Ramadan

Ramadan

Ramadan Mubarak

Popular food blogger Afia Begom returns to tell us what she loves about Ramadan, and we catch up with four families to hear their plans at this special time of year

Ramadan can sometimes feel like a 30-day banquet! Every evening, to celebrate breaking our fast, we get together as a family and have the meal we’ve been looking forward to all day. It’s the one time of the year when we sit down together as a family, as my children are grown-up and often at work. 

‘Preparing all the food for a whole month of celebrating can feel overwhelming, so I take it one day at a time. I go with the flow and decide in the morning what we’ll eat that evening, depending on what I have in the house.

‘At weekends we’ll meet at the houses of different members of the family, or everyone will come here. The host usually prepares all the food, but sometimes guests will bring a dessert or snack. Our family message group is useful for planning the menu! 

‘Increasingly there’s a trend to go out to a restaurant for Iftar. We’ve done this a few times. There will be a special Ramadan menu, where you’ll be offered dates, fruit and water to break the fast. There are prayer quarters within the restaurant for our final prayers, and then we’ll have the full meal. It’s difficult to pray after a heavy meal, which is why we have a snack first, after sunset, and follow with the meal after our main prayers.

‘Although there’s an emphasis on food and family at Ramadan, the period is also important to Muslims to practise self-control and discipline, and to bring yourself closer to God. As well as the five daily prayers, we’re encouraged to do “extra” prayers, spend time reading the Quran, donate to charity and take part in other good deeds. It’s important to be more mindful of your actions and your words. Ramadan is a time to try to better yourself.’ @afeliaskitchen


MORE ABOUT RAMADAN

From 2 April, Muslims in the UK will be observing Ramadan — a 30-day period of prayer and community, with fasting between dawn and sunset. The meal before sunrise is known as Suhoor, and the meal when the sun sets is called Iftar. Ramadan Mubarak means ‘blessed Ramadan‘, and traditionally, the month culminates with friends and families coming together for Eid al-Fitr (‘The Festival of Breaking the Fast’).


Mango fruit salad (VG) (GF)

‘Muslims are encouraged to share food with neighbours during Ramadan. This fruit salad is one I was introduced to by a neighbour after I had sent over some food for Iftar one evening. Fasting leaves you craving water, and one of the tastiest ways to replenish fluids is to eat fruit, so this fruit salad is a must-try!’

Serves 4 • Ready in 10 mins  

  • 1 ripe mango, chopped 
  • 25g blanched almonds, chopped 
  • 100g Co-op seedless red grapes
  • 100g Co-op seedless green grapes
  • Seeds of ½ pomegranate
  • 150g canned peach slices, drained
  • 1 apple
  1. Blend the mango in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Toast the almonds in a dry pan for 2-3 mins, until just golden. 
  3. Cut all the fruit into bite-size pieces, leaving the apple till last so it doesn‘t go brown. Put the almonds and fruit into a bowl, pour over the mango pulp and mix well to serve.

MADE FOR SHARING

The families of four Co-op colleagues and customers tell us how they’re planning to observe Ramadan this year, including the food they’ll be choosing to break the fast

MARUF CHOUDHURY
Maruf is a Co-op store manager in Buckinghamshire. He lives with his wife, Annum Kiani, and one-year-old son, Zakariyah

‘As a store manager, I need to be in the store at 6.30am, so I find the early starts harder to cope with than the lack of food. This year, with Ramadan starting on 2 April, we’ll be eating breakfast (known as Suhoor) at 3.30am, in order to have time for the first prayer at 5am. We’ll break for prayers twice more during the day. If you’re not working or if you’re home early, most people will try to fit in a nap before the fourth prayer at sunset. If not, by this time, you’re likely to be hungry and a bit agitated!

‘We break the fast with the traditional water and dates with the fourth prayer, and the main meal will follow before I head to mosque for the final prayer. By the time I’m back home, it’s around 11.30pm and definitely time for some sleep!

‘Spending time with family and sharing food is very important, which is why Ramadan over the past two years has felt very different. Being stuck in our homes and unable to visit people has been challenging. 

‘The month of Ramadan is about giving and sharing. There’s reward in feeding others. Donating to charity and fasting helps us to appreciate the struggles of those who have to go without. Hopefully this year will be like old times! With everyone together (our family group is about 40 people) there will be a lovely atmosphere. It will also be Zakariyah’s first Ramadan, and we’ll look forward to him joining in more and more as each year passes.’


SABINA ALAM
Sabina is a geography teacher. She lives in Birmingham with her husband, Kashem Alam, daughters Zara, Nuha, Dhiaa and Safaa, and son, Ishmael

‘When I was young, I’d help Mum in the kitchen. I remember we didn’t have so many ingredients, but the food was still plentiful. With six siblings, it was always chaotic, with us fighting over the best plate. It’s a special memory, and something to reflect on during Ramadan now. 

‘Lots of the food we eat at Ramadan is still the same. My grandmother came over from Bangladesh one year when I was young, and we spent the whole summer cooking. I still cook the dishes that I learned from her. 

‘When my three eldest left home and went to university, I wrote up some of our favourite recipes. One of my daughters laminated the pages and now they share them among their friends. They’re great for students as they’re cheap, filling and nutritious. They also remind them of home. 

‘Usually at Ramadan I’d have my mum and sister round; they live just up the road. But during Covid my daughter would take round a tray of food for them. We’d also share food with friends and neighbours nearby.  

‘As I’ve got older I’ve found it more important to think about others, and even more so with Covid. Last year we set up a fundraising page and raised £3,000 for food parcels for the poor in Bangladesh. Reflecting on others and sharing food is a really important part of Ramadan.’ 


SHAFINA CHOWDHURY
Shafina runs a small catering business. She lives in Hampshire with her husband, Rohim Ali, son, Yusha, and daughter, Daanya 

‘During the pandemic restrictions we felt sad not to be able to celebrate with extended family. Usually we’d go to Mum’s – she’d have everyone over with the table full to the brim. But as a family of four, it’s been more intimate. The kids have had more involvement, and they’ve been able to appreciate the spiritual side of Ramadan more. 

‘This year, if we’re allowed, we’d like to have everyone over to ours. Mum is head of the kitchen. She brings all the recipes — often with something new to try, like a childhood recipe she’s remembered. It’s a hectic kitchen, I can’t lie! The stove is full of pots and we all chip in. My siblings help with the prep, I get everything out that Mum needs, and she does the cooking. My husband oversees the table — I like a good table set-up, probably due to my job catering for weddings. 

‘Fasting isn’t compulsory for children and, as ours are young, they don’t. They often ask to do a half-day fast at the weekend but, for my son, just going without his afternoon snack seems to be enough! He says the best thing about Ramadan is all the yummy food. My daughter appreciates spending quality time with her family. 

‘The first couple of days of fasting can be hard as your body gets used to it. But, before you know it, the month is over. During the last couple of days of Ramadan you start the preparations for Eid. I’ll make some snacks, such as samosas, and freeze them. 

‘For Eid, we go crazy with decorations, put on our best clothes, then visit our parents and the elders of the family. It’s a celebration of togetherness and gratitude for our family. After a month of spirituality, it’s amazing to embrace these moments.’


RUWAIDA MOHAMMED
Ruwaida is a manager with Co-op in Manchester. She lives with her husband, Tariq Bashraheel, and their sons, Hakeem and Adam

‘Iftar for us is a family and a neighbourhood affair — anyone who wants to come is welcome. There’s a strong religious and cultural element of sharing at Ramadan, so we make big batches of finger foods like spring rolls, samosas and fatayer (triangular pastries — last year mine were stuffed with cheese), and share them with neighbours. These snacks are perfect to break the fast, as they’re light enough for us to manage the lengthy prayers that come after sunset. 

‘The first couple of weeks of Ramadan tend to be when we do most of our socialising and eating together in the evenings. We rotate our visits — seeing Tariq’s parents and also having the family over to our house. Everyone will bring a dish — we’ll decide in advance what to make. 

‘My father-in-law is always in the kitchen. He has a family of 10, so is used to cooking enormous amounts. It’s where Tariq gets his love of cooking from. They both enjoy trying new dishes: they’ll see something on a cooking show, and want to try and make it. Or we’ll have something in a restaurant and Tariq will try and cook it at home. He likes experimenting with food from different continents and adding Somali-style spices, such as xawaash — a blend of cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and star anise. 

‘As well as sharing food, the kids and I will pull together toys, books and clothes that can go to people who will make more use of them. The mosque organises collections for the community, but also runs funds for other causes, such as educational activities to help young people build a future. While this kind of fundraising happens all year round, Ramadan is a great reminder for us all to refocus on charity as part of our spiritual considerations at this time.’


Find some delicious Ramadan recipes from Maruf, Sabina, Shafina and Ruwaida online at coop.uk/ramadan


FIND MORE RECIPES ONLINE

Discover more of Afia’s Ramadan recipes at coop.uk/ramadan OR scan this QR Code