With the holiest month in the Islamic calendar around the corner, plans for suhoor and iftar meals, which book long days of fasting, are in full swing around the world. Below are just a few of the recipes often found on tables in different cultures and countries during the holiday, which begins Saturday in the United States and ends with Eid al-Fitr on May 2. Some are savory, others are sweet, but all will certainly suffice.
A traditional Palestinian dish, this eye-catching mountain of turmeric-tinted rice, tender meat and shredded carrots comes together in a single pot in one hour, making it a suitable option to round out a day of fasting. Reem Kassis’s version streamlines the often time-consuming recipe by opting for boneless rib-eye steak and good store-bought stock.
While many versions of these delicate fried pastries can be found in North Africa and the Middle East, they are usually made with malsuka pastry sheets. In this version, which Jamel Charouel adapted from his father, spring roll wrappers are used to coat a ras el hanout-spiced chicken and potato filling.
A sunrise plate of Turkish scrambled eggs with tomato can be comforting and satisfying before a day of fasting. This Joan Nathan recipe invites inventiveness. Add your favorite fresh herbs and spices, top with crumbled cheese and sausage, or serve in a loaf of warm flatbread. Or not, and eat it as traditionalists do: plain, without much more than the tomatoes and eggs.
For many, Ramadan is not complete without these sweet filled pancakes. Qatayef asafiri are the smaller of two common varieties of this treat, filled with cream, partially sealed and drizzled with a thick syrup. In this recipe by Reem Kassis, the filling is scented with orange blossom and rose water, pipetted into the pancake cones, and dipped in pistachios.
For a simple and elegant iftar opener, dessert, or a decidedly luscious snack, these crème frache-covered dates do the trick and then some. This recipe, adapted by Julia Moskin, only requires five ingredients and could easily become the most popular item on the table. “An iftar without dates would feel very strange to all Muslims I know,” says Yvonne Maffei, who writes a popular cooking and food blog. My Halal Kitchenand from whom this recipe is adapted.
The celebration of Ramadan
The Islamic month of Ramadan, a time of prayer, fasting and feasting, began on April 2 in the United States.
Perfect for special occasions, this stew is aromatic and sumptuous, with tender chicken and a sauce that’s silky smooth with coconut milk. The recipe, adapted by Tejal Rao from chef Retno Pratiwi, builds a curry paste on a base of caramelized shallots before seasoning them with ginger, galangal, lemongrass, salam and lime leaves, and ground coriander seeds.
Semolina, the coarse, yellow flour ideal for making couscous and pasta, is great in baked goods because of its high gluten content. This sweet-smelling cake, adapted by Tejal Rao from Amanda Saab, a social worker from the Detroit area, uses frothy, airy yogurt, not eggs, to achieve its rich flavor and texture.
Subtly sweet, warmly spiced and supremely comforting, this porridge from Yewande Komolafe is a gentle way to break the fast. After a hearty dip in water, a little mashing, straining and some boiling, two simple ingredients — uncooked rice and raw peanuts — transform into a creamy base, ready to be dressed with tamarind paste, honey, or chopped dates.
Recipe: Kunun Gyada
A fresh and flavorful salad is the perfect accompaniment to a heartier and savory iftar main course. In this recipe, adapted by Julia Moskin of Chef Sameh Wadi, a dill and dried mint spiced yogurt obscures bits of diced cucumber and tart dried cherries, making each bite a surprising burst of flavors and textures.
These potato and pea samosas from Zainab Shah can be made in bulk and frozen for quick and easy iftar snack preparation. The vegan filling and crunchy exterior are sure to please any kind of eater, especially when paired with a herbaceous mint chutney†
A long boiled BiryaniSoup, like this one from Tejal Rao that’s layered with rice, spices, caramelized onion, braised lamb, and golden milk with saffron, is definitely a labor of love. But after an overnight marinade and several hours of cooking, it’s a dish that feels especially festive, and it’s worth building an entire evening menu around it.
A light tomato and pita salad, spiced with sumac and dried mint, and dressed in a garlic dressing of pomegranate syrup, lemon juice and olive oil is a refreshing way to break the fast. And this delicious recipe from Joan Nathan is garnering rave reviews: “You won’t be disappointed,” wrote a New York Times Cooking reader.
A savory bowl of cinnamon-scented harira is a soothing and delicious way to end a day of fasting. While the Moroccan soup traditionally features lamb, this version from David Tanis is vegetarian. But the absence of meat doesn’t make it any less hearty, as the recipe includes fava beans, broken pieces of thin pasta, and two types of lentils.
Recipe: Harira Soup
Adapted by Alexa Weibel from Chef Chintan Pandya, this fragrant lamb kebab recipe works just as well in meatballs and seared as it does on skewers. Don’t skip the deggi mirch, a chili powder that does double duty by adding both flavor and color to the ground meat.
Recipe: Seekh Kebab With Mint Chutney
In this Moroccan tagine Nargisse Benkabbou simmers in a generously seasoned lamb shank with onion, garlic, ras el hanout, cinnamon and saffron.
Recipe: Mrouzia Lamb Shank