There is something about Ramadaan aka “pwaasa” that brings a different kind of vibe to any Muslim household in Cape Town. The sense of community, family, love and faith-heightened-and-restored is un-paralleled. It is by far my most favourite time of year.
With it comes the most amazing memories of food. I am transported back to my moms’ kitchen with the smell of oil and sputtering of samoosas being fried, pumpkin fritters being flipped, the endless debate of whether to add zipja to the falooda or not, getting all the odd saucers ready to put in cakes for the neighbours and cutting up those compressed block of dates (back then my mom could not afford medjool fancy-ass dates and I did not know any better), making sure the water is chilled but not too cold to cause tummy ache and keeping the split pea vegetable soup just hot enough to sip on when the Athaan beckoned.
Since I have been married I have tried to maintain the same vigour, enterprise and home economic of my working mother, but alas I fail each year (my mom was a superstar in the kitchen!). Being a working wife and mom, sometimes working crazy hours I would normally come home a full five minutes before the Athaan would go off; not much time to prepare or set the most inspiring table. So over the years I find more and more hacks to help me along.
Even though this is my second Ramadaan that I will be working from home, I find I still need as many shortcuts as possible. It just means I can start cooking my soup in the morning in between meetings!
I was inspired by a friend in her Mom support WhatsApp group to write this blog; check her out on Instagram here @real_mom_moments_sa. Maybe it can help another working mom out there who is trying her best to make some fond pwaasa memories for her little kids.
~ Make large quantities of soup that freezes well (split pea vegetable soup, butternut soup) and put into small, easy-to-defrost containers and freeze.
~ Set the boeka table for the night straight after Suhoor; i.e.: crockery and cutlery, salt and pepper shakers, glasses and dates all on the table covered with a net. Same would apply for prepping the Suhoor table at night just before bedtime.
~ Decant soup into a tureen or straight into bowls the night before and refrigerate. When you come home from work or log off in a “work from home” environment all that is necessary is to pop in the microwave for a reheat.
~ Make enough Falooda (if that’s your jam) ahead of time in a litre glass bottle so it stays fresh for at least two to three days. Same for having chilled water in bottle that you can take out the fridge and put on the table.
~ Pancake batter lasts a two to three days in the fridge. Whip up a bowl of batter and then all you have to worry about is perfecting your pan flip at night.
~ Prepare coconut pancake-filling over the weekend when the pressure is less than in midweek.
~ Fill a big Tupperware full of daltjie mix, but only the dry ingredients. Then at boeka-prep scoop out a cup and add spinach, water, onions and diced potato and baking powder to make them light and fluffy.
~ I even go as far as cutting up and rinsing my spinach beforehand and keeping in brown paper bags in the fridge (even the freezer if I have a huge bunch to prevent waste). You literally only have to dip your hand in and take out what you need to add to your pre-mixed daltjie ingredients.
~ I keep all my essential dry ingredients (a boeka survival kit) in a special container that is close at hand on my prep table with no lid so I can grab what I need, quickly and replace just as quickly (my kit includes baking powder, vanilla essence, cinnamon sugar shaker, container of my daltjie mix, container of fritter mix, spray and cook and oil in a small container for frying off pancakes but not too small that my egg-wash brush cannot fit into it.
~ I was raised to be like my mom and make everything from scratch. And even though I try to maintain this, I sometimes simply cannot. Also I could fold hundreds of samoosas when I lived with my parents as I did not have my own house, husband and kids to tend too. As much as I love homemade samoosas I do not miss that sticky forefinger at all (if you know, you know lol)! By buying it from a local vendor I get to support a small business and take some pressure off myself. Generally I buy my samoosas, pies and sometimes on occasion mini pizzas. These days you can buy anything; even soup, falooda, baked savouries and even fritters. If you can afford it there is always this option.
~ Last year I discovered Spice Mecca fritter mix on Insta stories. @nadaa_sd makes awesome food and I remember thinking if it’s good enough for her then I should give it a try. And I did not regret it at all. Zero time and effort to measure flour etc. I have no shame in saying it is lekker and literally five minutes prep time. It’s a YES from me!
~ If you have an Airfryer, put it through its paces this pwaasa. It works wonders to bake off pies and pizzas and is much quicker than an oven. I have yet to perfect samoosas in the air fryer but @cooked.inc has an awesome tutorial on how to get them crispy and just as good as deep fried.
~ I remember my mom rushing home from the taxi rank and exclaiming “I still need to make cookies for the neighbours, I am LATE”. On hurried nights like these, send dates, chocolates or fresh sliced fruit to neighbours.
~ If you are super swamped in the week, make a batch of crunchies (or something similar that keeps fresh for a few days but needs no decorating) over the weekend and store in an airtight container to send neighbours. Something sweet to share and zero prep midweek.
~ If you have an @Instantpotsa then do not EVER again make your boeber on the stovetop. @cooked.inc recipe using the Instant Pot is the best hack like ever! No stirring or milk burning to the bottom, only quick and easy full of flavour boeber ready in less than ten minutes
~ Get your containers for leftovers ready before breaking fast. When the meal is over, leftover food can be quickly decanted for fridge storage or late night snacking.
~ If you are making an array of different sweet and savoury treats, use a platter to house all the sweet items and another for the savoury goodies. This means less dishes later on and not a bazillion small oily plates to wash up.
~ Keep a tray close at hand to the boeka table. When everyone is done eating, all the dirty dishes can be taken to the kitchen in one fell swoop as opposed to various mini trips. I am super tired and sometimes even dizzy after breaking my fast; I want clean-up to be fast and efficient.
~ Lastly do a deep clean of your freezer, pantry cupboard and fridge before the Ramadaan starts. It’s the best time to get rid of that old bowl of something you froze and swore to save for a random night of no-cooking but forgot about it anyway. A nice clean fridge makes more space for your pre-made falooda, chilled water and decanted soup. And even though we want to avoid wastage, it inevitably does happen as our tummies shrink over the course of the month. If you have enough space, you can refrigerate extra goodies overnight and deliver to soup kitchens/needy in the community by the next day.
Many of these “hacks” may seem quick and easy enough to do but all those 2 minute tasks do add up especially when you are in a rush and trying to get things done. If I do most of the above, I free up much needed time to ensure I don’t burn the samosas (happens to me at least once or twice in the pwaasa, ask my husband lol). I maybe get that ten minutes to shower before Maghrib so I can make salaah soon after I break my fast. And it just allows me to not get super stressed.
I hope that one or two of these hacks, helps you over the next month. Drop me a comment below if you use any of them; I would love to know. If you know of something that could help, pop me a message and help a girl out!
Happy Pwaasa and Boeka ma lekker!
PS: I am fully aware that the Ramadaan is not only about food and we should focus our thoughts and actions in prayer and remembrance of Allah. For me, a big part of Ramadaan is the memories it holds and in those memories are the luscious, sweet smelling notes of food that immediately take us down memory lane. I cannot deny the impact that has on me and how my actions will one-day place (hopefully) good memories into the hearts of my boys when I am long gone In Shaa Allah Ameen…
 Slang term which denotes the month of Ramadaan
 Falooda is an Indian version of a cold dessert made with noodles. Traditionally it is made by mixing rose syrup, vermicelli, and sweet basil seeds with milk, often served with ice cream
 Call to prayer for Muslims
 Slang for breaking of the fast or Ramadaan evening supper
 Suhoor is an Islamic term referring to the meal consumed early in the morning by Muslims before fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan. The meal is eaten before Fajr, or dawn.
 Deep fried chilli-bites
 A samosa is a fried or baked pastry with a savory filling, such as spiced potatoes, onions, peas, beef and other meats, or lentils. It may take different forms, including triangular, cone, or half-moon shapes, depending on the region
 Boeber is the Cape Malay name for an Indian pudding. It has become a traditional Cape Malay sweet, milk drink, made with vermicelli, sago, sugar, and flavoured with cardamom, stick cinnamon, and rose water.