Cooking good food fast is key for Ramadan
Preparation — and a pressure cooker — go a long way
When a cook such as Rima Kasm prepares for Ramadan — the month-long period during which Muslims fast during daylight hours — she knows that planning is even more essential than usual.
“I will write down what I want to cook each day and get everything I need,” says the Newport Beach, California, resident who came to America from her native Lebanon 25 years ago.
She will rise before dawn to make and share the morning meal known as suhoor, and cook the evening meal, iftar, without tasting it, before the sun sets.
“Following my good recipes makes it OK for me,” Kasm says. “I rely on them.”
At the top of the list: foods that hydrate and don’t take long to make, such as soups, because the fast also prohibits the intake of any liquids. Spicy dishes such as curries are avoided, since they bring on thirst. She makes a soup almost every day, as well as the pita and vegetable salads known as fattoush. Dates and dessert sweets are on her daily menu, which began May 26 at sundown.
Kasm says you’ll find a pressure cooker in many Ramadan kitchens, an invaluable aid that allows her to make bean stews, lentils and fragrant chicken with rice and warming spices in as little as 20 minutes.
For cooks who might not be quite as organized as she is, or are looking to add variety to their pressure-cooker repertoire for the holiday, here are four recipes that work — including dessert.
Chickpea and Artichoke Tagine
This makes a lovely and inviting meatless meal; starting with dried chickpeas really improves the overall texture of the final dish. Serve with rice.
You’ll need a 6-quart pressure cooker or Instant Pot.
MAKE AHEAD: The dried chickpeas need to be salt-soaked for eight to 24 hours.
Adapted from “Pressure Cooker Perfection: 100 Foolproof Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook,” by the editors of America’s Test Kitchen (ATK, 2013).
MAKES 4 TO 6 SERVINGS (ABOUT 10 CUPS)
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more as needed 8 ounces dried chickpeas, rinsed and picked over 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed 1 medium onion, cut in half and thinly sliced Four 2-inch-long strips lemon peel (little or no pith) 6 cloves garlic, minced 1 tbsp sweet paprika ½ teaspoon ground za’atar (may substitute ground cumin) ¼ tsp ground cinnamon 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper 2 tbsp flour 1 pound carrots (trimmed and scrubbed well), cut into ½-inch-thick coins One 15-ounce can of no-salt-added diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted 3 cups no-salt-added vegetable broth 9 ounces frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and patted dry ½ cup pitted Kalamata olives, each cut in half Leaves from about 25 cilantro stems, chopped (packed ½ cup) Freshly ground black pepper
Dissolve the salt in a large mixing bowl filled with 4 quarts (3.87 litres) of water. Add the dried chickpeas. Let sit for eight to 24 hours, then drain and rinse.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the pressure-cooker pot over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the onion; cook for five minutes until just softened, then stir in the strips of lemon peel, garlic, paprika, za’atar, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Cook for 30 seconds, then stir in the flour, using a wooden spatula to dislodge any browned bits. Add the carrots, diced tomatoes and drained chickpeas, stirring to coat, then pour in the broth.
Lock the pressure-cooker lid in place. Increase the heat to high; once the pot reaches HIGH pressure, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 25 minutes, adjusting the heat to maintain pressure, as needed.
Remove the pot from the heat. Release the pressure, then carefully remove the lid.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the artichokes and stir to coat. Cook for five to seven minutes, until golden brown at the edges.
Discard the strips of lemon peel from the vegetable stew mixture in the pot, then stir in the artichokes, olives and cilantro. Taste and season lightly with more salt and black pepper, as needed.
Divide among individual wide, shallow bowls; drizzle each portion with oil. Serve warm. Per serving (using 1 tablespoon
salt): 290 calories, 11 grams protein, 44 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 850 mg sodium, 13 g dietary fibre, 13 g sugar
Pressure Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken
Chances are good you’ll have the sauce ingredients on hand to make this easy, kid-friendly meal. Serve it with rice. Adapted from a recipe at PressureCookingToday.com.
MAKES 4 TO 6 SERVINGS
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-size chunks Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 2 cloves garlic, minced ½ medium onion, diced (1/2 cup) ½ cup low-sodium soy sauce ¼ cup ketchup ½ to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 2 tsp sesame oil ½ cup honey 2 tbsp cornstarch 3 tbsp water Toasted/roasted sesame seeds 2 scallions, white and light-green parts, chopped, for garnish
Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper.
Preheat the Instant Pot using the sauté setting, or heat the oil in a stovetop pressure cooker over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the garlic, onion and chicken; cook for three to five minutes, stirring once or twice, until the onion has just softened.
Add the soy sauce, ketchup and crushed red pepper flakes (to taste) and stir to incorporate. Lock the pressure-cooker lid in place. Increase the heat to HIGH; once the pot reaches pressure, cook for three minutes.
Once the timer beeps, turn off the heat. Carefully do a quick-pressure release.
Uncover; add the sesame oil and honey to the pot, stirring to incorporate.
Dissolve the cornstarch in water in a small bowl, then add to the pot, stirring to form a slightly thickened sauce. Stir in most of the sesame seeds.
Divide among individual plates; sprinkle with the scallions and remaining sesame seeds. Serve hot.
Per serving (based on 6): 260 calories, 37 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 110 mg cholesterol, 870 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fibre, 3 g sugar
Carrot Coconut Cake
There’s not much of a rise in this cake, but its texture does approximate that of a baked carrot cake with a moist, dense crumb. And it couldn’t be easier to make. You’ll need a 6-inch round cake pan.
Adapted from “The ‘I Love My Instant Pot’ Recipe Book: From Trail Mix Oatmeal to Mongolian Beef BBQ,” by Michelle Fagone (Adams Media/Simon and Schuster, 2017).
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
¼ cup liquefied coconut oil 1/3 to ½ cup granulated sugar 1 large egg ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon Pinch freshly grated nutmeg ½ tsp vanilla extract ¼ cup packed peeled, grated carrots, plus a few shavings for optional garnish ¼ cup unsweetened flaked coconut, plus more, toasted, for optional garnish ½ cup flour ½ tsp baking powder ¼ cup chopped pecans Cream cheese frosting (optional; see NOTE)
Whisk together the oil, sugar (to taste), egg, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, carrots, flaked coconut, flour, baking powder and pecans in a medium bowl; do not overmix.
Pour a cup of water into the Instant Pot and then set a trivet in it; place the mix in the cake pan and place the pan atop the trivet. The water should not come up higher than the bottom of the cake pan.
Lock the Instant Pot lid. Press the MANUAL button and set the timer to 20 minutes.
Once the timer beeps, let the pressure release naturally for five minutes. Carefully quick-release any additional pressure until the float valve drops, then unlock the lid.
Transfer the cake pan to a wire rack to cool. (Drain the Instant Pot.)
To serve, invert onto a platter. Spread the frosting on top, if using, then garnish with the optional toasted coconut flakes or optional carrot shavings.
NOTE: To make just enough cream cheese frosting for this cake, whisk together 4 ounces room-temperature cream cheese, 8 tablespoons (1 stick) room-temperature unsalted butter, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, 8 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar and a pinch of kosher salt in a mixing bowl, until smooth.
Per serving: 300 calories, 3 g protein, 20 g carbohydrates, 23 g fat, 17 g saturated fat, 45 mg cholesterol, 25 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fibre, 17 g sugar
Chicken and Lentil Soup
Lentils are a go-to ingredient for Ramadan soups; this one’s quite flavourful and all done in a single pot. It’s also filling without being heavy.
We noticed in testing that this soup thickens upon standing; feel free to stir in 1 to 2 cups additional water when you reheat it. You’ll need a 6-quart pressure cooker or an Instant Pot.
Adapted from a recipe at SkinnyTaste.com. MAKES 8 SERVINGS (ABOUT 10 ½ CUPS)
1 pound dried brown or green lentils 12 to 15 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs (fat trimmed) 7 cups water 2 tablespoons Better Than Bouillon (paste) chicken flavour 1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped 2 scallions, white and light-green parts, chopped 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 medium-size ripe tomato, cut into ½-inch dice ¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves 1 teaspoon granulated garlic (powder) 1 tsp ground sumac (may substitute cumin) ¼ tsp dried oregano ½ tsp sweet paprika ½ tsp kosher salt, or more as needed
Combine the lentils, chicken (to taste), water, bouillon, onion, scallions, garlic, tomato, cilantro, granulated garlic, ground sumac, oregano, paprika and salt in the pressure cooker or Instant Pot.
Lock the pressure-cooker lid in place. Turn the heat to high; once the pot reaches HIGH pressure, cook for 30 minutes, adjusting the heat to maintain pressure, as needed. For the Instant Pot, lock the lid and press the SOUP button and cook for 30 minutes. Use the pressure releases, then unlock and open.
Transfer the chicken to a cutting board; use two forks to shred it, then return it to the pot, stirring to incorporate. Taste, and adjust the salt, as needed. Serve hot. Per serving: 320 calories, 23 g protein, 38 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 620 mg sodium, 18 g dietary fibre, 3 g sugar
This makes a lovely and inviting meatless meal; starting with dried chickpeas really improves the overall texture of the final dish.
Lentils are a go-to ingredient for Ramadan soups; this one’s quite flavourful and all done in a single pot. It’s also filling without being heavy. There’s not much of a rise in this cake, but its texture does approximate that of a baked carrot cake with a moist, dense crumb.
Pressure Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken:chances are good you’ll have the sauce ingredients on hand to make this easy, kid-friendly meal.