Fatima Sydow
Fatima Sydow
Mariam Harris
Mariam Harris
Split pea soup by Sydow, a fast, easy and nourishing dish to serve at iftar.
Split pea soup by Sydow, a fast, easy and nourishing dish to serve at iftar.
Oats and banana flapjacks by Harris.
Oats and banana flapjacks by Harris.
Koeksisters by Sydow.
Koeksisters by Sydow.
Salwaa Smith
Salwaa Smith
Ramadaan begins today and is observed by Muslims, around the world, fasting from dawn to dusk for a month.

Only pre-dawn meals known as suhur and a sunset meal called iftar are taken.

Three Muslim chefs provide ideas on what to cook.

Salwaa Smith, the author of Cape Malay & Other Delights Cookbook, said the earlier you start to prepare for Ramadaan, the better.

Many people, she said, have already started planning and stocking their freezers weeks and months in advance.

“Samoosas, pies, quiches, spring rolls, doughnuts and traditional Cape Malay koeksisters, all of which can be made in advance and frozen for up to six months.

“These savouries and sweet treats can be fried, baked or sugared before iftar and served with a healthy soup for family and friends.”

She said people should start thinking now already of what to prepare for meals.

“Thinking of what to cook takes about as much time and effort as the actual task. Make the most of your time now to browse through recipes and try out dishes to assess the cooking time and the amount of effort required. Make a schedule for one or two weeks and rotate it during the month, or make it for all 30 days.”

She said parents should involve their children in the preparation of the food by getting them to peel and chop onions, garlic, ginger, dhanya (coriander) and other herbs and vegetables, which can then be frozen for future use.

“Freeze them in portions ready to use. Likewise, vegetables for soup can also be prepared now - peel, chop, liquidise and pour into freezer bags.”

Kebabs or burgers can also be made, pre-baked and frozen, said Smith. “It is home-made, no preservatives. You’ll get approximately 18 burgers from a kilogram of chicken mince. You may substitute the chicken mince with steak mince. Make chicken mince by shredding fillets in a food processor.”

A meal idea for suhur, she said, was to make mini fritters, “which can be prepared the night before and popped into the oven in the morning”.

Lamb or mutton chickpea pilau was also a quick and easy meal, said Smith.

“The meat can be substituted with chicken pieces which reduce the cooking time significantly. No potatoes are added instead chickpeas are used.”

Fatima Sydow, of Facebook page Cape Malay Cooking with Fatima Sydow and author of Journey of Cape Malay Cooking with Fatima Sydow, said soup was an easy option during Ramadaan because large amounts could be made at a time and then portioned into containers and placed in the freezer.

“For the working folk, simply take out one container in the morning and then just before iftar time simply heat the soup until hot and serve.

“How easy is that? Lots of time saved.”

Koeksisters, she said, were also an easy option.

“You can make them in advance and freeze them in freezer bags, already fried and unsugared. Take them out of the freezer a few hours before, then simmer in sugar syrup. Finish them off by sprinkling with dessicated coconut. Saves so much time.”

Mariam Harris, the owner of cooked.inc who offers healthy options of foods that is freshly cooked and delivered to your door, said people need to go back to the basics.

“Traditionally speaking, when I grew up, my mom would make traditional oats for breakfast and some mornings we would have scrambled eggs with toast or cracker bread with cottage cheese or spice beef. We would also have fruit with it.”

However, she said people became a bit more modern and they started eating more processed foods like sausages and mini steaks for breakfast - which she said were heavy foods. “The eating style became a bit more unhealthy.”

But she said that people were starting to change this and are becoming more health conscious.

“My advice to people is to keep it simple. Oats in the morning, with two boiled eggs and a banana - things that are easily accessible to everybody.

“You don’t need to have fancy shakes.”

But, she said, if people want to have their shakes in the morning, they need to prepare their vegetables and fruit the night before and then just put it all in the blender in the morning.

However, she added that it was important to have a protein with the shake to keep you sustained throughout the day. She advised people to stay away from the coffee in the morning as coffee could cause dehydration, migraines and an upset stomach - instead, have a tall glass of water or green tea.

For supper, she suggested vegetable soup, dates and water as it was more complete and has all the nutrients required. Add a protein like chicken with a salad or vegetables as well.

“It is nice to see people moving back to eating healthier. You don’t need fancy food. It is important to cut down on the fried and oily foods that you are eating. Stay away from sausage and polony. Stay away from the refined foods, like pasta and white breads.”

She encouraged those who were into fitness to continue exercising during Ramadaan, but at a lower intensity.

Very important, she said, was to still get the two litres of water intake every day.

Her advice to eating during the fast is to go back to the way people used to cook and eat during the 1970s and 1980s, “before the 1990s mom came with her microwaved meals and all her instant meals”.

“All you need is to stick to your basics throughout the year, like protein, carbs, fats and foods with lots of micronutrients. Try not to complicate food - as long as it is whole food and not coming out of a box.”