The Flavours of Ramadan

Four Seasons celebrated Ramadan by inviting guests to its first seasonal dish exchange between hotels and resorts in the Middle East and North Africa.

by Alexandra Sheehan

This year, Four Seasons hotels and resorts in the Middle East and North Africa are participating in the Four Seasons Ramadan Table dish exchange.

Community, charity, delicious food: These are some of the things that come to mind for Muslims who celebrate the Ramadan holiday. Approximately 1.6 billion people practise Islam worldwide and join the 30-day celebration.

The Holy Month is marked with prayer and self-reflection – as well as fasting daily from dawn to sunset.

Every day, those who observe the holiday enjoy a suhoor, a pre-dawn meal, before fasting until sunset. Then, a communal gathering commences for the iftar, the larger night-time meal to break the day’s fast. For many, these meals are the highlight of the holiday and create memories that last a lifetime.

The holiday has given Arabic Chef Yahya Osman of Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach some of his fondest childhood memories. “My brothers and sisters and I would all experiment in the kitchen during Ramadan to prepare for the evening’s iftar,” he says. “There was always lots of love and laughter around the room.”

Unsurprisingly, that love and laughter is often around food. “The food is the centre of attention throughout the entire month,” Sleiman says.

This year, Four Seasons celebrated Ramadan by inviting guests to its first seasonal dish exchange between hotels and resorts in the Middle East and North Africa. Participating hotels and resorts served two local specialty dishes from a sister property at iftar during the Holy Month.

Here, get a taste of the special dishes that graced the menu at the Four Seasons Ramadan Table.

Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach

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Kishek manekish

As a child, Chef Osman used to make kishek manekish for his family during Ramadan.

Chef Osman of Four Seasons Dubai at Jumeirah Beach has always cherished celebrating the Holy Month with his family. Growing up, he and his five siblings were each responsible for making a dish and bringing it to the table for iftar. Osman always made kishek manekish.

“Kishek manekish is special to me, as I have very fond memories of cooking and eating it from childhood. I love the light, fresh flavours and rich consistency. I wanted to use a dish that is great for sharing, as this is what Ramadan is all about.”
– Arabic Chef Yahya Osman

Four Seasons Hotel Beirut

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When planning his contribution for the Four Seasons Ramadan Table, Osman decided to add a gourmet spin to this traditional dish. “I place black truffles into the mixture, so that the dough itself oozes the light richness of the truffles, and I sprinkle them on top – a tastefully opulent and delicious combination,” he says. He recommends pairing kishek manekish with traditional Ramadan juices and teas.

Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh

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Lamb mansaf

A traditional Bedouin dish, mansaf (which can be made with chicken or lamb) is typically eaten with the right hand while keeping the left hand behind the back.

To Four Seasons Hotel Amman Executive Chef Chuck Kazmer, Ramadan is a special and happy time. He loves joining friends and family around the table to break the fast. “Mansaf is a dish where the family gathers around the table, so it is perfect for Ramadan.”

“This is the national dish of Jordan, so I felt it was important to represent the country.”
– Executive Chef Chuck Kazmer

Mansaf – which can also be made with chicken – is prepared by cooking the meat in yogurt and served over rice or bulgur. “Even though a lot of people eat it with a fork and knife, it should actually be eaten with your right hand,” Kazmer says. “No utensils – just your clean, bare hand.”

Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island

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Seafood tagine

While Ramadan tables usually don’t have seafood, Chef Essam was inspired by his roots in the port city of Alexandria for his seafood tagine dish.

Originally from Egypt’s largest port city of Alexandria but currently in the kitchen at Four Seasons Hotel Sharm El Sheikh, Chef Wael Essam says that like most Alexandrians, he has always been inspired by the sea. “Ramadan tables usually do not include fish dishes,” Essam says. “That’s why I thought of adding something different this year with a special fish tagine for seafood lovers.”

Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay

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Seafood tagine in this region is a hearty stew that often includes local fish and vegetables flavoured with aromatic spices such as ginger, cumin and cilantro. In Essam’s Alexandrian seafood tagine, which his mother taught him how to make when he was a child, saffron and almonds round out a unique flavour profile.

Four Seasons Hotel Casablanca

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Stuffed pigeon with oriental rice

Often the star of the table during the Holy Month, stuffed pigeon can be made many different ways.

“Stuffed pigeons are the masterpiece on the table,” Chef Emad Ebeid of Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza says. “Imagine fasting all day and waiting to taste that masterpiece. That is what makes [this dish] even more special during the Holy Month.”

Join any Egyptian household for dinner, and you’ll likely find stuffed pigeon on the table. Ebeid learned how to make this popular dish from his mother, and their time-tested technique calls for stuffing the pigeons with herbs, spices and rice right away so that everything can cook together and gain the most flavour.

Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza

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Moroccan seafood briouats

Another seafood dish making an appearance during the Four Seasons Ramadan Table, Chef Elfaydy’s Moroccan seafood briouats pay homage to the seaside city of Casablanca.

For Chef Younes Elfaydy of Four Seasons Hotel Casablanca, “It is impossible to imagine a Moroccan Ramadan table without briouats of some sort, whether salty or sweet.” While briouats – stuffed phyllo pastries – may be filled with chicken or pigeon, Elfaydy’s recipe pays homage to Casablanca’s seafaring heritage.

“The recipe for this dish is a well-guarded secret handed down by our great-grandmother. The secret is in the spices.”
– Chef Younes Elfaydy

“These traditional pastries are a staple dish during the Holy Month,” Elfaydy says. He prepares this recipe, which has been handed down through generations, with extreme care, making sure the seafood-filled pastries are perfectly cooked and crispy.

Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria at San Stefano

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Lamb thareed

According to tradition, the Qatari specialty lamb thareed was the Prophet Mohammad’s favourite dish.

A Beirut native, Executive Chef Ahmad Sleiman now creates authentic cuisine for guests at Four Seasons Doha. In just a week after arriving in Qatar, he learned how to make local Qatari specialty lamb thareed.

Four Seasons Hotel Doha

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“It is said that the lamb thareed was actually Prophet Mohammad’s favourite meal.” – Executive Chef Ahmad Sleiman

Thareed is a common dish on dinner tables during Ramadan. The hearty meat-and-vegetable soup is served over crispy flatbread that softens and absorbs the flavours of the stew as it soaks in.

Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Centre

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Egyptian lentil soup

Seemingly simple, Egyptian lentil soup is packed with aromatic spices and herbs in a flavourful combination.

The first Egyptian executive chef in Four Seasons history, Executive Chef Hossam Saied of Four Seasons Alexandria remembers celebrating Ramadan with his family. His fondest memory is buying the Ramadan lantern and celebrating with friends.

“Soup is a must in Ramadan,” says Saeid. He has created a flavourful version of Egyptian lentil soup, a very popular dish in the country, to commemorate the holiday.

Four Seasons Hotel Amman

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