Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 38, Tuesday September 30, 2008



Chronicles Of Sam Q

eid desserts

Dearest diary,
Aahhh..thirtieth Ramadan nearly in sight. You know what diary...I am going to come clean today! I am ready to face God's wrath! Even though I am sure God already knows...fasting is so tough for me. And you also know what diary…I found similar beings as me in most unusual quarters. For instance, I know already of some vocal friends as myself along with my sister and mom who are most voluble in airing their feelings, but what amused me most was, when one of my sister -in- laws (remember, I have ten of them),shared the same sentiments! I always beat myself up thinking, I am such a bad person, but, hey! I suddenly realized, I am as human and as vulnerable as most of humanity. Diary, please note that I have used the operative word, MOST of humanity, and not REST of humanity. So people...easy on the brick bats please. So, my this particular sis-in-law is most God fearing, very proper, so elegant and to my utter astonishment...so very human. We had a good giggle on how we miss our morning caffeine fix, and how our stomach rumbles by 5:30, and how crabby we get if we do not get our desired tea RIGHT AFTER iftar. So does that make us bad human beings? I d-o-n't t-h-i-n-k so. It just shows how upfront we are (if I say so myself) and how much we love God unconditionally. Isn't just that the whole point?

Anyway diary, moving on to other issues, today I want to write to you about...hope... the way I saw it in two most unusual places. A couple of months ago, there was this happening Indian singer in town. So, me being one of Bollywood's fan brigade, got myself a very third row lucrative spot in the concert (it sure pays to know the right people in Dhaka society.....thanks...Sonya). Anyway, as we arrive, three hours earlier than the deadline, I see this huge amalgation of people and my heart actually missed several beats. I was then wondering, how in blazes would we get in on time? But, surprise, surprise, there were two well manned entry gates, and people were in queues and actually quite soundless. Then we were directed to our seats by very professional-like-young and smart people and the concert starts without a hitch. As the concert got into full swing, I was sedately (read: matronly) sitting and drinking in the atmosphere, and what a wonderful eye opening atmosphere it was. I simply loved the way our young people conducted themselves. They sang along with full gusto and melody, cheered spontaneously, behaved with concert-like decorum with no trace of shyness, only with lots of (as the French say) joie de vivre. Even the performers that day felt a special magic. As I looked around in awe, my sense of hope was, if these young people were our future...maybe our future wasn't so dismal after all. I saw all of them in a different light that day. If the youth of today know how to conduct themselves appropriately and have this kind of positive attitude, I think Bangladesh has a lot to smile about, Amen to that.

My second encounter of hope comes in a rather tongue-in-cheek moment. Let's see how you decipher this kind of hope diary.

I was crockery shopping a few days ago, and as I waiting for my stuff to be packed: a middle aged man walks into the shop with a confident strut to his step and states to the shop-keeper that, his wife, sometime ago, bought some china ware from him and would like some more of the same thing. As the shop-keeper and I, both waited expectantly for some more information, he in a very stentorian voice said, "do you not know who my wife is?" I had actually already felt something as obnoxious as that was coming, because of his introductory statement, which had already implied that the shop-keeper should automatically know as soon as he had said "my wife". By then I was already telling the man...mentally...if he wants such instant service, he should wear a T-shirt emblazoned with his wife's picture on his chest, so that so much time and dialogue is not lost in translation. And I know that can be done because my husband has all his night time T-shirts printed with our son's face. Anyway, the poor shopkeeper, not wanting to lose a sale, mumbled very apologetically, "Sir, if you could be a bit more specific." And to that the man answered, "My wife is the biggest designer of Bangladesh...blah...blah." But to my utter, giggly disbelief...the shopkeeper still couldn't place her. My point here is, I am actually very proud of our local designers, but how can one expect a Monno ceramic guy to know a fashion designer? Anyway, to cut a long story short, the hope that I saw here was....Wow! A sub-continental man is proud of his wife's accomplishments.

If that is not hope, then what is? But saying this I also know that my husband always encouraged me to be more career oriented, but I am biased here....I always knew he was different (ahem!), but to come across a man literally from the street who was so proud of his wife to the point of being crass, said a lot for our ever changing society. So I guess, women can still hope.

I guess this is it for today diary. Lots of dessert recipes. Blood sugar is plummeting rapidly, hence, sugar fix needed.

So laze, eat, drink on Eid day the Sam Q. way!

Cookies and cream cheesecake
250g plain chocolate biscuits
150g butter, melted
2 tsp gelatine
¼ cup water (60ml)
375g packaged cream cheese, softened.
300 ml fresh cream
1 tsp vanilla essence
½ cup caster sugar
180g white chocolate, melted
150g cream filled (optional) chocolate biscuits quartered
50g chocolate melted

Blend the plain chocolate biscuits until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the butter, process until just combined.

Using your hand, press biscuit mixture evenly over the base of the cake tin. Cover and refrigerate for 20 mins.

Mix the gelatine in simmering hot water. Stir until gelatine dissolves. Allow to cool for 5 mins.

Beat cream cheese, vanilla essence and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer till smooth.

Stir in gelatine mixture and white chocolate. Fold in quartered biscuits. Pour the cheesecake mixture over biscuit mixture in tin. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Drizzle with melted dark chocolate to serve.

White chocolate brownies
Makes 16
1¼ cups plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
175g fine quality white chocolate, chopped
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla essence
175g plain chocolate, chopped, or plain chocolate chips
For the topping:
200g milk chocolate, chopped
2 cups unsalted peanuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease a 23cm/9 inch spring form tin. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the white chocolate, sugar and butter, stirring until smooth.

Cool slightly then beat in the eggs and vanilla essence.
Stir the flour until will blended. Stir the chopped chocolate or chocolate chips. Spread evenly in the preparation tin, smoothing the top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until skewer inserted 5cm/2” from side of the tin comes out clean.

Remove from the oven. Sprinkle chopped milk chocolate evenly on the surface (avoid touching the side of tin) and return to oven for 1 minute.

Remove from the oven and, using the back of a spoon, spread the softened chocolate evenly over the top.

Sprinkle with the nuts and gently press into the chocolate. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then chill until set.

Run a sharp knife around the side of the tin to loosen; unclip the tin side and carefully remove. Cut into thin wedges.

Banana Muffins
Makes 12
2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
3 large ripe bananas
1 egg
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Grease 12 muffin tins, or use paper liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside. With an electric mixer, mash peeled bananas at moderate speed. Beat the egg, sugar and oil in the mashed bananas.

Add the dry ingredients and fold in gradually, on low speed. Mix until just blended. With a wooden spoon, stir in the raisings. Fill muffin tins two-thirds full.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until tops spring back when touched lightly. Transfer to a wire rack to cool off.

Double Chocolate Chip Muffins
These marvellous muffins are packed with chunky plain and white chocolate chips.
Makes 16
31/2 cups plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup yoghurt
2/3 cup milk
4 tbsp sunflower oil
175g plain chocolate
Cocoa powder for dusting
Cook's tip: If soured cream is not available, use 2/3 cup single cream by stirring in 1 tsp lemon juice and letting the mixture stand until thickened.
Preheat the oven to 1900C/3750F/Gas 5. Place 16 paper muffin cases in muffin tins or deep patty tins. Sift the flour, baking power and cocoa into a bowl and stir in the sugar. Make a well in the centre.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the yoghurt, milk and oil, then stir into the well in the dry ingredients. Beat well, gradually incorporating the flour mixture to make a thick and creamy batter.
Variation: Make sure you use good quality chocolate with a high cocoa content. Vary the proportions of plain and white chocolate, or add in milk chocolate if you prefer.
Finely chop the chocolate and add to the batter mixture.
Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases, filling them to the top. Bake for 25-30 mins until well risen and firm. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and dust with cocoa powder.

Date Crunch
Makes 24
225g packet sweet meal biscuits
75g cup butter
2 tbsp golden syrup/honey
1/2 cup stoned dates, finely chopped
75g raisins
150g milk or plain chocolate, chopped
Cook's tip: For an alternative topping, drizzle 75g melted white and 75g melted dark chocolate over.
Line an 18cm/7inch square shallow cake tin with foil. Put the biscuits in a plastic bag and crush roughly with a rolling pin.
Gently heat the butter in a small saucepan until the butter has melted.
Stir in the crushed biscuits, dates and raisins and mix well. Spoon into the prepared tin, press with the back of a spoon and chill for 1 hour.

Melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl, over a saucepan of hot water, stirring until smooth. Spoon over the cookie mixture, spreading evenly with a palette knife. Chill and set. Lift the foil out of the cake tin and peel away. Cut the crunch into 24 pieces and arrange on a plate.

Special Feature

Ramadan in Gaza

An account of Ramadan in Gaza doesn't begin with the portrayal of glowing faces of fasting Muslims or with vivid descriptions of special Ramadan offerings on the display in the bazaars. It also doesn't talk about the festivity of the holy month or the reward of happiness it brings. Ramadan in Gaza is rather a gloomy affair, just like any other month of hardship and turmoil the Palestinians go through because there is nothing to make it special.

The Israeli sanctions on Gaza after the Islamist Hamas takeover coupled with the rise in prices have resulted in widespread shortages and sent food and fuel costs soaring. The present scenario has forced Gaza families who muddled through past Ramadan to cut more corners, even limiting family visits because of the cost of fuel and public transportation.

As such, Ramadan has almost lost its charm and glory. The Gaza main market-place used to bustle with life during Ramadan but this year the market is a sore for the eyes since people don't have the money to buy. Where over 60 percent of the territory's 1.5 million residents live in poverty and a majority relies on international food aid, according to the United Nations, there is less room for luxury and indulgence.

As Abdullah, a university student recalls, Gaza used to beam with festivity during Ramadan in the years gone by not much before. With a rich history that dates back to as far as 3500 BC, Gaza has always been a major commercial hub and a cosmopolitan city. Its thriving culture and tradition reflect its long standing characteristics.

During Ramadan, The fanoos or lantern was a must for every child. These are traditionally made of tin and coloured glass, with a candle inside. All mosques and streets during the whole month were full of coloured lights in a festival fashion, and in the past, children played in the streets with their lanterns singing "wahawy ya wahawy". But with the lanterns getting expensive and a luxury day by day, many are resorting to being creative and making their own at home.

Sports are also not often seen to be arranged by the clubs whereas it used to be very popular in Ramadan. Many people of all ages would participate in the games, including the elders who would compete with their peers. The issue was not to win, but just to share and have fun.

Different special delicacies were also made for Iftar such as "Konafa" or "Qatayef". The former is a cake-like food made of wheat with considerable sugar, honey, raisins and different types of nuts. The latter is almost the same, but takes the shape of a small circular “cake, which is folded to include nuts and raisins. Qamreddin (a sticky apricot-flavoured treat) was also a very popular item at the shops.

Despite the warm Ramadan Kareem from the businessmen selling cheese and pickles at the main square in Gaza, the passersby is nonchalant simply because his pockets are empty. Ramadan no longer means anything special to him. Nevertheless, people are optimistic that next Ramadan will come with all passages and crossings open, and the economy much better and they would finally get to celebrate Ramadan with great joy just like the rest of the Muslim world.

It is this very hope that Ramadan rekindles in people that helps them to go on.

By Shakhawat Imam Rajeeb

Special Feature

…in your own special way.

Eid cards are popular but they are not wide spread. We have learnt to express our Eid greetings through e-mail and of course, text messaging but cards, after the initial commotion in the 80's have waned down in fan following. At outlets of Archies and Hallmark, one comes across a broad range of cards. But if you are looking forward to giving some handmade cards a rustic look to it, then Aarong, Prabartana, and Jatra is where you should head.

These cards, however, do not carry personal messages like those you'll find in Hallmark and Archies, so you need to be extra creative and write one yourself. When we make an extra special effort to draw our creativity to feature a message of greeting, all of that adds to the wonderful feelings we hold for our friends and family members!

A simple card of silver wires and collage to create a silver moon or stars can make a wonderful Ramadan greeting. Gold metallic paper, hand embossed with Arabic calligraphy set against a background of glossy black and gold paper can be another Ramadan card option. You can also make an appliquéd mosque using an array of different colours, papers and textures.

Greeting cards sometimes tend to be quite cheesy or boring. The handmade ones or cards with little nice prints, tend to be pricey. Nothing can be worth cherishing more than making a card out of your past Eid photos or any other photos. These cards will certainly revive old memories and touch the emotions of your loved one.

You can also cut beautiful pictures from the calendar or if you are a good artist you can choose to paint or draw. If you are not much of an artist, you can make your card by writing a poem or some sweet words for your loved one. Your Eid card designs can also be inspired by the geometry of Islamic designs and art forms. Or use the knack of calligraphy to ornament it. Personalised cards are always special.

A paisley design hand embossed on translucent paper and framed with a silver border set against a background of turquoise/silver handmade paper will make an awesome card.

If you are someone who loves the beach, a beachcomber card can be created for any occasion using seashells and weeds. Let your imagination run free. An aqua, shimmering sailboat card with a flotilla of ropes, knots and flags and a genuine glass Aquamarine cabochon glistens on deck - There you have your azure sailboat!

A flowerpot in full bloom-Satin ribbons, buttons and bows galore create this eye-catching design and will make a very trendy card. Feathers, stars, beads and wire in green, black and glittering gold is really stunning and suitable for both genders and for all ages.

Classic gold marbled paper, cream ribbon with cut out stars, mortarboard black card and a miniature printed scroll!

Small reply cards can be made in many colours to match the invites. Carefully wrapping the cards in bubble and coloured tissue paper, and then packaging it in artistic envelopes will garnish the extraordinary cards. Try to make more out of old, used clothes, clips, newspapers, buttons, etc. Making such impressive cards will not cost you much. All you will require is some of stationery supplies and a lot of creativity. The stationery can be bought from any stationary store closest to you. Boi Bazaar and Harun's stationery, namely, offers an exclusive and exceptional range of such supplies at very reasonable prices.

So this season, let your imagination free and craft a piece out of your fantasies!

By Zion Ara Hamid



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