Archives for posts with tag: Ramadan

You all can’t even begin to imagine how excited I am for Eid (celebration at the end of Ramadan) this year.  Fasting this year was tough and there were rumors circulating that it might fall on Saturday depending on the lunar sighting.  As far as I was concerned, Eid was to be on Friday no matter what the council of whoever decided.

Most of this Ramadan was spent at my in-laws.  I previously mentioned how they are all about food.  Somehow my mother-in-law manages to spend the whole day cooking in the kitchen even though everyone is fasting.  Let me tell you, I have eaten my fair share this month.

My Mother-in-Law stirring away

If I am going to resort back to my previous eating habits I might as well end my over consumption  with a great bang.  One last hurrah, if you will.  I asked my mother-in-law to share her recipe for sooji ka halwa (semolina dessert with cardamom, nuts, and green raisins).

Growing up we would eat this on Eid and on other religious holidays.  A taste of this halwa brings me back many childhood memories of Eid and summers in Pakistan.  Halwa is usually eaten with pooris and chanay.  Pooris are a decadent treat that brings the indulgence of halwa to another level.  When you buy pooris from the market stall they soak the paper bags and newspaper with oil.  Hmm, I might just eat my halwa with a spoon.  On the other hand, halwa without poori, poori without halwa, whichever way you look at it something is missing.

My mother-in-law was quite excited for me to make this with her and also that I would be posting it.  She can make anything Pakistani and it most surely turns out to be absolutely amazing.  She doesn’t even trust me in the kitchen, partially because I cut corners where oil, butter, and ghee are concerned and she is never satisfied with food unless it is made by her.  If I help her in the kitchen my position is reserved for chopping onions and assembling her mise en place.  I have learned a great deal by watching her cook on our visits to my in-laws.  I might use less oil or whatever but, the main concept of sharing a recipe and learning from others is there, something that is priceless.  I have added new dish to my repertoire, a dish of tradition that I can share on upcoming Eid with others.

Eid Mubarak!

Sooji ka Halwa (Semolina Dessert with Cardamom, Nuts, and Green Raisins)

Serves 4-6 (servings here are relative, it could serve 8 if only having a small quantity)

Ingredients

1 1/3 cup finely ground semolina, sooji found in Indian-Pakistani grocers

1 1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup canola oil

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

5 green cardamoms, slightly crushed

2 cups water

1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds (can use whole almonds with skin and sliver them), plus extra for garnish

1/3 cup green raisins or sultanas, plus extra for garnish

3-4 drops of kewra water or rose water, optional

a few leaves of edible silver leaf, warq (we couldn’t find it, thus did not use it)

Method

Heat a wide pan on medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of butter and the oil and drop in the cardamom pods and allow the aroma to infuse the oil for about 2 minutes.  Add in the semolina and stir the oil with the semolina so that it absorbs and becomes dry.

Keep stirring every 30 seconds until the semolina until the color changes and you smell the fragrance of slight roasting.  Roast until light brown, about 7-10 minutes and then add the remaining 2 tablespoons on butter and allow it ooze and melt into the semolina.  Remove the pan from the heat and add in the sugar and mix until combined.

Next, stream in the water and return to the heat (increase the heat to medium-high) and keep stirring until the semolina thickens, about 5 minutes.  When it has thickened reduce the heat to low.  Add in raisins, almonds, and the few drops of kewra water (if you are using it).  The consistency should be that of a thick porridge or oatmeal.  Garnish with the silver leaf, raisins, and almonds.  Serve warm or some like it chilled.  For a real treat serve with pooris.

*optional-you may infuse the oil with a few strands of saffron if you like.

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My stomach is grumbling quite loudly as I am typing this.  It’s the first day of Ramadan and I am fasting.  It’s going to be almost impossible for me to survive this month.  I am feeling the pangs already.  I stocked up on some posts because cooking is going to be hard for me this month, especially since sunset is around 8:15pm.  It’s also difficult for me because my husband is not fasting with me.  His schedule is too busy and he has to study.  I won’t complain much because complaining totally negates the essence of Ramadan.  Cheers to solo fasting!

I hope my husband’s parents didn’t read the line about him not fasting (I’m pretty sure they won’t), they might get upset with him.  Oh well, I guess I can be *evil.*  My parents, on the other hand would not mind.  We try our best to fast, even if we don’t complete the 30 days.

I mentioned I stocked up on posts.  This first one is a roasted beet and carrot dish.  I love beets and love them even more when they are miniature and multicolored.  The Kingston farmer’s market yielded some gorgeous produce this summer.  The taste is incredible, out of this world fresh and full of flavor.  My favorite vendors and Okee Farms and Patchwork Gardens.  I adore their stands and their produce.  Everything is so honest and pure.

I also picked up some basil at the market.  I was at another stall ready to buy some basil, but a fellow shopper yielded me to Pathwork Gardens.  A lady and stroller approached me in a very incognito manner and quietly whispered to me, “Put this basil down and go to Pathwork Gardens, their basil is the best ever.”  Taking her cue, I sneakily put my bunch of basil back on the table and headed over to Patchwork gardens.  I smelled the basil before I saw it, so very fragrant.  I picked it up and thanked the stroller mommy for her help.  She was right and next time if I see someone picking up basil from anyone else, I might be inclined to do the same thing, minus the stroller of course.

I wanted to let the ingredients I have shine through.  Being Pakistani, it seems almost blasphemous to add only salt and pepper to a dish.  I kept it simple and resisted my urges to add more than necessary.  I coated the beets and carrots in olive oil and honey and roasted them.  The honey brought out their natural sweetness and slightly caramelized them.  I topped the beets and carrots with a simple basil and lemon dressing and tossed some toasted walnuts and sliced onion over top.  I must say this dish was truly divine and all the credit goes to the wonderful ingredients.

Honey Glazed & Roasted Beets and Carrots with a Lemon Basil Dressing

Serves 2-4

Ingredients

1 bunch baby beets (red, orange, zebra), about 6

1 bunch red carrots

2 tablespoons honey

1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

salt and black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup toasted walnuts

1/4 of a red onion, sliced finely

some leaves of arugula and basil for garnish

for the dressing:

1 cup packed basil

1 clove of garlic

juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons sour cream

salt and black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (the best you can get)

Method

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Coat the beets and carrots with the honey, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Place in a foil pouch on a baking tray and bake for 30-45 minutes, or until cooked.

Meanwhile, make the dressing by combining the basil, garlic, lemon juice, sour cream, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor.  Pulse a few times and stream in the olive oil until it forms a dressing.  If it is thick stream in some water until it reaches the desired consistency.

Slice the beets and arrange on a platter.  I leave a little of the stem on for visual appeal.  I like to put a few leaves of arugula on the bottom as a bed.  Next, top with the red onions and walnuts.  Drizzle on the dressing and tear a few leaves of basil, as a garnish.

A few days ago, I was thinking about things I have learned to make since I got married.  Getting married improved my cooking repertoire substantially.  I always loved cooking, but was too busy as a student to really dive in and explore a lot of new dishes.  My husband’s taste buds sometimes dictate what I cook as well.  I admit, I am more domineering in the food side of things, so usually what I say goes!  That’s the way it should be, right girls?  Also, my husband has not cooked a meal for me even once!  Can you believe that?  Shame on him!  If I do not want to cook we go out or order something.  Never once will he offer to make something.  Not that I mind it on a daily basis, but sometimes a girl does not want to see the kitchen.  Recently, he was away on electives and had to cook for himself.  Can you guess know what he made?  His infamous chicken breasts, baked with salt, pepper, and zucchini in a foil pouch.  Wow, how utterly creative!

Okay, enough with the husband bashing (he really does not deserve it), this was supposed to be another tribute to his taste buds but somehow I got sidetracked.  During the past two Ramadans (Islamic month of fasting) I have made Pakoras everyday, I never really made them before I got married.  My husband, being a creature of habit needs to have pakoras to open his fast.  We are not particularly religious, although we do try to do the basics, I more than him.  But, in Ramadan we try to fast as much as possible.  It is a spiritual cleansing and makes us remember all we have been given.

It is a spiritual cleansing, NOT a physical cleaning.  Us Pakistanis open our fasts with the most artery clogging dishes possible.  Pakoras, samosas, lentil fritters swimming in yogurt, puff pastry patties, fried potato cutlets are usually on the tables in most Pakistani households at the opening of the fast.  Yes, there are the afterthoughts of fruit salad and dates in the corner.  But, after fasting all day most people jump for the fried foods.  I try to steer away from this habit.  Give me the fruit and a date and then afterwards I’ll eat a normal healthy dinner.

Despite my eating habits, I still make Pakoras for my husband and maybe an occasional one for myself, shhhhhh.  I have perfected them and although he likes them dipped almost like vegetable tempura, I make them with everything in the batter.  It’s easier and in my opinion tastier.  My mother told me to add yogurt to the batter because it makes them fluffier, but that is entirely optional. Pakoras are not only reserved for Ramadan, that is why I felt like making them today, on some random April day.  I must admit they are delicious and I do devour them when I go to Pakistan, where I do not gain weight from eating all these fried foods, but that is a story for another day.  In Lahore, the best pakoras are available in Liberty Market.

Pakoras: Chickpea Flour Fritters with Spinach, Red Onion, and Potatoes

Makes about 12

Ingredients

3/4 cup chickpea/gram flour (besan)

water (enough to form a thick batter)

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds

1/4 teaspoon carom seeds (ajwain)

1/2 teaspoon red chili powder

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon chaat masala powder, available in Indian/Pakistani grocery stores

1 heaping tablespoon of plain yogurt, optional

1 cup packed baby spinach, coarsely chopped

1 small potato, cut into thin matchstick pieces

1 small red onion, sliced as thin as possible

handful of cilantro, chopped

1 thin long green chili, minced finely

vegetable oil, for frying

Method

In a mortar and pestle crush together the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and carom seeds.  Leave them coarse.  In a bowl mix together the chickpea flour, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, carom seeds, red chili powder, chat masala, and salt.  Add in the water slowly until the ingredients form a batter, similar to a slightly thick pancake batter.  Add in the yogurt and mix.  Next toss in the spinach, onion, potato, cilantro, and green chili.  Heat a pan with oil, I like to shallow fry the Pakoras, if you wish, you can deep fry them.  Add heaping tablespoon-fulls of batter into the heated oil and cook on medium to medium low heat until they are golden brown on each side, about 3-4 minutes per side.  Make sure the batter and the vegetables inside are fully cooked before serving.  When cooked, drain on a plate lined with paper towel.  Sprinkle with some extra salt and chaat masala.  Eat them fresh, they do not taste as good if they are not hot.  You can serve the Pakoras with tamarind-date chutney, green chutney, or even chili garlic ketchup.