Posts Tagged ‘Healthy’

Fig, Oat and Banana Smoothie

I love breakfast. But haven’t always. In the past, it’s been more of a chore. Something that needs to be ticked off the to do list, a hurried and tasteless affair. The same routine, day in day out.

Nowadays, I think about breakfast from the night before whilst falling asleep. It’s the last thing Maryam talks about. Or rather, demands, what she wants the next morning. It’s also one of the first things we talk about at the breakfast table- what she wants for breakfast the next day.

It’s at breakfast that she tells me the those details she seems to have forgotten. Like what they did in show and tell. Who she played with at school the day before. What the star sticker she stuck on her name badge was for. Don’t breakfasts make the best conversations.

However, in my house, while the affair of breakfast may be leisurely and long, the preparation cannot be. I seem to function well only after having consumed my first meal of the day. Cue this smoothie. It really cannot get any faster then whizzing all the ingredients in a blender. Aren’t those breakfasts of the best kind!

Look out for more breakfast recipes on the blog soon.

Fig, Oat and Banana Smoothie

1 banana
2 figs
250 ml whole milk
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
3 tbsp almond flakes plus extra for serving
3 tbsp oats
1 tbsp honey (optional depending on how sweet your figs and bananas are)

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately with flaked almonds on top.

Makes 2 servings or 1 large one.

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Classic Beef Burgers

I photographed these burgers in February. I had my fuzzy grey socks on with a hole where my little toe sticks out. Maryam likes to play ‘this little piggy’ with it when I wear it. It was just overcast enough to naturally diffuse the sunlight but I had to work fast to race against the dying light though. All it wanted to do was play peekaboo with the clouds. 

That evening, we had an early dinner in the garden. The kids ate their burgers whilst digging for diamonds in the sandpit. Hassan buried his lettuce in the sand and I’m guessing we probably had an apple crumble for dessert- still sat in the garden of course. 

I made these again last week in honour of them appearing in the May issue of Spinneys Food magazine for which I contribute their suppers ideas each month. We ate them in totally different circumstances though. The French doors to the garden were bolted shut and we sat on the dining table, ruefully watching the sheer curtains dance against the air conditioning drone. Hassan had no choice but to eat his lettuce this time. 

Summer is finally here in Dubai! One thing remained the same though. These burgers still tasted just as good as they did in February…..anytime burgers really. 

Recipes for Chicken Satay, Green Fish, Herbed Omelette and Asparagus Pea and Tomato Tart with Parmesan can be found in the May issue of Spinneys Food or online soon. 

Classic Beef Burgers

800 g beef mince
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
4 tbsp wholegrain mustard
4 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
oil, for grilling

To serve: 6 burger buns, sliced red onion, sliced tomatoes, lettuce leaves and tomato relish

Mix together the ingredients for the burgers until well incorporated. Season well with salt and pepper. Form 6 round equal sized patties. Place on parchment paper and chill for 15 minutes. 

Pre heat a grill pan over a medium heat. Brush with oil and when it begins to smoke, grill the patties for 3-4 minutes on each side or until cooked through to your liking. 

Serve on a bun with slices of red onion, tomatoes and lettuce leaves, topped with relish. 

Serves 6

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Zaatar and Pomegranate Roasted Chicken and Arugula and Clementine Salad with Walnuts and Clementine Mustard Dressing

Just a few weeks ago, I told you about these truffles with some rather decadent ingredients- chocolate, orange blossom water, pistachios and cardamom. Those truffles were originally inspired by a clementine, pistachio and semolina cake. 

I have been eagerly waiting to share this recipe with you since that time. Inspired by Ottolenghi’s lemon yoghurt and pistachio cake, I decided to top mine with candied clementines and pistachios. You can find the recipe for it in the latest issue of House of Fifty.

I’ve also been trying different variations of grilled chicken recipes recently. But today I want to share the recipe for this zaatar chicken with you. Because the colours of this meal took my breath away. Because it has contrasting tastes of sweet, tangy, spicy and sour. It also helped that Maryam enjoyed the leftover chicken in a sandwich the next day. 

Since moving to Dubai, zaatar has quickly become one of my favourite Middle Eastern spices. Beautifully pungent, there’s lots of green in it. Thyme, marjoram and oregano. A bit of sumac and sesame seeds all brought together with olive oil. I buy mine ready made but there are plenty of links on the web on how to make it at home.

Finally there’s this simple clementine and arugula salad. But it’s all about the dressing in this salad. You’ll see what I mean when you make it. Suffice it to say there is creamy walnut mustard and the wholegrain variety too. I then peppered the salad with roasted walnuts too. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
1) Zaatar and Pomegranate Roasted Chicken

Ingredients:1.5 kg chicken, cut into pieces with skin on
1/4 cup olive oil
4 tbs zaatar
2 tbs pomegranate molasses
4 garlic cloves, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
3 tbs parsley
3 tbs fresh pomegranate seeds

Make the marinade by mixing together olive oil, zaatar, pomegranate
molasses, garlic, salt and pepper. Rub the chicken with this marinade

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade. Place the chicken skin
side up in a baking tray in the middle rack and roast for about 1 hour
or until the chicken has beautifully browned and cooked through. If
you prefer the skin to be crispy, place the chicken under the broiler
for a few minutes but watch it very carefully to avoid burning.
Sprinkle with lemon juice, pine nuts, parsley and pomegranate seeds
and serve immediately.

2) Arugula and Clementine Salad with Walnuts and Clementine Mustard Dressing

2 tbs wholegrain mustard
1 tbs walnut mustard
2 tbs chopped coriander
1 tbs maple syrup
1/4 cup + 2tbs clementine juice
2 tbs clementine zest
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups arugula (can substitute any other greens)
3 clementines, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Add the first six ingredients to a bowl to make the dressing. Season
with salt and pepper. If the dressing is too thick, you can add extra
clementine juice.

Arrange the arugula on a platter topped with the sliced clementines.
Drizzle the dressing on the salad and top with walnuts. Serve

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Garbanzo Bean Salad with Bitter Greens

Hello there. A short and sweet post from me today. Just popping in to tell you about a piece I did for the fall issue of House of Fifty magazine. The story revolves around how certain foods affect our moods and if stress can be overcome with diet.

Perfect timing for me really as my life is currently being turned upside down and most stressful to say the least. My baby Maryam started Kindergarten last week. She is having a ball but I must admit, after I dropped her and silently sat in the car alone, the tears flowed. Was it not yesterday that she was bouncing off the walls in her walker, cradling my finger in her tiny paws as she learnt to walk, pronounced doughnuts as ‘odon’ as she mastered her speech?

Yes, where did the time go. And here she is today proudly showing off her new blue and white school- she hasn’t quite mastered the name yet. Or carrying her shiny new trolley bag that she picked all by herself.
Then there’s our move coming up next week. Finally moving to  bigger place with a garden. So much to pack and organize. Am I crazy that the one thing that concerns me the most is the amount of natural daylight I’ll get for my photography?!

I’m hoping to settle right in as my parents will be visiting early October after which I’ll be off on a short holiday with them. Exciting but stressful times. More about that soon. Finally, there is another video I’m currently editing and posting later this week. There will be blackberries. And custard. And perhaps a rugrat….or two helping me eat. Stay tuned.

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Tabbouleh Salad with Chickpeas

I can’t believe we’re coming to the end of August. Soon, schools will reopen, traffic will build up and the weather will begin to get cooler. I can’t say I’m not relieved. It was a hard summer of trying to entertain a spritely three year old indoors and fending off questions about why we won’t be going to the beach in the near foreseeable future.

I am so ready for the new school year to start. For Maryam, it will be a new school, a new environment, new friends and lots of new adventures. I am so excited for her and so is she. We are both looking forward to this new journey and settling into a routine.

Routine. Something I thrive on. Something that has been missing on this blog of late. My intention was always to blog once a week but it seems I have been apologetic on numerous occasions for not being able to as often as I’d like. I do think about it often though and have a whole notepad  full of ideas and recipes begging to be tried. 

But today I bring you something that I’ve been making for the past five years. That’s right- five. I’m surprised I haven’t blogged about it before. This tabbouleh was one of the very first Middle Eastern dishes I learnt to imitate when I first moved to Dubai.

The abundance of parsley and torn specks of mint  not only make it vibrant but the perfect palate cleanser when paired with meats and poultry. Recently I have been eating it on its own as lunch and to make it a bit more hearty and satisfying, I added chickpeas (you can omit this if you wish to be more authentic).

On a separate note, I have finally joined Pinterest, although sometimes I almost wish I hadn’t! So many beautiful things like this ceramic cake stand. And wouldn’t you want to live in this house? Oh and I’ll definitely be making this cake soon.

Tabbouleh Salad with Chickpeas

1/2 cup fine burghul (cracked wheat)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cups finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup chickpeas
1 tomato, finely chopped
few torn sprigs of mint

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbs lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt to taste

To make the dressing, add all the ingredients to a jar and shake vigorously. Set aside until ready to serve.

Add the lemon juice to the burghul and let it sit for ten minutes. Use a fork to separate the burghul. In a bowl, put in all the salad ingredients including the burghul. Drizzle the dressing and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Note: Make sure the parsley is completely dry before chopping (do not use the stalks). Chop with a knife and do not use a food processor as this will bruise the herb.

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Cantaloupe, Lime and Mint Slushy

‘Are we going to Abu Dhaaaaabi tomorrow?’ Maryam asked in her sing song voice. Those that know her will know what I mean when I say her sing song voice. Akber gave me that look- the one questioning me why I tell her these plans so early.

We both knew the consequences. That is all she asked the whole day, every hour! Not only did she wake when the first flitter of morning sun seeped past her blinds the next day, she was ready to leave by 7am. Yes, that is right. And so, at a more respectable 10am, both kids were packed into the car and one picnic basket of snacks that Akber remarked could feed an army in the desert.

I had been meaning to visit the Grand Mosque (or Sheikh Zayed Mosque) ever since I arrived as a tourist in Dubai more than five years ago. One failed attempt two years ago occurred when the imposing structure was within arm’s reach but the spaghetti off roads surrounding the mosque meant it still remained elusive.

Not this time though. We carefully planned our route. Akber had some work in town so it was about 4:30 or so when we reached. Perfect time for a sunset tour of the mosque and the best time to take photos. Although still very hot, the mosque was bathed in a golden aura. Through the heat, it looked as though the numerous minarets were dancing.

As my feet burrowed into the plush, plump carpets, I was taken in by the light and colors. The light that bounced off the shimmering chandeliers, the light that was reflected off of the jeweled scriptures, that amazing, dreamy light. It took my breath away.

At every step, there was a sight to inspire, rows and rows upon rows of gilded columns, enchanting calligraphy, stories behind every corner. I had many questions that our guide automatically knew the answer to without hesitation.

As I sat near one of the many reflective pools, I took in all the beauty, the peace and calming atmosphere. Around me, I saw faces of every culture, every color, every age all gathered as equals. Beautiful. I highly recommend you to visit this marvelous structure if you are in UAE.

And this drink? Well, after a long and hot day taking photographs at every opportunity, this is exactly the kind of cooling drink I needed. We all needed actually. It is a forgiving recipe- all the ingredients can be varied according to your taste.

The best part is- we have had it as a slushy, a popsicle, a sorbet, a granita. Same recipe, many ways to enjoy it. I hope you will give it a try in some form before summer slips away. Ramadhan Kareem everyone.

Cantaloupe, Lime and Mint Slushy

sugar syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

1 cantaloupe- I used half honeydew and half cantaloupe
juice of 5 limes
3 tbs chopped mint
1 tbs lime zest
sugar syrup to taste
3 cups ice cubes

To make the sugar syrup, boil water and sugar until the sugar has just dissolved. Depending on the sweetness of the melons, you will not use up all the sugar syrup which can be frozen as ice cubes to use some other time.

To make the slushy, blend all the ingredients at high speed in a blender. Pour into glasses and serve immediately.

Makes 5 glasses.

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Purple Cauliflower Fritters with Garlic and Coriander Dressing

Our weekends are usually unplanned at the moment. Unless we have a kids birthday party to attend (which has been the case for the last three weekends!), we play it by ear. It very much depends on what time the kids wake and how soon can breakfast be ready and eaten. Very casual, very spontaneous.

Kids. Plural. I’m still getting used to that. Still unbelievable to think I’m a mama of two now. But reality certainly hits when you’ve got two to bathe, two to dress, two to feed, two to pacify, two to put to sleep. One to entertain on the weekends for now.

We haven’t been able to visit the farmer’s market since it started in November lasy year. First it was the end of my pregnancy and then Hassan was born. But this weekend, I made a prior plan. We decided to have breakfast at the souk to make sure we reached on time- a beautiful shakshouka is what we had. A rich sauce made from roasted peppers, tomatoes and herbs, topped with poached eggs. Crusty bread to scoop it all up.

I had made a long list of fresh vegetables I wanted to buy. Strawberries and beets topped that list and I was very much disappointed to find neither. However, I then laid eyes on the most beautiful hue of purple. Rich, velvety, royal. I’m not a fan of cauliflower but the color drew me in as I picked one up with no clue as to what I’d do with this striking find.

And so on the journey home, I planned and plotted. I settled on these crisp cauliflower fritters. Lightly seasoned with cumin and chili flakes, it is only when you dip them into the garlic and coriander dressing does the flavour burst into your mouth. It was perfect over a bed of baby spinach.

And so that is how our weekend was spent- a royal breakfast followed by a royal find which eventually transformed itself into a perfect weekend lunch.

Click on recipe card to print

Purple Cauliflower Fritters with Garlic and Coriander Dressing

1 cauliflower, cut into small even florets
1/2 cup white flour
2 tsp cornflour
1/2 tsp chili flakes (optional)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
salt, to taste
140 ml sparkling water

Oil for deep frying

1 small bunch coriander
2 tbs lemon juice
1 clove garlic
2 green chilies (optional)
salt, to taste

Blanch the cauliflower florets in salted boiling water for a minute and then shock in ice cold water. Make the batter by mixing all the ingredients together. Heat oil in a frying pan on high heat until hot. Dip florets into battter and shake off excess batter. Fry the florets for a minute or so until it starts to change color. Drain on a kitchen towel.

Serve immediately as they become soggy after a while. Serve on a bed of greens (I used baby spinach) and garlic coriander dressing.

To make the dressing, blend all the ingredients together. You may need to use 1-2 tbs of water.

Serves 2.

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Mung Bean Soup

As I sit here typing this post, the clouds outside are swelling up again. Whether they will rumble and pour rain is a different matter. Even though I mentioned in my last post that I probably wouldn’t be seein stormy skies for a while again, it surprised me with another unexpected visit.

I do enjoy the cooler weather- it gives me a small time frame within which me and Maryam can do our outdoor activities. But with this change in weather also comes the abundance of bugs, viruses, nasty colds and poor health. Maryam came down with a fever which then passed on to the rest of the family like falling dominoes. There was no stopping it. What started off as mild quickly escalated into one of the highest temperatures she has ever had. That was followed by a runny nose and sore throat.

And of course I was next in line. I don’t know if it’s the pregnancy but I find it much harder to recover from any minor coughs or colds at the moment. Being pregnant and sick with a toddler who is also ill is never fun and during times like these, I love a hearty soup that will mend everything.

I have mentioned plenty of times that soup doesn’t grace our tables often enough but slowly and surely, I am trying to change that trend. I learnt this particluar soup my my mom BUT my love of mung beans started at my mother in laws house.

She always says ‘mug ne pug che’ which is a Gujarati saying that literally translates into ‘mung beans have legs.’ What it means is that mung beans have the necessary nutrients to give you strength, health and vitality. Put you back on your feet, nurse you to health.

And so we’ve been making this often. Actually, beans are Maryam’s favorite meal, always have been. Especially now that she’s going through a vegetarian phase. I’m not sure how long it will last, the vegetarian phase as well as the sore throat! I’m hoping both vanish as abruptly as they put in an appearance.

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Spicy Roast Potatoes

Three simple words- Spicy, Roast, Potatoes. Yet, they evoke a myriad of emotions, abundant comfort, contentedness. There is nothing a simple dish of potatoes roasted in olive oil with a sprinkling of herbs and seasoning can’t cure. Oh, and a dash of chili flakes for good measure. It may be known as the poor man’s food but to me, there is nothing more filling, more flavorful, more adaptable then a humble potato.

The past few weeks have been a busy time for me with parents visiting, my sister having a baby and a few projects I have been working on. But no complaints from my side. I’m loving the new career direction this blog has helped me to take.

But it’s times like these when I try to make quick meals that require minimal time and preparation. Yet, are wholesome and healthy. When I saw this bag of red baby potatoes at the supermarket, ideas started buzzing in my head- creamy mashed potato, home baked fries, warm potato salad.

But I finally settled on roasting them. Simple. We had this as a side dish with barbequed lamb chops. It was the perfect weekend lunch. I found that the best way to achieve a tender and creamy centre, yet a crackly crunch on the outside is to bake the potatoes covered with foil until cooked through. Then grill them for the last five minutes to achieve the crispy coating.

The best thing about roasted potatoes is its versatility- reinvent it according to what herbs you have growing on your balcony, what spices are gracing your pantry. Dress it up by adding it to a simple salad of red chard. The possibilities are endless.

So if you haven’t already got a full menu planned for Thanksgiving, why not try making some roast potatoes? Warm, cozy and comfortable- isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about….and of course family!

Spicy Roast Potatoes

4 tbs olive oil
2 tsp chili flakes (can vary amount depending on taste)
salt to taste
500 gms baby red potatoes
1 bulb garlic
chopped herbs of your choice (I used coriander)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade. In a bowl, combine olive oil, mustard, chili flakes and salt. Mix until well incorporated. Wash potatoes thoroughly and cut in half. Mix with the marinade until well combined. Split the garlic head into 2-3 pieces and together with the marinated potatoes, place in a baking tray. Cover with foil and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until potatoes are soft when pierced with a fork. Turn the grill on and grill the potatoes to get a nice brown color and crispy coating (approximately 5 minutes). Sprinkle with chopped herbs and serve immediately.

You may smash the leftover garlic with a fork and combine with butter to use on garlic bread.

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Pomegranate Molasses and Arabic Fattoush Salad

Did I tell you I have been having a lot of cravings lately? Not all healthy I’m afraid. There’s coffee ice cream with chocolate fudge sauce, nutella doughnuts. Do you see a trend here- anything with chocolate will do.

However, there is one healthy snack I’ve been munching on guilt free. Nature’s jewels, I like to think of them a nature’s rubies. Pomegranates. Even their name sounds regal. Did I tell you my mum’s name means heaven’s pomegranate in Farsi- Anar.

Although it’s a messy affair trying to get these treasures out of their shells, especially when a keen 2 year old helper is involved, the results are worth it. Maryam loves to peel them because that means she can eat them straight away. Raw and fresh. Other times, we coat it in some thick, creamy yoghurt infused with vanilla seeds.

Since moving to Dubai, pomegranates have featured commonly in our meals- as garnishes on hummus and pilafs, as refreshing cocktails, as tangy marinades. But my favorite use of this is in a fattoush salad. My very own individual salad as Akber describes it. Yes, I eat this solo when I make it or order it at a restaurant. It really is too good to share.

The crackle of the Arabic bread, the marriage between sweet and savory, the crunch from every mouthful of peppery radish, the juicy explosion of each cherry tomato. That is how I would describe fattoush.

I have included a recipe for pomegranate molasses too, an essential part of this salad. Although it is readily available in Middle eastern countries, it is so easy to make at home.

Pomegranate Molasses:

4 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer on medium heat. Keep stirring once in a while for approximately 1.5 hours until the liquid has reduced by half and has thickened. Allow to cool before storing in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Recipe minimally adapted from Alton Brown and makes approximately 1 cup.

Arabic Fattoush Salad:

2 cups chopped lettuce
1 cucumber chopped
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup torn mint leaves
1/2 cup torn flat parsley leaves
4-5 radishes thinly sliced
handful of pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup deep fried or toasted phyllo dough/ pita bread

1/2 cup olive oil
3 tbs pomegranate molasses
juice of 1 large lemon
salt to taste

Mix all the salad items in a bowl and toss to mix (except the fried phyllo dough). Prepare the dressing by mixing the oil, molasses and salt. Stir vigorously but you will notice that the molasses and oil will not mix due to differences in viscosity.

Apply the dressing just before serving and sprinkle with the fried phyllo dough.

Serves 2.

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