by NADEEM BADSHAH THE days of eating meals to break the fast – consisting of a plate crammed with samosas, pakoras and ketchup topped off with a glass of Coke – are changing. There is a Ramadan revolution of sorts when it comes to the iftar evening meal with more diners this year choosing lighter and healthier options, according to chefs. And restaurants are catering to the trend with specialist Iftar offerings or small plates menus for sharing during the holy month, which takes place from the first week of May until early June. Renowned Islamic teacher Nouman Ali Khan has joked that some Muslims previously put on weight during Ramadan because of the amount they eat to break the fast and the choice of foods. Experts say there is less of an appetite for fried and fatty foods and a shift towards grilled meats, salads and sharing desserts, particularly among young Muslims after 19 hours each day of going without food and drink. Volcanic Restaurant in Aldgate, east London, is launching a new iftar menu “with a lot more healthy options”, according to co-partner Belal Bakht. It has a unique concept of meat which is served on a slab heated to around 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Diners can slice their sizzling steak and turn it around on the rock depending on how they like their meat cooked. Bakht told Eastern Eye: “Five years ago Muslims saw Ramadan as a time to feast and overeat. “When I was young, we bought and wasted so much food – so much ghee, curry, biryani which has high fat content. “We’re moving away from a stack of pakoras, samosas, then haleem, biryani, something heavy. We have zucchini aubergine rolls, a Mediterranean salad, fresh salmon, seabass, tuna steak.” Volcanic is introducing a soft play area for kids while their parents break their fast along with an area for yoga and a healthy breakfast menu. The restaurant is also unveiling “crowdfeeding” – where budding chefs can use its kitchen to make a three-course meal for their friends and family. Summery foods are expected to be a big trend during Ramadan with the weather in June forecast to reach a high of 20 degrees Celsius. The InterContinental London Hotel in plush Park Lane has three different iftar menus which includes a soup with white beans, braised beef strips and chilli oil along with mezzes including marinated olives and tahini hummus. The main courses include chicken and beef shish, lamb tagine, chilli garlic king prawns, falafel and Basmati rice. And for dessert, there is a fruit platter, baklava and pistachio maamoul pastry. There is an option for adapted portions to share the courses among fasting friends and family. Speaking at the hotel’s Wellington Lounge, sous chef Syed Naqvi told Eastern Eye: “When I eat something, I like it to boost the tastebuds, something spicy or tangy with a kick. It gives us more energy and a thirst for the food. “People originally from Asia and Middle East like their food a bit spicy. The mezes and soup are more healthy, with nutritious values. For energy after fasting, you have the rice and meats.” The hotel’s executive chef, Ashley Wells, added: “It is generally for an iftar of two-three hours, guests graze through each course. “We try to move away from deep fried and have more grilled elements.” Experts say there is more choice for iftars in the UK, which will take place around 9pm each day, enabling a culinary adventure across the globe. At Mamounia Lounge Knightsbridge in west London, the sweet aroma of shisha from the hookah pipes outside and opulent surroundings feels like Dubai or downtown Marrakesh. The restaurant’s iftar offerings have a healthy theme with lentil soup, Moroccan vegetable soup, hummus and bread, minced lamb meatballs with poached egg, milk pudding and baklava. Head chef Thamer Darwish said: “It’s important to give healthy food, everything home-made and fresh, for digestion after fasting. “In Ramadan we make the soup lighter, if it’s thicker it might be difficult to eat the main course or have suhoor [breakfast] the next morning. “The minced lamb kofta comes with a sauce, which is light like a soup. We want it to be watery and it has egg for protein.” Cafe Spice Namaste, run by top Indian chef Cyrus Todiwala, has a small plates menu including butter chicken and Goan prawn curry with portion sizes and ingredients suited to Iftar time. Head chef Manpreet Singh Ahuja said more diners are watching their waistlines as well as their wallets. “More people have become health conscious and concerned a lot with portion sizes,” he said. “We stayed away from greasy, heavy food which results in wastage. The new wave of restaurants overall have a trend towards small plates. “For the Ramadan period, it is an excellent option. Previously it was part of the culture, they didn’t realise that after fasting for 17-18 hours, breaking with samosas and bhajis is more harmful to the internal system. The key is education.” Other restaurants which have unveiled Iftar menus include Harlem Soul in east London, which has a three-course menu which includes a chicken sandwich, chorizo bites and buttered seasonal corn from May 5 until June 4. In Birmingham, there is a street itar on May 11 at Sparkbrook Mosque and Islamic Centre, while there is a Manchester Cathedral Interfaith Iftar on May 13. Chef Darwish added: “The best thing is a family breaking the fast together, the atmosphere it brings in a large group.” DISHES FOR IFTAR Crunchy bhel puri, baby squid and lean Goan prawn curry, which is ideal for sharing. – Cafe Spice Saucy and tender minced lamb meatballs with a poached egg, flavoursome lentil soup and a frothy malabi milk pudding. – Mamounia Lounge Spicy chilli garlic king prawns, white bean and tender beef strip soup and mix of melon slices with baklava pastries. – InterContinental, Park Lane Lean rump steak with sweet potato fries, Mediterranean salad and a creamy vanilla cheesecake with crumbly biscuit base to share. – Volcanic restaurant, Aldgate East