Come Ramadan and the markets are flooded with dates of all shapes and sizes; this popular tradition of breaking the fast has been absorbed into the main menu of Muslims the world over. Yet, many of us are unaware of a dessert exported from the ancient Indian kitchens to the Middle East during Muslim rule of the 2nd millennium CE.
The Jal-Vallika was broken down to a more easily pronounced jalebi which was further converted into Zlebia in some Arab countries. Dipped in milk or eaten in its uniquely twisted form, this dessert has truly become an iftari staple along with dates, filled with nuts or plain and simple.
So with a wary eye on the calorie intake and thoughts of keeping your body cleansed, this Ramadan we bring to you a set of healthy recipes that will hopefully add flavours to your iftari menu, leaving you feeling healthy and light.
An ode to Besan:
Katlama (flat bread with chickpea powder) to get a besan kick out of iftari
½ cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
Oil to make dough
1 cup green moog daal
1 tsp dry mango powder
½ tsp carom seeds (Ajwain)
½ cup chickpea flour (besan)
1 tsp Coriander seeds
Salt to taste
Soak the daal overnight and boil, leaving it a little hard. Make a paste out of this and add to it all the ingredients excluding the two types of flour. Do not make paste too watery but fairly coarse, using all the besan with the spices and daal, then leave aside.
Knead the dough using a slightly extra bit of oil in order to make it less dry. Use rolling pin to roll out a large base of the dough and on this, smear the besan paste generously.
Once done, brush it with some oil on top and on a thick skillet, brush some oil at the base and place the katlama and let it cook until both sides are golden brown and the smell of the besan wafting in the kitchen tells you that it is ready! The result is an orangish yellow deshi looking pizza!
Serve it with plain yoghurt and cut up in wedges like a deshi pizza and enjoy offering your guests a twist on the normal besan items.
Health spotlight for Ramadan: Besan
Naturally higher than other flours in protein, besan contains healthy unsaturated fats that lower cholesterol. This gluten free alternate also activates energy producing enzymes, making it a healthy and energetic source of nutrition after a day's fasting. Vitamin B6 regulates the appetite, enhances good mood (through the neurotransmitter serotonin) and the synthesis of red blood cells, making Besan one happy flour alternative to have this month of abstinence.
Three bean salad with mango-jamrul sauce
100g of Garbanzo beans
100g of red kidney beans
100g of white beans
100g of fresh corn, boiled for 15 minutes
1 capsicum (green chillies can be used as per your spicy quotient)
1 bunch lettuce
4-5 sprigs of spring onions
Salt and pepper to taste
Virgin Olive oil
For the mango-jamrul sauce:
2 large mangoes which are not completely ripe
5-6 pieces of jamrul or bell apples
1 to 2 tsp molasses or gur
Salt and pepper to taste
A pinch of nutmeg
Boil the three beans (after soaking overnight) with celery leaves and salt and a pinch of tomato paste. Alternately you can boil them with only a bit of salt or if in a hurry use canned beans. Mix all three beans and corn in a bowl. Dice all the vegetables but grate the carrot and mix well with the beans and olives. Squeeze lemon juice and add virgin olive oil and salt and mix well. (The oil and lemon are enough as a dressing so use according to taste.) Add any amount of mint leaves or coriander or herbs of your choice. Sauce:
Saute the mango and jamrul pieces in a spot of oil until slightly softer then add 1 teaspoon molasses and the lemon juice and some water, add salt, pepper and nutmeg and bring to boil. Blend this mixture to your required consistency of a sauce and add some chillies to it if you want more spice.
Serve cold with sprinkling of iceberg lettuce or cabbage if former not available
Health spotlight for Ramadan: beans
Dried beans have always been a popular choice for people looking to lose those extra pounds, in a nutritious way! Full of proteins as all beans are legumes, these wonder foods contain flavonoids that help reduce heart risk, while the dietary fibre keeps your digestive system in order. Red kidney beans being full of antioxidants, this yummy bean will make your skin glow and your hair shine! The carbohydrates in beans provide a lot of energy so make way for a more energetic Ramadan with beans as your main carbohydrate intake.
Basboussa: semolina cake with syrup
3 cups semolina (Suji)
1 cup sugar
½ cup grated coconut
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp baking soda
2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups water
5 drops fresh lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 180˚C. In a bowl combine all the ingredients (semolina, sugar, coconut, yoghurt, baking powder, and baking soda) and stir until mixed properly.
Grease a baking pan and pour batter on it; decorate the surface with blanched almonds and let it stand for 2 hours. Bake until golden (about 30 minutes). Remove from oven and pour warm syrup on the preparation and return the pan to the oven for 5 minutes.
For the syrup
Prepare syrup by putting the sugar and water in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil while constantly stirring to dissolve the sugar. Let it boil until it becomes clear. Add few drops of lemon and let it boil for a minutes or so.
Allow to cool, then cut into squares, setting the almonds in each wedge.
Health Spotlight for Ramadan: Suji
Semolina or suji has always been a popular choice as a lighter snack compared to wheat. Milled from durum wheat, Suji contains potassium which benefits the kidneys, is a quick and easy-to-make nourishing source of energy and contains vitamins E (always the best for skin) & B, while being good for the body's immunity.
A wholesome soup inspired by the Mid-eastern Harira
2 cups diced chicken cubes (you may use lean beef as well)
1 kg tomatoes, blanched and peeled
½ celery stick
1 tsp garlic paste
5-6 cloves of garlic, diced
½ kg carrots
½ kg gourd (lau)
1 large snake gourd (chichinga)
½ kg large onions, chopped thickly
1 cup black eyed peas soaked overnight
Pinches of nutmeg, oregano and cinnamon
1 tbsp cumin powder
½ tsp rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste; you may add 1 tsp of fresh red chilli paste
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup shell pasta
8-10 cups of water
2 tbsp olive oil
Note: Cut up carrots and snake gourd in thin discs, the lau in thin triangular wedges
Saute the meat with the garlic paste in 1 tablespoon oil and add a dash of vinegar, till the meat is a little fried. Add the tomato, beans and diced garlic to sauté for another few minutes until oil separates. Add other ingredients except the pasta and sauté another 1 minute before adding pasta and the water.
Add salt and pepper and either cook the soup for up to 40 minutes or about 5 whistles of the pressure cooker. Add all spices now except the oregano and cook till the soup starts thickening to your taste. Add basil and oregano 5 minutes prior to taking off. Serve hot with a garnishing or mint and coriander and some feta cheese sprinkled on top. Slurp!
Health Spotlight for Ramadan: Hot soups
After more than 12 hours of fasting, the body temperature begins to fall ever so slightly and soup warms up your body and particularly your belly, replenishing lost liquids. As the flavours hit your taste buds in the most nourishing manner, soups can be easily digested and leave you feeling light yet full. The hot soup gets you prepared to eat more while filling the belly so you eat just as much as you need, making it the best way to eat healthy this Ramadan!