A date with dates: How the fruits are an essential part of the Ramzan diet

As Ramzan approaches, dates will once more be an unmissable part of feasts throughout the globe, in its pure kind, or as part of innumerable dishes

In Muslim houses, the weeks main as much as Ramzan are crammed with nice expectation — not simply of religious succour, but in addition of some culinary expeditions.

This 12 months, Ramzan is predicted to start in mid-April, after the sighting of the crescent moon. The ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, it prescribes dawn-to-dusk fasting. And this fasting is of course accompanied by feasting, in varied levels of richness. The Ramzan unfold has to have a bit of every part — heat soups, chilly sherbets, fried snacks, grilled meats, gravies and rice dishes — however it’s the date, the small fruit of the Phoenix dactylifera L. palm, that crowns the desk globally, particularly throughout iftar (breaking of the quick).

Eating dates after the maghrib (night) name to prayer throughout Ramzan is taken into account to suggest the graduation of the iftar. They are additionally eaten by many Muslims as part of the pre-dawn suhour meal.

The maamoul is a date-filled cookie that is made in big batches during Ramzan in Arab countries. Photo: Sawsan Abu Farha/Special Arrangement

The maamoul is a date-filled cookie that’s made in massive batches throughout Ramzan in Arab international locations. Photo: Sawsan Abu Farha/Special Arrangement  

“The sugar in dates keeps your energy levels high, and its high fibre content also makes you feel full for a longer time, which is why it is commonly eaten during both iftar and suhour. But more than the science, Muslims cherish the date because of its associations with Prophet Muhmamad’s traditions,” says Delhi-based movie star chef and author Sadaf Hussain, who has chronicled Islamic recipes and the tales behind them from throughout India in his 2019 ebook Daastan-e-Dastarkhan: Stories and Recipes from Muslim Kitchens (Hachette).

In India, the place processed dates are turning into extra widespread on store cabinets as up to date syrups and jams, heritage dishes from the erstwhile princely states use the fruit in each chutneys and pickles. Chef Hussain’s tackle this outdated recipe makes use of plums, jamun fruit and date pulp, spiced with chillies and chaat masala to create a piquant chutney.

“Last year I tweaked the recipe for a Kashmiri Ramzan beverage called babribyol, which is usually made with sabja (basil) seeds, milk, sugar, saffron and coconut shavings. I replaced sugar and blended the milk with dates, which made it into a nice thick shake. Such smoothies can easily be substituted for the sugary bottled fruit cordials that we commonly have for iftar,” says Hussain, who has additionally made cheesecake with date pulp.

To make date paste at dwelling, merely deseed the fruit and mix the pulp in a mixer, or knead manually with a small quantity of water.

This 12 months, Hussain is in talks for a pop-up restaurant on an all-vegetarian Ramzan menu platter-to-order in Delhi and Lucknow. “I have always tried to break the stereotype that the typical Muslim diet is only about biryani, korma, and kebabs. We have a healthy selection of vegetarian dishes,” he says.

In Arab international locations, the place dates are a significant agricultural crop, each non secular custom and culinary affiliation make them a really generally used ingredient all through the 12 months. “Dates in the Levant are an integral part of the cuisine especially when it comes to baked goods. If you walk into any bakery in the morning, you are sure to find freshly baked date-filled bread rings. They are a popular breakfast item that many people pick up on their way to school or work,” writes Sawsan Abu Farha, a meals author based mostly in Jordan, who blogs as Chef in Disguise, in an e mail interview.

The weeks earlier than Ramzan are a time for Arab households to fill up on dates to get pleasure from them as is or to make use of them in varied recipes throughout the holy month.

Plum and dates chutney. Photo: Sadaf Hussain/Special Arrangement

Plum and dates chutney. Photo: Sadaf Hussain/Special Arrangement

Among the hottest of these is the cookie referred to as maamoul, made by filling balls of a delicate and buttery semolina and flour dough with date paste. Long-handled wood moulds are used to imprint fairly designs on the maamoul tops, after which baked in a medium oven.

Plum and dates chutney

  • Ingredients
  • 300 gm plums
  • 250 gm jamuns
  • 4-6 tsp jaggery powder
  • 50 gm dates
  • 2-3 inexperienced chillies
  • 1/12 tsp fennel seeds
  • A pinch of fenugreek seeds
  • 8-10 inexperienced cardamoms
  • 4-6 small items of cinnamon
  • Salt to style
  • 1 tsp chaat masala
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds (elective)
  • Method
  • Boil the plum, jamun and dates collectively, until they grow to be delicate and fork tender. In a mixing bowl or mortar pestle, grind all the dry spices with inexperienced chilli. Take plum, jamun and dates, retain some water however throw away relaxation or use it to make a beverage. Make a tough paste of these fruits, and put it again in a saucepan. Cook this paste for five5 minutes with the spice combination, and examine the seasoning. When the chutney turns into homogenous and tastes scrumptious, toss in toasted sesame seeds. Serve chutney with bread, roti or rice.
  • Recipe by Sadaf Hussain

Maamoul is the ultimate cookie to make for Eid al Fitr (the festival that marks the end of Ramzan). We greet our guests on Eid morning with fresh coffee, a bowl full of dates and lots of maamoul and ka’ak (ring cookies),” says Sawsan.

Interestingly, maamoul can also be made for Easter by Arab Christians, and the Purim competition by Jews, displaying the biscuit’s candy ties with the area’s historical past.

Ready to snack

Date paste finds its approach into different delicacies additionally, like tamer-bi-simsim, the place it’s rolled in roasted sesame seeds and served as a fast snack, in Arabian Gulf international locations. Pitted dates are additionally used as a casing for nuts like almonds and walnuts, and served plain, or dipped in chocolate ganache.

What many might not know is that the Ramzan diet has directions not just for fasting, but in addition for the feasting, provides Sawsan. She writes, “We are told to start the iftar with some dates. After this, one is encouraged to go pray before eating the main meal, because this short break gives the body time to metabolise the dates and water that have been consumed and to start the body’s digestive processes, which have been resting all day. It’s like allowing your car to warm up before driving it.”

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