Muslims in New Zealand are preparing to celebrate Eid-Al-Fitr as the month of Ramadan comes to a close. Since July 20 (down-under), Muslims have been fasting daily from sunrise to sunset – that has meant no food or drink. Fortunately, Ramadan has been in our winter this year (Ramadan moves 10 days every year), so days have been shorter and cooler.
When we lived in Saudi Arabia, Ramadan meant that, during daylight hours, water fountains were covered, restaurants were closed and eating/drinking (for non-Muslims) was only permitted behind closed doors. Productivity suffered as Muslims worked shorter hours. The Mutawa (religious police) were more vigilant and stricter, as they patrolled the shopping districts looking for lapses in behaviour and dress code. One year during Ramadan, although I was wearing a headscarf and abbaya (floor length black garment over my clothes), the wind caught my abbaya providing a glimpse of ankle, just as the Mutawa passed. They escorted me to a shop selling socks and waited, while I purchased a pair and put them on.
As unnerving as that experience was, there were good things about living in Saudi during the holy month of Ramadan. Beautiful Medjool dates, used to break the fast at sunset, were for sale everywhere. Other foods, only available during Ramadan, were on also offer. My favourites were sambusa, a fabulous lamb-filled triangular pastry and Harira soup.
Although we left Saudi Arabia in 1998, I still make many dishes we enjoyed when we lived there. So to end today’s blog post and to celebrate Eid-Al-Fitr, I want to share my favourite recipes for sambusas and harira soup.
- 1 lb. ground lamb
- 1/2 c. water
- 3 or 4 medium onions, chopped fine
- 3/4 t. – 1 t. salt
- 1/4 t. red hot pepper or 1/2 t. black pepper
- 1/2 t. ground cumin
- 1/2 t. ground coriander
- 1/4 to 1/2 t. garlic powder or 2 cloves garlic (mashed)
- 1/2 c. fresh coriander, chopped fine (could substitute chopped mint and parsley if fresh coriander isn’t available)
Cook meat with 1/2 c. water, salt and pepper until water is gone and then drain excess fat (meat should be dry). Add onions, gr cumin, gr coriander, garlic, fresh coriander and stir until well mixed.
- 2 1/2 c flour
- 1 t salt
- 1 c water (added a little at a time and mix thoroughly)
Knead pastry for about 5 minutes, keeping hands slightly moistened with water to keep the pastry from sticking to your hands. Let sit for 10 minutes. Take pieces and form into balls about the size of small eggs and drop into a dish of flour. Turn to coat. Roll each ball into a circle approximately 4 inches in diameter. Make 4 circles and proceed as follows. Lightly brush the top of the first circle (on one side only) with oil and lightly sprinkle with flour. Place second circle on top of the first circle and repeat with oil and flour. Repeat with third circle and finally top with the fourth circle. Do not brush fourth circle with oil or sprinkle it with flour. Take the pile and roll into a circle, keeping edges even. The circle should be about 10-12 inches in diameter and about 1/16 inch thick. Take pastry and heat on a hot skillet or griddle for about 15 seconds on each side, keeping it flat and not folded near the edges (make sure circle isn’t bigger than your pan). Remove to work surface and cut about 3 1/2 inch wide strips approximately 8 – 11 inches long. Separate the sheets (four to each sheet). Place a small amount of filling on the front part of one of the strips. Starting from the right front corner, fold snugly over to the left. Continue folding back and forth (making a tight triangular shape) until you come to the end of the strip. Seal edges with a flour and water paste.
Heat oil to 350 F. Deep fry to golden brown and drain on paper towels. After deep frying, this pastry stays crisp even after sitting.
***If this all seems too difficult, you can use egg roll wrappers and fold into a rectangular shapes instead but it won’t be as authentic.
For my favourite recipe for this hearty soup, touch or click here.
We wish our Muslim friends a very happy Eid!
Until next time,
Your Boomer Life Partners