Dubai: Dubai expats Zaheer Fasih and Bushra Athar have had a busy Ramadan calendar with a series of iftars planned with loved ones. So much so that when they decided to play host last Friday, one of their guests Fahd Ali Zahid said the only slot available for him and his wife Mehvish to have them over was for breakfast on Eid.
“Today’s iftar was booked three weeks in advance,” said Zahid, adding that the group of friends are family as they spend a lot of time together.
In unison almost, Bushra and her friends present spoke of how they fall back on each other for support, whether it is for a doctor’s visit or babysitting during movie nights.
The iftar of this family of friends is a lively affair, as the adults and their children mingle over their meals.
“I can’t wait to devour all this delicious food on the table,” said eight-year-old Aaban who had come with his mother Sara Waqr.
“It’s a blessing and we look forward to breaking our fast together. The anticipation of what’s on the menu makes it exciting for both the kids and adults,” said Waqr.
Zaheer and Bushra are the perfect hosts as they urge their 20-plus guests to help themselves, even as their two-and-half-year-old daughter Hanna watches in delight.
It’s clear Bushra has made a lot of effort since the morning as there is so much to choose from: mozzarella sticks with carrots, cucumber and walnut salad, bread rolls, samosas, chicken shashlik, chicken nuggets, dahi vada, chole, peri peri bites, water melon, pani puri, chicken koila kadai, Peshawari mutton, juicy beef brisket and pineapple delight for dessert.
“The chole and dahi vada are Zaheer’s favourites. I try and make them the way his grandmother did,” said Bushra.
While we still have some of the traditional flavours of Pakistan, there’s a wider choice of foods now. People are more health conscious these days, so there are a number of healthy options. When you attend multiple Iftar events, it becomes important to eat wisely.
Zaheer said, “While we still have some of the traditional flavours of Pakistan, there’s a wider choice of foods now. People are more health conscious these days, so there are a number of healthy options. When you attend multiple Iftar events, it becomes important to eat wisely.”
He explained that while some families prefer to have iftar followed by dinner a couple of hours later, others tend to combine the two meals.
“That’s more practical, especially when it comes to small families, otherwise a lot of food goes waste,” said Bushra.
Zaheer said Eid is a very traditional affair. “We have two Eids after Ramadan. The first we call Sweet Eid as we make a lot of sweet dishes with authentic Pakistani meals. The other Eid which is after Haj is like a festival of meats which are also made the traditional way.”
For now though, the beef brisket is a huge hit as is the Peshawari mutton. And what makes them all the more enjoyable is the company of close friends, or rather family as they would like to call themselves.
IFTAR with Zaheer Fasih and Bushra Athar who live with their daughter Hanna in Al Furjan, Dubai.
Recipe: Chicken Shaslik
■ Boneless chicken cubes 1/2kg
■ Capsicum 2
■ Onions 2
■ Ginger garlic paste 1 tsp
■ Worchester sauce 1 tbsp
■ Ketchup 1 tbsp
■ Chilly garlic sauce 1 tbsp
■ Pepper 1/2 tsp
■ Chilli powder 1 tsp
■ Salt 1 tsp
Marinate chicken with ginger garlic paste and the sauces, peper, salt and chilly powder for one hour. Take skewers and add capsicum, onions and chicken cut in cubes. repeat till skewers are full. Preheat air fryer for 10 minutes and then place the shashlik sticks inside. Air fry for 25 minutes. remove and serve hot.