Ramadan is a blessed month for the Muslims all over the world. In every corner of the globe, Muslims observe a fast from dawn to dusk. Ramadan is not only abstaining from food, but also keeping away from bad thoughts, arguments and bad deeds. It is a time when Muslims engage in lots of duas, dhikr and reciting the Holy Quran. In keeping up with the spirit of Ramadan, there is always a hustle bustle in Iftar preparations. That’s when an effective meal planning comes into picture.
No matter how tired the days get during Ramadan, we always want to whip up some delicacies for our loved ones. We want to break our fasts on a healthy and nutritious note. Meal planning is extremely important in Ramadan as we need to save our precious time in prayers and worshipping Allah, the Most Glorious, by making dua and dhikr. Usually, a lot of time is used up in preparing for iftar.
Below are some of the make ahead preparations I do for Ramadan that makes my days smooth and easy. It reduces the hassles associated with iftar and suhoor meals. These save my time as well as sanity, while still bringing some delicious meal to the table.
1. Make Ginger and Garlic Paste – Ginger and garlic paste is one of the absolute necessities in an Indian household. We usually have a bottle or two of them stocked in the freezer. Ramadan is no exception. Have some extra ginger and garlic paste stocked in the freezer and a bottle in the fridge for daily use. This will save you on a lot of time as we are all aware of the time consumed while cleaning and making ginger and garlic paste.
2. Fried onions – Some households use fried onion for a lot of recipes. It is also called barista. Sprinkle over biryani’s, add on top of haleem, add it to curries, kebabs, pulaos etc. Fried onions enhance the flavour of any dish. It also gives a nice rich look to it.
To make fried onion, slice the onion with an onion cutter in almost equal sizes. Fry them in hot oil till golden brown. Drain on a kitchen towel. Transfer in an airtight container or a ziplock bag and store in the freezer.
Whenever you want to use it, just take a handful and put the remaining back in the freezer. This way, they will be fresh for long. Do not thaw the fried onion, use it directly after taking out from the freezer.
3. Ready to eat chapati – Although making chapatis is a regular affair in everyday cooking, during Ramadan, especially at Suhoor times, having a couple of chapatis already rolled out makes those times quite relaxed. Some people prefer to have rice during Suhoor but at my place it’s always chapatis. I like to make and freeze some chapatis beforehand as it gives me some time to concentrate on the Tahajjud prayers. These prayers are the surest ways to get what you want, in the Dunya as well as the Akhirah.
To make chapatis or parathas, roll them out and place between layers of plastic sheets. I had no plastic sheets around, so I cut up squares from the plastic table cover roll ( also called the sufra rolls). Store them in a ziplock bag ( I had a store bought paratha ziplock bag).
4. Spice powders – I like to make my own spice powders. It is always better than the store bought ones. I also stock up on some Arabic spices like zaater and sumac. Cumin powder, coriander powder, Garam masala powder etc are some of the spices I keep on hand all year round, especially during Ramadan.
To make your own spice powder, you have to roast the spices and allow to cool. Grind to a fine powder and store in airtight containers to preserve the freshness.
5. Peel and store garlic – To all the cooks, peeling garlic has to be one of the most time consuming task. Well, I literally despise peeling garlic right at the time of cooking. Same goes for during Ramadan. That’s why I have a couple of garlic pods peeled and stored in a container lined with paper towels. Keep them in the refrigerator. So whenever I need a few garlic in my recipe, I head to the refrigerator and take a couple of garlic and use them. It saves a lot of time and sanity.
6. Clean and store herbs – Coriander and mint leaves are some of the essential herbs, especially in Indian cooking. We need to wash them really well before use so that it is free from all the dirt and soil. The best way to preserve and use them for long without any spoils is by trimming the roots and discarding the browned and spoilt leaves. Do not wash them.
Line a plastic container with kitchen towel. Keep herbs in them. Place another layer of kitchen towel on top. Close the lid. Store in the refrigerator and use as required. This arrangement makes the herbs stay fresh for up to 3 weeks, maybe even longer. One tip to follow is to not leave the container out of the refrigerator for long, just take how much ever herbs is required and toss them back in the fridge. Keeping them out for long leads to moisture getting into the box and will wilt the leaves, hence spoiling them.
7. Store chutneys and sauces – Make and store green chutney ( mint chutney), tamarind chutney, pasta sauce etc. This literally saves a ton of your time. Chutneys are handy in making sandwiches and even as a condiment with samosa, rolls etc. You can even utilize them in chaats. Having pizza and pasta sauce at hand is a blessing in disguise. Whenever you crave for having your favorite pasta, you know that half of your work is done. Saves on a lot of time.
8. Stock up on pantry items – As easy as it may seem, there are many times where we have to rush to the supermarket to get an ingredient or two that we almost ran out of. Even in a country like the Emirates, where the abundance of supermarkets is visible around every block, the need to stock up on pantry items is essential during Ramadan. In order to avoid large queues and exhaustion, prepare yourself beforehand by buying your pulses, packets of macaroni and spaghettis, lentils, rice, flour etc, anything that you know you will require in this Holy month.
However, fresh fruits and veggies, meat, milk etc can be bought on a per week basis or a 10 days once basis. ( Just imagine the time and energy you will save when you have to head to the grocery just thrice or four time in the entire month).
9. Blanch and freeze veggies – Veggies like carrots, green peas, celery etc can be frozen to use in soups, stews and pastas. The one thing to keep in mind is that the chopped veggies should be blanched before storing.
Blanching keeps the veggies fresh for longer. It also helps to maintain its color, taste and texture.
Arrange the blanched veggies in a tray, spread them. Freeze for about 2-3 hours, till completely frozen. Now transfer in a ziplock bag and store in freezer. All the veggies have to be frozen individually before freezing them together.
You can even make separate packets with different veggies needed for a particular soup. So whenever you plan on making the soup take one packet out and use. Remember to not thaw the vegetables as they will turn soft. Adding the veggies directly from the freezer preserves their vibrant color and flavour.
10. Boil and freeze chickpeas, Black Chana, rajma, white peas etc – If you use pulses like Chickpeas etc, for salads, chaats, pulaos etc, it is a good idea to cook and freeze them. This makes cooking so much peaceful.
Soak them overnight in enough water and the next day pressure cook for 3-4 whistles till completely cooked. Allow to cool. Store them in a plastic container and keep in freezer until use.
I hope you found these tips useful and will incorporate them for a smooth Ramadan. Don’t forget to check out part 2 of this series, which will be coming up shortly.
Here is a free printable that you can print and write down your meal plan for the entire month of Ramadan. This will save you from the guesswork while preparing each day. Take some ideas from your spouse and children as to what they would like in Ramadan and plan your meals accordingly.
If you would like to have a detailed and productive Ramadan, try out this Ramadan Planner 2019, where you can have your daily activities logged on a single paper. This 2-page daily planner will be highly helpful as you can have a look at where your days in Ramadan is going. From tracking your meals to tracking your water intake, from tracking your prayers to your good deeds, this has it all. It will motivate you to do better and plan your day well, both spiritually and in terms of household affairs. Ramadan Planner 2019 is now available in my Etsy shop. Download this for a productive Ramadan.