Hadi Salami, sous chef at Al Nafoorah in Jumeirah Emirates Towers, explains what Ramadan is like for a Muslim chef
Where are you from and what is your background? I am Lebanese and graduated from hotelier school in Lebanon, with a major in Food and Beverage production in international food. After working at several places in Beirut, including the Riviera Hotel, I moved to Dubai in December 2002 to join the team at Jumeirah Emirates Towers. I started out in the oriental section of the main kitchen as first commis, moving to Al Nafoorah in 2004, and last year I was promoted to sous chef.
What does Ramadan mean to you? Ramadan is a very important event to me. This month provides an opportunity for us to get closer to God, as fasting for me is an act of worship.
Is Ramadan a particularly tough time if you’re a chef? I don’t find it particularly tough, but I understand how it could be for some.
Are a lot of the chefs fasting? Yes, as Al Nafoorah is a Lebanese restaurant all the chefs working here with me are Muslim and are fasting. In general it does not affect my work, but when preparing a meal and before serving it I would always need to check the taste. During Ramadan I get a chef from another department to do this for me.
How do you prepare for Iftar, and what foods are you serving? It is vitally important that all the ingredients we use are fresh and of the highest quality. We prepare all the dishes shortly before sunset to ensure that everything is fresh. For Iftar we serve traditional Ramadan dishes, which would include soups, fattoush, mezze and customary Lebanese main dishes – the type of things my mother would make.
Are there any typical ingredients or dishes associated only with Ramadan? Not really, but all dishes preferably include meat, chicken or fish in order to give those fasting enough energy.
Do you prepare for other Ramadan meals apart from Iftar? At the hotel we only serve Iftar, but at home I enjoy Suhoor as well. This is a light meal taken between midnight and sunrise which usually includes things such as jam, butter, honey, fresh labneh, homemade cheese, manakeesh and, of course, shisha.
What do you like the most about Ramadan? It is the best time to get together with family and friends over a good meal.
Rocca (Jarjir) salad with pomegranate sauce
Ingredients Bunch of rocca leaves (locally known as jarjir) 1 x lemon 2 x tbsp olive oil 70g tomato (sliced) ½ x tsp sumac powder 3 x tbsp pomegranate juice 2 x tbsp red vinegar 30g medium onion (sliced) Salt to season
Method • Wash the rocca leaves and place them in ice cold water for 10 minutes to crisp. Drain well and dry in a salad spinner or with a tea towel. Refrigerate to crisp further.
• Prepare the dressing: place all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix the flavours together. Add the rocca leaves and toss in the dressing.
• To serve, place the dressed rocca leaves in a bowl, and decorate with the sliced onion and tomato. Sprinkle the ground sumac powder over the top.
Chicken liver a la Nafoorah
Ingredients 250g chicken livers 45g pomegranate syrup 20g garlic (peeled and finely chopped) 10ml corn oil 3g black pepper (powdered) 10ml lemon juice Salt to taste
Method • Clean the chicken livers, then cut them into small pieces.
• Heat up the corn oil in a small pan; add the chicken livers and sauté through until well done.
• Add the pomegranate syrup and freshly chopped garlic, and simmer for 15 seconds to reduce.
• Add the lemon juice and reduce until the sauce has a nice, thick consistency.
• To finish, arrange the food on a plate and garnish with a slice of lemon and chopped parsley.