Updated May 31, 2016
Yvonne Maffei is a food writer, recipe developer and publisher of www.MyHalalKitchen.com, a blog showcasing culinary tips and healthy halal recipes.
It’s hard to believe that Ramadan is here once again. Preparations have already begun in my kitchen where I’ll need to be ready for the particularly long day of fasting that ensues when Ramadan falls in the summer season. There are menus to be made and shopping lists to be created. Healthy, hydrating and light dishes are ideal for Ramadan so that’s what’s on my family meal plan for the entire month.
During the daylight hours of Ramadan observant Muslims abstain from taking in even a morsel of food or a drop of liquid. Rather, the emphasis of this holy month is on charity, prayer and a renewed empathy for those with less than themselves. Yes, we do eat at the beginning and the end of the fasting day but food is not a focal point. The two main meals that take place during Ramadan — suhoor, eaten before the sun begins to rise, and iftar, the meal that breaks the fast at sunset — bring families together like no other time of the year does.
This year I’ll continue my tradition of serving a protein-rich suhoor and lighter, refreshing fare for iftar. No sugary or unhealthy foods are welcome when you can’t risk crashing later in the day! Our only indulgences of sugar are the fresh or dried fruits that are served to break our fast. The eating of dates in particular is a cherished tradition shared by Muslims around the world as a way to mark the beginning of the iftar meal.
Ideally, I’d love to be able to make every dish from scratch, but the reality is that it’s not always possible or an efficient use of my time when I want to focus on the spiritual and communal aspects of Ramadan. This year, I’m taking full advantage of the convenient halal products made by Saffron Road. I feel good knowing they meet Whole Foods Market’s strict quality standards, they are Non-GMO Project verified, and the meat and poultry in their products are from animals raised without added hormones or antibiotics.
I plan on using the Saffron Road low-sodium broths to make light soups and their globally-inspired Simmer Sauces to quickly put a meal together. I may even pull out their packaged frozen entrees on those days when I just need a break from cooking. That’ll give me more time to focus on the meaning of Ramadan, and more time to update My Halal Kitchen with cooking tips and recipes to make your Ramadan a whole lot more delicious.
Here’s a recipe I developed that uses their delicious and convenient simmer sauce:
Pulled Chicken Tacos with Saffron Road Simmer Sauce
Yields 12 tacos
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 small red onions, minced
3 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast or tenders
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (7-ounce) package Saffron Road Tikka Masala or Harissa Simmer Sauce
1 cup Saffron Road Traditional Chicken broth
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon roughly chopped cilantro (optional)
Cooked black beans
2 avocados or 2 cups prepared guacamole
12 wedges of lime (one per taco)
In a large Dutch oven, gently heat the olive oil and sauté the onions until translucent. Increase the heat slightly then add the chicken and brown on each side, about five minutes per side. Add the garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. Stir gently then pour in the Simmer Sauce. Stir again, then add the broth, lemon and lime juice.
Increase the heat to high to bring the liquids to a boil. Add the chopped cilantro, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue to cook for about 45 minutes, checking periodically to see if any more broth should be added to prevent the meat from drying out.
Towards the end of the cooking process, use two forks to pull the meat apart gently. Add a dash of broth or water and continue to heat gently or keep warm until it’s time to serve.
Warm the tortillas then line each one with a small amount of meat. Top with a scoop of black beans, a few diced avocados or a bit of guacamole, several slices of radish, shredded lettuce, a few cilantro leaves, a dollop of sour cream and finished with hot sauce and a squeeze of fresh lime, if desired.
What do you do to make your Ramadan cooking just a little easier?