I like food. Like, really like food. So growing up, I never particularly enjoyed fasting. For one whole month, every year, my family and I (and roughly 1.2 billion other poor, hungry souls around the world) would fast for Ramadan from sunrise to sunset without so much as a drop of water. For an adolescent who would have gladly exchanged a kidney for a pack of Doritos and a latte, fasting was totes hard.

Making gozleme

So when I would arrive home from school after a long day of chemistry, Frontline and counting the number of stomach rumbles I could produce between each set of calculus, I expected a feast for iftar (breaking of the daily fast). My mother, like many other Arab mums, relished the prospect of whipping out her entire Middle-Eastern culinary repertoire each night and watching our faces light up as we devoured our garlic and coriander infused broad beans (foul b’kizbara), wara aneb ( meat-stuffed vine leaves slow-cooked in a lemon-garlic sauce) and her incredibly smokey baba ghanouj.

As a hopelessly nerdy teenager whose idea of culturally diverse cooking was throwing a tablespoon of curry powder on my Maggi noodles, watching my mum cook her tantalising creations of pure gastronomic goodness was nothing short of awe-inspiring. My mum’s food was well-loved amongst friends so our home was often abuzz with people waiting to dig in to my mum’s creamy knafeh. 

Times have changed though and so has my palate. Nowadays, cooking is my passion and when I’m not reading a Jamie Oliver cookbook *blushes* or feeling incredibly inadequate after my nightly Masterchef fix (what on Earth is a roux soufflé?), I can usually be found baking a cake. Or bread. Or creating a new type of gourmet salad (true story).

Luckily, my husband shares this love of food and we regularly host friends and family for dinner. Like mum, however, I’ve inherited the uncanny ability to cook roughly twenty times more than what is actually going to be eaten. Which, in Ramadan, kinda defeats the point.

Ramadan is all about self-discipline and resilience. By depriving the body of its most basic need-sustenance- the fasting process indirectly forces the mind to learn how to cope with difficult circumstances and to keep going in spite of them.

Wrapping mantu dumplings

Biryani on stove top

Serving biryani

The iftar we hosted this year was a great example of such resilience. Forty people expected, ten dishes, five kilos of meat, two hours to go and one hostess about to go cray-cray.

As a pasta-addicted Lebanese-Syrian girl married to a Bangladeshi man with a penchant for all things sugar, the menu at our house tends to be quite colourful. On this particular night, we decided to start with piaju (deep-fried spicy onion crispy fritters with a hint of fresh coriander to balance the heat), lahm bajeen ( Lebanese mini-pizzas topped with tangy pomegranate-laced lamb) and move on to a spicy biryani, Afghan mantu, penne pesto, Lebanese fatteh ( toasted Lebanese bread covered with chickpeas soaked in a garlic-yoghurt sauce and toasted pine nuts), rocket, pear and blue cheese salad (except we sorta forgot the pear #fail) and the spinach gozleme that almost was. Kitchen disaster? Try catastrophe. But overall, it went really well and given the amount of food on the table I don’t think anyone noticed the missing gozleme.

piajuPiaju

Honey and soy chicken wingsHoney and soy chicken wings

afghan mantuAfghan mantu dumplings

Food from guests at iftar

Lebanese fatteh and biryaniFatteh and biryani

hosting an iftar dinner party

Lahm Bi'ajeen
Yields 10
Print
459 calories
54 g
49 g
18 g
21 g
3 g
213 g
328 g
23 g
0 g
12 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
213g
Yields
10
Amount Per Serving
Calories 459
Calories from Fat 159
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 18g
28%
Saturated Fat 3g
16%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 6g
Monounsaturated Fat 6g
Cholesterol 49mg
16%
Sodium 328mg
14%
Total Carbohydrates 54g
18%
Dietary Fiber 3g
11%
Sugars 23g
Protein 21g
Vitamin A
2%
Vitamin C
8%
Calcium
16%
Iron
24%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. Meat mixture
  2. 500g lamb or beef mince
  3. 3 large onions, diced
  4. 5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  5. ⅓ cup pomegranate molasses
  6. 3 tbsp tahini
  7. 1 tbsp dried mint
  8. 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  9. ⅓ cup pine nuts
  10. Dried chilli flakes ( optional)
  11. Salt to taste
  12. Dough
  13. 2 cups plain flour
  14. 2 tsp instant yeast
  15. 1 tsp salt
  16. 1½ cups lukewarm milk
  17. 2 tsp oil
  18. 1 tsp mahlab powder ( optional; available at Middle Eastern grocery stores)
Instructions
  1. Fry onions till they are soft and translucent. Add mince and fry off till browned.
  2. Stir in the crushed garlic and let fry for 2 minutes or till the garlic becomes aromatic. Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. Once cooled, mix in the rest of the ingredients except the pinenuts and set aside.
  4. To make dough, mix dry ingredients then slowly add the milk and slowly bring the dough together as you dough. Continue adding milk till you get a soft dough that's almost sticky but just dry enough to work with you may need less or more milk to achieve this. Knead knead knead! For a good 10 mins. Set aside to rise for 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Top 10cm rounds of dough ( or frozen paratha if using) with a good spoonful of the meat mixture and spread to within 1cm of the border.
  6. Making lamb bajeen
  7. Top with pinenuts and put in oven. Bake till crust is well-cooked and pinenuts are golden, around 20-25mins (10 mins if using paratha).
  8. Lamb bajeen from oven
  9. Try to keep your hands off them till they cool down. Burnt tongues hurt.
  10. Lamb bajeen and iftar feast
beta
calories
459
fat
18g
protein
21g
carbs
54g
more
I Ate My Way Through http://www.iatemywaythrough.com/

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Photography by Jennifer Lam