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If tar on Wheels

Tips on rustling up iftar in under an hour 
by et staff


A working mother always gets the most sympathy in Ramadan, but sometimes even a lady of the manor has to come up with speedy solutions — namely when a call comes in at 4 p.m. from her husband declaring that his office chums are coming over for iftar. Both scenarios can be nightmares, but here are some tips to get you through the ordeal. And whichever option you decide on, always remember that fasting people are hungry people who will eat just about anything placed in front of them. If there’s no time for variety, at least make sure there’s quantity.

For starters: Always make two of everything. Ramadan food is generally a hassle to make, as most people fasting need a substantial dose of butter and bechamel sauce to get them through the next day. As Ramadan begins, prepare a few lasagnas, zucchini and some macaroni bechamel and stick them (unbaked) in the freezer. In the next compartment, always keep marinated meats and poultry that you can just stick under the grill. It’s also a good idea to bread chicken breasts and freeze them so they are ready for frying right before iftar.
Tip: Ramadan is the best time to invest in a microwave.
But you won’t always be able to rely on stocked food. Salads, rice and soups will not keep in the fridge, so you’ll have to make them in those precious minutes before iftar. You can freeze chicken broth, which is great for soup. If you’re out, you can always throw in a bouillon cube for taste. Onion or mushroom soups are the easiest and fastest to make.
Rice is an iftar staple, but forget the time-consuming Oriental variety with chopped nuts and raisins; instead serve up Basmati or other long-grain rice delicately flavored with spices such as saffron or cinnamon. For veggies, grill colorful peppers with slivers of onion, whole mushroom and carrot or zucchini rounds. Go for a plain garden salad with regular vinaigrette (use heart-healthy olive oil and table or balsamic vinegar as your base — or anything low-fat that comes out of a bottle) for dressing. Ready-made hummus and tahina out of a can make good dips teamed with easily prepared crunchy mozzarella-topped garlic bread.
For drinks, have your husband stop at On the Run or Metro, which stock bottles of qamar el-din, tamr hindi and karkade.
Although it’s not common in Ramadan, when the table has to be laden with a veritable feast, there are times when you can get away with making one thing. Fatta is that dish of choice, and you can always prepare both chicken and meat varieties. Again, a large bowl of regular garden salad is a perfect accompaniment, along with creamy yogurt sprinkled with dried mint for a twist.
If all else fails, you can always cheat and call in the cavalry: home delivery. Steer clear of fast food (sandwiches in particular), which isn’t at its freshest during Ramadan (hardly anyone orders it); instead, go for traditional grilled meats such as kebab, kofta, pigeon and quail. Team them with stuffed vegetables and baked tagens.
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