I wanted to write a post on Ramadan earlier (since it’s already the 16th day!), but time has been flying by. Ramadan (the Islamic month of fasting) is also a time for prayer, reflection, and giving charity. During Ramadan, fasting is done from sunrise to sunset to teach you patience, discipline, and empathy for others who aren’t as fortunate. Each day the fast ends with prayer, followed by a meal called iftar, and is usually broken with dates and a sip of water…but be careful not to drink too much water or you’ll be too full to eat, and trust me, that would be a shame!
After eating one or two dates, you move on to the first course, which is typically some kind of soup. (As you can imagine, meals during Ramadan usually involve several courses.) Then comes the main course, which can be a pretty elaborate spread…the main course is similar to a large Sunday supper or sometimes even a holiday dinner. It may include several different dishes of meat, rice, potato, and/or vegetables…think something along the lines of roasted chicken and vegetables with mashed potatoes and gravy, and then add pot roast, then add candied sweet potatoes, then add green bean casserole…you get the idea. The good thing about this is that once you make a feast like this, you probably won’t have to cook again for at least another two or three days (depending on how big your family is), thanks to leftovers.
After the main course comes the coffee, and not just any coffee, but rich, dark, almost velvety Turkish coffee (which is so incredibly delicious!). But of course the idea of having coffee alone is simply unheard of, and so there must be sweets. The sweets of Ramadan are really something to be desired. My mother-in-law makes the most amazing date-filled cookies with a flaky pastry crust that literally melt in your mouth. I tried making them last year and literally, the only possible use that they could have had was in a hockey rink as pucks. Needless to say, I’m still trying to master the preparation of Ramadan sweets. (UPDATE: I mastered my mother-in-law’s beautiful recipe for Ma’amoul/Date-Filled Cookies in my cookbook! The recipe can be found here.)
A popular soup eaten during Ramadan is red lentil soup…it’s hearty and delicious and serves as the perfect tool to whet your appetite. There are many variations (you can add beef, chicken, or other veggies like carrots and celery), but this is the most basic version. Without further ado, Ramadan Kareem (Generous Ramadan)! I hope you enjoy the soup!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 cup (180 g) dried red lentils
- 2 soft chicken (or vegetable) bouillon cubes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1½ teaspoons cumin
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 cups (700 ml) hot water
- Fresh lemon and/or parsley (optional, for garnish)
- Heat the oil In a saucepan over medium heat; add the onion and sauté until slightly softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the lentils, bouillon cubes, bay leaves, cumin, black pepper, and hot water; cover the pot and bring the soup up to a rolling boil, then turn down the heat and let it boil gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding a splash of water if necessary.
- Taste the soup and add salt and pepper as desired.
- Serve garnished with fresh lemon and a sprig of fresh parsley if desired.
Update (July 5, 2013): I made this dish again and snapped a few pictures, so I decided to update the photos in this post. As a point of comparison to show how much my photography has evolved, I kept one of my original photos (below).