EASY DOES IT
These iftar dishes are effortless but still packed with big, fun flavour
I’m Jasmine Bandali, a food editor and a full-time working mother of four children. I’ve spent some 25 years in the kitchen, cooking and creating new recipes. I have to cater to two very fussy eaters, so my attitude towards food is an uncompromising balance of easy meals packed with flavour and made with speed.
This ethos applies to me even more so in Ramadan, when energy levels take a dip and my entire family, including my nineand 10-year-old boys, are fasting. I don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen but I do want to create a special and memorable occasion every day of the month, to celebrate the camaraderie that the spirit of the season brings. Ramadan is a special time of year, full of peace, reflection and of course, delicious edibles with which to end your fast.
Personally, I think there is nothing quite like the feeling of when iftar time draws near, and the entire family gathers to share the meal and enjoy all sorts of sweet and savoury goodies, prepared with love.
Welcome to my table, where each week I’ll show you how to create everything from family meals of small bites, to a magnificent feast for guests, without breaking a sweat. Whether you’re looking for snacks, mains, drinks and desserts, or a suhour that is tasty, filling and nutritious to keep you going the whole day, I’ve got you covered. I hope you enjoy these.
MARINATED HALLOUMI SLIDERS
Prep time 10 mins Cooking time 10 mins Serves 6 4 blocks plain halloumi cheese Juice of 1 lemon 1 tbsp dried oregano Extra virgin olive oil, as needed 20 mini bread rolls TO SERVE: 1 large onion, halved and sliced thinly 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced Mayonnaise, as needed Cut each of the halloumi blocks into five thick slices. Place in a bowl. Add the lemon juice, oregano and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss very gently to combine, as halloumi is very fragile. Cover the bowl with cling film and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve. In the meantime, sauté the onion slices lightly with a drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan set over a medium heat. Once softened, remove with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Lightly toast the insides of the rolls in a dry frying pan set over a high heat. This will take just 20 seconds, so keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn. Slather the insides of the buns with mayonnaise. Set aside, covered with cling film if you are not going to serve the sliders immediately. When you are ready to serve, brush a griddle pan lightly with extra virgin olive oil and place over a medium-high heat. Carefully place the halloumi slices on the griddle pan and cook until golden on each side. Once cooked, place one halloumi slice on the bottom half of each prepared bun. Top with a slice of tomato and a few fried onions. Place the top half of the bun on top and serve immediately.
Personally, I don’t find mango juice thirstquenching due to its viscosity, but the fragrant fruit is always a popular flavour choice in our house. This recipe is easier to drink, combined with the freshness of mint and a tart twist of lime.
MANGO MINT COOLER
Cooking time 20 minutes Serves 6-8
1 pack frozen mango cheeks/ chunks 1 large bunch fresh mint, chopped Juice of 1 lime 1l cold water FOR THE SIMPLE SUGAR SYRUP: ¼ cup sugar ¾ cup water TO SERVE: 2 limes, sliced Crushed ice Mint leaves Make the sugar syrup by combining the sugar with the water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool. Place the frozen mango, mint, lime juice and water in a blender. Whizz until combined. Transfer the blended mango juice to a jug and add the sliced limes. At iftar time, check the sweetness of the juice and adjust to taste using the sugar syrup. Pour the cooler into glasses filled with crushed ice, garnish with a few mint leaves and serve.
CHICKEN TIKKA PUFFS
Prep time Overnight Baking time 20 minutes Makes 25 to 30 puffs
1kg skinless chicken breast, cubed 3 packs frozen puff pastry squares A squeeze of lemon juice 1 egg, beaten FOR THE MARINADE: 1 onion, quartered 450g tub plain yogurt 1 tbsp garlic paste ½ tbsp ginger paste 1 tbsp chilli paste 1 tbsp coriander powder 1 level tbsp cumin powder 1 level tbsp garam masala 1 tsp salt Bunch of coriander, chopped ¼ to ½ tsp red food colouring, to preference
Place the chicken cubes in a large non-metallic bowl. Whizz the marinade ingredients in a food processor until thoroughly combined. Pour the mixture over the chicken and mix with your hands until all the pieces are coated. Cover the bowl with cling film and transfer to the refrigerator. Leave for at least 8 hours or overnight. Set your grill to a medium-high heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken pieces to a grill pan, spreading them out evenly. Grill for about 10 minutes, then flip the pieces and grill for a further 10 minutes, until cooked through. While the chicken is cooking, remove the puff pastry squares from the freezer and separate. Set aside to thaw. Grease 2 baking sheets with oil. Place the chicken in a bowl and squeeze over some lemon juice. Mix to combine. Place a hand mixer in the centre of the chicken and set to a slow speed. This shreds the chicken effortlessly – or use your hands if you prefer. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place one tablespoon of the shredded chicken in the centre of each puff pastry square. Fold the pastry over to create a triangle. Seal using a fork to press down the edges, then arrange on the baking trays. Glaze with the beaten egg and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden. Bring to room temperature before serving.
SPICED COCONUT MINI CORN COBS
Cooking time about 15 mins Serves 4-6
8 mini frozen corn cobs, halved 2 blocks creamed coconut (I use Biona Organic from the organic section at the supermarket), or 3 cans coconut cream 1 tbsp green chilli paste ¼ tsp turmeric powder 1 tsp salt Juice of 1 lemon A generous handful of fresh coriander, chopped Freshly grated coconut, to garnish
Take a saucepan large enough to hold the cobs, add just enough water to cover them, and place the pan over a medium-high heat. Add the creamed coconut blocks or coconut cream and gently mix until the coconut dissolves. Mix in the chilli paste, turmeric, salt, lemon juice and the chopped coriander. Bring the mixture to the boil, cover, lower the heat and simmer until the corn cobs are cooked through. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Garnish with a sprinkling of fresh coconut before ladling into bowls.
VIMTO MERINGUE PIE
Cooking time 90 mins Baking time 30 mins Makes 1 large pie
FOR THE PASTRY: 1½ cups plain flour 175g butter 3 tbsp icing sugar 1 tbsp water 1 large egg, beaten FOR THE JAM FILLING: 200g frozen raspberries 2 Granny Smith apples, quartered, with the core intact Juice of 1 lemon 1 cup Vimto cordial ½ cup caster sugar FOR THE MERINGUE TOPPING: 1 cup sugar ½ cup water 4 egg whites Juice of ½ a lemon
Place the raspberries, apples, lemon juice, Vimto and caster sugar in a saucepan set over a gentle heat until the fruit softens, the juices from the fruit are released and the sugar has dissolved. Bring the mixture to a hard boil, stirring intermittently and checking the consistency every 10 minutes or so until it resembles jam – this takes about half an hour. Strain the mixture into a bowl to remove the seeds. Set aside to cool. To make the pastry, blitz the flour and butter in a food processor until they resemble fine breadcrumbs. Add the icing sugar, water and egg and whizz again until all the ingredients are combined into a dough. On a floured surface, roll the dough until 3mm thick. Place the dough in a 23cm loosebottomed flan tin. It doesn’t matter if you have excess pastry hanging over the top, just be mindful not to stretch it when you cover the base. Cover with cling film and allow to chill in the refrigerator for half an hour. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Take the chilled pastry shell and remove the excess pastry from the top. Don’t cut off too much, you’ll need a little height over the tin, so do this by pinching the pastry upwards. Line the pastry with baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Take the tin from the oven and remove the parchment and beans. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. In the meantime, make the meringue. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan set over a high heat. Boil until the syrup reaches soft-ball stage (this is when a little syrup dropped into a bowl of cold water forms a soft ball but is still pliable). Preheat the oven to 180°C. As the syrup cooks, combine the egg whites and lemon juice in a bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, set to a medium speed. Whip until you achieve soft peaks, about two to three minutes. Carefully drizzle in the hot sugar syrup, increase the speed to high and whip until stiff and the peaks hold up on their own. Spread the bottom of the cooled pastry case with the Vimto jam. Top with dollops of the meringue and spread gently to create soft peaks. Place the pie in the oven for about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Cool before serving.
You have to grill the halloumi just before you serve these bites, so prepare the buns in advance for a speedy delivery to the table!
Jamie Oliver glasses Dh95forsetof4 Lsa Icelip jug Dh185
Aqua monte bowls and plates (left) Dh45 each I use creamed coconut blocks for this dish because as it cools, it develops into a thicker texture, which I adore. Using canned coconut cream results in a soupier concoction.
Moon Matt cutlery set Dh1,700 All items from Bloomingdale’s Home This creation is inspired by the British cordial, which is a Ramadan staple and hits record sales during the month. The recipe is a little labour-intensive, but the fruity, punchy flavour of this dessert combined with an Italian meringue topping is well worth the effort.