All my life, there has been one month that is extra special for me—the month of Ramadan. I remember, as a child, arriving home from school and running through the door to ask my mom if I could make the soup of the day. That tradition has fueled my passion for making soups and desserts. For more than 50 years, I have formed wonderful memories associated with this month that have touched my heart and become a big part of my personality.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is a religious month when Muslims fast from food and drink every day from sunrise until sunset. This year the month of Ramadan falls over April. Every night when the sun sets, families gather to break their fast together and share wonderful, home-cooked meals and memories.
Along with fasting, there are numerous traditions associated with Ramadan. In Egypt, families across the country prepare meals for their neighbors, friends and people in need. A common scene in neighborhoods is having rows of tables set up in the streets with a variety of food and drinks where everyone in the community is invited to break their fast. Some of the most beautiful and touching scenes of the month are families standing together in the kitchen making meals that will later be distributed to other families. I remember going door to door in my community and handing people the food my mom had prepared.
Foods of the holiday
As with holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, Ramadan has its own special meals. After fasting for the entire day, families come together to savor a delicious meal, starting with soup, a staple in every Egyptian meal. My family loved to make a new type of soup every day—tomato soup, chicken soup, lentil soup and more. Lentil soup is my favorite, and I have included my own personal recipe.
Besides soup, Ramadan is especially known for its desserts such as konafa (shredded phyllo dough with nuts and honey syrup), rice pudding and katayef (fried dough filled with either nuts or crème and drizzled with honey syrup). One of the most important dishes eaten during the month is fava beans. People love to have it right before sunrise—which helps them feel full throughout the day—as well as have it after sunset as a side dish. There are often various additions to the beans, including cumin, chili pepper, onions, olive oil, lemons, tomatoes and cilantro.
The delicious food during Ramadan is often served during large gatherings, where families take this opportunity to visit with neighbors, friends and extended family. We spend the month eating with friends and family while forming wonderful memories we will treasure for years to come.
- 5 cups water
- 2 cups red lentils, washed
- 1 medium onion, cut into 4 pieces
- 1 carrot, cubed
- 1 medium tomato, cut into 4 pieces (optional)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp. turmeric
- ¼ tsp. cumin Salt, to taste Ground black pepper, to taste 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
In a large soup pot, add water, lentils, onion, carrot, tomato and garlic. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 10 minutes then reduce the heat and simmer until all veggies are cooked and soft. Cool slightly, then purée the mixture to a creamy consistency. Mix in the spices and butter (it will look like a yellow soup). Serve with lemon wedges and warm pita.