Joudie kalla cooking

Everything you need to know about Ramadan

Chef Joudie Kalla tells us all about the Islamic month of fasting

By Rebecca Shepherd, 30 May 2017
Everything you need to know about Ramadan

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim year, where for around 30 days and nights, strict fasting is observed from dawn to sunset.

"Anything hearty and warming to the soul is very much welcome at the table"

This year, the month runs from May 27 to June 25 and ends with Eid al-Fitr, which is the festival of breaking the fast. During Eid, Muslims will wear their best clothes, decorate their homes and, of course, eat a special celebratory feast.

"Ramadan is a time to reflect on our lives and to take a moment to think about other people who are less fortunate than us," chef Joudie Kalla said. 

"It is a time to cleanse your body, mind and soul and give yourself totally to submission as you will be hungry, tired and thirsty doing your normal day to day activity. For me, it is a moment to reflect on your life, what it means and what you are here for."

To help break your fast we spoke to Joudie, author of Palestine on a Plate: Memories from my mother's kitchen who told us the best meals to eat and what Ramadan means to her.

What does Ramadan mean to you?

Joudie said: "Fasting is not only about not eating or drinking, but it's also about not committing any sins; physical or biological. 

"It's a time where you give yourself the opportunity to become better. We take a part in it because it is an order from God to reach a higher level of understanding. It's supposed to remind you of people who are less fortunate, who have nothing, that you generally don’t think about in everyday life. Even things like when you are brushing your teeth you have to be aware not swallow any water, or wasting too much water when it is running.

"It is about thinking of every action you do and what repercussions it may have on you or others. It's a time of reflection of self-control, prayers, and faith.

"It also makes you appreciate your food when it has been taken away from you. Fasting has also been proven to be very good for the body and is even used in western practice to heal the body from any impurities, so it has many positive effects on the gut and the mind."

How and when do you break your fast?

Joudie said: "We break our fast at sunset each day and this time changes daily so you must be aware of this. We usually break our fast on 3 dates as this is what our prophet Mohammad did when he broke his fast. After this, we would eat a soup make up of freekeh and chicken to warm our insides and then perhaps a salad

"The point is to not over eat after all the fasting as it then totally destroys what you are doing. You have to eat in moderation and eat slowly."

What dishes are great for breaking your fast with?

Joudie said: "The dishes we choose are slow burning foods, such as freekeh soup, to make you feel full for longer and nourish you. The dates help with the sugar to increase your insulin level as you are probably very tired at this point.

"There are many dishes that we eat during Ramadan but the freekeh soup - for my family - is very important because it has many benefits and is even considered a superfood these days. Dishes like Fattet Djaj (a dish of rice, chicken and pitta bread) as well are very popular. Anything hearty and warming to the soul is very much welcome at the table."

We've rounded up some hearty meals to inspire your iftah (evening meal)...

1. Jewelled butternut squash houmous and griddle crudités

This easy-prep sharing starter is bursting with flavours and colours. Make sure you grill some pitta bread and cut them up into chunks so you can all get involved!

2. Moroccan-style spatchcock chicken

Feast your eyes on this succulent dish. It has a delicate blend of spices your tummy will thank you for. 

3. Chickpeas with halloumi, spinach & tomato

This exotic fusion of Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern flavours will quickly become your go-to meal. 

4. Rib-eye steak with dukkah crust & fattoush salad

This Middle Eastern inspired steak with a tasty fattoush salad is delicious and packed with flavour.


This traditional Middle Eastern salad is made with generous amounts of parsley and mint, so the fresh herb flavours really shine through. It’s delicious served with grilled meat, fish or halloumi.

6. Maamoul

Or if it's a sweet treat you fancy, these date pastries will go down a treat. The dates sweeten the soft, buttery pastry, and rose water creates a Middle Eastern taste.

Make sure you stock up on everything you need including cooking utensils at Asda or pop into your local store for all your ingredients.