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Yemeni Journey

Breaking Fast

It is about half an hour before time to break fast. The sun is slanting in the windows, whispering its goodbyes for the day. Outside, the dusty streets are filled with people hurrying…the old men who play dominoes for hours every afternoon are packing up their game board and pieces and walking off in a group, arms around each other’s shoulders. Motorcycles, each with three or four riders, drive cautiously over speed bumps, then speed up and hasten to the main road, and home. Everywhere men are walking, carrying bags laden down with treats for the evening’s gatherings. They call out to each other, wave, and continue on, paces quickening as they notice the sun dipping towards its daily meeting with the Sea. Children are out in full force, some digging through garbage for discarded treasure, some singing and banging on milk cans, some playing soccer, proudly displaying their Messi team jerseys, some sitting in circles, planning the night’s excursions.

Inside the house, Juwairiyah is baking bread. Nusaybah is making some Tang- a treat that we have almost exclusively in Ramadhaan. Sukhailah is filling samosas while a pan of cheese potatoes bakes in the oven. Hudhaifah has just returned home with ice and yogurt for the evening, and Mu’aadh and Maryam are noisily entertaining baby Asmaa. As the time for breaking fast nears, everyone becomes a little more animated, a little more excited. They have spent the day in reading, reciting Qur’aan, making mud houses in the yard, playing under the tree and in the house, and when evening comes they are ready to come in and enjoy the companionship of their family, breaking fast together.

The fast is broken with dates and water. This is the the Messenger of Allaah, may Allaah’s praise and salutations be upon him, broke his fast- the connection one feels when doing something just as he did it, over 1400 years ago, is incredible. With the breaking of the fast there is a supplication, one which Allaah tells us is never left unanswered. “The thirst is gone, the veins are moistened, the reward is certain, if Allaah wills.” And we make our own private supplications- for knowledge, strength, patience, fortitude in doing that which is right…for health, happiness, and safety…for whatever is in the heart of each person.

Then we pray, and eat supper afterwards. When supper is finished, I take the children up on the roof and we jump rope or play tag, or perhaps we just sit and look at the moon shining in the night sky and listen to the silence of streets emptied of people for a brief period of time. When the call to the night prayer is made, we begin to gather ourselves together to go back into the house, and the people who are going to go to the later, taraaweeh prayer that lasts for an hour or more, get ready to go.

From across the miles, I would like to share a special Yemeni meal with you…we can’t be together in space or time, but we can be together in the beautiful gift of food, a blessing we should never forget to be thankful for. We can be together in peace, and in heart companionship, no matter where we are, insh’Allaah.

Samboosah (Meat Filled Pastries)

This is common snack food in Yemen, especially in the month of Ramadhaan. It is often served at the iftaar, when people are breaking their fasts. It can be dipped in hot sauces or ketchup, if you like. We like to make them with potatoes, or sometimes tuna, instead of the meat.

Ingredients:

For the dough:

4 cups flour

1/3 cup oil

¼ tsp salt

Water

Mix the salt with the flour, and then stir in the oil. Add enough water to make a soft dough. Knead it until smooth, cover it, and set it aside to rest. While it is resting, make the filling.

 

For the filling:

Ingredients:

½ kilo ground beef

2 onions, diced

½ cup parsley, chopped (optional)

1 hot pepper, seeds removed, diced (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Brown the ground beef and the onions in a little bit of oil. Add the remaining ingredients and a small amount of water. Cover and cook until done.

Make the dough into walnut- sized balls. Roll out into a circle. Put a spoon of meat on the circle, fold it over, and press the edges shut with a fork dipped in water.

Fry in hot oil until golden brown on all sides. Set on a paper towel to drain.

Zibaadi bi al-Khiyaar (Yogurt and Cucumber Salad)

Ingredients:

2 cucumbers

2 cloves of garlic

1 container of plain yogurt

Salt and dried mint

Chop the cucumbers finely. Crush the garlic with a little salt and a little cumin if desired. Mix these with the yogurt, and sprinkle with the dried mint.

Al-‘Aqada (Chicken Stew)

Ingredients:

1 diced onion

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

3 diced tomatoes

1 hot pepper, seeds removed, diced (optional)

1 potato, cut as for French fries

2 spoons of tomato paste

Salt and pepper to taste

1 chicken, boiled and cut up

Diced parsley (optional)

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp curry powder

½ tsp ground coriander

Sauté the onion in a small amount of oil. Add the garlic and stir. Add the spices (not the parsley) and the potato and sauté for another five minutes. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Add the chicken pieces. Add water to about halfway up the chicken. Cover and simmer for ½ hour, until the potatoes are tender and the flavors melded. Add the parsley and serve. This is usually eaten with bread, but you can eat it with rice, if you like.

Biskweet (Cookies)

These are a very common cookie in Yemen, they are often served with coffee or tea for a snack.

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups of butter

½ cup oil

3 eggs

1 cup powdered sugar

½ cup unsweetened coconut

3 tablespoons of powdered milk

1 tablespoon baking powder

4 cups flour

Cream the butter, oil, and sugar together. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until well mixed. If it is sticky, add some more flour to make it easier to shape. Cover with plastic and refrigerate the dough for two hours. Roll out the dough on a floured board. Use cookie cutters to cut out pretty shapes. Here they use a cookie press- so if you have one, you can use the cookie press and skip the rolling and cutting. Bake 350 degrees for about 10-12 minutes- keep an eye on them so that they do not get too browned. Remove and let them cool (if you can. You might have to eat one right away!!)

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