With June 14th marking the end of this year’s Ramadan, Muslim families across the country are getting ready to celebrate Eid al-Fitr with their loved ones.
Known as the festival of the fast breaking, and marking the start of Shawwal (the 10th month of the lunar Islamic calendar), Eid al-Fitr is marked by family and friends coming together to celebrate with prayers, elaborate meals and gift-giving.
Ahead of this year’s celebrations, Joudie Kalla, chef and author of Palestine on a Plate: Memories from my mother’s kitchen, shares some of her favourite recipes that remind her of celebrating Eid with her family and friends.
Joudie says: "For me, [food] is just lots of memories. My sisters and brother don’t live in the UK and my parents are always abroad visiting family, so when I’m here alone, I cook many dishes to feel as if they are with me.
"Each recipe in my first book has a connection to a relative – an auntie or a cousin or my grandma.”
Check out some of Joudie’s favourite recipes to make during Eid below, from Middle Eastern-inspired doughnuts to silky soups and fragrant rice dishes.
Chicken pitta yogurt bake
This traditional Arabic dish comprised of soft, warm chicken and lamb, tangy yogurt, grainy rice and crispy pitta takes Joudie back to Eid meals with her family whenever she makes it.
Joudie says: "During the holiday season my family usually cooks all the normal festive dishes, but we also go all out with Arabic dishes that are, to me, just sublime. You can make this dish with aubergines, chickpeas, chicken, lamb – it's very versatile. This dish is made up of layers and must be eaten straightaway due to the hot liquid and yogurt that is poured over the crisp pitta bread."
Pomegranate meatballs with vermicelli tomato soup
This rich and silky meatball soup seasoned with pomegranate molasses is both humble and special to Joudie.
She says: "My mother made this for us when we were ill and also many times during Ramadan to break our fast. It is a hearty, homely soup with so much depth of flavour that it often features on my dinner table.
"I always make this for friends when they are not well and suddenly they perk up from all the wonderful flavours in their mouth.”
'Upside down' spiced rice with lamb & aubergines
This traditional Palestinian dish comprised of meat, rice and fried vegetables is fragrant, filling and a real family favourite for Joudie.
She says: “The fillings are layered in a pot, which is then flipped upside down when served – hence the name makloubeh, which translates literally as ‘upside down’. We often make this dish for important events, such as Eid, Ramadan and family birthdays as it is a labour of love. My niece Thalia absolutely adores it – she only eats it when my mother cooks it as she says it makes her 'tummy happy'.”
Sticky sweet cheese & cream wraps
This typical celebration dish combines chewy, melted mozzarella with sugar syrup to form a decadent dough that wraps around a creamy centre, sprinkled with crushed pistachios.
Joudie says: "These are traditionally made with the delicious, and very famous, akkawi cheese in Palestine and the Middle East, but it is hard to find here, so I often substitute with mozzarella. Akkawi cheese is very salty so if you do find it, make sure you cut it and soak it in a bowl of water for about an hour, then drain and soak for another hour before using.”
Doughnuts may not be a traditional Middle Eastern dessert, but these pillowy treats flavoured with citrus and delicate rose bring back many memories of Palestine to Joudie.
She says: "These doughnuts are just beautiful. The essence of the Middle East really shines through here with the fragrant rose water, tangy lemon icing drizzled across the surface and the dried rose buds crushed on top. It really has everything I want in a dessert.”