Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1205, (10 - 16 July 2014)
Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Issue 1205, (10 - 16 July 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Meals for Ramadan

Chef Aliaa Al-Askalani tells Mai Samih how to feast in Ramadan for less

Al-Ahram Weekly

Have you ever wondered what you are going to do with the leftover food you have after you have organised a huge iftar (the meal Muslims have after they break their Ramadan fast)? Aliaa Al-Askalani, a chef and founder of Lulu’s Kitchen cooking classes, has some practical recipes for the holy month of Ramadan which can make more out of leftover dishes as well as help make more from scratch for less.  

If you have any pasta, meat, chicken or vegetables left over from an iftar at which you had relatives or friends over, then a gratin dish might be ideal for you. Put any leftover pasta, chicken, meat or vegetables in a baking tray in the oven with a bit of béchamel sauce on top and cheese and leave it to bake until the béchamel goes golden brown. “It’s a guaranteed favourite among many and it cuts down on waste and cooking time,” says Al-Askalani.

If you have any katayef pastry – a round pancake or pastry made in Ramadan that is stuffed with nuts and raisins, fried, and served as a dessert – left over in the fridge, you could always make savoury katayef. Some people stuff katayef with feta cheese or basterma, but if you have pickles like pickled olives or carrots or cooked vegetables lying around the kitchen you could always use them instead and fry the katayef. Al-Askalani calls the dish “katayef with veggies or pickles. It will give your regular katayef a different kick and make guests look forward to trying something new,” she says.

To boost your energy during Ramadan, oven bakes could do the trick. Marinate chicken, meat or vegetables before placing them in the oven to cook for approximately 40-50 minutes.

Alternatively, you could add a sauce accompaniment to your marinated grilled chicken or meat such as aromatic tomato sauce, which is easy to make. Wash the tomatoes well and then chop them. Put some garlic in olive oil and add pepper on a medium heat. Then add your tomatoes and half a cup of tomato puree or paste with a bit of water and sugar and fresh basil and fresh lime. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour over a medium heat. Leave it to cool down and store it in a clean jar with oil on top and leave it in the fridge. The sauce can also be used for pizza and pasta.

According to Al-Askalani, there is a list of kitchen must-haves during Ramadan that will help in making special dishes.

This list includes: dried fruit and nuts that come in handy on their own on your living room table, in desserts like konafa and katayef and in other dishes; karkadeh, kharub and qamar al-din, which are all essential beverages to have on the table; fresh juice, which is a healthy alternative to Ramadan beverages and a good way to re-hydrate your body; and sharbat. Always have a jar or two of this prepared for desserts. Just put two cups of sugar in a medium cooking pan and cover it with water and add a few drops of lemon over a low heat until a syrup is formed.

Other Ramadan must-haves include katayef and konafa in the freezer – always have stocks of these either plain or stuffed in time for your daily meal. That way you won’t go out of your way to go buy them and you will have a variety at hand. Frozen dishes are also good: many things can be prepared and frozen in advance, which will make it easier for you for meal preparation, especially if you work.

Vegetables for soups should also be on hand. Always have a variety of fresh vegetables on hand to make a fresh soup or two that can be frozen and eaten over a few weeks. Also make sure you have fresh vegetables for salads. Pickles help bring blood sugar levels up to balance and therefore are good to have on the table. They are also very economical and are a clever way to preserve vegetables.

It is important to have fresh fruit in season to balance the fats from the desserts eaten during Ramadan. Salad should always be on the table, as it’s important to re-hydrate your system not only through water but also through vegetables and fruit.

Soups for Ramadan

Chef Aliaa Al-Askalani gives her favourite soups for Ramadan
Many people make tomato, chicken or mushroom soup for iftar, but there are many other vegetables that could be made into tasty and time-saving soups and stocks that can then be stored in the freezer for future use like courgettes, carrots and potatoes.

Courgette soup
2 courgettes (sliced)
1/2 onion (sliced)
1 large potato (chunked)
3 1/4 cups of water
1/2 cube chicken bouillon
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Put the olive oil in a pan, add the onion and some salt and leave it till it’s smooth. Add the courgette slices and stir for a while then add the potato, water and the chicken bouillon cube. Cover the pan and leave for 25 minutes. Use a hand blender to mix till it thickens.

Carrot soup
2 cups of chicken stock
1 cup cream (optional)
1 cup chopped onions
3 cups peeled and diced carrots (about 2 pounds)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 bay leaf and 1 nutmeg
Salt and pepper

Put all the ingredients in a pan and let them cook for 15 to 20 minutes after covering on a medium-high temperature. After it boils, leave the mixture to cool and whisk in the food processor. Put the butter in a pan and add the flour and mix. Add the cream and mix till it thickens. Then add the carrot soup and mix on a medium to low heat for five minutes.

Pea soup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 leeks (chopped, white and light green parts)
1 large onion (chopped)
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
5 cups freshly shelled peas or 2 packages frozen peas
2/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup freshly chopped chives
Garlic croutons, for serving

Heat the butter in a large saucepan, add the leeks and onion, and cook over a medium-low heat for five to 10 minutes until the onion is tender. Add the chicken stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the peas and cook for three to five minutes, until the peas are tender. (Frozen peas will take only three minutes.) Off the heat, add the mint, salt and pepper. Place one cup of soup in a blender, place the lid on top, and puree on a low speed. With the blender still running, open the vent in the lid and slowly add more soup until the blender is three-quarters full. Pour the soup into a large bowl and repeat until all the soup is pureed. Whisk in the cream and chives and taste for seasoning. Serve hot with garlic croutons.

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