Al Nafoorah Shish Barak. Image: Jumeirah Zabeel Saray.
Iftar time, the moment we all look forward to the most during Ramadan, is when families come together and share a meal, breaking bread together in a quite literal sense. As Jordanian chef Essam Nabhan remarked during a conversation with us, “There’s a feeling of serenity in sharing the spiritual essence of Ramadan through food with our guests.”
Creating something new and special every day for 30 days can be a bit challenging, though, and you might find yourself running out of ideas on what to make. Moreover, preparing the same thing year after year can be a bore for everyone, yourself included.
Before the main event, what you offer on the table as starters and appetisers can be just as important as your dish of the day. Executive Chef Nabhan, from the Marriott Hotel Al Jaddaf, Dubai, names dates and fresh milk as a staple. “These give your body a balance of energy and prepare it to receive the main meal. You can then follow it up with a green salad and hearty soup.” A good variety will ensure that all your guests’ tastes are taken care of.
Ali Bourji, Chef De Partie at Anantara The Palm, agrees. “You want your guests to enjoy their time, so juices and plenty of water will provide a boost and prevent dehydration. Soups like lentil soup and harira help to get rid of toxins and reduce the feeling of hunger, which will help them the next day as well. Soups also help the stomach digest food better and prevent discomfort.”
A typical iftar meal is usually followed by a salad of some sort. According to Chef Ali, “Salads like fattoush, which are rich in fibre and vitamins, are a good choice.” Chef Musabbeh Al Kaabi, Executive Oriental Chef at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, has a slightly different take: “You can avoid sugar with laban drinks, which give calcium to the body and go well with all kinds of mains.”
Chef Essam likes to include sweet Ramadan juices on his table “to balance the loss of sugar in the body.” He recommends resisting the urge to serve sugary treats and suggests healthy cooking techniques instead. “Ramadan sweets like katayef can be baked instead of fried, making it a healthier option that will balance sugar levels in the body,” he explained.
THE MAIN ATTRACTION
Coming to the mains, there is broad consensus that these should be kept to a minimum. “Of course, there are many options for mains, and they provide the protein element to your table, but don’t do more than one or two dishes at a time,” said Chef Musabbeh.
So do you fancy a challenge this year? Try making these dishes.
Recipe by Executive Chef Essam Nabhan, Marriott Hotel Al Jaddaf Dubai
- Lamb knuckle
- Water 2 ml
- Chopped onions 100 gm
- Minced garlic 20 gm
- Tomato paste 50 gm
- Corn oil 20 ml
- Potato 200 gm
- Zucchini green 100 gm
- Zucchini yellow 100 gm
- Carrot 50 gm
- Green chilies 10 gm
- Dried lemon 10 gm
- Arabic spice 30 gm
- Cinnamon powder 10 gm
- Black lemon powder 10 gm
- Turmeric 10 gm
- Coriander 10 gm
- Cardamom powder 10 gm
- Kashmir chilies 10 gm
- Black pepper powder 5 gm
- Madras curry powder 10 gm
- Coriander leaves, finely chopped 20 gm
- Rogag bread 5 pcs
Boil the lamb in a large pot for 1 hour, skimming the fat from the surface as necessary. Strain and put the meat aside for later use. Reserve the broth.
In a large pot, sauté onion until golden brown. Add garlic and sauté for another minute. Add the tomato paste and vegetables except zucchini and mix to coat the tomato paste.
Add the dry lemon, lamb meat, reserved broth and all the remaining ingredients. Season and simmer until the potatoes are tender. Then add the zucchini, and simmer until tender.
Check the seasoning and garnish with chopped coriander.
To serve: In a deep bowl, layer the crispy rogag bread and pour on the broth. Top with the meat and vegetables. Serve hot.
Recipe by Chef Ali Bourji, Chef De Partie at Anantara The Palm
- Milk 500 ml
- Cream 500 gm
- Sugar 300 gm
- Corn flour 100 gm
- Rose water 20 ml
- Pistachio/almond slice for decoration
Boil the milk, cream and sugar together. Add corn flour and cook it till done. Add the rose water.
Pour the mixture into individual ramequins. Put in the refrigerator to cool down. Decorate with pistachio/almond slices before serving.
AL NAFOORAH SHISH BARAK
Recipe by Chef Musabbeh Al Kaabi, Executive Oriental Chef, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray
- Shish barak pastry (meat dumplings) 5 pcs
- Flour 50 gm
- Salt 5 gm
- White pepper 5 gm
- Sugar 1 gm
- Water 30 ml
For the stuffing:
- Minced lamb 20 gm
- Red onion, chopped 2 gm
- Garlic, chopped 2 gm
- Fresh coriander Leaves 2 gm
- Olive oil 15 ml
- Pine seeds 3 gm
- Cinnamon 1 gm
For the sauce:
- Full cream yoghurt 50 ml
- Butter 5 gm
To prepare the dough, sift the flour in a bowl with salt. Gradually add water and knead to obtain soft dough. Cover the dough with a plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Heat olive oil in a pan. Add the chopped onion and garlic, and fry till golden. Add the ground meat, cinnamon, pepper, salt and coriander. Cook over a low flame and let sit to cool.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough using a rolling pin. Cut the dough into four-centimetre circles. Place one teaspoon of filling at the centre of each circle and fold in half. Press the edges together, then bring both corners together to obtain a dumpling. Seal well.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Put all the meat dumplings in a well-greased baking tray and bake for 10 minutes or until blushed. Then remove from the oven and set aside.
Prepare the sauce by straining the yogurt into a pot and placing it over medium heat. Stir continuously in circular movements until the yogurt thickens, then reduce the heat. It is very important to stir continuously so that the yogurt does not stick to the pot.
Place the shish barak dumplings in a serving dish, and garnish with fresh coriander, beetroot powder and pine seeds. Serve with yogurt sauce and vermicelli rice.
(Writing by Umaima Tinwala; Editing by Seban Scaria firstname.lastname@example.org)
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