بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمَـانِ الرَّحِيمِ
السلامُ علیکم readers!
I hope and pray that your Ramadan is going well. I thought I’d pop in here and share a recipe that I think would be very beneficial for Muslims everywhere, but especially for those who are fasting long, dry and arid days in very hot weather like us here in the Eastern part of the world. Think parched throats, dry lips, and cotton-wool tongues.
The thing we all need to realize is that, as far as eating in Ramadan goes, less is always more. This month is supposed to be a “break” for us, in every way: spiritual, physical, social, gastronomical, and occupational. We should accept the fact that during this month, every aspect of our otherwise busy lives will become reduced, as we turn more to Allah in worship. This includes what and how much/often we eat.
And this is coming from a die-hard foodie (perennial chatori) like myself, who loves her tawa paratha’s, green chilli omelets, and cup of chai any day!
Yes, during this month, even someone like me can keep the desires of her taste-buds aside and focus more on nutrition and hydration for the sake of attaining a better focus on, and higher quality of, worship and spirituality.
So when Ramadan started coming in hotter months a few years ago, it happened to also coincide with the commencement of my 2 older children’s observance of this awesome pillar of their Islamic faith. As a mother, I became concerned about their adequate nutrition and hydration.
So I did some food research from both scriptural and modern day fitness-guide sources, and, all praises to Allah, came up with a very easy-to-prepare solution for my children’s Suhoor, switching to it myself as well, in order to join them for motivation.
I tweaked the ingredients for this recipe to adjust it to include some blessed components that are endorsed by the sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Here is the recommended list of ingredients:
1. Oats (rolled, instant, white, or whatever type you choose). Oats are what we call جؤ in Urdu/Arabic.
2. Zamzam water (use normal water if you don’t have any Zamzam).
3. Dates (I chose mainly Ajwa because of their spiritually-curing capabilities, but threw in some mabroom/safri/amber dates as well).
5. Whole milk
6. Chia seeds (called tukhm balanga/malanga in Urdu).
7. A pinch of black seeds, or Kalonji. Use an odd number of seeds.
8. Optional: nuts of your choice, such as cashews, pistachios, almonds or walnuts. I left them out as I did not want it to become too rich.
Now take a look at the above list of ingredients. With the exception of perhaps chia seeds and nuts, every ingredient above has been endorsed by/mentioned in the Hadith of our Prophet, as being either beneficial for health or a source of cure.
Now you just put the water, de-seeded (pitted) dates, honey, chia seeds, black seeds, and oats in a pan and start cooking on medium flame. Remember to take an odd number of dates. I took too many dates (around 21), so it became too sweet.
As for the exact measures of the other ingredients, I just went with my personal preference (andaza). Just don’t put in too much water, as the dates and oats soften and become mushy pretty quickly.
Very quickly, this mixtures begins to look like this (below).
Keep cooking, and occasionally stirring, but on low flame now.
When the water has all but dried up, you can now add the whole milk, as much as you wish. Bring to a very slow boil.
The simmering date porridge begins to look like this:
By the way, I put in zero fat. No ghee, oil or butter. My purpose was to make a light porridge or pudding-type breakfast food, not a Pakistani-style, fried halwa. If you want to throw in fat, you can go ahead and experiment.
At this point, you can turn off the heat once your mixture has reached the desired consistency.
Your breakfast/suhoor date porridge is now officially ready. It takes less than half an hour to cook this (excluding the time to pit the dates).
It is a very, very healthy and blessed option for a nutritious Suhoor for everyone in the family!
However, if you are curious like me, you can keep on cooking the above porridge on low flame, until the milk has dried up completely.
I went ahead with the second option and got a very rich and heavy purée-type date pudding that looked like this:
Even though it might look good, it didn’t go down too well with my family once it cooled down completely. The children liked it when it was hot, but after cooling down it was too much like a sticky paste.
Us Pakistanis are so used to our fried, rich halwas aren’t we? 🙂
Any way, so in order to save the dish, I took two more steps.
Before I detail those, however, I want to suggest how you can still use the above mixture during Ramadan.
You can basically break up into small portions the above mixture and freeze these portions. Then, every morning before Suhoor, boil a portion of the mixture in an amount of whole milk of your choice to have a tasty, blessed, and nutritious date porridge that will provide you with the strength that you need to fast comfortably during the long, hot Ramadan days. You will not feel too hungry or drained, insha’Allah.
Please avoid adding sugar or more water, though. Believe me, the dates and honey provide enough sweetness to this dish.
So I went ahead and added flour, baking powder, and cooking oil to the above mixture, and then baked it.
The date cake came out like this, pretty heavy and rich:
I drizzled it with some honey as soon as it came out, and the children loved eating it straight out of the oven. As you can see in the above photo, a quarter was gone almost immediately.
However, once it cooled down, once again, it lost its charm. It was too sticky, chewy and heavy.
So, it was time for me to think up a damage control strategy again. Sigh.
I thought about it, and decided to convert it into biscotti! I broke up the above cake into 2-inch x 3-inch x 1-inch pieces and baked them on a tray for some time on a low flame, in the oven. Just until the rich and damp texture of the heavy pieces of date pudding turned harder and more cake-rusk-like.
I couldn’t snap a photo of the final product as it was consumed by everyone pretty quickly once it came out.
Everyone hands down loved the hot date biscotti! It was gone so fast I hardly had time to save a piece for myself to have with my tea later.
So alhamdulillah my experimental project of this blessed, Prophetically endorsed recipe was a success, at the end of the day.
In retrospect, I think I made a mistake when I put in 21 dates. Went a little overboard. Heh. 🙂
Use less odd-numbered dates so that the mixture is not as heavy as mine turned out. You can also use higher quantities of both oats and milk in order to make it more porridge-like, and less like a rich date pudding.
I thought I’d share this recipe with my readers even though Ramadan is ending.
But hey, better late than never, eh?
You can also use all of the above ingredients to make your own “Islamic” version of overnight oats for Suhoor. Just reduce the amount of Zamzam water when making overnight oats.
May Allah grant us all the blessings of this beautiful month, and good health throughout the rest of the year. Aameen.
تَقَبَّلَ اللّهُ مِنَّا وَ مِنْكُمْ