Lavish iftar feasts and large gatherings might be missing this Ramzan, but people are happy to make do with what they can rustle up at home as time with family makes up for everything.
The pandemic has brought all activities to a halt and the evening scene at Old Delhi during the month of Ramzan is no different. From cancelled iftar feasts to suspended mosque prayers, there is no community meeting and greeting of families and friends as the pandemic becomes more threatening. Even as community service and food distribution to mosques is disrupted, for some fortunate folks, the social distancing is a blessing in disguise as families are able to bond well.
“This is the first time I’m able to break my fasts at home with my family, which earlier was not possible due to late office hours. But there is no variety on offer, so I break the fast with whatever is easily available… assorted pakodas, papad, samosa, sherbet. There is slight variation in ingredients too… the keema samosa has been replaced with aloo and soya samosa. These are the best available resources and some items are easy and fast to cook at home too,” says Old Delhi-based Abu Sufiyan, as he speaks to us on phone while preparing his iftar, the meal to end the day’s fast, comprising chilled Roohafza milk, dates and samosa.
This time, he’s relishing home-cooked meals like dum and kadai chicken from his mother’s personal diary, recipes which were once jotted down from chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s show Khaana Khazana. “My mom used to watch the show and make notes. So this year, we dug out her diary and it’s an altogether different experience to be able to relish these dishes during iftar, which we never did in the past,” says the 29-year old IT professional, who also runs a blog on history and heritage called Purani Dilli Walon Ki Baatein.
For Agra-based homemaker Saba Nazir, the pandemic has resulted in healthy meals and online iftar dinners this time as community eating and dining is not possible with extended family members. The only saving grace? Meeting her Germany-based son online during the iftar dinner. “My husband and children (three sons and one daughter) take frequent business trips abroad. This is the first time in about 20 years that we are all together except my son who lives with his wife and newborn baby in Germany. So it’s a Ramzan feast online and we are able to see him via video chat. We have a set menu for the week with a healthy mix of options like boiled chana or chholey chaat, sometimes baked breads/garlic bread, poori, paneer, pyaaz or palak pakoda, along with shikanji, orange juice or Roohafza. Since mutton is not easily available, we experiment with chicken,” Nazir says.
Ramzan this year for Kolkata-based home chef and foodpreneur Manzilat Fatima is, however, a sad state of affairs because she has not been able to prepare haleem. “In the past couple of years, I have been preparing haleem for not only my community, but also people who visit Kolkata, especially travellers and those not from my community. Haleem during Ramzan is a wholesome meal packed with a day’s nutrients—pulses, wheat, mutton and spices. It’s a complete meal In itself and important on the dastarkhwan. This year, I haven’t been able to even prepare it for my home as some ingredients are not available like pulses and the type of wheat used in haleem… I can’t rely on quality of meat available during lockdown,” says the founder of home dining space Manzilat, which is famous for limited menu offerings during the month of Ramzan, but which has been shut since March.
“At home, I make matar chaat, fruit chaat and break the fast with dates or sometimes aloo chaat. Nothing lavish… We can’t go to anybody’s house and no one can come to our house… this is the first time we have ever witnessed such a situation,” adds Fatima (a descendent of Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Awadh), who feels many traditional items like kachalu and seasonal fruit sherbets like bel or phalse will always be part of the feast. “Of course, lacchha, jalebi and milk are always good options and have been on the menu since my father’s times, but the bazaar is shut, so we can’t find jalebis too,” she says, adding that one has to be mindful and eat light and healthy.
For Delhi-based homepreneur Aliya Khan, the biggest task is to plan everything a day in advance. “This Ramzan, my kitchen has been a playground for my food experiments, as I am honing my culinary skills. Earlier, we could buy anything anytime, but this year, planning helps in procuring ingredients and makes my job easy. My in-laws like the customary menu and my kids prefer fancy delicacies, so a mix of traditional and modern dishes are part of our iftar, dinner and sehri. This includes chicken cheese balls, soya tikka, fried chicken, shawarma rolls, drums of heaven, manchurian with fried rice, besides chaat pakoda and dahi bade, khas sherbet, ghulab sherbet, falooda and custard. The internet is a great medium for handy tips and recipes, and helps in bringing variety to the dastarkhwan,” she says.