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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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.

 

Quick Turkish Pizza Lahmajun/Lahmacun

With the days being so long I’ve been trying to make things for Iftar that aren’t so time consuming or require less washing up; anything to save time. One of the things I did before Ramadan was to make up batches of cooked beef mince with spices and then froze it. Hardly rocket science in the land of tips but it does save time. I know it doesn’t take long to cook mince but sometimes its the combination of things in a recipe that makes things more time consuming. I tried to make the mince filled with spice and not heat so that it could be adapted to make things like Bolognaise etc.

So on to last night, I decided to go with Lahmajun (Turkish pizza). I have to be very upfront and say I really don’t like keema pizza and while in some parts of the world the keema pizza has a cult status I am firmly not a fan. To a certain extent while this does sound like keema pizza the end result was nothing like it. Tradionally the raw mince is spiced and then mixed with finely ground peppers. Generally people don’t put cheese on this which is why I think was willing to give it a go. As my objective was to save time I used a shop bought pizza dough and used my pre cooked mince (now defrosted) mixed with finely chopped peppers (done in a food processor) and fresh corriander. You need a ratio of 50:50 for the mince to peppers. The addition of the peppers makes the mince a lot lighter.

Simply roll out your dough, press on your pepper-mince mix and you are good to go! Cook the pizza according to the instructions on the dough then serve up wedges of lemon, a simple salad of onions and tomatoes. Before you eat pile on the salad and squeeze on the lemon juice! All is good!

I also made up a batch of guacamole to serve along with this as I wasn’t sure if the mince would be too dry. While it probably is extreme fusion it was a perfect accompaniment to the meal as there was none left! Enjoy!

29th June – 1st of Ramadan

Alhamdulilah Ramadan is here, I must admit my focus was mainly on survivng the day rather than excelling in the extras. If you found it easy, great if you managed loads of extras great. For me I survived and frankly that was quite an achievement for me. I have loads of ‘mileage’ on my Ramadan clock but the truth is I do find it hard. This isn’t a case of ‘woe is me’ but honesty.

Sehri

With the long (wet and warm) days ahead I thought a lot about what types of things would be good for sehri/suhoor. In the end I opted for something that I have become quite fond of quite recently; overnight oats with chia seeds. Simply choose a jar, put in a portion of oats (I use gluten free oats) add in a table spoon of chia seeds, then add in some thing you like, dried fruit, nuts, nut butter, then fill with milk put the lid on and then leave in the fridge. Normally I would make this before. I go to bed but because our ‘nights’ are so short – about 5 hours in the UK – I try and do this first thing in the morning or you could do it when you get home from work. Once you get into the rhythm of doing this it is quite easy. It is also good if you are in a larger family as everyone has a portion sorted and there is no risk of running out of milk at 2:30am. I had mine with a simple fruit salad of watermelon and chopped apple ( a quick dunk in lemon/vinegar water to prevent the apple going brown). In true paranoid Ramadan style I put out a bread roll for myself but was so full I couldn’t bring myself to eat any more.

My husband decided to stick to simple things and had a bowl of cereal with some waffles I had made earlier in the day. We both had the mandatory date, a smoothie and lots of water.

Iftari

I decided to go with an Arab inspired meal for iftari not in the least authentic but everyone loved it and it required very little effort for which it earns bonus brownie points!

For the lamb (serves 4)
1/2 a small leg of lamb chopped into to cubes
1/2 onion sliced
1 aubergine chopped into cubes
1 tablespoon of fresh garlic minced
1 tablespoon of fresh ginger minced
2 teaspoons of Rose flavoured Harissa paste
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 tablespoon of a spice mix containing equal quantities of:allspice, white pepper, cinammon, ginger, nutmeg, mahlab, sumac and cardamon
2 tablespoons pomegrenate molasses
2 tablespoon olive oil
4 quarters of sunblush tomatoes chopped up finely
A handful of olives

Place all the ingredients in to an ovenproof dish and mix well.
Leave to marinade for at least 3 hours but not longer than 12 hours.
2 hours before ifari cover the dish with ovenproof foil and put in the oven at 190 degrees centigrade
Check on it from time to time to stir the ingredients.
This should be ready about 10 minutes before hand when the meat is soft and tender.

Haloumi
I did a similar thing with 200g of haloumi leaving out the chilli and aubergine. Bringing the quanties of all the spices/ pastes down to a teaspoon. This went into the oven 30 mins ( also covered) before iftari. Coming out the same time as the lamb.

I served this with shop bought roti, fresh hummus, an undressed salad. I had gluten free shop bought wraps by Be Free Foods.

Today was also a family birthday so dessert was a home made birthday cake.