How my mom instilled in me the significance of Jumuah – and taught me how to prepare the perfect Friday lunch
When I was growing up, every Friday my mom would tell me to dress a little nicer. There was no TV in the morning leading up to lunch; instead, it was either the Voice of the Cape or Radio 786 on full blast throughout the house until we sat down for Jumuah lunch.
Those traditions have stuck with me through the years, with the addition of WhatsApp broadcast messages from aunties every Friday morning without fail, of course, and the knowledge as to why my mom was so strict on me when I ran through the house, dirt under my nails, sand in my hair, after playing outside.
Friday is a holy day for Muslims – the holiest day of the week – as told to us in the holy Quran. So much so that in many Islamic countries, the weekend begins on a Thursday – after sunset, the new day begins – and they attend work one day earlier, on a Sunday.
The reason Friday is such an important one in Islam is that Jumuah (also the Arabic word for Friday) prayers fall on that day. After an evening of prayer, commencing after sunset on Thursday, men and women take to the mosque to perform prayer in congregation. After they return, a big family lunch is usually waiting.
For me, growing up in a Muslim-Indian household, it always meant some sort of rice or curry dish. Chicken curry, mutton curry, akni, biryani – and a big spread too, one that stretches across the table.
My Muslim friends, as diverse a group as we are coming from different cultural backgrounds, said much of the same.
“We’ll generally have quite a traditional Jumuah lunch with akni or biryani and all the sides,” Urooj says. “But sometimes Jumuah lunch is any takeaways we’ve all been craving that week.”
Zah’Raa adds: “Ours is usually a rice dish too, like akni or curry”, while Zaidah says: “We usually have chicken (sometimes a leg of lamb or frikkadel), veg and yellow rice. Or akni. Or curry.”
Razeena speaks of pilau “with a number of condiments”. “Oh, and we usually have a sweet dish like sojee before we pray. So it’s like a staggered eating afternoon,” she laughs.
Though the significance of the day is not about the food, or the extravagance of it, from what I can tell you, a traditional Jumuah lunch in South Africa is one that stretches from the one end of the table runner to the other, and the whole family is usually together. “Pass the rice” is not an uncommon phrase heard around the dining room table, and that makes it all the more special.
Along with the significance of a Friday, my mom also taught me everything I know about making the perfect curry for Jumuah lunch:
- Always braise your onions first, for 10–15 minutes. They need to be golden from all the ghee. Next, heat up your spices. You can liquidise your onions if you’d like (it gives a little thickness to the curry) before adding your chicken.
- Always cook your food on medium to low heat – and never in a hurry. You want to make sure the chicken in your curry is tender.
- Coriander is a must when you’re at the garnishing stage of your curry. Then you’re good to go and prepare your rice – which should be light and fluffy and not starchy and sticky – and all your sides. Serve with vegetables and the best oven-roasted potatoes.
The secret ingredient to the latter? Well, the success of the entire meal, really, is down to one simple ingredient… Sure, love and being together is important, but another lesson my mom taught me? Use lots and lots of ghee!
Click here to try Bashiera’s chicken curry – just the way her mom makes it.