Today is the 16 th of Ramadan, every year I receive requests to explain a little more about the month of Ramadan and the practice of fasting and it is always a pleasure to do so.You can find my previous posts about Ramadan here, here and here but for this year I thought I’d answer a few FAQ.
If you have a question about Ramadan,I’d love to hear from you. So please leave me a comment or send me an email. let’s start with the basics:
So what is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the month in which Muslims are instructed to fast from sun rise till sunset.
What exactly is fasting?
To fast by definition means to abstain. In Ramadan Muslims abstain from food,tobacoo and drinks from sun rise till sunset but fasting goes way beyond this simple definition. Abstaining from eating or drinking is actually the easy part! To avoid repeating myself, here is a little explanation of what fasting is all about from the post I published last year.
Fasting is a school of discipline present in most religions and cultures. In Islam fasting by definition means to abstain, abstain from food and drink from sunrise till sunset but it doesn’t stop there.
One way to look at it is that in fasting what comes out of your mouth is just as important as what goes in. You have to abstain from everything that is bad. No lying, gossiping or using profanity. Keep in mind though, that your mouth is not the only part of you that is fasting, the whole of you is. Your hands are fasting, you can’t do harm, steal or hurt others. Your eyes are fasting, you are not allowed to watch anything inappropriate. Your ears are fasting, you can’t listen to anything inappropriate.
If you think about it, fasting is meant to impact the way you behave,in every aspect.
But the lesson does not stop at your senses. It extends to controlling your mood, temper and desires. If you think fasting gives you an excuse to throw a tantrum because you’re not eating or drinking,think again. When you fast you are required to control your anger to the same extent that you control your mouth or your senses.
To fast or not to fast?Why should I do it?Only for religious reasons?
Although Muslims fast primarily for religious reasons. The true beauty of any religion is when you see the why behind the must.
Fasting gives your body a rest
Digesting food requires high amounts of energy; in fact, the digestive system can sometimes drain energy needed for healing, repair and general maintenance of the body. Therefore, it makes sense to give it a vacation once in awhile.
Help your body heal and detoxify
In many cultures, the art of fasting has been practiced for thousands of years for curing illness of all kinds, rejuvenation, clarity and decision making, cleansing and strengthening. Have you noticed that when you’re sick, your appetite diminishes? (Similarly, when animals are ill, they lie down and often don’t eat or drink.) Energy goes towards healing our bodies instead of digesting food.
Fasting makes you more compassionate. Trying out hunger for hours everyday gives you a sense of what it is like not to have anything to eat. It is a great motivation to reach out and help those in need
Fasting teaches you that you are in control. You are in control of your body, your senses and your desires.
It is a great way to break bad habits. If you can stop smoking for 16 hours because you are fasting, you can do it for the remaining 8 hours. If you can stop gossiping or lying or using profanity for 16 hours, you can quit it for good.
Why does Ramadan come at a different time each year?
The Islamic calendar(also called the hijri calender) is lunar(it follows the moon) and because of that, the start of the Islamic year advances 11 days each year compared with the seasonal year.That is why, Ramadan occurs at different times of the year over a 33-year cycle. This can result in the Ramadan fast being undertaken in markedly different environmental conditions between years in the same country.
Are all Muslims required to fast? Are there any exceptions?
Adult sane Muslims are required to fast but there are exceptions to that rule.By definition, adult and sane excludes children and those who are mentally ill or insane. Because Islam is a religion based on compassion and mercy, there are also those who can postpone the fast because they are going through conditions that make fasting too hard or harmful to their health for example :(the acutely ill; women during menstruation, pregnancy, post-childbirth and during lactation and also travelers) . Then there are also those who are excused because they are unable to fast (the chronically ill; the frail elderly).
I hope I’ve covered a few of the questions you may have about Ramadan, if you have any more questions, please send me an email or leave me a comment.
A few weeks ago, Lail asked me to join her in her first virtual Iftar potluck. Lail is one of the sweetest bloggers I have met in the past three years of blogging. I deeply admire her dedication, passion and talent so it was a true pleasure to oblige her invitation. I decided to bring her this Cheese bread wreath.
Today’s recipe is one of my go to bread recipes when I have company or when I am busy. Instead of making individual pastries, this lovely bread wreath is a great way to serve stuffed bread. It is elegant, easy to make and really versatile in terms of filling (you can check out the notes for both savory and sweet suggestions).
Cheese bread wreath
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) warm water
- 3/4 cup warm milk
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup (57 gram) butter, softened
- 1/4 cup (50 gram) white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams)salt
- 3 1/4 tp 3 1/2 cups ( 416-448 gram) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons (8 grams) dry yeast
- 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram)cardamom optional
Instead of the egg-wash use
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) (25 gm) (1 oz) milk powder
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) lukewarm water
- 1teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon (1 gm) instant coffee
stuffing (see notes for options)
- 1 cup (80 grams) Nabulsi cheese grated or cut into small cubes (you can use any firm salty cheese)
- 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese or mozzarella cheese
- 1 teaspoon of dried mint (optional)
- 1 teaspoon Nigella seeds (optional)
In a bowl whisk the egg with milk, water, sugar, butter and yeast. Set aside
In another bowl sift the flour with the salt and the cardamom .
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and knead until you get a smooth dough. (That usually requires 7 to 10 minutes)
Place the dough in a bowl that you have previously brushed with some oil.
Cover the doughwith a wet kitchen towel and leave it in a warm place to double
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface
Roll into a rectangle
Spread cheese stuffing leaving 1 inch (2.5cm) margin all around
Roll the dough starting from the long side to foem a tube
Join both ends of the tube to form a circle and pinch the dough together
Using a scissor or a knife make cuts that go 2/3 of the way through the dough
Turn the slices 90 degrees so that cut part faces upward
Using a brush, brush the dough with egg wash or my egg wash replacement if you prefer
Allow the wreath to rest for 15 minutes during which you would heat your oven to 270C (500F) (rack in the middle)
Bake for 5 minutes on 270C (500F) then lower the temperature to 200 C (400 F) and cook for 15-20 more minutes
(ovens do differ greatly, so the time may differ..what you want is to bake it until the under side is golden brown)
If the top isn’t golden, Place the wreath under the broiler for a couple of minutes until it is golden brown on top
When it comes to the stuffing, the possibilities are really endless. For savory options try: Sauteed spinach with onions and garlic.Minced meat, sauteed with onions and your favorite blend of spices is a great choice for the meat lovers out there For a sweet option,try date puree, dried fruits, or jam.
The cheese I usually use in this bread is a combination of Nabulsi cheese and sharp cheddar but you can use any other cheese combination you like. Cheddar, Monterrey jack and Colby. Halloumi with fresh mint or parsley. Experiment and find your favorite, just remember to use a cheese with intense flavor or else it will be overwhelmed by the bread