Mini Sehri Omelette Cups

When I was little it was quite the norm to have iftari late at night, it was high summer, and quite often those expected guests would turn into unexpected guests for sehri. Obviously there was nothing unexpected about them. Nonetheless I do have memories of my poor mother having to make fresh parathas and fry eggs very early in the morning. Now a days I just can’t stomach the thought of having to either for sehri, not to mention the head ache of handling gluten free dough!

Eggs have been in the press a lot recently. I guess more because of their change of image from cholesterol laden to near super food. Just look at what eggs contain:
1 egg contains 6 grams of high quality protein
9 essential amino acids
5 grams of fat and only 1.5 grams of saturated fat,
The only food to contain naturally occurring vitamin D
(very important for ladies who fully cover),
Contains vitamin B12, which helps keep both hair and nails healthy.

I was sold. It was simple, eggs had to feature at sehri, but how? Frying just isn’t attractive, I don’t have the co-ordination or my full senses at sehri to boil an egg! So what???

I had come across mini omelettes before on a couple of blogs including this one http://rabiatunsweettouch.blogspot.com/search/label/Eggs , so I thought I would have a go too.

I decided to fill them with vegetables as vegetables are obviously low in fat and high in water content – essential for the summer fasts! Work the veggie combinations as you please. If you have a large family these are easy to prepare in advance or if like me no one else eats omelettes these are fantastic as they are quick and easy to make. They are easy to store in the fridge for sehri. If of course you have the unexpected guest these are a must! Prepare and bake them the night before and guests won’t be able to resist while you can relax knowing it took ever so little effort.

If you’ve ever been the unexpected guest for sehri no doubt, you have tried to claim that all you eat is bare the minimum: coffee and a biscuit? I don’t think so! If your host provides you with these please absolve yourself of any guilt and feel free to tuck in!

Finally I have omitted the use of any spices and salt simply because it is going to be hot and eating spicy/salty food can make you thirstier. Inshallah don’t forget to drink lots of water at sehri

Ingredients – makes 6 individual omelettes
2 shallots
50g green pepper
50g mange tout
25g chopped cheddar
50g goats cheese
3 eggs

1. Place the vegetables in a bowl
2. Break in the eggs and whisk
3. crumble in the cheeses and incorporate
4. In a metal muffin tray line the holes with 6 silicone muffin/cup cake cases
5. Pour the egg mix into the silicone muffin/cup cake cases
6. Bake in a 200 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until the egg has set.

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Laksa, Two Ways

Laksa is a noodle soup of Malaysian origin, a mix of the Chinese and Malay food culture and there, my friends, endth the lesson!

My laksa is unconventional. I chose not to make it as soupy as normal simply because soup for iftari when you aren’t used to a soup can be a bit hard to deal with (mentally I mean), so it is more saucy than soupy. I’ve made other changes too in the laksa paste, but I assure you this works. It is just as tasty. It is both spicy and zingy, it hits all the buttons.

While it may seem strange to chop in a food processor AND use a mortar and pestle there is method in my madness. The food processor will simply chop the spices into fine pieces however a mortar and pestle will break down those fine pieces changing them from individual ingredients into the laksa paste. Doing both reduces the amount of pounding.

In the ingredients I’ve listed two tins of coconut milk, simply because there is nothing worse than sitting down to a meal which is too hot. Use one tin, see how you feel and without a second of a doubt if you find it too hot add more coconut milk as this will reduce the heat. For children who are not used to hot food, it might be an idea to split the laksa into two pans, one for adults (as it is) and one for the children (with more coconut milk in).

One final point when I photographed the prawn laksa it was photographed as a single portion and the lamb laksa was photographed in the serving dish.

Serve in bowls, eat with spoons and forks with plenty of napkins at hand and perhaps a cooling melon to put out the heat!

Lamb Laksa
Serves 6

500g of lamb chops
2 limes
200g of flat rice noodles (Banh Pho or Pad Thai)
2 spring onions
1 red pepper
1 small aubergine
2 tins of coconut milk ( I used ¾ of a tin)
Rapeseed oil

For the Laksa paste
4 – 5 long red chillies
8 shallots
3cm piece of ginger
3cm piece of galangal
4 cloves garlic
25g of walnuts

1 teaspoon dry lemongrass
½ lime juice
½ teaspoon of tumeric powder
2 teaspoons of tamarind paste
1 teaspoon of coarse sea salt
½ teaspoon sugar

1. Juice 1 lime and pour over the lamb, mix well and leave to tenderise for at least 1 hour preferably in a fridge.
2. Peel and chop the shallots, galangal, ginger, garlic.
3. Chop the chillies
4. Place the : shallots, galangal, ginger, garlic, chillies, walnuts, for the laksa paste into a chopper until very fine, then remove
5. Place the fine ingredients into a pestle and mortar, then add the coarse sea salt, tamarind paste, lime juice and pound for around 3mins.
6. Heat up 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pan, pour in the laksa paste, then add in the lamb and any remaining marinating lime juice and cook the meat in the paste. The paste will cook off while the meat browns.
7. After about 5 mins of cooking add in the coconut milk and continue to cook for a further 20 mins making sure the laksa does not stick. Remember to stir from time to time.
8. Chop the aubergine into cubes and add to the laksa. Cook for another 20 mins.
9. Chop up the pepper and 1 spring onion and add to the laksa.
10. Boil a kettle and pour the kettle hot water on to the rice noodles and cover with a lid. Leave for approximately 5-7 mins but do check the noodle packet for details. When the noodles are ready drain and set aside.
11. At this stage check the lamb it should be tender. Taste the laksa and add sugar to taste, also check the heat the level.
12. To serve, place the noodles in a serving bowl, and place the laksa on top. Chop the remaining spring onion and ½ lime and place on top of the laksa.

Prawn laksa


500g of black raw prawns
½ quantity Laksa paste as above
2 Spring Onions
2 tins coconut milk (again adjust to taste, start with one tin and if find it too hot add some more coconut milk)

1. Remove the shell and de-vein the prawns (remove the intestine visible along the spine and underneath)
2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the laksa paste and cook off the paste for a couple of minutes.
3. Add in the prawns and coat well in the paste before adding the coconut milk and leaving to simmer gently until the prawns are cooked. The prawns will look pinker won’t be so dull.
4. To assemble the dish, place the noodles in a bowl and top with the prawn laksa, top with spring onions and wedges of lime.

Paella


Before this evening if you had asked me what I thought about Paella I would tell you the first word that would spring to my mind was grit! Yes, honestly, grit! I think back to the first time I ate Paella and this was the first texture that hit my mouth followed by my taste buds being assaulted by salt. Not one to repeat mistakes it wasn’t until recently that I ate Paella again that I liked it. You may think what is there not to like in rice, but honestly grit can have that kind of an effect on a person.

Paella apparently has muslim origins. Back in the days when the Arab Moors had the Caliphate of Cordoba (approximately year 1000) following the banquets of the rich the servants would be given “Baqiyah” (leftovers in Arabic) and this would then be mixed with what ever meat, fish and vegetables were to hand. Modern Spanish legend of the origins of Paella are entirely different naming the banks of lake Albufera near Valencia where fishermen caught fish, fried snails, a few legumes and rice grown on the edges of the lake, omitting any Moorish involvement. Either way this is now a dish in its own right.

This recipe is lovely, no grit in sight! The lamb is soft and sweet, the beans filling and the sugar snap peas vibrant. The taste is both garlic-y and nutty. Paella is normally cooked in a large flat paella pan like a large frying pan however because I wanted to speed up the process and wanted the lamb to be tender I used a Le Creuset shallow casserole pan with a lid. Finally a note regarding the paprika, I’ve used 3 teaspoons of paprika as I felt it did not give enough taste to the dish and this may well be because the paprika was not very strong. I would none the less suggest starting with 2 teaspoons and increasing if you need more.

Lamb Paella
Serves 4

1 onion
5 lamb chops including their spare ribs
Olive oil
2 ripe tomatoes or 2 tomatoes from a tin of tomatoes
230g of cooked Canneloni beans
100g Sugar snap peas
1 cup long grain rice
Approximately 2.5 cups* of Water
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons of sweet paprika (adjust to taste)
1 pinch of saffron diluted in hot water

* Cup = any mug you have just make sure to use the same for both the measures.

1. Wash the rice and set aside in some water.
2. Dice an onion
3. Put enough olive oil to cover the base of the pan, then fry the onions on a low heat until they are golden.
4. When the onions are done add the lamb chops and spare ribs, browning the meat.
5. Add 4 cloves of chopped garlic to the lamb and continue to brown.
6. Add the salt and paprika, stir and coat the lamb with them.
7. Finely chop the tomatoes then add to the pan.
8. Now add enough water to cover the meat entirely, bring to boil and then leave to simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes with a lid on. The water should have reduced slightly but there should be enough covering the meat. Taste the liquid to see if more paprika is needed.
9. Wash the beans until the water runs clear then add the beans to the pan. Stir to adjust the placement of the meat and beans in the pan.
10. Finally add the drained rice to the pan. Level out the rice so that it is evenly distributed in the pan. Do not stir the rice at all.
11. Heat the pan till the liquid till it boils, then reduce and leave to simmer for 15-20 minutes with the lid on.
12. Switch the heat off, and place the sugar snap peas on top of the rice. Place the lid back on to the pan and leave standing for 10 minutes. Do not open until the 10 minutes are up.

¡buen apetito!
For Mrs B!

Chakalaka with Mealie Pap

Starvation and poverty is a very real problem and yet Ramadan is a time when people normally eat at more dinner parties than normal and as such consume food which is much heavier than normal on a daily basis. As I write this the news is on in the background and a Somali woman tells her story of walking for 30 days in search of food, fighting bandits, fighting off rapists and burying babies and children along the way. Subhan’Allah Ramadan is 30 days long and most of can’t even imagine going for casual walks while we are fasting with the promise of food at the end of the day let alone walking until we find food. I pray insh’Allah that Allah(swt) grants those affected by the drought safety, food, shelter, medicine, water and most of all the ability to self sustain and not be dependent on others.

Eating to excess is not good for the body nor is this good for those who have less than we do. Inshallah this Ramadan I intend for my family to have Chakalaka and Mealie Pap once to remind us that others are not as fortunate as us and others. I’ll be honest and tell you that this caused a discussion in my household. My husband’s view being that by having this meal in Ramadan we weren’t changing anything, nor were we doing anything to affect poverty away from our dinning table. I, however, disagree. I feel that just by having the discussion we were doing something. Inshallah the intention is for us to give the money that we would have spent on meat directly to a charity. Inshallah it is something and frankly that has to be better than stuffing ourselves when there really is no need.

Sura Al-A’raf “…and eat and drink, but waste not by extravagance, certainly (He) Allah likes not Al-Musrifun (Those who waste by extravagance)” (7:31)

Chakalaka may sound like a Bollywood song (Shakalaka baby) however, the origins of this meal lie in the townships of Soweto in South Africa. Traditionally this meal was a meal of poverty, a meal made of odds and ends to feed a family of many. Nowadays Chakalaka has been elevated to the tables of well-to-do South Africans as a spicy barbeque relish to be eaten on the side rather like cold spicy baked beans.

When I first saw this recipe something became very apparent to me – everyone has their very own chakalaka recipe. It just doesn’t have such a fantastic name! It’s the dish I make when I can’t be bothered to think too much about what to cook, when I want us all to eat the same thing and I am sure you have one too. Made with odds and ends it remains true to its township origins. I used things I normally have in my fridge. For this to be truly authentic I would suggest replacing the vegetables for those that you normally use. Please remember there are no rights and wrongs with the Chakalaka…go with the flow, do what you feel is right and please remember to have the discussion while you eat!

Chakalaka
In a little OIL fry an onion with some peeled and chopped GARLIC and GINGER. Once they have gone translucent add 1 teaspoon of GARAM MASALA, TUMERIC, 2 chopped CHILLIES, 1 chopped CARROT, 2 chopped PEPPERS, 1 tin of BUTTER BEANS (drained and washed), 1 TIN OF TOMATOES, gently stir and allow to simmer for about 7 mins before adding SALT and PEPPER to taste and any green herbs that you may have to hand. Serve with mealie pap or rice or pasta.

Mealie Pap

After eating our meal of Chakalaka and Mealie Pap, both my husband and I noticed that we should have eaten less as it was extremely filling. Further more neither of us was particularly hungry the next day. Its got be thinking that maize meal might be great for sehri inshallah I’ll have a play around and see if I can create something tasty and filling!

1 and 1/4 mug of coarse or medium maize meal
Water

Reserve ¼ of a mug of maize meal aside.
1. Place 1 mug of maize meal in a bowl and mix with 2 mugs of hot water and stir until it is a thick paste. You may need a little more hot water.
2. Boil 1 mug of water in a pan and mix in the thick paste. Keep stirring. The stirring is essential, ideally with a wooden spoon.
3. Add another mug hot water to pan. It should be thick and smooth.
4. Add the left over maize meal. Cook for a few more minutes.

Serve immediately as this sets once it is left cool. If it does set and you want to reheat, either microwave to retain the same shape or mix in a little more hot water to recreate a smooth soft consistency.

To serve with Chakalaka, swirl the mealie pap on to a plate creating a circle with a sight indentation in the middle to ‘hold’ the chakalaka.

Not an Ordinary Cup of Tea!

This is a really easy dish to make. A little strange I grant you, but it works and it tastes even better. The first mouthful is tangy, lemony, herby and garlicy with a faint hint of achar. Everything marries really well.

Achar (pickle) is a staple in most Pakistani households, not necessarily to cook with but to add the added dimension to a meal. Achar comes in a variety of flavours: green mango, lemon, lemon with lemon juice, mixed vegetables the list is endless. For this dish I would suggest using a lemon achar that is more concentrated in flavour than a lemon achar preserved in lemon juice. This is easily found in any Asian food shop.

Often in Ramadan I find that immediately after iftari (the evening meal) I am overcome with sleep and have often begun snoozing before I have even managed to have a cup of tea or coffee to keep me going! With this in mind I thought about incorporating some caffeine into a meal so that it would kick in a little earlier. My next thought concerned whether the tea actually added anything other than caffeine to the meal and I have to say it does, the delicate taste of it in the background tastes familiar but does not over whelm. The combination of lemon, tea, spices and herbs create both a wonderful aroma and taste.

While this recipe does not call for salt, there is generally salt in the olives, salt in the achar and the garlic is pounded with a little salt. So any extra salt should really not be necessary, if however you do feel it is missing some I would only suggest putting some in at the very end, if at all.

One final note, you may wonder why I have decided to cook the chicken breast whole and then slice it, rather than slicing it then cooking it? Chicken breast cooks very quickly which means that often while cooking sliced breast it can cook too quickly and become quite dry and tough. Doing it this way means the chicken breast stays quite juicy.

For Mrs B!

Serves approximately 2-3.
Ingredients

To marinate
2 large chicken breasts sliced in half widthways (so 4 slim slices)
5 garlic cloves pounded with a pinch of coarse salt
1 lemon
10 sage leaves chopped up finely
¼ of the lemon’s lemon zest

To cook
½ onion
1 cup of black tea quickly brewed
1 cup of hot water
Approximately 9 stoned green olives
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
½ teaspoon of lime pickle (just the paste)
1 to 2 courgettes (dependent on size) chopped into cubes

Leave the chicken to marinate with5 garlic cloves pounded with a pinch of coarse salt, the juice of 1 lemon, ¼ of the lemon’s lemon zest and 10 sage leaves chopped finely. Rub into the chicken. Set this aside.

In the mean time allow the onion to cook in a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy based pan. The oil which burns quickly will cause the onion to go golden very quickly. Try not to let it burn. The aim is to make the onions go golden and crispy.

Quickly brew a cup of black tea. Drop the black tea (minus the bag/tea leaves) into the pan and deglaze the pan rubbing any area where the onions have stuck to the pan. Add another cup of hot water.

Rinse then chop the olives in half and put into the pan. Add 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper and ½ teaspoon of lime pickle (just the paste) into the pan. Stir and simmer for 5 mins.

Now add the chicken and all the lemon juices to the pan. Allow the chicken to poach in the liquid. When the chicken looks as if it has nearly cooked, (approximately 7 mins) take it out of the liquid and then slice it in to smaller pieces. Put it back into the liquid and then add the cubed courgette. Cook for a further 5-7 mins until the chicken is cooked and the courgette is soft.

Serve with rice (tea cup optional!)

Dark Chocolate and Chestnut Pots

These little pots of chocolate are fantastic. The true taste of chocolate hits you as you take a mouthful and then, the subtle taste of chestnut eases its way to the back of your throat and all you can do is say “mmmm”.

100% cacao is hard core chocolate. The benefit of using something so pure is that you control exactly what goes in. Less is most definitely more. Previously this was only available to the finest chocolatiers. Thanks to the desire of gourmand consumers 100% cacao is now freely available in more upmarket supermarkets, similarly crème de marrons de l’Ardeche should not be a problem to find. At first glance there is very little sugar in this dessert however the chestnut spread is sweet and any further sweetening should be done using condensed milk as this will blend in easily and without adding any further liquid to the chocolate as something like sugar syrup would do.

This could easily become a Ramadan favourite in my house, as it faired very well in the pre-Ramadan trial! This is easy to prepare, easy to store, and most importantly very easy to eat. If you have foods with strong smells in your fridge then cover with cling film to prevent the chocolate absorbing the flavours.

60g Indonesian blend 100% pure Cacao (Javan light breaking)
25g Extra Virgin Cacao butter
100g Crème de Marrons de L’Ardeche (Chestnut spread)
2 teaspoons strong black coffee
1 teaspoon condensed milk (alter if you must to your taste)
450ml double cream
150ml whipped to stiff peaks
300ml whipped to foam to soft peaks

1. Whip 150ml of double cream until it forms stiff peaks and can be held on its own then set aside.
2. In another bowl place 50g of the chocolate and 25g of Extra Virgin Cacao butter in a bain marie making sure that the bowl does not touch the water. Gently stir the chocolate and cacao butter as they begin to melt
3. When the chocolate melts mix in two teaspoons of strong black coffee into the chocolate.
4. Mix in the crème de marrons (chestnut spread), the chestnut will soak up the chocolate and give a near grainy texture.
5. Gradually fold the whipped cream in with the chocolate using a metal spoon. Some of it will melt, but the bulk will fold in nicely.
6. Place 2 tablespoons of the chocolate in to each glass and then place in a fridge for approximately 2 hours.
7. Once the chocolate has set whisk the remaining 300ml of double cream until it is foaming and makes soft peaks. Spoon the cream on top of the set chocolate.
8. Grate the remaining 10g of chocolate with a fine grater on top of the cream and serve.
Serves 4