I have a confession: I have neglected this blog over the last few weeks, partly because I have focusing on my other blog, but also because it’s surprisingly hard to write about food while I’m fasting. I had not anticipated this, but while I have no issue thinking about food, as I look back at photos for inspiration on what to write about, my body’s automatic physical reaction is for my throat to go dry; I suspect I gulp more frequently as well. Haha. Amusement aside, it also makes keeping on top of my BFS blogging a little tricky. I’m actually writing this in the middle of the night, after having had some ice cream. I’ll be reaching for the home-made granola soon.
Ramadan is more than two-thirds of the way through, and so far it has proven to be a wonderful month, full of new experiences and spiritual reflection. There is no better way to reflect on the joy of food than to give thanks for having it, and that’s part of the significance of this month for me, especially amidst the sadness that has been inflicted on London in the past few weeks. As some people are forced to go without, and also experience the deeper sadness of losing loved ones, this is a particularly important occasion to give thanks for everything I have and take for granted.
You may be wondering what I might have to say about food when I’m not eating or drinking anything for 18 hours of the day. Well, a couple of things: some observations on food and fasting; some good places I’ve discovered which do late night openings; and my foodie wishlist for after fasting is over…
Food and fasting – my observations
You need a food strategy while you’re fasting, to cover a number of considerations, including: how to maintain energy during the long summer hours; what to avoid and what to eat; when to prep food. If you read my previous post about preparing for Ramadan, you will know what I had planned to do: eat light to detox and get lean, eat early etc. With three weeks of fasting and late night eating under my belt, here is what I’ve observed:
- Staying hydrated is easily the most important factor for surviving any fast. The best advice I read was to drink water regularly throughout the night – there is a five hour window to eat, drink and be merry – to make sure you take in your recommended intake of eight glasses a day in intervals rather than drinking it all in two gos and then peeing it out almost immediately. Really, really good advice. I’ve also learned that having one final glass of water after you’ve brushed your teeth really makes a difference: it’s my ‘I’m going to survive’ intake.
- It’s very difficult to drink coffee at night, so I’ve cut it out altogether. And my skin is looking better almost immediately. A break from caffeine is a good thing.
- Making grilled cheese on toast for somebody else while you’re fasting is possibly the biggest act of love you can do: it tests the outer limits of your willpower to not nibble at any part of it. And that smell…I make it, I don’t succumb, I feel invincible.
- I’m a little amused when I see the supermarket shelves labelled ‘Ramadan Mubarak!’ and stocked with fried, dry snacks, large bottles of oil, sugary juices and the like. That’s not what most people eat during Ramadan (I suspect) – what we’ve been eating is a lot of fruit and veg in smoothies and fruit chaat.
- Home-made granola (recipe here) is perfect for a pre-fast meal. I have a small bowl and feel no hunger during the day.
- It’s perfectly possible to have a meal, dessert, and a ‘breakfast’ within two hours of each other. I quite enjoy it.
- As I predicted, my clean eating intentions were binned from the outset, and I actually think it’s very difficult to go carb-free while fasting. You need the energy from wheat, grains etc, so I would say going wheat-light, dairy-light, and sugar-free is possible, but not more stringent than that.
Photo below: some of the things that I’ve been making and eating for pre- and post-fast meals – perfect even if you’re not fasting. Check my Instagram @birdflyingsolo for more info on each.
Eating out – late night openings
I have been eating out during Ramadan, and it’s been a good opportunity to discover some places which open late, not just for Ramadan but as a normal practice. Here are my recommendations, in no particular order:
- Little Napoli, 428 Uxbridge Road, W12 0NR. Great, well-priced pizzas in a nice setting (see photo, middle top). They’re open until 11.30pm, but because they’re Italian, they’ll stay open later if people are still coming. I’ll be posting a proper review in the next day or so.
- Pizza Union, 246-250 Pentonville Road, N1 9JY (also locations in Aldgate and Spitalfields). This version of superveloce (‘very fast’) pizza is growing on me. Ridiculously cheap, super thin crust (almost crispy) 12″ pizzas – the Margherita starts at £3.95 but I’d recommend the Funghi (£4.95), see photo, middle bottom – in a bar-style setting. The best part is they’re open until midnight every day, which is perfect.
- Band of Burgers, 23 Camden High Street, NW1 7JE (also a location on Osborn Street, E1). Average price for burger and fries: £12. This place does great burgers (see photo, far left) with great service. They’re open until 11pm.
- Burgista Bros, 195 Baker Street, NW1 6UY (also locations in Shepherd’s Bush and Piccadilly). Average price for burger and fries: £12.50 (including drink). I haven’t been here during Ramadan, but they do good burgers and are open until 11.30pm. The Baker Street branch offers great, friendly service, too (I haven’t tried the other branches).
- Snowflake, 44 Edgware Road, W2 2EH (other locations, check website) – for something sweet. The Edgware Road branch is open until about 1am during Ramadan, and they have a delicious yoghurt, date and honey gelato as a special flavour for the month. Great service here, too.
All of the above have easy parking after about 6.30pm, too.
My Foodie Wishlist
In case you’re wondering, I have a list of places I’m looking forward to checking out after Ramadan – these are not yet tested! If you fancy trying them out before I can, please share your photos and opinion!
- Kerb Camden – to try Baba G’s, Fundi Pizza, and Burger and Beyond (yes, I’ve been on a reccy visit already)
- Southbank Centre Food Market – Shrimpy, Hank’s Po’Boys, Dough Bro, Jacob’s Ladder and Il Gelato are some of the places I have my eye on
- Naked Dough (pop up in Old Street station) – edible cookie dough in a cone. I’m drooling already
- Portobello Road, W11 – to go for a wander because I haven’t been in so long, and also to go Hummingbird Bakery and then Morelli’s for an ice cream – because it’s not an accident that they’re virtually next door to each other. The Morelli’s in Harrods has gone down in my estimation since they’ve started bulking up their (overpriced) sundaes with soft serve instead of real gelato, but hopefully this new branch in West London won’t be doing the same. Let’s see.