Date shake, hummus, bite-sized sandwiches and peri bites – what more can one want for iftar?

Published: June 3, 2017

I usually like getting all the cooking done right after fajar prayers or if sleep overpowers me, then as early as possible before the heat starts kicking in. PHOTO: ARHAMA SIDDIQA

Once again, I’m reminiscing about UK times. Iftar was an exorbitant affair. We used to open our fasts in the campus mosque where different groups of people, usually from the local community, used to host iftars. The menu was different every day, and in addition to desi pakoras, jalebis and samosas followed by qorma, biryani or pulao, we got to experience different dishes from around the world. They ranged from Malaysian satay and lemang to Arabian Margoog and Kabsa. Rooh Afza was of course the staple drink, the undisputed favourite transcending all cultural barriers.

In Pakistan, we are experiencing long summer rozas and past noon (this holds true for me at least), our minds and bodies start failing to synchronise. I usually like getting all the cooking done right after Fajr prayers or if sleep overpowers me, then as early as possible before the heat starts kicking in.

Let me take a moment to note here that for all those out there who are in the process of constructing kitchens, please invest in an air conditioner, especially for these hot summer months.

So getting back on topic. Close to iftar time, food cravings are at an all-time high and energy levels an all-time low, not to mention tempers close to flaring.

Here are some quick recipes which will satisfy those taste buds, are easy on the stomach and barely take time (plus, they can be prepared well in advance).

Date shake

The first time I had this heavenly drink was in London at Bateels. And let me say, it was beyond amazing. It is the perfect drink to have when you have to revitalise energy levels and are craving something sweet but want to stay in the healthy parameter as well. Moreover, the benefits are numerous. Dates are very helpful in improving digestion, are a rich source of iron and also are an important source of vitamin B.


Dates without seeds – 10-12 (let them soak in warm water for half an hour so they are easier to blend)

Milk – 2 glasses

Cream – ¼ cup

Yoghurt – 6 tbsp

Honey (for added sweetness)


Blend all the ingredients in a blender with ice cubes.


Let us switch continents and time capsule back to the summer of 2016. Edgware road, London or as I like to call it, little Middle East reincarnated. The thronging traffic, hurried pedestrians and lines of busy retail outlets form a familiar London scene. But as you continue to walk, the distinct and musky smell of shisha – also known as hookah or a water pipe – will hit you because the area is ablaze with a culture of shisha cafes, with people sitting next to their ornamental pipes, their faces gradually fading into the plume of smoke that they exhale. It is also home to a myriad of Lebanese restaurants, doner kebab outlets, shawarma stands and halal butchers on every corner and is the focal point for much of central London’s Muslim population. It is here that I was introduced to the Lebanese cuisine and I fell in love with hummus.

Hummus serves as a great dip. It barely takes 10 minutes to make which is why it’s a great recipe to have on hand, plus it is light and low in calories. Serve it with carrots and cucumbers or go traditional with pita bread (or even our desi rotis or naan).


Chick peas – 3 cans (drained)

Lemon juice – ¼ cup

Olive oil – ¼ cup

Garlic – 2 cloves

Tahini – 2 tbsp (sesame seeds paste)

Salt to taste


  1. In a food processor, place chick peas, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and tahini. Processes until all things are well combined.
  2. Add enough water to make a smooth dip.
  3. Season it with paprika.
  4. Transfer it in serving bowl and drizzle with little olive oil.

Bite-sized sandwiches

These are amazing hand foods; they take a maximum of 10 minutes and voila, you are done. The best thing about them is that they can be served warm or cold.


Bread cut in quarters

Cheese slices cut in quarters

Chilli Garlic sauce

Pepperoni slices




Heat the pepperoni and bread slices in a lightly oiled pan. Now spread chili sauce, place the cheese pepperoni and olives. Stick in a tooth pick and you are done.

Peri Bites

I don’t think there is anyone who loves Nandos and hasn’t had their peri bites. Here is an easy on the pocket way to try within the confines of your home. A great alternative if the traditional pakoras get too monotonous for you. They’re also extremely easy to make.


Jalapeno peppers – 12

Chicken – 1 cup (boiled and shredded)

Salt – ½ tsp

Black pepper – ½ tsp

Cheddar cheese – ½ cup (shredded)

Egg – 1 (lightly beaten)

Bread crumbs – 1 cup

Flour – ½ cup

Oil for frying


  1. Split open the jalapenos and remove the seeds and membranes.
  2. Now combine the cheese and chicken, add salt and pepper in it. Mix it well.
  3. Now stuff the mixture in jalapenos one by one. You can change the stuffing according to your taste. Maybe add cream cheese with peri sauce.
  4. Let the jalapenos chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  5. Now coat the jalapenos with the flour, then the egg and in the end, bread crumbs.
  6. Heat oil in a pan and fry them.

All photos: Arhama Siddiqa

Arhama Siddiqa

Arhama Siddiqa

The author is a LUMS and University of Warwick Alumnus and is currently a Research Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI). She calls herself a bibliophile,a dreamer and an avid foodie.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    Gosh !….that was a lot to digest. Firstly in my computer the pictures at the top get displayed all the others just don’t open….this was the case in the last blog as well. Possibly its my computer, its getting old and whimsical like me.
    Date shake….sounds good, looks good must also taste good but it must be ‘ heavy ‘ as in heavy on the stomach.
    Hummus ….I love especially with garam, garam thin slices of naan and when you say its so easy to make, barely takes 10 minutes….I asked and was told yes, if all the stuff is laid out in front of you, like in the cooking shows.
    The last two bite sized snacks ….took me back to the good days of the 60’s and cocktails, bearers dressed in white, elegant ladies and men who liked to be called gentlemen……but those days are gone just about everywhere.
    Now I’m rambling…… I’ll leave my story of Edgware road and air-conditioning in the kitchen, for later.Recommend

  • Hamsid

    Hahahha as always I love your comments!
    No no date shake is a must have in iftar
    It won’t be heavy on the stomach after a long roza plus it refreshes you instantaneously

    Hummus ingredients gathering are included in the ten minutes =p try it out!

    And edgware road and air conditioning stories need to be told!!Recommend

  • Patwari

    Actually watermelon is too watery. But you can wring out the pulp
    in a fine cloth…or put everything in the blender and see what spits
    out !!. Like Dr. Jekyll’s potion !Recommend

  • Patwari

    As the Geni said to Aladdin, [in this case Hamsid]
    ‘your wish is my command’.
    Will make them with my own two hands, now.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Seems like just about every place in the World, now,
    is getting more and more unsafe, to visit. London included.
    if it’s not the terrorists, extremists, or local fanatics doing the
    sick damage, then it’s some deranged employee causing
    harm to his former place of employment or employers [ like
    in the Indonesian casino resort, just days ago]
    Ooops! Forgot this is a food blog!Recommend

  • Parvez

    In Egypt, Alexandria to be precise I had a water melon milk shake …..and it did not agree with me , I got an attack of asthma and was told that I must be allergic to water melon, so have not touched it since then……so yes water melon milk shakes do exist.Recommend

  • Hamsid

    I googled it, I don’t think the texture will turn out all thick and creamy , but I want to try it out for sureRecommend

  • Parvez

    No , I’m really a softie …..but I figured it out… computer is female, it has a mind of its own.Recommend

  • Parvez

    As promised I put a rather long, by my standards, comment on Edgware road / Bayswater area and my experience with food there…..but ET or my computer apparently has gobbled it up……hope they get indigestion.Recommend

  • Ahmar

    Aww man.. now I feel hungry.

    Everything looks really good. Thumbs up!Recommend

  • Parvez

    Today I find my comment on Edgware Road food has suddenly appeared……so apologies are due to ET and my computer.
    Now onto air conditioning a kitchen : bad idea. Our cooking consists of a lot of grease, masala, cooking oil, smells, smoke etc something not good for normal air conditioning filters and repair bills I think would outweigh the benefits.. The solution lies in either having a very powerful exhaust system ( an innovative friend put in one from a scrap ship from Gaddani ) and it works beautifully. The other obvious option which is quite common is to have a ‘ grease kitchen ‘ and the cook doing the heavy lifting and not the begum sahiba.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Very interesting. To put an exhaust fan in the kitchen. Makes sense.
    Another alternative and much cheaper, is a “swamp cooler”
    it is simple technology. Basically blowing air over water.
    it does require electricity. but will not skyrocket your electric
    bill. Perhaps you can Google it. [Takes care of the humidity.
    which is the main culprit.]
    Even the Ancient Egyptians and Ancient Greeks used this ‘method’ . Blowing/fanning air over pots full of water. Or reed
    mats soaked in water hanging over a doorway/entrance.
    The Mughals did this too. fragrant reed mats, with Chameli
    or Raat ki Rani woven into the mats and a servant blowing air through a ceiling rope fan! Required constant pulling though.Recommend

  • Hamsid

    haha thank you, and Now that the idea has been fixed in my brain, STICKY-TOFFEE pudding hopefully up soon !Recommend

  • Hamsid

    aye but but but its too too too hot this time around, cooing shows must have air conditioning too no?
    But you’r right about the bills and allRecommend

  • Hamsid

    woah , thank you I never knew this . A swamp cooler sounds great !Recommend

  • Hamsid

    very apt =pRecommend

  • Parvez

    Swamp Cooler also known as a Dessert Cooler should work but the basic idea is to have a super efficient exhaust system .Recommend

  • Parvez

    I agree ‘ Cooking SHOWS ‘ on TV must have air conditioning…… its air conditioning you house kitchen as has suggested by you, that I thing is not such a good idea.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Remember a ‘ swamp cooler ‘ pushes relatively cooler air INTO the kitchen….but does not suck the heat, smell and smoke OUT of the kitchen……a very strong exhaust fan is really the answer.Recommend

  • Parvez

    The Cairo Museum is definitely brilliant…….especially the ‘ mummies ‘ in the basement…..and the pyramids but if you got a chance to go inside the pyramid, to the inner chamber, the system of ventilation does impress you.
    How did we land up at the pyramids from water melon milk shakes ….??? I’ve always said food and travel make for a great story……that’s why I watch a lot of cooking shows.Recommend

  • 2#

    yes cause there is no harm in experimentation :) try sometimeRecommend

  • Parvez

    The day I’ll record my travels …. is the day I’ll try my hand at cooking…… ;- )Recommend