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9 child-friendly iftar recipes to attempt with your kids this Ramadan

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If you’re one of those people whose kitchens must remain spotless, you’d better look away now. Mariam Mokhtar shares some recipes that the little chefs in your home can help out with.

We repeat: if you’re one of those people whose kitchens must remain spotless, you’d better look away now.
We repeat: if you’re one of those people whose kitchens must remain spotless, you’d better look away now.

The countertop is dusted in flour. Vegetable peelings, scattered like confetti, lie strewn across the floor. Amidst the kitchen mess a fasting kid continually queries: “Is it time for iftar yet?”

It’s enough to stretch Mum’s and Dad’s nerves to their breaking point.

So for a bit of respite, why not encourage the kids to help with iftar? Preparing meals at home lets parents ensure a balanced diet for their children. The kitchen is an ideal place to remind kids of the benefits and wisdom of fasting.

Yes, the kitchen will get messy. Children tend to “accidentally” pop food into their mouth. They may complain of feeling hungry or tired, or even flee the kitchen entirely.

WARNING
Ensure that the kitchen utensils and layout are safe for children. An adult should always be present to supervise and teach them basic kitchen skills, such as how to measure ingredients, or (for older kids) handle and cut with a knife. Shopping for ingredients when one is hungry – especially with children in tow – is not advisable.

Yet by asking them to select and assist with their favourite dishes, you can make them feel involved and important. Helping out Mum and Dad in the kitchen will give them a sense of accomplishment. Sure, some food may fly – but so will the time, as children become distracted from hunger while they work. That’s good for parents and offpsring alike.

Many kids like fruit juices or smoothies made from their favourite fruits, which they can pre-chop for blending. Younger children may need the help of an adult to operate the blender, after yoghurt and milk have been added to the fruits.

Banana and strawberry smoothie (Serves 4 – 6)

Banana and strawberry smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 handful ripe strawberries
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup yoghurt
  • Sugar to taste (optional)

Method:

  1. Chop the banana and strawberries into chunks
  2. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend till smooth
  3. Add sugar to taste (optional)

Try a different combination of soft fruits and vegetables of your choice


Making cooking feel a bit like playtime always helps. Children love rolling things into balls. A simple appetiser can be made by rolling minced lamb and chopped onion into meatballs. After a brief spell in the oven, the meatballs go into pita bread and are drizzled with a cucumber and yoghurt dressing.

Lamb meatballs in pita pockets (Serves 4 – 6)

Lamb meatballs in pita pockets

Ideal as a side dish or appetiser

Ingredients for lamb balls:

  • 500 g minced lamb
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tbsp tomato sauce
  • ¼ tsp salt (optional)

For cucumber and mint relish:

  • ½ cup of chopped cucumber
  • 1 tbsp chopped mint
  • 1 tbsp chopped spring onions (the green bits)
  • ½ cup of yoghurt
  • Pinch of salt (optional)

Optional side salads:

  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • ½ red onion
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • Slice of lemon
  • 1 tsp of good salad oil (rape seed, sunflower, vegetable, maize or olive)

or

  • A handful of rocket leaves, or lettuce leaves of your choice

6 pieces of pita bread: Use white or whole wheat pita bread, depending on preference. Cut across each pita to give two pita pockets

Method:

  1. Place all ingredients for making the lamb balls in a bowl and, working with your hands, thoroughly mix them together
  2. Shape a large heaped tablespoonful of the lamb mix into balls. Place onto a lightly greased baking tray and put in the fridge for at least half an hour, to firm up
  3. Preheat oven to 190 deg C / Gas 5
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the cucumber and mint relish
  5. Mix all the relish ingredients in a bowl. Set aside in the fridge for flavours to develop
  6. Pop the baking tray into the oven and cook for 10 minutes, turning once, before cooking for a further 10 minutes
  7. Whilst the balls are cooking, prepare the tomato side salad
  8. Place all the salad ingredients in a bowl. Dribble the lemon juice and oil on top of the vegetables. Mix thoroughly and refrigerate
  9. Take the lamb meatballs out of the oven and place them on a kitchen towel to absorb any excess oil
  10. Pop each pita pocket into the toaster on a low setting
  11. When the bread is ready, open the pita pocket and put the tomato mix or rocket leaves inside, along with 3 or 4 meatballs. To finish, drizzle the cucumber mint dressing on top. Serve warm. They are just as good cold

For a more substantial meal, parent and child can make a stew, such as chicken stew. Towards the end of the cooking time, the child can shape flour and suet into balls and place the dumplings on top of the stew.

Chicken stew with dumplings (Serves 4 – 6)

Chicken stew

Ingredients for the stew:

  • 6–8 chicken thighs
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 2 chicken stock cubes
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • 8 button mushrooms (optional)
  • Ground black pepper
  • Water

Ingredients for the herb dumplings:

  • 225 g self-raising flour
  • ½ tsp mixed herbs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 110 g suet
  • 4–5 tbsp water

Method:

  1. Peel potatoes and carrots
  2. Cut potatoes into thick slices
  3. Cut carrots into one-inch lengths
  4. Slice onions thickly
  5. Wipe mushrooms clean and slice thickly
  6. In a deep flame-proof casserole dish or heavy-bottomed pot, place the onions at the base followed by the chicken, potatoes and, last of all, the carrots
  7. Pour enough water to just cover the layers
  8. Sprinkle the herbs and crumble the stock cubes and black pepper on top of the mix
  9. On a medium heat, bring the liquid to a boil, then simmer the covered pot over a low heat for one hour, stirring occasionally
  10. Ten minutes before the cooking time is up, prepare the dumplings
  11. Sift flour and salt into a bowl. Mix in the suet and mixed herbs
  12. Add one tbsp of water at a time to the flour and suet mix. Stir with a palette knife. If the mixture feels too dry, add a little more water, till a soft dough is formed
  13. Use your hands to knead the dough, then shape it into round dumplings
  14. Stir the sliced mushrooms into the stew, and place the dumplings on top of the stew
  15. Cover the pot and leave to cook for a further 20 to 25 minutes
  16. Serve hot and sprinkle with chopped parsley if desired

Some children enjoy getting their hands messy because to them it’s fun – just like making mud pies in the garden. An adult can oversee the mixing of a simple marinade for children to coat chicken wings or beef ribs.

Chicken wings

Chicken wings

Ingredient:

  • 8 chicken wings

Marinade:

  • ½ tsp salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp oil

Method:

  1. Wash the chicken wings and pat them dry with a kitchen towel
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients together with the oil to make the marinade
  3. Rub this marinade all over the chicken wings and refrigerate for at least one hour
  4. Preheat oven to 180 deg C / Gas 5
  5. Place chicken wings on a baking tray and cook for 20 minutes
  6. Turn the chicken wings over and cook for a further 20 minutes or till golden brown
  7. Serve hot, with a chilli sauce or mayonnaise dip, or on its own
  8. Ideal with warm pita bread or rice, and a simple side salad

Pepper beef ribs

Pepper beef ribs

 

Ingredient:

  • 1 kg rack of beef ribs

Marinade:

  • ½ tsp coarse black pepper
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp garlic granules (or 1 roughly chopped clove of garlic)

Method:

  1. In a baking dish, rub the dry ingredients all over the ribs and leave them to marinade for a few hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 200 deg C / Gas 6
  3. Cover the ribs with foil and bake them in the oven for 20 minutes
  4. Remove foil, reduce the heat to 190 deg C / Gas 5 and bake for a further 20 to 25 minutes
  5. Serve hot

Spicy tomato beef ribs

Spicy tomato beef ribs

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg beef short ribs
  • 2 red onions
  • 2 cloves garlic (1 crushed and the other finely chopped)
  • ½ inch slice of ginger, finely shredded
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 tsp coarse black pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 beef cube
  • ½ tsp oil

Ingredients for the spicy tomato sauce:

  • 1 tbsp chilli sauce
  • 2 tbsp thick soy sauce
  • ½ cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp oil

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 150 deg C / Gas 2
  2. Chop one red onion coarsely. Finely chop the other (this one is for the sauce)
  3. In a flame-proof casserole dish, lightly fry the crushed garlic and the coarsely chopped onion. Add the ginger shreds, star anise and green chilli
  4. Add the water, crumble the beef stock into it and bring to the boil
  5. Gently place the short ribs into the liquid and add the black pepper
  6. Cover the casserole dish and place in the oven for 3 hours
  7. Whilst the beef is slowly cooking, make the sauce by lightly frying the finely chopped garlic and onions
  8. Add the sauces and sugar to the pan, and stir till an even, gooey consistency is obtained. Simmer on a very low heat for 5 minutes. Set aside
  9. When the ribs are ready, discard the stock and arrange them on a platter. The meat should be hanging off the bone. Pour the spicy tomato sauce over the ribs. Best served hot, with white rice

Some hotels and restaurants offering iftar meals feature a centrepiece of a whole lamb roasting on a spit. At home, a leg or shoulder of lamb is easy to roast, and just as tasty. A spicy rice dish makes a good accompaniment. Flour, paprika, crushed garlic and rosemary are mixed together for the child to rub on the surface of the lamb, before roasting. The paste gives the meat a nice crust.

Crusty roast lamb

Crusty roast lamb Ingredients:

  • 1.5 kg roast leg or shoulder of lamb (Shoulder is preferable as the layers of fat keep the meat moister. Leg is easier to cut)

For crusty paste:

  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped onion
  • Water to make a paste

Method:

  1. Combine all the ingredients for the crust, by mixing with enough water to make a paste
  2. Rub this paste all over the lamb
  3. Preheat oven to 220 deg C / Gas 7
  4. Calculate the cooking time (cook each 500g of lamb for 20 minutes, after searing the joint in a very hot oven for 20 minutes at the start of cooking)
  5. Place joint in the very hot oven for 20 minutes
  6. After 20 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 190 deg C / Gas 5 and cook the lamb based on the total cooking time. (Eg: A 1.5 kg joint needs 60 minutes of cooking after the initial 20 minutes of searing to seal in the flavours)
  7. Let the joint rest for 10 minutes before carving
  8. Serve with a spicy rice dish and vegetable accompaniments

Iftar would not be complete without a dessert. The children’s favourite fruits can be cut into bite-sized pieces for a fresh fruit platter or a simple fruit salad. A combination of fruits will give a colourful mix, whilst a single-colour theme, like a red fruit salad with strawberries, raspberries, red grapes and watermelon, is equally attractive.

Fruit platter or fruit salad

Fruit platter or fruit salad Ingredients:

  • A selection of fruits of your choice
  • Cream (optional)

Method:

  1. Cut the fruits into bite-sized pieces. Arrange them on a dish for a fruit platter
  2. If a fruit salad is desired, just mix the cut fruits in a big bowl, or in individual dishes. Serve the fruit salad as it is, or with cream

With a little supervision, children can attempt a more showy dessert like fruit trifle. Spark interest with a deep, clear glass dish to display the layers of sponge, fruit, jelly, custard and cream. The final act before serving is decorating the top with more fruits, or chocolate shavings using a vegetable peeler.

Trifle

Trifle Ingredients:

  • 85 g packet strawberry jelly crystals
  • 1 litre custard (made from custard powder)
  • 200 g sponge fingers
  • 1 can apricot slices (drain the can but keep the syrup)
  • 300 ml double cream
  • 20 g dark chocolate bar

Method:

  1. Prepare jelly according to the packet. Place the jelly in the fridge to set
  2. Prepare the custard according to the instructions on the packet. Let cool and cover the top with a piece of cling film, to prevent drying out
  3. Break up the sponge fingers and use them to line the base of a clear glass dish
  4. Drizzle the sponge fingers with 4 tbsp of syrup from the can of apricots
  5. Arrange the apricot slices on top of the sponge fingers. Remember to keep a few slices for decorating the top of the trifle (optional)
  6. Pour the custard onto the apricot layer
  7. Pour the partially set jelly onto the custard
  8. Place the dish in the fridge. Once the jelly has completely set, whip the double cream until it is slightly stiff and place this over the jelly layer
  9. With a vegetable peeler, shave off chocolate shavings from the dark chocolate bar
  10. Decorate the top of the trifle with the apricot slices and chocolate shavings. Refrigerate until the trifle is ready to be served

The trick to involving children and maintaining their interest is choosing recipes and tasks that are simple. Some careful planning helps, and the rewards are great. If you’re lucky, the children will gain a love of cooking which will stay with them throughout their lives.

Involving kids in the food selection process and iftar preparation will impart invaluable lessons, such as patience and discipline. They will value the bonding experience and the religious significance. And the icing on the cake? These sorts of activities lay the foundations for adulthood, when they’ll have to be able to plan a menu and cook healthy, wholesome food for their own kids – and put up with their offspring’s juvenile shenanigans in the kitchen.

 

This article originally appeared in the June 2014 Ramadan issue of Aquila Style magazine. For a superior and interactive reading experience, you can get the entire issue, free of charge, on your iPad or iPhone at the Apple Newsstand, or on your Android tablet or smartphone at Google Play

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