Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 35, Tuesday September 9, 2008



Iftar with Sam Q


Dearest Diary,
It has been so long since I have logged on to you. But...what can I say? Sometimes life attacks you with such force, that you kind of stop for a while, recuperate from the blow and then get back on the bucking horse again. I know Diary, you are trying to read between the lines to figure out what had happened to me...but to relate ones woes publicly, is one of the most boring activities I can think of. So, I think I will pass on this one. But to put your mind at rest, whatever that was happening...is over, and I am well on the road to recovery now.

So, to get back on track Diary, once again the Holy month of Ramadan is gracing our lives. So while I was again reading about the significance of giving, during this particular month, my way of giving... started the day before, with a Sam Q kind of a twist.

Let me relate, Diary. I had gone to a grocery store to do my usual last minute "boot" and "moori" shopping, I decided to wait in the car while my man Friday did the needful. While waiting, a puzzling scene was taking place next to my car. As my windows were up, I tried to decipher the charade of a young child and an old man. The child must have been six or seven years of age, but had the height of a four year old and the weight of a two year old. Anyway, the child in question was very thin, with wiry arms, bald as a shiny, boiled egg, glistening chocolate brown in colour, wearing an over sized pair of red granny pants and a plastic gunny bag slung over the shoulder.

All I could figure out was he/she had a mouth, which could yap, and at some intervals, the old man was putting his two bits in. And then after a few seconds, the old man just turned and walked away. You should have seen the look of frustration on the child's face. The little tyke suddenly did an astonishing thing. He/she picked up two medium sized rocks, and with all his/her might, threw it at the receding man's back. I was secretly hoping that at least one would hit the mean panjabi-clad man, but the poor thing... missed.

After standing there for another ten ramrod seconds, with a sorry sigh of defeat, the tyke shifted the bag on the other shoulder and was going off muttering to oneself. By that time my curiosity level had reached its peak, and I had already decided that it was a girl-child. Her body language said so. Her sheer determined look, protective stance, and that twist of the jaw while spewing the profanic obscenities, only spelt WOMAN.

By that time, I had my window down and was already calling her towards me. The scowl then vanished, replacing it with a sweet, questioning look towards me. I then asked her, what happened, and why was she throwing rocks at an elderly person?

Oh Diary, if I could only describe that upturned, earnest face to you? She instantly, without any shyness said to me, "Did you not see that two taka on the ground? I saw it first. But the old man... took it away from me." As soon as she recalled the incident, her features rearranged into a picture of sadness. I felt like such a heel to be the person reminding her of her misfortune again. So then I said, "So you're feeling sad losing that 2 taka? How about I give you something to make you happy?"

She unabashedly waited for me to do as I had just promised. So I dug into my purse, got ten crisp 10 taka notes out, rolled it into a funnel, and gave it to her, and also told her to hide it before anybody else took them away. As I was even giving her the advice, I was wondering, where would she hide it? But now I know how the phrase "street-smart" has come into our vocabulary. As she felt the thickness of the money, even before counting it, she gave me a huge ear-to-ear smile, which helped me to see her polo-mint-like teeth, she quietly rolled the money into her waist-band. And for the final time, she looked up to me and said "Thank you". Yes, in English, thank you.

I still don't know what to make out of that "thank-you." It was so real, so heart-felt, and so Gulshan. So lastly Diary, by 'giving' her those ten taka notes, I hope I made her day, because she sure made my day by 'giving' me that special thank-you.

Happy Ramadan Diary. Pray, cook, eat, shop, give, and be merry the Sam Q way!

You know how I am really not into typical iftar items. So here are some of my simple yet different iftar and dinner recipes.

Shrimp bruschetta
1 French loaf
olive oil for brushing
14 oz small tomatoes
10 fresh basil leaves
½ kg of boiled shrimps
6 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, cut in half

Cut the French bread into eight slices, each 2 cm thick, brush both sides with olive oil and toast on a hot flat pan for about 3 minutes on each side, until light brown & crusty. Leave to cool slightly. Meanwhile quarter the tomatoes and place in a bowl. Add the basil, boiled shrimps, extra virgin olive oil. Season & mix well and set aside for 5 minutes.

Lightly rub the garlic over the bread. Place 2 to 3 tbsp of tomato & shrimp mixture on top of the bread and arrange the bruschetta on a large plate.

Mango smoothie
Blend 80gm fresh mango pulp, 100 gm natural yoghurt, 120 gm ice cubes and sugar to taste till its smooth.
Pour into a tall glass and garnish with a slice of mango.
If mango is hard to find now, use canned peaches.

Chocolate filled French toast
3 eggs
185ml milk
1 tbsp caster sugar
15g butter
8 slices white bread
100g chopped chocolate
icing sugar for dusting.

Whisk the eggs, milk, sugar and a pinch of salt in a flat dish. Heat the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat.
Dip two slices of the bread into the egg mixture, turning them over until they are completely coated. Put them in the frying pan and sprinkle each one with a quarter of the chopped chocolate.

Soak another of the two slices of bread in the egg mixture and put on top of the chocolate bread in the pan to make sandwiches.

Press lightly with a spatula do seal the edges.
Cook for 3 minutes each side or until golden brown. Remove from pan and serve immediately. Serve dusted with icing sugar. immediately. Serve dusted with icing sugar.

Salmon with Teriyaki chilli sauce
1 tbsp oil
4 pieces of salmon fillets
? cup (80ml) of teriyaki sauce
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
4 green onions (sliced thinly)

Heat a large non-stick frying pan. Add oil and salmon, skin side down. Cook until browned on both sides. Remove from pan and keep warm.
Add teriyaki sauce and chilli sauce to same pan, cook, stirring until hot.
Drizzle salmon with sauce & top with green onions.

Baked fish with Thai spices
2 fish fillets (about 200g each)
1 stalk lemongrass finely chopped
a small piece of ginger finely chopper
1 red chilli finely chopped
1 garlic flake finely chopped
1 tbsp fish sauce
juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp brown sugar
a handful of coriander leaves roughly chopped

Heat oven to 200ºC. Tear off two large sheets of aluminium foil and place the fillets in the centre of the foil sheets. Make a sauce by mixing together all the remaining ingredients. Spoon the mixture over the fillets. Seal the foil. Bake in the oven for 30 mins or till done. Serve hot with boiled white rice.

Thai chicken patties
500g minced chicken
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cm ginger, grated
1 red chilli, chopped
1 stick lemon grass, chopped
3 tbsp coriander, chopped
½ an egg beaten
8 spring onions, finely sliced
25g sesame seeds lightly toasted
lime wedges and sweet chilli sauce

Place the chicken in a bowl with, garlic, ginger, chilli, lemon grass, coriander, egg, half the spring onions and salt to taste. Using wet hands divide the mixture into 12 patties. Fry them on a hot griddle till each side is cooked through. Serve with the toasted sesame seed scattered on them along with remaining spring onions, a squeeze of lime and sweet chilli sauce.

Special Feature

An oasis for the soul

In stark contrast to Makkah's hustle and bustle, Medina, the second holiest city for Muslims bears a unique atmosphere of peace and tranquility. Even during Ramadan with millions of pilgrims trotting the small city, the sense of serenity still lingers in the air, among the palm groves or through the great plains of basalt. Needless to say it is because of the ever sacred land that had embraced the Best of Creation, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and Abu Bakr and Umar (may Allah be pleased with them), his closest companions.

People come here for one place and one person only. The pull of the Haram, the Sanctuary, is only inevitable, and as the sun weakens in the west, the pilgrims head towards one destination. During Ramadan in this city, it would be possible to switch off the traffic lights in the late afternoon. Every road becomes a one-way street, pulling the visitor towards the cool, radiant heart of the city, the Masjid-al-Nabawi.

Prayer in the Rawda is especially sought after. An authentic hadith affirms that 'the space between my grave and my pulpit is one of the Meadows of Paradise.' And Tarawih in Medina is one of the great spectacles of the world. While Tarawih in Makkah is an experience of austere majesty; in Medina, it is characterized by delight and by love.

Though the religious scenario is not of much difference than that of Makkah, pilgrims are said to enjoy a distinct flavour of Islam in Medina. Saying prayers and breaking fast in the close proximity of the Ar-Rawdah an-Nabawiyah are treated as a blessing that only the lucky ones are bestowed with.

After breaking the fast with dates and a cup of plain yoghurt served by locals in the holy mosque, the city wakes up to a vibrant, multi-cultural nightlife. People from all over the world throng the nearby eateries, which overtake the air of musk and sandalwood by an aroma of Turkish kebabs, Lebanese meze, Malaysian satay, Sudanese chicken and beans. In the darkness, street vendors offer the garments of numerous countries. Prayer beads of olive pits, amber or ebony dangle from shelves. Women browse through jewellery, heaped high with no fear of thieves.

Even after all these, Medina is less commercialised than Makkah. One would not often see the towering hotels or long stretches of modern shopping malls. Instead Medina is dotted with numerous holy sites, which include the graveyard of Jannath-ul-Baqee, famous mosques like Quba and Qiblatain, battlefields of Badr and Trench, Mount Uhud, etc. Many pilgrims make it a point to do Ziarah by visiting these sacred places.

A fasting Medina has other offerings too. There is one mosque no bigger than a prayer mat, surrounded by two layers of bricks, which marks the spot where the Blessed Prophet once prayed. Then there are the tribes of Aws and Khazraj, who welcomed the Prophet and his teaching, still living in Medina retaining their traditions of courtesy and hospitality. All these add up to the greatness of Medina as a holy city.

So as obvious as it is, Ramadan indeed feels different in Medina Al Munawwarah.

By Shakhawat Imam Rajeeb

Do's And Don'ts

...on fasting

During the holy month of Ramadan, our diet should not differ very much from our normal habit. The diet should be such that we maintain our normal weight, with out any loss or gain. However, if one is overweight, Ramadan can be an ideal time to lose those extra pounds.

In view of the long hours of fasting, we should consume slow digesting foods, rich in dietary fibres. Slow digesting foods last up to eight hours, while fast-digesting foods last for three to four hours only.

Slow-digesting foods are those that contain grains and seeds like barley, wheat, oats, millet, semolina, beans, lentils, wholemeal flour, unpolished rice, etc. (called complex carbohydrates). Fast-burning foods contain sugar, white flour, etc. (called refined carbohydrates). Bran-containing foods, like whole wheat, grains and seeds, vegetables like green beans, peas, sem (papry), marrow, mealies, spinach, and other herbs like methie, the leaves of beetroot (iron-rich), fruit with skin, dried fruit especially dried apricots, figs and prunes, almonds are rich in roughage.

One should eat a balanced diet that contains a healthy proportion of proteins, carbohydrate, lipids, vitamins, minerals, roughage and water.

Fried and fatty food; food containing too much sugar; over-eating especially during the meal before dawn (sehri or suhur); too much tea during the meal before dawn (sehri or suhur) as it makes you pass more urine taking with it valuable mineral salts that your body would need during the day.

Smoking cigarette. If you cannot give up smoking, cut down gradually. Smoking is unhealthy and one should stop completely.

Complex carbohydrates during the meal before dawn (sehri. or suhur) so that the food lasts longer making you less hungry.

Halim is an excellent source of protein and is a slow-burning food.

Dates are excellent source of sugar, fibre, carbohydrates, potassium and magnesium.

Almonds are rich in protein and fibre with less fat.
Bananas are a good source of potassium, magnesium and carbohydrates.

As much water or fruit juices as possible between iftar) and bedtime so that your body may adjust fluid levels in time.

It has been proven that approximately 200 calories are burned during the taraweeh prayer. However, even more beneficial than the actual physical exercise is the therapeutic exercise of the five prayer positions. Many curative therapies (e.g., Feldenkrais, Yoga, and Tai Chi) use positioning of the body to elicit a physical, mental, and spiritual balance.

Muslim prayer positions are no different than these common medical approaches to physical therapy. In fact, according to modern medical research, each prayer position relates to a different organ system. These organs are activated when assuming the prayer positions by stimulating the nerve ganglia that branch forth from the spinal column. As each bodily part is stimulated, healing energies increase in that area for a period of 5-30 minutes.

Healing with prayer and spiritual practices has been studied at Harvard Medical School and at hundreds of other prominent locations. One study found that people who prayed during the study increased their health in ten of the eleven categories set forth by the study.

Larry Dossey, in his book Reinventing Medicine, documents hundreds of these studies on the benefits of spirituality and its relationship to health. Certainly, this holy month has a lot to offer, but we should know the exact ways to get hold of it. If the right methods are followed, it would enable one to fast comfortably and enjoy fully the spiritual benefits of Ramadan.

Wish you all make the most out of this holy month and have a blissful Ramadan.

By Zion Ara Hamid



home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2008 The Daily Star