“For the Moroccans, Ramadan is the time of home, a time where mothers and grandmothers care for the family and, as ever, that care is displayed through food. Around a big table of meticulously created meals sits the whole family, all at the same time, to share and enjoy the delicious food prepared with utmost care.”
– Assia Othman, Moroccan food blogger and cookbook author
While, not so long ago, a family sitting to savour a meal together used to be taken for granted, anyone living in today’s world knows how such simple joys have become quite challenging these days and might need taking extra measures and at times may even require pre-scheduling to happen! Today’s hectic lifestyle, the sonic speed, and work demands have left families striving for each other’s company! To many, Ramadan presents people with a welcome break from that challenge, allowing families to gather again, catch up and share meals together as they have always done, and are meant to be.
‘Silat Al Arham’ صلة الأرحام meaning gathering and connecting with the family is a fundamental virtue of the Holy month. Therefore, families ensure gathering and connecting.
In most cases motherly love is on full display through nurturing by food. We all know too well how our mothers always want to feed us. They always demand we gather and tempt us with spreads of deliciousness, and during Ramadan, knowing that everyone is hungry and appreciating good meals, they go out of their way and artistically create demanding and time consuming, extremely delicious treats for all their children to enjoy. The beauty of Ramadan is that this is a mission taken on not only by our mothers, but even our grandmothers. There is charm in the sight of a mother and grandmother standing together in the kitchen, cooking together for their children. I have always enjoyed watching mine, and now more than ever appreciate the sentiment and the effort of such generosity of spirit.
Food is at the centre of “home”, and it is the place for all the family to share joy. The preparation of food and the offering of an assortment of foods for Iftar is a reflection of that and a celebration of both: the bringing together of the family and breaking the fast.
I had asked Moroccan food blogger and cookbook author Assia Othman, to explain to me the culture of Ramadan in her country, and was really excited when she described Ramadan as being the month of home, where mothers and grandmothers denote great care to cooking to ensure a family gathers and enjoys a delicious meal. That is a short and sweet description of the spirit of Ramadan in my mind, and an essential part of what gives Ramadan its unique flavour. It is the ability to gather and to bring back the simple joys of life.
“During Ramadan we spend more time in the kitchen, and we prepare many dishes for Iftar. It is how we express love to our family.” Saya Assia. Despite our mothers making it all seem effortless, the production of such varieties is no easy task and in order to produce delectable daily meals, some preparation ought to take place in advance. “In Morocco, Ramadan is so special for us that the preparations generally start in Chaaban (the Arabic name for the 8th lunar month preceding Ramadan), when housewives start stocking their pantries with principal ingredients such as: sesame seeds, almonds, peanuts, chickpeas, lentils, honey… etc.”
In an elaborately charming cuisine such as the Moroccan cuisine, all food varieties are delicious, all recipes are irresistible, however, there are specific dishes synonymous with Ramadan and must be included on the Ramadan food menu, Assia explains: “We are known by three Moroccan Ramadani recipes: First, Sellou (a special mixture of nuts, sesame seeds, roasted flour, butter and honey) that we consume at Iftar. Second, we make kilos and kilos of Chebbakya (the famous Moroccan sweet served with the equally popular soup Hareera to balance the sweet and sour taste. Third the Brouates Louz (special filo samoosa, stuffed with almonds and soaked in honey flavoured with orange blossom water).”
When I asked Assia about the difference in eating habits, and cooking during Ramadan from the rest of the year, I learnt that she is with the consensus that Ramadan is a month to eat at home and specifically home cooked traditional cuisine, firmly stating that Ramadan is not the month for consuming fast food. She says that not only she but most Moroccans view eating and cooking as such during Ramadan. “In my country, Ramadan has special culinary rituals: Ramadan for Moroccans is eating at home. We prefer eating traditional foods and of course there is no way that we consume fast foods! We spend more time in the kitchen preparing assortments of dishes for Iftar. Generally, we start cooking at 1.00 pm preparing Hareera حريرة (recipe on this link), savoury samoosas, Batboot m3amar بطبوط معمر (stuffed bread), marqet dja’j مرقة دجاج (chicken tajine) , rghayef louz رغيّف لوز (almond mini pies), baghreer بغرير (Moroccan pancakes) and salads. Then for Sohour, in Morocco it is either Lmrawah المروّح (hot Moroccan bread served with honey and melted butter) or Tajine Kefta Bel Beed طاجين كفتة بالبيض (a very special meatballs and eggs tajine).”
A Traditional Moroccan Iftar Menu
“You see, the Moroccan Ramadani delights are various and always present a mix of the sour and sweet taste. One must try a traditional Moroccan Iftar, as it showcases the decadent taste of our amazing cuisine.” said Assia.
Food For Thought-
Expand the horizons of your dinner tables this Ramadan. The world is diversely beautiful!
Hope you have enjoyed this snippet from Ramadan in Morocco. Now I know Moroccan cuisine is a favourite for many, so do let me know which dishes are your favourite Moroccan dishes and the Moroccan recipes you would like to learn. I will make sure to post them for you. In the meantime here are some of my picks:
- Discovering Morocco
- The Mystery of Moroccan Tagines
- Reflections from My Visit To The Moroccan Berbers
- Traditional Upbringing & The Will To Do
- Moroccan Harira Soup
- Tagine of Lamb & Prunes
- Tagine of Fish & Caramelised Onions
- Making Moroccan Pastilla Sheets
- Traditional Moroccan Pigeon Pastilla
- Tagine of Chicken, Olives & Preserved Lemons
- Moroccan Preserved Lemons