Dubai: It is a fusion Iftar at the AlAni household.
Saudi expat Karima AlKaisi, invites us for a family gathering for Iftar (the meal eaten after sunset during Ramadan) at the villa of her sister-in-law Maha Al-Farhan in Nad Al Hamar, Dubai.
Al-Farhan and her husband Ghaith AlAni are long-term expats and business professionals based in Dubai.
Just like Karima AlKaisi and her family who have made the UAE their home for decades.
We are welcomed into a fusion Iftar that rings in flavours of Saudi Arabia and Iraqi cuisine.
Karima said: “The Saudi Arabian cuisine is similar to traditional Emirati food. Our celebrations are similar, too. We are neighbouring countries after all and share a history together. But you will be surprised to note that there are common dishes we share with Iraqi cuisine as well.”
Maha said the holy month of Ramadan is a time to reset the mind and body.
“It is time to slow down. Throughout the year, we lead a busy life taking little time to reflect on ourselves and who we are. This month allows us to reflect upon ourselves.”
Karima could not agree more.
“The month of Ramadan is a great time to get more spiritual than before. It is about prayers, family bonding, meditating and reflecting on where we are as individuals and community.”
At the AlAni household a family reunion takes place for Iftar.
Karima’s daughter Shahad AlFarhan and her cousins Hadeel Alani and Sama AlAni also share their love for the month of Ramadan.
Hadeel, 18, said: “Ramadan for me is all about family bonding. My earliest memories of Ramadan is visiting my grand-mother in Sharjah. My uncles, aunts and cousins would all meet up at my grand-mother’s place to pray and break the fast together. It was truly memorable.”
For Sama, 16, Ramadan has taught her resilience and patience.
“As children, we did not realise the essence of fasting. But as we grew up, we know fasting teaches us many things. It allows self-introspection, patience, resilience and reminds us to be grateful for what we have.”
Shahad could not agree more.
“Family values, bond come into focus even more during Ramadan. Ramadan for me personally heightens my spirituality. I pray more and it is a time to reset, meditate and reflect on one’s own self.”
Zainab, Maha’s sister said Ramadan teach youngsters to share, love and respect one another. “It is a time when we as a family take time out for each other and learn to help the community at large.”
On the menu
Karima has prepared an elabore menu for the family Iftar.
There are two soups on the table – a lentil soup and the second is Al Hab. For the main course, there is Harees, Jareesh, Margoog and salad on the side. For dessert there is a traditional lugaimat and sago.
Ghaith said: “What you see on the table is only a teaser. When our entire family gets together, it is an even bigger spread.”
Karima added that the Iftar spread for the family tends to shrink in size as the Ramadan comes to a close. “Usually the first day of Iftar we have a huge spread. But gradually through the month, the spread shrinks in size as nobody is able to eat a full course meal. We are not able to digest a big meal by the end of the month.”
Maha explained the norm usually is to break the fast with dates and laban. “We don’t eat a full course meal immediately instead have food in little quantity, but frequent breaks. Laban is very cooling and soothing for the stomach and is a great way to prepare the body for a food intake after a long break.”
“Fruits, tea and coffee are in plenty. Saudi nationals love their coffee while Iraqis love their tea. So we have both on the dining table.”
“This dish has its origins in the Saudi region of Qassim, and from there it moved to the rest of the regions and neighboring countries. Key ingredients of this dish includes jareesh (crushed wheat), yoghurt, and meat.”
Jareesh (crushed wheat):
- Wash rice and Jareesh (crushed wheat) till water is clear.
- Heat oil in a large pot, cook the onions till soft, add the rice and Jareesh and coat in the hot oil.
- Add the cinnamon and water then dissolve it with the meat – can be chicken or mutton.
- Cover with a lid and let it cook till all water is absorbed for about two hours.
- Once the Jareesh is cooked stir in the yoghurt.
- o Heat some clarified butter (ghee) over a low flame, add onions and stir every few minutes, cook till caramelised.
- o Add the spices and toast for a few minutes, turn off the heat and stir.
- Plate the Jareesh and pour the caramelised onions.
- Serve with a hot cup of tea.
o Plate the Jareesh and pour the caramelised onions. Serve with a hot cup of tea.