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How We Celebrate: Ramadan

The holy month of Ramadan is beginning soon. During Ramadan, Muslims fast during daylight hours and devote themselves to their faith. Then, after the sun has gone down, families come together for Iftar; a meal to break the fast. We asked three people in the UK to tell us what recipes they make when breaking fast. Discover Om ali – a traditional Levant dessert – as well as Punjabi samosas and a delicious Date and pistachio loaf cake...

Mahmoud and Ahmad, from Za'atar Bake in Oxford, share Mahmoud's mum's recipe for om ali; a dessert made with pastry, condensed milk, nuts and dried fruit. You can find the recipe here

Numra, from Empress Market in London, makes Punjabi samosas a little different with a saag paneer filling. Here's the recipe:

Punjabi samosas

Makes 12
Takes 55 mins, plus straining and cooling

Ingredients:

2.5ltr full fat milk
3 lemons, juiced
2.5ltr vegetable oil, plus 1 tbsp for shallow frying
1 onion, finely chopped
4 vine tomatoes, finely chopped
½-1 tsp chilli powder (depending on your spice preference)
½ tsp ground turmeric
1½ tsp salt
795g tin spinach purée
1 pack ready-rolled shortcrust pastry
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp plain white flour ketchup, tamarind sauce or coriander chutney, to serve

Method:

  1. Bring the milk to a rapid boil in a large saucepan, then turn off the heat. Pour in the lemon juice and stir, allowing the milk to curdle. Set aside to cool. 
  2. Line a colander with a muslin cloth and pour the cooled milk in to separate the curds and whey. Lift the corners of the muslin and twist and squeeze all the whey through, then discard, then decant the paneer curds into a plastic container. 
  3. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wide-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and stir until soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3-5 mins until the water evaporates and the mixture dries out, then add the chilli powder, turmeric and salt. Stir and let the mixture cook for a further 2 mins. 
  4. Add the spinach purée and continue cooking for 5 mins until the water evaporates, the curry sauce has thickened and the oil begins to separate. Aim to dry the curry out as much as possible so it doesn’t wet the pastry as you form the samosas. Remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature. 
  5. Crumble large chunks of the paneer into the curry and gently fold together. 
  6. Lay the ready-rolled pastry out, parchment side down, sprinkle the cumin seeds over and use a rolling pin to gently incorporate the seeds and thin the pastry sheet slightly. Cut the pastry into a dozen 12cm triangles. 
  7. Mix the flour with 2-3 tbsp tepid water to form a paste. To create the samosas, place a pastry triangle in the palm of your hand, one side resting against your thumb (this will be the top). Dab the little finger of your other hand in the flour paste and use it as a glue to seal the other two sides of the triangle together, applying a little pressure to create a cone. Make sure it is full ysealed so the filling doesn’t leak during frying.  
  8. Add 1 tbsp spinach paneer into the cone, then apply more flour paste across the open end of the samosa and seal it shut. Slightly fold this sealed end to one side of the samosa so it will sit up on a tray or pan before frying. 
  9. Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer or deep saucepan to 170°C, or drop a small piece of pastry in the oil and if it sizzles, it’s ready. (If the oil is too hot, it will brown the pastry from the outside, leaving a raw interior pastry.) Fry the samosas in batches for 3-4 mins on each side or until they are a light golden brown. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Serve with ketchup, tamarind sauce or coriander chutney. 

Tip: To use up leftover acidic whey, add a few spoonfuls to any vegetable ferment or use in place of juice or milk in a smoothie for a tangy taste.

Dina runs dinewithdina; a recipe website and spice shop. You can find her recipe for a date and pistachio loaf cake, served with labneh and honey, here:

Date and pistachio loaf

Serves 8
Takes 20 minutes to prepare, 60 minutes to cook

Ingredients:

150g shelled pistachios, plus extra for decoration
125g caster sugar
150g unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs
210g self-raising flour 
¼ tsp baking powder
70g plain yogurt 
75g vegetable oil 
1 lemon, zested
1 tsp vanilla extract 
150g pitted dates, finely chopped
250g labneh or 300g strained Greek yogurt
3 tbsp honey, plus extra for drizzling 
1 pomegranate for decoration, optional 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, fan 180°C fan, gas 6 and grease and double line a 2lb loaf tin. 
  2. Using a food processor, grind 125g pistachios to a fine powder and roughly chop the remaining 25g. 
  3. In a large bowl or stand mixer, mix together the sugar, butter and pistachios until you have a creamy pistachio butter. Add the eggs and mix to combine.  
  4. Add the flour, baking powder, yogurt, oil, lemon zest and vanilla extract and fold until everything is combined and you have a smooth batter. Fold in the dates and chopped pistachios.  
  5. Pour the batter into the loaf tin and cook for 55-60 mins or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Check the cake after 35 mins and cover with foil if it’s browning too quickly. Once cooked, leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then cool on a rack. 
  6. Meanwhile, mix the labneh, honey and a pinch of salt together. Once the loaf is cooled, cut it into thick slices. Add a dollop of the labneh, a drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of sea salt, a few pistachios and some pomegranate seeds, if you like.

This video was shot in March 2021 following COVID-19-compliant guidelines.

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