If there’s one thing that hasn’t been in short supply in as of late, it’s time.
Time to adjust to the new status quo, time to digest (or sometimes completely avoid) the constant barrage of news headlines surrounding the current health crisis, and time to reflect.
I won’t attempt to summarise all of my quarantine reflections for you here because a) most of it is quite personal and b) that’s what therapy is for – but one that I would like to share is, appropriately, Ramadan related. I have been wracking my brains to try and understand just why this month is so important to me. While I do still identify with the Muslim faith, I’ve never counted myself or my family as overtly religious. I do enjoy the slower pace, but doesn’t everybody? And yes, I do love a vibrant Ramadan social gathering filled with laughter, games and syrup-laden desserts – but again, that’s hardly unique.
So I dug deep and reflected on Ramadans past to find the answer. I realised foolishly that the answer was so simple.
My parents divorced when I was around 13 – and what ensued in the years following was nothing short of a rollercoaster of emotions. There were good years, where I hardly felt a sense of loss and bad years – where I was often cast as the intermediary between my mother and father. To say I used to dread the phrase “Tell your father/mother” was an understatement. But throughout it all, Ramadan was the one time of year where none of that mattered. Come proverbial rain or shine, the Iftar table was where our family became whole again. For 30 days of the year, my parents broke bread together amicably, alongside my brother and I and the occasional invited guests. I would praise my mother for once again perfecting the ubiquitous lentil soup, and share er’ soos (a traditional Egyptian liquorice drink) with my father while chatting mindlessly with my brother. I wish someone had told me then that the most mundane and unremarkable moments were the ones I would come to yearn for the most.
Another benefit of family gatherings? They made for the perfect test audience whenever I had a new recipe to pilot. Many a vegan basboosa, konafa and muhallabia were conceived in my mother’s kitchen in our last home in Bahrain.
Similar to the above mentioned Ramadan desserts – today’s recipe is also omnivore approved. I whipped up this delightful chia pudding for several gatherings with friends and co-workers last year, and it was a hit every time.
- ¼ cup chia seeds
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or non-dairy milk of choice)
- 1 tbsp rose water
- t tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 2 tbsp maple syrup (or other sweetener of choice) + extra to serve
- Fresh berries, pistachios, coconut flakes and other toppings of choice
- In a medium-sized bowl or container, combine all ingredients. Cover and put in the fridge to soak for at least 2 hours (but ideally overnight).
- Divide among serving bowls and garnish with toppings of choice and an additional drizzle of maple syrup.
If rose and cardamom aren't your thing, leave them out and up the vanilla to 2 teaspoons for a more neutral tasting pudding.
If you soak this overnight, you may need to add a splash of liquid (almond milk or water) in the morning to "loosen" the pudding up - use your best judgement
If you have the time – I would really recommend soaking this pudding overnight as it does wonders for the texture.
Light, airy and incredibly moreish – this pudding makes for an ideal healthified stand-in to the more traditional roz bi labban (rice pudding). The great thing about Chia Seeds is that they’re so versatile in terms of flavour! If rose and cardamom aren’t your cup of tea – try using coconut milk instead of almond, and topping with sliced mango, pistachio and pomegranate for a tropical twist.
Chia pudding is also arguably, pretty foolproof. I mean I would hardly even call this a recipe. For those of you quarantining at home with little ones – you can even make a project out of decorating your individual servings with your kids.
Until next time, dear readers!