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August 20, 2010

Vegetarian Iftar: Ramadan Recipes from Around the World

Sarajevo these days is very much in the Ramadan fasting mode. The busy streets with čevap joints and coffee shops in Baščaršija have become quieter and are mostly frequented by the tourists; people start queuing to the bakeries after 6 pm to get somun, special Ramadan flat bread, for their iftar (evening meal that breaks the fasting). 

Mosque Still Life

All the shops feature boxes of imported dry dates on the most visible spots as the dates have a special place in the Ramadan diet and are eaten to break the fast as well as finish the iftar; in the late afternoon families could be spotted heading to the houses of their other family members to cook and share the evening meal - they are carrying bags of small gifts and vegetables for cooking and women are covered from head to toe in the nice fabrics and colors of their festive dresses; every evening the Ramadan cannon fires off about 8 pm signaling the time for the evening prayer and iftar. From my observations as opposed to the Orthodox Lent the Ramadan fasting is a very communal matter. During the Ramadan after abstaining from food and drink for the whole day you get together with your family members and friends to eat and celebrate the holy month while for those observing the Lent it always appears more of an ascetic personal struggle. I would like to try fasting for Ramadan once but this year I have just used it as an excuse to remind myself and the others about the wealth of the light vegetarian dishes served during the holy month and sourced from a wide range of countries where Islam is practiced. I am making this post to celebrate the gastronomic multiculturalism and emphasize the fact that the many vegetarian treats we know from our travels also have an important festive and religious meaning to the people living around the world. I have browsed through a wealth of the  food blogs for an inspiration and happy to share the amazing finds - do check the links for the recipes and interesting reading. And Ramadan Mubarak! 

Vegetarian Iftar Recipes from Around the World
Turkish pide bread is baked only during the Ramadan: it looks like the summer sun and has beautiful dimples. Hungarian Gyor has traded this recipe for the recipe of Hungarian goulash and as far as I am concerned she has got the real deal. Naan is yeasted flat bread popular in Pakistan and Afghanistan and no Ramadan meal in these countries is complete without a few loaves. We are lucky to get hold of the naan making insights right from Kabul on Afghan Cooking Unveiled.
In Tunisia you would break fasting with leblebi, a chickpea soup. It is such a vegetarian treat as featured by The Well Seasoned cook and well... it is well seasoned: rich in flavor and nutrition it will be a definite reward after a day of fasting.  Moroccans have their take on a cheek-pea soup called harira: besides the chickpeas they use green lentils and vermicelli for this hearty vegetarian dish. It is brought to us right from the food stalls of Djemaa-El-Fna in Marrakech by Chef in You who has also photographed the cooking process step-by-step.
Recipe of the immortal Turkish red lentil soup along with insights into the world of professional chefs' tricks are shared by the Canadian ladies who have attended my most favorite cooking class in Istanbul. Iranians break their fast with Ash reshteh, a noodle soup with herbs. Its seems intuitive that the best recipe can come only from My Persian Kitchen staffed with the knowledgeable cooks and consultants.
Samosa is a triangle-shaped stuffed pastry that would be an integral part of iftar in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Balgladesh. Eliza gives step-by-step instructions to stuff and wrap samosas so nicely that from a simple street food items they turn into quite elegant dudes. Börek is a filo-dough stuffed pastry known from the Ottoman times. It comes is a part of the appetizer iftar platter in Turkey and on regular day it is a glorious vegetarian snack. A mouthwatering recipe is shared by the Sound Indian by origin Reshmi.
Festive, vegetarian, Middle Eastern - can a dish get any better? Ful medems is Egyptian treat of mashed brown fava beans with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and spices. Magda is sharing a video recipe too.  However stereotypical but true: Lebanese would not miss savoring delicious hummus during the iftar. Among many takes on this vegetarian favorite I have found the olive hummus that comes from...you've guessed it!..Dallas and the Cooking Weekends.
There is no summer iftar in Lebanon without a bowl of fattoush, vegetable salad with pieces of pita bread that was originally invented to make goof use of the bread leftovers and has become such a festive dish: light, colorful and delicious. There is even a melody in this one by Ali, a musician from the Kansas City.  Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern salad based on bulgar wheat. It’s filling and has a bright, fresh flavor from the mint, tomatoes and lime juice. Jen from the Kitchen Addiction re-thinks it and adds chickpeas and artichokes for the ultimate filling summer meal! 
Mujaddara is a Middle Eastern rice and lentil pilaf. Learn to work wonders with humble ingredients and check out the recipe by Culturally Confused who serves mujaddara with tomato sauce for the ultimate summer touch on this vegetarian Ramadan dish. Such a festive meal as iftar can't get more festive as with flavorful and colorful couscous from Morocco. The Kalyn's kitchen took a poetic license and created a masterpiece: whole wheat couscous salad with persimmon, grapes, green onion, mint, and pine nuts.
Qatayef Asafiri are sweet stuffed pancakes rather symbolic for the Ramadan time: to spare you a trip to Damascus (there are no many reasons to spare a trip to Damascus, though) find out the most authentic way to make them and check out the recipe by Anissa Helou. Turkish deserts supremely high-on-sugar become more subtle during the Ramadan when you can eat güllaç, a milk desert with a delicate touch of rose water - Hulya is sharing all the intricacies of making this delight.
Basbousa is a Middle Eastern sweet widely served in Ramadan: it is a delicious almond semolina cake often cut into little diamonds. One piece by one and the whole tray is gone! No worries - Fun and Food teaches you how to make more. Dates are not only eaten raw to break the fast but provide inspiration for a range of deserts and sweet bites. Anne from Simple Easy Recipes has got inspired and sharing the outcome in the recipe of the Easy Dates Squares, a nice sweet bite for Ramadan.
Divine and refreshing sharbat is a milk drink from India and Pakistan which is popular for family gatherings including the Ramadan ones. Exotic Aooh Afza Syrup, cardamom seeds, almonds, cashews and pistachios - are you still with me? Why? Immediately got to Pham Fatale for the recipe. Another wonderful drink served for iftar on the Indian subcontinent is lassi. Made from yogurt, seasonal fruits and spices it is truly unforgettable - I would travel there again just for a glass of lassi! Meanwhile, the splash of flavours (and colors) is coming from the Purple Foodie.

8 Responses to Vegetarian Iftar: Ramadan Recipes from Around the World:

Magda @ Be Nutritious said...

Thank you for including my recipe. I read your about page, I grew up like you, in Poland in my grandma's house with fresh vegetables and fruits from our garden. I didn't even hear about organic until I came to US since almost everything in Poland was just natural. We used to eat whatever season gave us and my grandma never let us throw away food.
I still remember eating apples and pears from my grandma's trees, oh those were the times, I wish I'd be a kid again :)

Olga Tikhonova said...

Magda, I am so glad you've stopped by and have shared the dear memories I can so relate to) I think the memories of the stuff we ate as kinds are the strongest food impressions we get in the lifetime really)

Kalyn said...

What a lovely collection of recipes. Thanks for including my couscous salad!

janet said...

What a lovely round-up. I am honoured to have been included. :)

Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction said...

Great collection of recipes... Glad you liked my recipe for tabbouleh!

Hulya said...

Thanks for helping me to introduce Turkish Cuisine by including our traditional recipe from Ottoman Cuisine.

Reshmi Ahmed said...

Thats a great round-up and iam so honored and thrilled for having my Börek recipe included here. Thank you so much Olga :)

Olga Tikhonova said...

Ladies, you are the ones to thank for the inspiration indeed)

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