Melon, Coconut and Lime Granita

Saturday, during the day, London was hot. By the time it got to the magrib it was pouring with rain and feeling cold. Despite the weather the melon drink that I had craved during the day hit the spot for me in the evening.

This requires a bit of attention but isn’t difficult to make. The addition of lime lifts the taste and makes it even more refreshing. Refreshing for a hot day and also after spicy food.

1 Honeydew Melon
1 x 250ml coconut water
1 x lime
Pomegranate seeds to sprinkle.

Serves 4
Chop and peel the melon, remove the seeds. Chop into small cubes. Keep a handful of the melon aside. Then put the rest of the melon in a blender with the coconut water, the zest of a lime and the juice of half a lime. Blend, then put into a shallow box in the freezer. Leave it the freezer for 2 hours. Remove from the freezer then scrape the frozen sides back into the centre with a fork. Continue to do this every hour until you have something ressembling a coarse frozen slush.

Serve in glasses with a spoon, sprinkle with the reserved melon and a sprinkle of pomegrenate seeds.

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The Simple Things

What are the simple things in life? Surely it is to have the certainty that if you are a small child you can play outside in safety, if you are a pregnant woman you will have access to medical treatment should you give birth unexpectedly, that if you are pregnant stray bullets won’t harm your unborn baby, that if you are a child your parents will be alive to look after you, that if you are engaged that both you and your finance(e) will make it to the wedding, that if you are a parent you will get to look after you children, that children will outlive their parents, that parents won’t have to bury tiny bundles. Without an iota of a doubt all these things depend on the mercy of Allah(swt). It is He, who has decided the length of our lives as well as the pre-appointed time at which we will depart.

The situation in Gaza as is, is dire. I’ve felt sick just watching the news. I’ve felt even more ill reading uncensored social media. It is horrible. Far worse is understanding that the people in Gaza are just people. They too should have the right to the simple things in life. Some media sources have been quick to point out that the Israeli population suffers, but they still enjoy the simple things in life. Weddings go ahead, births take place, religious holidays and events are observed without any disruption and certainly not on the same scale as for the Palestinians. Surely the Palestinians should be able to celebrate Ramadan without having the force of a whole army on their heads? Surely a mother who has prepared Iftar/i for her family should be able to sit and eat safe in the knowledge that everyone is accounted for, surely 10 minutes is not long enough to gather up your children and grab what you can before your home is blown up, surely safety and security is a simple thing in life?

I make dua with all my heart that Allah(swt) will rain his mercy down on the Palestinians, that He will keep them safe, that He will protect them, that He will free them, that He will give them the safety and security that we enjoy and that most of all He will bring them peace and that they, too, will enjoy the simple things. Ameen.

With the simple things in mind I have been thinking about some of the simple meals we have had this Ramadan. We have had quite a few. None of them rocket science in terms of creativity but sometimes it does you good to go back to appreciating the simple things and saying Alhamdulilah.

1. Pizza delivered (20 minutes before hand)
2. Easy Laksa (paste + coconut milk + veg, rice noodles)
3. Sandwiches
4. Shop bought Mezze items
5. Grilled haloumi, rice and salad

Persian Lamb Biryani

The different colours and textures

The different colours and textures

We were missing white rice and so this dish came to mind. I wanted something with flavour but without heat and at the same time giving all the comfort of rice. This hit the spot perfectly. There is a bit of faff involved in layering the rice but to be honest its hardly time consuming. This is a great dish if you have people round and want something to wow them with. We served ours pretty much as is. It was perfect.

I have to say was quite skeptical the first time I made this dish namely because of the absence of heat, as well as the total lack of garlic and ginger but I have to say with a couple of tweaks I really do love this dish. While traditonal biryanis are very firey this one is quite delicate the vast quantities of yoghurt in this make the end result very creamy in texture all the while still enabling the biryani to pass the biryani test; individual grains of rice are visible at the end. The fact that this made with black spices gives the dish an almost plau/pilau like taste but in my mind this was a lot lighter.

I was able to cook the lamb during the day and prepare the rest pretty much afterwards. If I had thought about it a bit more I would have cooked the lamb and frozen it pre Ramadan for a speedier end result. I’ll definitely do it that way round the next time I do this. We bought a ‘Wonderbag’ last year and I have to say it is perfect for doing the whole ‘dum pukt’ (steam cooked) thing. If you don’t have one I explain what to do.

Persian Lamb Biryani

For the lamb
400g lamb in small pieces/chops
3 onions
10 green cardamons
4 black cardamons
2 cinnamon sticks
5 black pepper corns
5 cloves
3 bayleaves
500g thick yoghurt/Greek yoghurt
Sea salt
Baking parchment

For the rice
A pinch of Saffron
1/2 a tin of chick peas
1 cup of Basmati rice
Rapeseed oil
Clean tea towel or wonderbag

1. Wash the rice and leave to soak.

2. Chop the onions and fry half of them in enough oil so that they are nearly covered. Add in a pinch of salt to help the onions release their water and become golden brown.

3. Take the onions out of the pan when they are golden brown and drain on kitchen paper.

4. Remove the excess oil from the pan, until you have enough just to coat the base of the pan then add in the remainder of the onions and fry until they are soft.

5. Place the meat in the pan and add all the dry spices excluding the sea salt and brown the meat allowing the spices to heat but not burn.

6. Place enough water into the pan (with the meat) to cover the meat and bring to the boil before simmering for about an hour until the meat is tender. When the meat is tender take off the heat.

7. If you want to freeze this then I would freeze this at this stage.

8. Add the yoghurt and add half a teaspoon of salt.

9. Place the saffron in a small bowl and pour on half a cup of hot water and allow to infuse.

10. An hour an half before iftari boil the rice in water until it become translucent. Then drain the water from the rice and rinse a couple of times in cold water to stop the rice from cooking.

11. In a pan, large enough to accomodate everything, line the pan with baking parchement.

12. Now begins the ‘biryani’ building. Start making layers of meat, rice, yoghurt sauce, chickpeas, the fried onions and then a drizzle of the saffron water. It should make a minimum of two layers.

13. If you are cooking this without a wonderbag, put a tea towel on top of the pan and then put the lid firmly on top, bringing the sides of the towel up on to the lid so that they do no dangle near the heat source. Then put the heat to high for 5 mins before bringing to low and leaving on a low heat for about 30 mins. Do not open the lid during this time.

14. If you are using a wonderbag put a lid on the pan then place on a medium heat for about 10 minutes before placing in the wonderbag for about an hour.

15. To serve either invert on to a serving platter or serve trying to maintain the sections.

Serves 4

 

Figs with Feta, Pistachio and Lime Dip

This is a very versatile dip which tastes great with fresh vegetables of even tortilla chips. In my mind though this tastes absolutely delicious with figs.

Feta, Pistachio and Lime dip
200g Feta cheese
100g raw peeled pistachios
1 Lime
2 tablespoons Live natural yoghurt

Blitz the pistachos in a food processor until you have a rubble rather than a fine powder. Then crumble in feta and 2 tablespoons of the yoghurt until the feta has disappeared. Add the zest of the lime, then add the juice of the lime. One last blitz to bring it together then place into a bowl.

Chop the figs in half, place a dollop of dip over each fig. Just before serving drizzle over some honey. Serve alongside the dates.

Mexican

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With a non fish eater in my house it means that when I do cook fish I need to cook an alternative substitute. I used to try cooking something vegetarian with fish as an extra but my non fish eater felt hard done by so now I just cook meat. Fortunately this recipe is sufficiently quick to not make you feel like you need to give up on eating fish because it takes so long to cook the meat. The fish is comparison is very light and if the thought of eating meat after a fastingjust puts you off this is the dish for you as it both flavoursome and light.

Chipotle Steak
The meat is meaty and the smokiness from the chipotle really infuses in to the meat. I would recommend putting the meat to marinade for at least 5 hours before you intend to cook it. In addition you need approximately 20 mins to cook it to well done and about 5-10 minutes to rest the meat. Despite the fact it is very tempting not to rest the meat it makes the difference.

Finally if you are in the UK, I used sirloin steak from Haloodies simply because I am very fed up of butchers claiming that a cut of beef is a specific cut and then it turns out not to be.

210g sirloin steak per person
1 tablespoon ground chipotle powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
10g butter
Sunflower spray oil
Aluminum foil

Place all the ingredients in a bag, mix around, seal, and leave to marinade in the fridge for at least 5 hours. Turn the bag over from time to time.

60 mins before iftari put your oven on at 220 degrees centigrade and put your cast iron griddle pan in the oven. You need the pan to be extremely hot.

30 mins before iftari turn the heat down o 180 degrees centigrade then take the griddle pan out of the oven and put on to the cooker on a high heat. Remove the steak from the bag and place the meat firmly on to the griddle. Cook on each side for 3 mins then put the butter on the steak snd place back in the oven for approximately 10 – 14 mins. Check the steak from time to see if it has not dried. If it does look slightly dry just spray some spray oil on. When the steak is cooked take the pan out of the oven and wrap the foil in aluminium foil. Then cover in oven gloves/towels to keep warm. Leave the meat to rest for approximately 10 mins before serving. Slice thinly to serve.

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Sardines
These sardines are very light and require very little effort. While I baked the fish in the oven (more because the oven was on) you could easily cook them in a frying pan.

Allow 2 sardine fillets per person
olive oil
vinegar
corsely ground black pepper
Aluminum foil

Lay the fish on to the foil and sprinkle on the black pepper, followed by a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar. Then bring the foil together to create a pouch. 20 minutes before ifatri place in the oven at 180 degrees and leave to bake for 10 – 15 minutes.

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Vera Cruz Dip
In Mexico there is a place called Vera Cruz and they are known for serving a Vera Cruz sauce along with their fish dishes. Feeling not very inclined to do anything labour intensive I decided against making the sauce proper and instead turned it into a dip using the same ingredients. The end result is fantastic and is almost addictive. It worked very well with both the fish and the steak so in my mind this is a must make item!

2 teaspoon black olive paste
1 head of garlic peeled
2 chillis chopped
1 large spring onion
2 medium tomatoes
1 pinch of salt

Place all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until smooth. This can be made ahead of time. Just cover and place in the fridge until you are ready for it.

Hasselback Potatoes
Ok so these Swedish potatoes aren’t strictly Mexcian but seeing as potatoes orginated in South America I think they deserve a place.
Potatoes
Sunflower spray oil

Simply start at one side of the potato and cut but not all the way down. Cut about 2/3 down. Then continue to make cuts at regular intervals all the way across the potatoes. Spray with spray oil and place on to an oven try for about an hour. The potatoes are ready when the cooked through and crispy on the top.

Along with all of the above I served our meal with:
Guacamole
Sour cream
Shredded mozarella
Lettuce
Corn tortillas

Although it sounds like a lot of sides they all help ‘pad’ out the meal so that it is not meat heavy for the people that didn’t want to eat meat.

Alhamdulilah we all enjoyed our meal and best of all if we had had some unexpected guests it would have been quite easy for the meal to stretch out and feed a few more. Alhamdulilah we are so lucky to have the choice of what to have for iftari especially when there are so many people in the world who are hungry, who have probably had nothing to eat for sehri and very little for ifarti. Inshallah make dua for those people that Allah (swt) provides them with food and makes things easier for them. In the mean time do not forget to give generously this month. Inshallah there are so many blessings to be had through the act of charity.

Olive and Chilli Pasta Bake

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The second night of Ramadan and another quick and easy to assemble iftari for us. We decided to have pasta bake, simply because it was sooooo wet that day that the mere thought of something hot from the oven was very appetising. Yup, there is something so wrong with wanting things hot from the oven in July!
This is one of those dishes that I make so frequently with whatever is to hand. Essentially it was a very simple pasta sauce made by frying onions, garlic and a good pinch of chilli flakes followed by a couple of tablespoons of ground black olive paste and bottle of passata. Allow it to simmer then season. Pour in your cooked pasta, toss around and then top with fresh mozzarella cheese and bake in the oven just until the top is crispy. It hit the spot for me on a very soggy day.

 

Ramadan Mubarak 2014

Salam Alaykum, Ramadan Mubarak
A few technical challenges are preventing me from posting more at the moment. Inshallah I should be up and running very soon in the mean time please feel free to have a look at some my older posts.
Inshallah have a beautiful Ramadan.