Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 4, Issue 37, Tuesday September 18, 2007


keeping it simple: feasting after fasting

The month of Ramadan is a unique spiritual feature of Islam. It entails fasting, which means abstinence from eating, drinking and smoking from daybreak till sunset. It grounds one in discipline and also relaxes the digestive system. As fewer meals are taken during Ramadan, it is important to eat meals which are filling, but light and healthy at the same time.

To remain healthy during the fasting hours, we should consume slow-digesting fibre-rich foods, such as those made with grains like barley, wheat oats, semolina (shooji), beans, lentils, whole wheat flour, and brown rice, so that the food lasts longer, making one less hungry during the day. Other important food items milk and dairy products, fish, meat, poultry, and vegetables should be consumed in normal quantities. Eating fruits after a meal is strongly suggested and it is also extremely important to consume sufficient water to avoid dehydration and for digestive system detoxification.

The worst thing one can do is to overeat during Ramadan. Not only is this detrimental to health, but it opposes the very spirit of the month. Fried, spicy and sugary foods should also be avoided, since these may cause indigestion, heartburn and weight problems. Ramadan is a good time to get into a cycle of healthier eating.

Having spent many a Ramadan in various countries abroad, I have found the Middle-Eastern/North-African eating habits to be the best. In this region, the fast is broken with a date and a soft drink, and a filling soup is eaten right before prayers. This is the basic iftar. After prayers, people will eat a meal consisting of breads, vegetables, meat. This healthy and slow-digesting dinner right after iftar is a preferable way to eat in the evening, as opposed to our practice of having lots of fried foods during iftar, followed by a heavy late night dinner.

A number of recipes which are suitable for both iftar/dinner combination and for sehri, are outlined below:

Yogurt (fat free)1 cup
Banana (sliced) 1
Sugar substitute to taste
Cardamom powder ¼ tsp
Ice cubes
Combine all the ingredients and blend until smooth in a blender.
Pour in glasses and serve with ice cubes.

Tomato (skin removed and halved) 1 kg
Onion (roughly chopped) 3 tbs
Garlic (roughly chopped) 2 cloves
Caraway seeds(shah-jeera) ½ tsp
Pepper corn ½ tsp
Vegetable stock ½ litre
Preheat oven to 180C
Roast the garlic and tomatoes for 30 minutes.

Puree the roasted items. Pour in a large sauce pan. Pound the pepper corn and caraway seeds to fine powder and add to the puree. Pour the stock and bring to simmer. Continue cooking for 5 minutes.
Protein: 11g
Total fat: 6g
Saturated fat: 1g
Carbohydrate: 52g
Sugar: 29g
Fibre: 6g
Sodium: 80m
Suitable for diabetics

This is a popular Mexican dish ideal for iftar, dinner or even sehri. You can serve immediately after it is prepared or serve later, cold or warm up when it is needed.
Chicken strips 500g
Olive oil ½ tbsp
Vinegar 2 tbsp
Allspice (ground) ½ tbsp
Origano (dry) ½ tbsp
Onion flakes (dry) 2 tbsp
Chilli powder or green chilli according to taste
Lettuce (shredded) 2 cups
Carrot (grated) 1 cup
Tomatoes (cut into wedges) 2
Yogurt (fat free) ½ cup
Chapattis (very thin) 8

Cut the chicken into 1cm wide strips and place in a bowl. Mix oil, vinegar, all spice, oregano, onion flakes, salt and chilli and pour over chicken strips. Stir to coat the chicken pieces. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Brush oil into a frying pan tip the chicken pieces and cook tossing and lifting the pieces and allowing them to brown. The meat should cook in 5 /6 minutes.

Put some lettuce onto a chapatti. Then put some carrots, chicken strips and top with yogurt and some tomato wedges and roll out.

Protein: 32g
Total fat: 8g
Saturated fat: 7g
Total carbohydrate: 26g
Fibre: 4g
Sugar: 7g
Sodium: 300mg
G.I low
Suitable for diabetics

It is a very popular dish throughout the Middle East and contains large amount of iron, vitamin C and fibre. It contains varying amount of monounsaturated fat. This is an excellent recipe for iftar for 4 to 6 persons and 2 to 3 as part of a main course or dinner.

Chick peas ½ cup
Sesame seeds 3 tbsp
Garlic cloves (crushed) 2
Lemon juice (fresh) 1 or 2 to taste
Coriander powder Large pinch
White pepper for seasoning
Olive oil 2 tbsp
Fat free yogurt or low-fat soft cheese.. ½ cup
Paprika for garnishing

Soak the chick peas for 3 or 4 hours and wash very well. Boil until they are cooked through. Drain the chick peas and reserve about 1 cup of cooking water.

Toast the sesame seeds on a skillet over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes and grind them.

Now in a blender put chick peas, garlic, juice of 1 lemon, sesame seeds, coriander, pepper, 1 tbsp oil and enough cooking water to enable the blender to run. Blend to a thick consistency.

Remove the puree from the blender and stir in yogurt or low-fat cheese thoroughly. Check the seasoning and add more lemon juice if wanted.

You can serve Hummus immediately but it will taste even better if you leave it for a few hours for the flavours to blend. Serve it in a flat dish, sprinkle it generously with paprika and pour over the remaining olive oil. Provide chapatti or whole wheat pita bread to scoop it up with.

Calories about 90 to 140 a serving as iftar and 180 to 280 as main course/dinner.
High fibre
Very low fat (if oil is omitted)
Suitable for diabetics

Makes 4 serving
Lemon juice 2 tbsp
Apple (cubed) 1
Pear (cubed) 1
Jambura/grape fruit (segments) 225 g
Jambura/grape fruit juice¼ cup
Orange (segments) 300 g
Orange juice 2 tbsp
Pour the lemon juice into a bowl. Add the apple and pear and swirl to coat.
Add jambura and orange segments (including all juice), gently stir to mix.
Keep it in the fridge until ready to surve.
Calories: 77
Fat: 0.1g
Protein: 1.1g
Carbohydrate: 17.8g
Fibre: 1.7
Suitable for diabetics

Makes 12 slices
Dried dates (chopped) 100g
Water 100ml
Carrots (finely grated) 225g
Whole wheat flour 100g
Desiccated coconut 25g
Ground almonds 50g
Bicarbonate of soda 1 tsp
Mixed spice ½ - 1 tsp
Egg 1
Grated orange zest 1 tsp
Fat free yogurt 1 cup

Cook the dates and water in a small saucepan over a low heat until the water is absorbed. Mash with a fork to make a smooth paste or blend if necessary. Mix the grated carrots with the cooled date paste.

Combine the flour, coconut, ground almonds, bicarbonate of soda and spice. Stir in the carrots and dates. Add the well-beaten egg and the orange zest. Fold in the yogurt.

Pour into a greased and floured 20cm (8in) diameter baking tin. Bake in a preheated oven gas mark 5/190C/375F for 40 minutes until the cake has browned on top and the sides have begun to come away from the tin.
Each slice:
Carbohydrate: 10g
Calories: 100
Suitable for diabetics

Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Special thanks to Khazana


home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2007 The Daily Star