minutes then simmer for 1-1 ½ hours (possibly longer) until lentils are soft.
In a food processor or blender, puree half the soup. Stir pureed soup back into the pot and enjoy!