Mother-daughter duo, Dr Kaltham Kenaid (director of research at the KHDA) and Fatma Saifan share many passions: travelling, gardening, being surrounded by nature and, most importantly, baking. Together, they run Vanilla Sukkar, a charming café on Al Wasl Road with a homely feel – Fatma’s pressed flower artwork adorns the walls, part of their personal cookbook collection is available for anyone to read and you can watch Dr Kaltham kneading dough in an open kitchen.
Dr Kaltham first started making sourdough bread as a way to escape from writing her thesis. Similarly, Fatma began making macarons while completing her degree in art. They’ve shared two recipes: khameer bread that’s a staple during suhoor or Eid breakfast celebrations and energy-boosting date balls that are a great snack between evening prayers.
“We choose khameer as it tastes like Ramadan for us – although it’s eaten all year round,” says Dr Kaltham. “My mother was famous for making this simple dish with good ingredients that’s best cooked in a mekhbaz over an open wood fire. We leaven our bread with sourdough but you can use normal yeast.”
“Ramadan is a spiritual month for prayer and connecting with oneself,” says Fatma. “It’s also time to connect with family – hence our many gatherings for futoor (breaking fast) and for suhoor (the meal before dawn), Fajr prayers and starting the fast.”
Dr Kaltham adds: “We’re always together on Fridays during Ramadan and this is when we are at our most creative with cooking – it’s a good time to experiment. You have to put good energy into your baking and be in a good mood.”