Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, has just begun; this means that for a whole month Mike and I won’t be eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset. (I will still be posting regularly though — I have quite the backlog to share with you!) The point is to teach you patience, discipline, and empathy for others who aren’t as fortunate. I have to say, it really works…food and drink (especially cold water!) never taste as good the rest of the year as they do during Ramadan.
Each day at sunset the fast ends with prayer, followed by a meal called iftar. The fast is usually broken with dates and a sip of water (really, just a sip since you don’t want to be too full for the feast that awaits). Then comes the meal, usually starting with a cup of soup (tonight Mike and I will be having Red Lentil Soup, the soup that I shared with you during Ramadan three years ago), and leading into what is often a pretty elaborate spread, especially if guests are joining you for the meal. And if guests are over, of course after the meal comes tea, coffee, and sweets.
All manner of sweet treats are enjoyed during Ramadan, but date-filled cookies called ma’amoul are traditional. I’m planning to make ma’amoul for the Eid (the three day festival at the end of Ramadan), but for now, I wanted something with dates and warm spices for a festive feel so I decided on a date-sweetened spice cake.
This cake is like a spice bread (basically a Middle Eastern-style gingerbread), but it tastes so much better. (I’m telling you, food tastes amazing during Ramadan.) I like mine spread with a little labneh (a tangy yogurt cheese), but Greek yogurt or even cream cheese is delicious too (or you could strain regular yogurt and use that). A little drizzle of honey on top of the tangy labneh makes it a really decadent treat.
(If you want to learn more about Ramadan, About.com has a very informative article called Benefits of Ramadan.)
Wishing Everyone Ramadan Kareem (Generous Ramadan)!
Update (June 1, 2014): I made this loaf again and snapped a few pictures, so I decided to update the photos in this post.