Ramadan has begun, and more than just being intrigued by it, I want to get myself in on the culture. The best way of doing this, I figured, is by looking into the traditional meals that not only the Emirati locals enjoy during Iftar (evening meal), but the millions of other Muslims living in the UAE (and worldwide). After doing some research, I was surprised to see that a lot of these dishes were pretty familiar to me, and I hadn’t made the strong association of these meals with Africa and the Middle East when I’d consumed them back in Ireland. Needless to say, this has been an interesting pursuit for me so far, and I’m looking forward to creating some Ramadan inspired dishes over the next month, and beyond, and seeing what you all think back home.
Ramadan – A Quick Rundown
For those of you who may not know about Ramadan, just like me before I moved to Abu Dhabi, it marks the ninth month in the Islamic calendar – a time when the Quran was thought to have been first revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. The month is traditionally marked by the sighting of the new moon crescent. Ramadan lasts for one moon cycle, so it typically lasts 30 days. The month represents a time of charity, cleansing and kindness. Muslims are required to fast between Suhour (morning meal) until Iftar (evening meal), essentially from dawn until dusk, which can be a long and tiring time. As you can imagine, food will be greatly appreciated by the time Iftar comes around.
The first recipe I decided to make is one that can be consumed for breakfast, lunch or dinner. ‘Shakshouka’ is an Arabic slang-word for mixture, which is what this is; eggs are poached on a delicious, reduced, tomato sauce or stew. The spices added, give this a nice Arabic feel, but it’s also not so far-removed from the kind of meals I’ve always eaten. Shakshouka is very popular in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and North African regions. I decided to make this my own as well by putting a slight Italian twist on it and making it a Pesto Shakshouka. It came out very well and I was very surprised by how filling it was (I had to put some into Tupperware for the next day).
This recipe serves 3 and is:
Dairy free & vegetarian
- Onion, 1 medium
- Garlic cloves, x2
- Red bell pepper, 1
- Strained tomato, 800 mL
- Cumin, 1 tspn
- Sweet paprika, 1 tspn
- Chilli flakes, x½ tspn
- Honey (or agave), 1 tspn
- Salt, 1 tspn
- Black pepper, pinch
- Eggs, x3
- Parsley (to garnish)
- Pesto (shop bought or homemade), x3 tblspns
- Drizzle a pan with olive oil, over medium heat. Dice the onions and garlic and fry them on a hot pan until tender.
- Add the peppers, after dicing, to the pan along with the cumin, sweet paprika, chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Mix well and allow the peppers to tenderize for approx. 5 mins.
- Add the strained tomato, two tblspns of pesto and honey to the pan and mix well.
- Cook over low heat for approx. 20 mins until the sauce has reduced enough for you to make little dips for the eggs to sit into nicely. Add the eggs, cover the pan with a lid and allow the eggs to poach for 5-10 mins, depending on how you like your yoke!
- Garnish with some chopped parsley and the remaining pesto.
- Best served immediately.