Refresh your dinner repertoire with these nutritious, healthy recipes during the month of Ramadan.
Cariema Isaacs – South African cookbook author now based in Dubai – shares some of her favourite recipes from her latest book Spice Odyssey.
“The best way to describe Cape Malay cuisine is possibly to say that we prefer our food well balanced when it comes to spices and therefore our curries are also known to be spicy, but not fiery hot,” says Cariema.
“My first lessons as a child helping my grandmother cook were about finding that balance. She maintained that our senses are meant to be awakened by the subtle flavours, which become pronounced with every bite. Thus, at a very early age, I understood the tastes derived from cumin and coriander, the pungency of fennel, cloves and star anise, and the piquancy of chilli powder, cayenne pepper and masala blends.
“The health benefits derived from spices are the true treasures… The warm saffron milk I drank at bedtime as a child, ushering me into a peaceful sleep; the concoction of turmeric and oil applied directly to the skin for my cuts and grazes; and the ginger-infused, honey tea given to me when my throat was sore.”
Cariema also swears by ginger tea. “Ginger can promote perspiration, which can help lower body temperature – helpful when treating colds and flu. This process also helps the body get rid of toxins. Ginger tea can be made by adding a pinch of ground ginger to one cup boiling water and can help in the treatment of digestive disorders.”
My Beloved Gobi Masala (Cauliflower Spiced Curry)
“I’ve always maintained that if I were ever to give up meat, I could happily survive on cauliflower. I happened upon this recipe during my visit to Mumbai and found a local restaurant in Dubai that makes a mean gobi masala. The sauce is really luscious and fragrant and perfect to have with Indian naan bread.”
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 8 fresh curry leaves
- 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely crushed
- ½ tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp tandoori masala or biryani spice mix
- 1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander, for garnishing
- Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan on medium to high heat and immediately add the chopped onions and curry leaves to the pan.
- Sauté the onions for five to seven minutes, or until slightly golden.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes have reduced to form a luscious sauce.
- Stir in all the spices.
- Stir in the cauliflower florets and salt and turn the heat down to medium. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure the cauliflower is well coated with the curry sauce.
- Do a last taste test, as the cauliflower might require additional salt. Serve hot, garnished with fresh coriander.
READ MORE: Is Beetroot Actually Healthy?
Sanju’s Sri Lankan Beetroot Curry
“Did you know that most households in Sri Lanka only use clay pots for cooking? According to my friend Sanju, using clay pots is known to be a healthier method of cooking and allows the dish to retain its purest form of flavour. I managed to bring home some cooking utensils after my visit to Sri Lanka, but my clay pot is by far one of my most treasured finds.”
- 4 medium beetroots
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 8 fresh curry leaves
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 2 green chillies, slit lengthwise
- ¼ tsp chilli powder
- 1¼ tsp salt
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup coconut milk
- Peel and rinse the beetroot, then slice and cut them into thin strips. Set aside.
- Heat the coconut oil in a saucepan on medium heat and fry the mustard seeds and the fenugreek seeds, making sure they don’t overcook and burn.
- When the mustard seeds begin to pop, stir in the curry leaves, chopped onion and chillies.
- Reduce the heat to low and quickly stir in the chilli powder so that it does not burn.
- Stir in the beetroot strips, then add the salt. Pour in the water, cover the saucepan with a lid and cook the beetroot for about 10 minutes.
- Once the beetroot is ready (you can use a knife to test if it’s cooked or not – you don’t want it too hard, but equally not overly soft), stir in the coconut milk and cook for a further 10 minutes.
- Stir well, take the pan off the heat and serve with basmati rice.
Makes 2 bowls (opening image)
“There is a hashtag that was introduced in Dubai a few years ago which aims to promote the vibrancy and diversity of this city. Soon the hashtag was accompanied by another hashtag, #mydubailife. As the hashtags suggest, it’s really about the things we so adore about our beautiful city and a life we have come to make here.”
- 2 small aubergines, sliced about one-centimetre thick
- 1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
- Olive oil
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried mint
- 1 cup cooked brown lentils
- 1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- ¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley (leaves only)
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 handfuls mixed leafy greens
- 2 tbsp pine nuts, for garnishing
- 2 tsp za’atar, for garnishing
- 2 lemon wedges, for garnishing
For the dressing:
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp tahini paste
- 2 tbsp water
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- Preheat the oven grill.
- Meanwhile, arrange the aubergine slices and tomatoes on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Coat them with olive oil and sprinkle with the oregano and mint. Grill for about eight minutes, or until the aubergine flesh is light brown.
- Place the lentils and chickpeas in two separate mixing bowls. Add half the parsley to the lentils and the other half to the chickpeas.
- Drizzle one tablespoon lemon juice in each and season to taste with salt and pepper and then give it a good but gentle mix.
- Line two bowls with the leafy greens and arrange the aubergine slices and tomatoes on top. Add equal measures of the lentils and chickpeas.
- Scatter the pine nuts on top and toss gently. Sprinkle generously with the za’atar.
- Whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing and serve on the side, along with the lemon wedges.
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