CAIRO: The norm in Ramadan is that the more complicated the recipe, the better the meal; the stranger the ingredients and their combination together, the better the cook. Cooks all around the Muslim world are going crazy, trying to find new and unusual dishes for Ramadan, trying out dishes that they haven t prepared for years just because their families are fasting. For some reason, people have tied complexity to delectability in Ramadan fare. But just because many people hold this notion doesn t mean it is always right; often enough, simpler recipes or basic dishes are just as tasty and satisfactory as a meal in which each dish takes three hours to prepare.
Vegetable SoupEach country’s cuisine has its own vegetable soup; the difference between the soups usually lies in the vegetables used in preparing it. This recipe uses the most popular vegetables grown in Egypt that are available all year around.Ingredients: 2-3 large carrots; 2 medium-sized zucchinis; 2 large potatoes; ½ cup of peas; 1 large onion; 1 large tomato; 1-2 stalks of celery; 1 tablespoon of oil; 3 cups of stock; 1 cup of milk; 4 tablespoons of chopped parsley; salt and pepper.Recipe: 1. Clean, peel and cut the vegetables into smallish cubes. Alternatively, use a pack of frozen vegetables.2. Grate the onion or cut into very small pieces. Finely chop the parsley.3. Heat the oil in a large soup pan over a medium flame. Add all the vegetables and sauté while stirring gently for seven to nine minutes.4. Gradually add the stock, and most of the chopped parsley (leave some to add at the end), and leave on a low flame to simmer until all the vegetables are cooked. This should take around 20 minutes. Season to taste.5. Stir in the milk and let it simmer gently for five minutes. Add the rest of the chopped parsley and serve hot with some fresh limes.
Potatoes au GratinIngredients: 6 large potatoes; 1 tablespoon of butter; salt and pepperFor the white sauce: 4 tablespoons of butter; 2 tablespoons of flour; 3 cups of hot low fat milk; 1 chicken stock cube; 4 tablespoons of grated cheeseRecipe: 1. Peel and cut the potatoes into medium thick slices.2. In a pan, bring to the boil just enough water to cover the potatoes. Add some salt to the water. Add the potatoes and leave to boil for around 10 minutes or until the potatoes are half cooked. Drain in a colander.3. While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the white sauce.White Sauce1. Melt the butter in a small heavy saucepan over a low flame. Remove from heat and add the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon till it becomes a creamy paste.2. Return to medium heat; continue stirring for two to three minutes to allow the flour to cook. Do not let it change color.3. Remove from the heat, and very gradually add the hot milk while stirring continuously. If you add the milk too quickly, the sauce will become lumpy.4. Return to the stove, add a crumbled soup cube and bring to the boil, stirring often. Once it starts boiling, lower the heat and allow to boil for two to three minutes, stirring all the time until the mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat, add half of the grated cheese and stir. Season to taste.4. Place the drained potatoes in a greased shallow oven dish. Dot the potatoes with the butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.5. Pour some of the white sauce over the potatoes and blend together well, then cover them completely with the rest of the white sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese.6. Put in a hot oven (400°F/200°C), cover with aluminum foil for the first 30 minutes, remove foil and cook for another 30 minutes or until the top browns to your liking.
Chicken LiverThis is as simple as putting it in the oven.Ingredients: 12 pieces of chicken liver (allow 3 pieces per person); 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil; 1 chopped onion; 2 minced cloves of garlic; salt and pepperRecipe: 1. Divide each chicken liver into two parts, and cut out and remove the middle bit. Dry with kitchen paper.2. Heat the oven to a medium high temperature. Drizzle the bottom of an oven pan (not glass) with oil. Once the oven is hot, put in the empty oven pan and let it heat up for 5 minutes.3. Take it out of the oven and put in the chicken liver pieces. Cover with the chopped onion and the minced garlic.4. Add the oil and blend in with the liver pieces. Season to taste. Turn the pieces so that they re evenly coated with the mixture.5. Return to the oven, uncovered. After about 15 minutes, turn over. Cook for another 15 minutes, or until the chicken liver pieces start turning brown all over.6. Remove the pan from the oven and add some hot water (around ¾ cup of water) to the liver pieces; mix the water in with the liver while scraping the bottom; the water will reduce and make a brown sauce.7. Return to the oven for an additional 20 minutes.
Chicken livers cook quickly, so be careful not to overcook them. Chicken livers are traditionally served with white fried rice.
Fresh Guava DessertIngredients: 8 to 10 guavas; 2 tablespoons of sugar; 2 limesRecipe: 1. Peel the guavas, cut into quarters and spoon out the seeds or pulp. Reserve the pulp and squeeze the juice of one lime over it and set it aside.2. Cut the seedless guava quarters into small chunks and put in a bowl.3. Put the pulp through a food strainer. You will get a creamy white seedless juice, which you will add to the guava pieces.4. Squeeze another lime on the guava mix, add the sugar and blend well together.5. Serve with cream.