Hosting an iftar this Ramadan? Here's how to get ready in advance

Food photographer and recipe writer Sukaina Rajabali gives advice on preparing easy-to-achieve, irresistible spreads ahead of time

I’ll be hosting a number of iftars during Ramadan. What can I do now to get myself ready?

– Tariq Radwan, Barsha Heights

The key to successful planning is to think about what you can do now that will save time and reduce last-minute stress later. One get-ahead habit that’s served me well is devoting a day to cooking dishes that can be frozen, ready to reappear as effortless centrepieces. This applies to all sorts (pastries like samosas and fatayers, plus desserts such as basboosa and baklava) but is particularly handy for mains that are slow-cooked and can be made in bulk, such as tagines, curries and stews.

When freezing the latter – dishes that are semisolid – pack the food as flat as you can in freezer bags, not boxes. Just as you seal the bag, squeeze out as much air as possible and spread the food flat. This way it will freeze and defrost faster, crucial for quality and practicality. The quicker food freezes the less chance ice crystals have to form. When the food defrosts, these crystals impair the texture and dilute flavour.

To make life easier nearer to the time, ready-to-use products and a trip to the deli come into play: choose a wide selection of dips and salads, breads and pastries, marinated olives and cheeses, stuffed peppers and vine leaves and all kinds of sweet treats (from cakes to little bites). These products are key not just for communal feasting, but also for delicious celebrations that are free from stress.

Guest Expert: Sukaina Rajabali

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