Ramadan is the most important time of the year in the Islamic calendar, a time when people fast from sunrise to sunset, not even letting a drop of water into their mouth. The dates vary each year, going backwards by about ten days because Muslims follow the lunar calendar. The first day of the fast is announced when the new moon is sighted and the last day when the moon has reached its full cycle after which, there is a period of three days when the whole Muslim world celebrates Eid el-Futr (the feast of breaking the fast). When I planned my trip to Indonesia for the beginning of June, I didn’t quite think of Ramadan but as it happened, the latter half of my stay coincided with the first week of Ramadan, which was both good and not so. Not so good because life slows down during the day, with many eateries closed but good because once the fast is broken at sunset, everything springs back into life, with restaurants putting on special Ramadan menus for those wanting or needing to break their fast (buka puasa as iftar is known out there) outside their home while street vendors wheel out their carts — some with Ramadan specialities which you don’t see the rest of the year. Read more >
It’s been a while since I gave you my belly dancer of the month. Too much traveling and too many different things to work on but my life has been a little more relaxed recently and here is my choice for this month, a resplendant Samia Gamal who with Tahiya Carioca, is my other favourite belly dancer. And like Tahiya, she avoids being vulgar despite the suggestiveness of her movements. Every time I watch her I wonder how her jaws don’t ache with that wide fixed smile she has throughout her dances. She is very young in this clip taken from a 1954 film called Raqsat al-Weda’. The choreography and set are delightful, her body and movements absolutely gorgeous and the characters watching her very amusing despite some tragic expressions! I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!
I am coming to the end of my Sicilian stay, and this year I managed to be there for orange blossom season even if I arrived at the tail end of the season. I had Amy come back to visit, and one of the first things we did was to go down to the citrus grove to pick enough blossom to make our jam. Most of the blossom had gone but there were still enough for us to pick to make our jam. And the fact that the blossom was nearing the end of its life made it easier to pick. All we had to do was to shake the branches for the petals to fall off the buds and into our basket. Well, not all the petals but at least half. Here below are pics of Amy reaching high up in the tree to get some really good blossom to add to those that fell off easily.
Cauliflower is a very fashionable vegetable nowadays. You will see it on restaurant menus from San Francisco to New York to London, prepared in myriad ways from sliced thick and served as steak, to roasted, to grated and used instead of flour as a base for gluten-free pizza, and so on. But using it to make a sauce for pasta has not yet, as far as I know, been adopted by chefs even though it is a typical Sicilian way of using green cauliflower when in season. Some of you will already know that I am well on my way to becoming Sicilian, at least in as far as having a home there, and as a result, I am spending a fair amount of time on the island, staying on a beautiful organic farm belonging to my friend, Mary Taylor Simeti, who is also my guru for all things Sicilian — Mary is the author of the ultimate book on Sicilian food. So when I saw green cauliflower at the greengrocer, I decided to buy one before the season ends. Easter is the cut off time for cauliflower. Initially, I was going to make the pasta sauce myself. I had learned it from Mary but as she is just up the lane from my casetta, I thought why not have the master (or should I say mistress!) make it. And so it was. I carried my cauliflower to Mary’s house with my camera to snap her make the sauce while her gorgeous grandchildren sat mesmerized watching cartoons on the TV.