O moon-faced Beloved, the month of Ramadan has arrived, Cover the table, and open the path of praise.
Ramadan is here in the blazing summer heat; let us make this month of supplication, devotion and abstinence one that makes us feel lighter, healthier and thankful for all we have. It is a great time to let your body regenerate so drink lots of liquids, avoid those massive food orgies that everyone regrets the next day and above all, avoid wasting food.
Here's to a blessed month of sharing, eating light and a rebooting of our conscience!
I remember my mother rolling a ball of curdled milk or chhana, with some sugar as a quick dessert to keep me busy. This deliciously simple milk product is heavily used in desserts, but can also moonlight as a veritable cottage cheese. The Portuguese are often credited for introducing the Bengalis and Oriyas to cheese. For now, we add it to our healthy Ramadan spread.
Chhana with seasonal fruits salad
1 cup curdled milk
2 guavas (take the bigger, sweet ones) diced and de-seeded
1 large ripe mango
2 small green mangoes, 1 large ripe papaya
2 tbsp roasted pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp tamarind pulp
2 tbsp molasses or gur
1 tsp cumin powder (optional)
Salt to taste, or black salt
Handful chopped basil
Mix tamarind pulp with molasses and salt to make a syrup or chutney. You may add some cumin or zeera powder to this. Curdle milk with some lemon or ascorbic acid, and make chhana. You may knead it with your hands for some smoothness, but best is to leave it a little grainy. Dry roast pumpkin seeds till they pop in the pan. Dice all fruits and mix in a bowl with the seeds and basil leaves. Scoop the chhana out with a spoon and drop it in round dollops inside the fruit bowl. Pour the syrup on top and serve chilled.
Chickpea soup in a light chicken broth with couscous
½ chicken, cleaned
2 tbsp chopped celery
3 cups chickpea, which have been soaked overnight
½ cup couscous
½ tbsp garlic paste and 2 garlic cloves, diced
1 large leek chopped or 4-5 bulbs of green/spring onions
Salt and pepper, to taste
Boil chicken with celery, leeks or spring onions, salt and pepper, garlic and boil until the chicken starts to separate (about 1.5 hrs). Scoop out the chicken pieces and strain the broth. Add chickpeas and diced garlic to this liquid and boil until they are almost cooked. At this point add couscous and cook for about ten minutes. Take off the cooker and serve immediately or if you want to leave it aside, remember to add some extra water as the couscous tends to expand in size. Serve with a generous swirl of olive oil and sprinkle chopped basil or mint.
Chickpeas are a great source of dietary fibre and proteins, and are ideal at filling your stomach yet not overloading the digestive system. A great opener at iftar for the fasting stomach and the light chicken broth adds the necessary liquid.
Jalapeno boats stuffed with Dhaka poneer
The hot Mediterranean sun calls for a meal that is tangy and one that equally challenges the heat of the day. A popular Greek dish is peppers stuffed with feta cheese. The Fearless Olive changes the ingredients a bit, using local ingredients.
8-10 large jalapenos, de-seeded and tops chopped off
200g Dhaka poneer
1 tsp nigella seeds or kalo jeera
1 tbsp oregano powder
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley or coriander
Apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Smear jalapenos with olive oil then roast them on an open fire. Then cut them in long halves and peel the skin off. After this, marinate them for about 2 hours in enough vinegar, a pinch of salt and some olive oil, to cover them. Roughly crush nigella seeds and mix it with crumbled feta, parsley and adjust salt and pepper. After marinating, take the jalapenos out and fill them with the Dhaka poneer mix. You may fire with a flaming torch to give it that grilled effect or try to turn the jalapeno boat onto a grill if you can manage the same effect otherwise.
The feta stuffed jalapenos resemble little boats, so serve them as a side dish.
DHAKA PONEER LIGHTLY GRILLED IN OLIVE OIL, WITH ONION PICKLE AND SOME VEGGIES IN AN OPEN FACED SANDWICH
Pickles have generally been around for a few millennia now and were always a great way to preserve vegetables.
200g Dhaka Poneer
Any seasonal vegetables, like gourd or lau, carrots, potatoes, peas, long yard beans (borboti), shim and even leafy greens like shaak
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped basil and oregano powder
Whole brown wheat bread
For the onion pickle
1 large red onion cut in thick round slices
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar
Optional some whole bay leaves
(1-2), peppercorns and rosemary leaves
Chop vegetables in round slices. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper and smear some olive oil on them and stick them into the grill oven for about 25-30 minutes to let them cook. In a grill pan or a thick non-stick pan, lightly fry the chopped Dhaka poneer in olive oil. Add some pepper to this and do not fry for more than 2 minutes. Take off the fire and mix with the vegetables.
For the pickle, take thickly sliced round onion rings and separate each ring. Mix them up with salt and stick them into the apple cider vinegar and add sugar. You may avoid the sugar or add more if you want. The other spices are also optional but add all this and cover in glass jar for a few days until the vinegar turns pink in colour.
Mix vegetables with the Dhaka poneer and add pickles and herbs and mix well.
Toast bread and make a sandwich with this filling and serve with the feta stuffed jalapeno
Pickled onions can have their benefits but the key word here is moderation. They are a good source of dietary fibre, vitamin B6, folate, potassium and manganese, and also vitamin C.
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Food Styling: LS Desk