The first day of Ramadan is always filled with a certain bustle. For Muslims, the first iftar will be eaten with those most important to them and cooking the best food is a top priority. Houses get decorated, children get a new little lesson on the holy month and anticipation mounts as to how the month of fasting (or not fasting) will go. Worries include traffic, thirst and salt-less food (due to the cook’s inability to taste it) – although potentially not in that order.
“I always take the first day of Ramadan off work,” says Joumana, a housecleaner and cook. “I like to spend that first day preparing a feast for my husband and our close relatives." And Joumana is not alone – all over Egypt today, people will be dashing about the kitchen, tossing spices into boiling pots and hoping that the meal will impress.
For our first day of Ramadan, I’m picking an easy, filling and potentially impressive Egyptian dish. Seneyit Batatis Bil Lahma (or tray of potatoes with meat) is simply a casserole dish of meat peices, potatoes, onions, tomatoes and other optional veggies you’d like to throw in. The butcher recommended entrecote for the casserole, which is best left to boil for 15 minutes in water, onion, and spices first.
Seneyit Batatis Bil Lahma
¾ kg beef entrecote
1 kg potatoes
2 large onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 red or yellow peppers (optional)
2 chicken stock cubes
2 tablespoons butter
4 tomatoes chopped up or pureed
1. Boil meat in water with half a sliced onion and some pepper – leave to simmer 15 minutes.
2. In the mean time, slice potatoes approximately 2 cm thick and place them in a casserole dish with onion slices, garlic, peppers (chopped) and tomato puree.
3. Crumble chicken stock cubes into a casserole dish and mix all together with clean hands!
4. Add boiled meat and butter and pour in two cups of water.
5. Place casserole dish over middle of stove burner (or any burner if you don’t have a middle one) and let contents boil for 15 minutes.
* At this point, wait unti you have only have 30 minutes left before serving.
6. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
7. Place casserole in oven for 15 minutes (keep in mind it may be a good idea to rearrange some of the potatoes if some have been left on top and are not cooked at all).
8. Turn off oven and turn on broiler for 5 minutes to brown the top a little.
With one recipe a day this Ramadan, we’re likely to need your help! Send recipes with pictures to the editor at [email protected].