Recipes for Ramadan was never intended to be just about food. Rather the intention was and is to celebrate culture and heritage, and to increase understanding of Ramadan and of Islam in the wider community with the aim of securing a place for Ramadan in the national calendar.

Part of that is understanding the role of food in fasting and in hospitality, and as an act of charity so it has been very special this year to partner with Penny Appeal Australia’s Iftar Kitchens which in collaboration with other local organisations have been delivering hot meals and dignity hygiene packs in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane.

Over recent weeks, the Iftar Kitchens have provided some 700 meals in Sydney alone, distributing them in south west Sydney, to the Somali Community and to the homeless in Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD.

Taysir Ghazi producing 200 portions of Ful Medames in Penny Appeal’s Egyptian Iftar Kitchen

Taysir Ghazi and close friend Shadia Melligi ran an Egyptian kitchen from the kitchens of Gallipoli Mosque in the Sydney suburb of Auburn. Supported by Penny Appeal’s impressive young volunteers ‘Team Orange’, they produced over 200 portions of Ful Medames and 200 portions of Koshari, Egypt’s most popular street and comfort foods.

Team Orange and Gallipoli Mosque staff distributed the meals locally and ABC Radio’s Simon Marnie invited Taysir onto his Weekend Mornings show to talk about the initiative and the stories behind Fuls Medames.  (The show is broadcast across New South Wales and the segment broadcast on Sunday April 24 can be heard via the program’s webpage.)

Mama Istahil preparing Somali lamb and rice in one of Penny Appeal’s Iftar Kitchens

A second Iftar Kitchen in Sydney produced traditional Somali meals: Bariis Iskukaris, spiced Somali rice with lamb and fresh salad. Mama Wiilo and Mama Istahil headed up the kitchen, supported by Team Orange volunteers and Wiilo’s daughters, Fatimah and Maryan Omar, President of the Somali Australian Community Association (SACA). Working out of Auburn Youth Centre, there was a real buzz with the teamwork and the atmosphere really special.

What was perhaps more special was distributing the meals and dignity packs alongside Brothers in Need in Martin Place in the heart of Sydney’s CBD that evening. The number of homeless men and women of all ages and nationalities was heart-rending and the meals and dignity packs with hygiene essentials such as shampoos and body wash, toothbrushes and toothpaste, toilet paper and sanitary pads clearly appreciated. What was also striking was the need to be heard with many wanting to tell their stories and clearly having valued on-going relationships with the Brothers in Need team.

Penny Appeal’s young Team Orange volunteers meeting and feeding the homeless in Sydney’s Martin Place

These occasions were a powerful demonstration of the belief that the provision of food is the most essential act of charity – something that really is at the heart of Ramadan. Perhaps also that hospitality isn’t just something that happens at home.

Penny Appeal Australia’s CEO Mohamed Mayat explained that “Like Recipes for Ramadan, our Iftar Kitchens were a response to Covid-19. We do great work around the world but the pandemic and its impact on many individuals, families and communities was a reminder that charity is also needed at home and our Iftar Kitchens have become an important way to ensure we also respond to local needs – especially for the homeless, unemployed, low-income families, elderly and refugees – to make sure our neighbours are supported and, as with Christmas, to make sure no-one is alone during Ramadan.

We want to help as many poor and needy people around the world as we can and we are proud of the way our At Home program has developed to provide much-needed support to the most vulnerable in our own local community.”

Penny Appeal’s Iftar Kitchen are supported by the Healing Hands Foundation which has committed to match funds Penny Appeal raises in Australia up to $15,000 to fund more hot meals and dignity packs here in Australia. For more information, head to  www.pennyappeal.org.au/iftar-kitchens.

The recipes and the stories of the chefs behind the Iftar Kitchens can be found on Recipes for Ramadan (www.recipesforramadan.com) – simply scroll through to find Egypt and Somalia.