Lockdown Ramzan: The Improvised Iftar Menu
Ramzan started on the 23rd of April this year but the only difference this time is that it's the lockdown time. Apart from that it also came in at the time when summers are at its peak! With the onset of summers, food options become a huge challenge, but so has the lockdown brought in a lot of added restrictions. The availability of fresh produce may not be as much as it would have been otherwise. Although breaking the fast with dates & water is a tradition, recommended by Prophet Muhammad, Iftar meals are nothing but elaborate.
Delhi-based chef & author, Sadaf Hussain says, "I have been observing fasts during Ramazan since I was 12, and the routine in our family starts from Sehri (the first meal of the day), followed by Iftar (evening meal to break your fast) and dinner which usually has meat. We follow the routine for the 29 days with different kinds of Iftar and Sehri only to conclude and feast on Eid."
"However, this year, it is not the same; don't get me wrong, we are still fasting, but the celebration is not happening the way it used to be. We are continually evolving our meals, even before the Ramazan month began."
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If you ever come to my house to have some iftar feast, Ammi will always serve a platter of pakoda (Indian fritters). These pakodas or as we call them, fulkiya are most made of chana dal. Anyway, pakodas and Ramazan goes hand in hand and served on most of the iftar dastarkhan. These pakodas are mostly street food across India (mainly north), Pakistan and Bangladesh. Growing up in #Jharkhand, we had a small street food cart close to our house which had many variants of pakodas and samosa, including Anda chop, as locals call it (fried boiled eggs in Besan batter). I have given it my twist where instead of frying the boiled eggs, I have mashed the eggs with boiled potatoes. This is an ode to all the street vendors who served fantastic food to every food lover round the clock but currently are locked in and unable to meet their ends. #Foodandstreets #ramadan #ramazan #ramadan2020 #feast #fast #feastagram #feastday #iftar #fritters #pakoda #Desi #recipes #Regional #Local #localcuisine #Eatlocal #eatthis #localfood #easyrecipes #eggs #potatoes #potato #boiled #fried
Delhi-based Times Food Critic & author, Marryam Reshii, who is currently quarantined in Kashmir, says "Dates are a huge problem here but the Kashmiri traditions of stocking up during winters have proven to be a boon at this time. There's absolutely no scarcity of fresh vegetables but the availability of meat is scarce." With utmost positivity and empathy towards the current lockdown situation, Marryam is focusing on being healthy and observing Ramazan like its meant to be. Although, not a meat-lover, she believes that Ramazan is all about giving up on something that's closest to one's heart. "But, a vegetarian Eid does sound a little grim", she laughs. "My husband loves Rogan Josh but this year, it seems unlikely for such an elaborate preparation due to the unavailability of fresh, halal mutton in the markets."
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In Kashmir, the bounties of Nature are everywhere: in the fields, in the marketplace...even on your chopping board in the kitchen. We are determined to consume every stalk of Kashmiri spinach that comes out way, because of the delicate, almost mushroomy flavour. Five weeks after eating it whenever we see it sold at the door-to-door carts. By the way, the chillies (which match the spinach exactly) are not the famous Kashmiri chillies that will grow to their full size in late summer and be plucked in early autumn when they turn red. These are ‘table chillies’ that are plucked every couple of times a week to sell to households for chutney etc. The South Kashmiri chillies are the gourmet’s prize. This bunch here lack the flavour. #spinach #spinachrecipes #koshurkhyenchyen #lockdown2020 #lockdownlife #lifeinkashmir #lifeinsrinagar
For Navi Mumbai-based business operations head, Samia Ansari, "This year, Ramzan is just like any other year. Our family hasn't ever been a fan of non-vegetarian food or very heavy Sehris. In fact, the lockdown is giving us an opportunity to watch our diet, now that most of the junk that we would like to eat for iftar is not available."
Confessing her love for fresh fruits & juices and with APMC markets being shut on most days, she understandingly says, "Iftar table in my house consists of a lot of fruits & dates, either a fruit juice or sharbat or milkshake with at least one fried item; it could include bhajiyas, samosas, cutlets, nugget or some chaat. Now that the fruits are limited, we still have one fried item (my mother has already prepared and frozen all the samosas and cutlets) and instead of having a variety of juices/sharbats, we will have to make do with some cold masala milk every day."
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Healthy & nutrition-filled Iftar
Ramzan can become a time when one indulges in rich & high-fat foods during Iftar, considering one observes the fast for an entire day. With the lack of fresh meat & other Iftar & Ramzan staples, protein-packed meals seem like the go-to options. "The lockdown is a great way has us including more items made of oats, sprouts and dals this year!," Samia laughingly admits.
Without making much fuss about anything this year, Marryam happily suggests, "If the availability of meat is a problem in your area, you can always try some Nutri-nuggets, which come closest to meat."
And, Sadaf is changing the Ramzan affair at his home to suit the unfortunate lockdown times; recreating recipes, welcoming so many vegetarian dishes that include lentils, soya, and bananas, to give the desired nutrition.
Major Missing while it's a lockdown Ramzan
"My brother and I have a ritual of going to Old Delhi, Okhla, and Nizamuddin during this beautiful month full of fast and feasting. We are lucky to get meat in our locality, but it's expensive or not readily available, and we're resorting to vegetarian kebabs. However, biryani is something we're going to feast on, be it mutton or chicken. Of course, I'm missing the Old Delhi trips with my friends until midnight, but our little tour will have to be pushed to next year!"
To Marryam, the streets near Jama Masjid & Okhla Market in Delhi will always be a great memory to reminisce along with friends this year, of course virtually. But one thing she'll truly miss this year is the Kachri Powder that she loves accompanying with her meals. Kachri Powder is a popular accompaniment in Rajasthan; made from varieties of cucumbers that look like melons, it is a wild & protein-rich vegetable that is sun-dried.
"The only thing I'm missing this year is the variety of fresh fruits. The stocks are limited and with Ramzan being right in the middle of summer, fruits would have been a great way to hydrate the body. Also, I'm missing my favourite dates, the ones available are of poor quality," Samia informs.
This year, however, the problems are different, we also think it is a small price to pay to ensure everyone's safety. It is okay not to go out. Stay home, stay safe, and experiment with your ingredients. "Eat all those greens that your mother has been trying to make you eat since forever", says Sadaf, signing off.
Although, it might be a vegetarian Eid for many, spreading joy through food within the family & virtual celebrations with the extended families is the need of the hour.