Cooking up a tradition…

Three global family foodie traditions to inspire you to create more of your own, and a delightful 15-minute Middle-Eastern inspired dessert recipe that we think might make it into your family’s recipe archives

Ramadan. Lunar New Year. Fourth of July. Waffle day. Friday family lunch. No matter what your cultural background is, food traditions are probably key to connecting with your family, friends and community, right? Have a little think back to your last memorable meal. What was it? Did you enjoy it on your own or with your favourite people? Were you checking Instagram? Did you get your kids involved in the preparation? Were you chatting, or watching TV? Do you remember what you spoke about? Now, how about being inspired to do your family meal a little bit differently next time? 

While all cultures tuck into traditional fare in unique ways – with every family on earth having its own special foodie flair – food customs exist for different reasons. Some help people become more mindful and present – as in the case of Muslims breaking their fast at iftar – while others, think Friday feasts and Sunday roasts, encourage connection over biryani or Yorkshire pudding. Inspired by the Holy Month of Ramadan, and in the spirit of focusing more on our loved ones when we gather to eat, we’ve rounded up three of our favourite family-first mealtimes from around the world. We’ve also thrown in a 15-minute kid-friendly muhalabiyeh recipe that you can prepare with your little ones to create your own family foodie tradition. Happy cooking!

Be inspired to connect this Ramadan…

The Holy Month is a special time, binding Muslims in their faith and tradition through fasting, food and festivity. Different cultures follow myriad food traditions during Ramadan, with some Moroccans ending the day’s fast with harira soup and other people, in the UAE and Saudi Arabia for example, opting for simpler fare like dates and yogurt. Eid al-Fitr – that marks the end of fasting entirely – is a celebration that revolves heavily around food. What you'll find on families' tables changes, but desserts are a big deal. If you’re looking to create a new family foodie tradition, and one that’s inspired by the Middle East, why not whip up a delicious muhalabiyeh (milk pudding) with your kids? You’ll find the recipe below. Use the prep time to explain to them what Ramadan is – if they don’t know – and talk about the values of generosity, compassion and kindness. If you celebrate the Holy Month, preparing iftar or Eid fare with your children is a wonderful way to connect. During Eid, families and friends exchange gifts too, so if you’re after a children’s present with a foodie spin, our gorgeous Djeco Rosette & Cesar Wooden Salad Set (AED81) is perfect for little hands that can’t quite cut and cook in real life just yet. 

Make dinner a little longer (and put your phones away)
The French are famous for their love of fine food, with research showing that they prefer to spend a full hour at the dinner table actively engaging with their dining companions. Bye, bye mobile phones. According to research work by Loïc Bienassis of the International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism, socialising plays a vital role in the French’s approach to dining, with eighty per cent considering meal time to be communal time that should be spent with family, friends and colleagues. If you’re thinking of incorporating this tradition at home, you’ll be pleased to know that the only investment is a change of mindset. By viewing your family dinner as something to really look forward to and drawing it out with a last light course (cheese and crackers anyone?) or a ten-minute pre-sleep chat, you’ll be creating a wonderful mealtime tradition that your kids are likely to cherish well into adulthood. A great way to bring added time to the dinner table once the dishes are cleared is with a board game or cards. Our Ram’ino Djeco Rummy card game – with its gorgeous illustrations – is a great ten-minute pre-sleep game for ages seven and up.

When you can’t be with your kids at lunchtime, put love into their lunchbox

The Japanese are masters when it comes to crafting food that’s not only beautiful but delicious too. Bento, a lesser-known Japanese culinary tradition, is essentially a homemade to-go lunch, but it’s not your boring old brown-bag affair. Parents who create bento for their little ones transform ingredients into quirky characters; think pandas, bunnies and cats. The idea is that the meal is equal parts nutritious lunch and art, as well as being a parent’s expression of love when they can’t physically be there to enjoy a dish with their child. If you’ve ever seen bento boxes – in real life or Google images – you’ll know that the contents can get quite complex. Don’t be intimidated though. The bento philosophy is less about how the actual food looks and more about the love that you put into it. As busy parents bogged down by work, to-do lists and everyday responsibilities, we can’t spend every meal with family, but we can show how much we care through food. To create your own family bento tradition, simply turn a sandwich into your little one’s favourite animal, or – if you’re really short on time and inspiration – pop a note into your child’s lunchbox to tell them you love them. Children’s Lane stocks a gorgeous range of vibrant lunchboxes that will house your masterpiece – no matter what form it comes in – perfectly. 

MUHALABIYEH RECIPE

INGREDIENTS

700ml full-fat milk

150ml single cream

90g cornflour

150g caster sugar

1½ tsp orange blossom water

20g whole almonds, plus extra soaked in water for 10 minutes, skinned and halved, to decorate

5g rose petals, to decorate (optional)

20g pistachios, crushed, to decorate

  1. Put the milk, cream, cornflour and sugar in a pan over a medium-high heat. Whisk the mixture continuously until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Continue whisking and gradually the mixture will start to thicken. After 8–10 minutes, it should coat the back of a spoon. At this point, stir in the orange blossom water and remove the pan from the heat.
  3. Divide the mixture between 4–6 serving glasses and put in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Meanwhile, put 20g almonds in a small bowl and cover with water. Soak for 30 minutes, then blitz to a paste in a blender.
  4. To serve, top the muhalabiyeh with almond paste. Decorate with petals, if using, pistachios and halved almonds.