Traditionally, foods eaten for Iftar are light, sweet and soft. The dishes I offer this month are light and nutritious. They require minimal preparation, so even novice cooks can prepare them.
For the syrup:
420g caster sugar
1 tbspn lemon juice
1 tbspn blossom water
2 tbspns rose water
For the baklava:
15 sheets filo pastry
150g unsalted butter, melted
60g caster sugar
100g almond powder
For the filling:
375g pistachio nuts
1 tspn cinnamon
3 tbspns sugar syrup
400g sweetened condensed milk
4 sliced white bread, crusts removed
• Preheat the oven to 185 degrees Celsius.
• In a small saucepan, dissolve the sugar together with the water and bring to boil. Then simmer for four to five minutes until it becomes syrupy. Stir in the lemon juice, rose water and blossom water and set aside to cool.
• For the filling, combine the pistachios, cinnamon, sweet condensed milk and bread in a blender until smooth. Set aside.
• To prepare the baklava, firstly mix together the almonds and caster sugar in a bowl and set aside. Grease an oven tray about 6cm deep and 40cm x 30cm wide. Place one sheet of filo pastry, brush with the melted butter and repeat the same with five more sheets. Carefully spoon the filling all over the pastry. Place one sheet of filo pastry to cover the filling, brush with butter and sprinkle with a little of almond mixture. Top with another sheet. Sprinkle with little almond mixture and repeat method with the remaining sheets.
• When finished with all sheets and all filing, brush the top surface with melted butter; then cut through the pastry and filling to make diamond shaped pieces. Bake it in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until it becomes golden brown.
• Pour the cool syrup over the baklava as soon as it comes out of the oven and allow it to cool before serving the pre-cut slices.
RED LENTIL SOUP
150g small red lentils
60g white onion, finely chopped
3 tbspns olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
3 chicken stock cubes
20g fresh parsley
3/4 tspn cumin powder
1 tspn turmeric powder
• Place the red lentils into a large bowl and wash and drain them two or three times.
• In a large saucepan, add olive oil with onion and garlic. Over medium heat, fry both while stirring until coloured and the onion is clear.
• Add the water and the chicken stock cubes and stir until the cubes have dissolved.
• Add red lentils, parsley, cumin and turmeric and bring the mix to the boil.
• Let it simmer on medium heat for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid the lentils burning or sticking to the pot.
• Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
• Serve it with lemon wedges on the side.
MOROCCAN SPICY CARROT SALAD
600g carrots, peeled and sliced into thin discs
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbspns olive oil
1/2 tspn paprika
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch black pepper
1 tbspn vinegar
1/2 tspn cumin powder
30g fresh coriander leaves
• Combine carrots, water, garlic, olive oil, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper in a shallow pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until carrots are tender, allowing much of the water to reduce for about 20 minutes. Add the vinegar and cumin through the carrot mixture.
• Remove from heat and set aside. Allow it to cool to room temperature.
• Garnish with coriander leaves before serving.