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When children are learning about other cultures, holy months, special festivals, and divine times are an important element of every lesson. In 2019 the Muslim month of charity, fasting, and prayer – Ramadan – falls between May 4th and June 5th.

A perfect time to teach your little ones about why some of their classmates might not be eating lunch, and how religion can be something so important to some people that they can make themselves deliberately uncomfortable to help them focus on their god.

However, like so many things when it comes to teaching kids, the lesson is best absorbed if they are doing something they enjoy as part of it.

Unfortunately there are very few children who enjoy going without food for extended periods of time, so other means will be needed. Again here, we can take a lesson from the Muslim world. In the UAE and Kuwait there is a tradition very similar to Halloween’s trick or treating, where Muslim children are encouraged to knock on doors, ask for sweets, and share stories from the Qu’ran. To adapt the same idea to learning about other cultures here, why not teach your child about Ramadan using desserts!

Specifically some of the desserts that Muslims partake in after sunset, when they are permitted to break their fast. The following three recipes make great sweet treats that you and your family can enjoy together, while learning important lessons about life in other parts of the world.

Watermelon Milkshake

The world’s first ever recorded harvest of watermelons happened in Egypt, 5,000 years ago, long before the rise of Islam. But the fruit has always been a special symbol of luxury and riches to the area, and though in modern times it turns up in some less than clear political symbolism, watermelons have always been something that the Muslim world has enjoyed. After a taste of this special sweet treat, it will be clear to see why.

watermelon milkshake

Ingredients (to serve 6 portions)

  • 1 tin of sweetened condensed milk
  • 750 grams of chilled watermelon cubes, with seeds removed
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla powder
  • 3 ice cubes

Put all the ingredients directly into the container section of an electric blender.

Blend for two to three minutes until the contents are smooth

Pour into serving cups and enjoy!

Date Bake

Dates have always been a staple food enjoyed throughout the Arab world, and where Islam has moved beyond Arab lands, the Date has been carried in trade and cultural exchange. This sweet and tasty fruit is not often part of the western diet, but with this recipe, you and your family will want to have it every day.

Ingredients (to serve 8 portions)

  • 1 tin of sweetened condensed milk
  • 300 grams of dried dates, pitted and chopped
  • 250 millilitres of water
  • ¼ teaspoon of baking soda
  • 100 grams of butter
  • 70 grams of caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 175 grams of white self-raising flour
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla powder

Pour the condescended milk into a large saucepan. Add the dates and the water and bring the mixture to boil, then cook it on a lower heat for two to three minutes, stirring it all the while. Then take the pan off the hob, and stir in the baking soda – at this point you should see the mixture begin to foam up. Once all the baking soda is fully stirred in, set this pan aside to cool.

In a separate bowl, blend the sugar and the butter and stir together until the mixture becomes creamy. At the eggs one at a time, beating the entire mixture thoroughly with each one. Then gently sift in the flour and vanilla powder and then stir in the mixture from the other saucepan.

Once the mixture is stirred together to an even consistency, pour it into a buttered and floured baking tin. Bake at 175 degrees Celsius in a preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the bake comes out clean once skewered.

Basbousa with Almond

A traditional Egyptian sweet cake whose exact origins are sadly lost to history. But once you and your family try out this lovely cake, it’s easy to understand why many of these are laid out every evening in Muslim homes at the Iftar, the daily breaking of the fast feast during Ramadan

Ingredients (to serve 9 portions)

  • 200 grams butter, melted
  • 1 tin of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 and ½ teaspoons of baking powder
  • 320 grams of semolina
  • 100 grams of ground almonds
  • 250 millilitres of water

Syrup ingredients

  • 400 grams of sugar
  • 375 millilitres of water
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of rosewater
  • 2 tablespoons of ground almonds

For the cake, put the butter, condensed milk and baking powder in a bowl and stir well. As you stir to mix in the ground almond, semolina, and water. Keep stirring until it is all combined into an even mixture, then pour into a baking tin, and bake at 190 Celsius for 35 minutes, or until the top is golden

To make the syrup, put the sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to boil and then let it simmer for 6-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and then stir in the lemon juice, ground almonds, and rosewater. Then leave the mixture to cool in the fridge for 30 minutes.

After the cake is baked, pour the syrup over the cakes, and leave them in the fridge for a further 60 minutes. Serve and enjoy.

To learn more about Ramadan, what it is and why it’s important, click here for more information. What you learn there can make a really useful part of this valuable and very tasty lesson about cultures all around the world.

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