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Cookery Q&A

This month, sister Kamillah looks at healthy iftars, slow cooking as well as some kitchen basics.

Asalaamu alaikum, any foolproof techniques for tear-free onion preparation?

I am sure most readers have experienced the stinging eyes and hot tears resulting from the onion. Onions make you cry because when you cut the basal plate or shoot, they release an enzyme. That enzyme reacts in the rest of the onion to release a gas. When that gas combines with water, it creates an acid. If that water is in your eye, you will end up with acid in your eye and that makes you cry.

 
So, here are my tips for tear-free chopping:
• Run the onion under cold water after removing the skin
•  Place onion in the freezer for 10 – 15 mins
•  Cut carefully avoiding the root area

 

And you could always try wearing your swimming goggles: you may look silly, but at least no tears!

 

 

Ramadhan can be tough for us working sisters. I’m thinking of using a slow cooker that cooks while I’m out all day – any tips?

I hear you, sister! Here are my tips for slow cooker success:

 
• Buy roasts and other large cuts of meat that will fit in your crock pot, or plan to trim them to fit.
• Remove skin from poultry and trim excess fat from other meats before cooking.
• Fresh root vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, and onions, should be placed in the bottom of the pot, under the meat, for faster cooking. They tend to cook more slowly than meat.
• Since slow cookers sometimes dilute flavours over a long period, be creative with your seasonings. Seasoned salt, garlic powder, seasoned pepper, and complementary herbs and spices are best added near the end of cooking.
• When thickening sauces near the end of the cooking time, turn the heat setting to high to speed up the process. Taste the liquid first, though! If it lacks flavour, it may be best to reduce by simmering several minutes uncovered.
• Colours tend to fade in slow cooked foods, but garnishes such as chopped fresh parsley, chives, tomatoes, red peppers, cheese, or sour cream can add much visual appeal.

 
BEEF AND BLACK BEAN STEW

Serves: 5-6

 
Ingredients:
• ¾ cup cooked black beans
• 1 lb. stew beef, cubed
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• ¼ cup chopped onion
• ¼ cup chopped green peppers
• ½ cup diced green chilli peppers
• 3 tbsp. tomato paste
• 3 to 4 beef bouillon cubes, or beef base
• ¼ tsp. ground cumin
• 1 tsp. minced garlic
• ½ tsp. salt and pepper
• 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or mild Cheddar cheese

 

 

Preparation:
Brown stew beef in oil with onion and green pepper. Combine all ingredients except cheese and cook 6 to 8 hours on low.
Serve hot in bowls with a little cheese sprinkled over each serving.

 

 

 

Asalaamu alaikum, I would like to break fast with a range of healthier foods than the usual fried foods. Any ideas?

Wa alaikum salaam, sister, you’ve got the right idea. It is really important at the time of breaking fast to be careful with what we consume, both from an Islamic point and a health one. Avoid greasy, fried rich foods, do not overeat and bear in mind you will need to put back certain nutrients your body will have lost during the fasting day.

 
Below are a few easy, quick healthy & nutritious recipes – hope you enjoy!

 
Fruit Kebabs
Prep time: 15 minutes

 

 

Ingredients:
• 1 apple
• 1 banana
• ¹⁄₃ c. red seedless grapes
• ¹⁄₃ c. green seedless grapes
• 2⁄₃ c. pineapple chunks
• 1 c. Low fat yogurt
• ¼ c. dried coconut, shredded

 

Directions:
Prepare the fruit by washing the grapes, washing the apple and cutting it into small squares, peeling the banana and cutting it into chunks, and cutting the pineapple into chunks, if it’s fresh. Put the fruit onto a large plate.

 
Spread coconut onto another large plate.

 

Slide pieces of fruit onto the skewer and design your own kebab by putting as much or as little of whatever fruit you want! Do this until the stick is almost covered from end to end.

 

Hold your kebab at the ends and roll it in the yogurt, so the fruit gets covered. Then roll it in the coconut.

 

Repeat these steps with another skewer.

 

 

Veggie Bowl
Prep time:  about 10 minutes

 
Ingredients:
• 2 Large green, yellow or red peppers washed
• 1 bunch of celery, washed
• 1 carrot, washed and peeled
• 1 Cucumber
• 3 Spring Onions

 

Directions:

Cut the pepper in half (from side to side). Clean out the seeds from the inside. Now you have two pieces. One will be your pepper-shaped bowl.
Cut the other half of the pepper into skinny slices.

 

Cut the Vegetables into skinny sticks about 4” long.

 

Put a little salad dressing in the bottom of your pepper bowl.

 

Put celery sticks, carrot sticks, and pepper slices into the pepper bowl.

 

Now you’ve got a portable veggie treat! You can pull out the veggies and eat them with a little dressing. Then when you’re finished with the veggies, it’s time to eat the bowl!

 

 

Roasted Veggies
Prep time: about 1 hour

 
Ingredients:
• 2 cloves garlic, diced
• 2 c. broccoli, chopped into florets
• 1 medium red onion, chopped
• 1 medium courgette, sliced
• 1 medium yellow squash, sliced
• 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
• 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
• 1 medium tomato, chopped
• 2 tbsp. olive oil
• 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
• 1 tsp. dried basil
• 1 tsp. dried oregano
• Feta or parmesan cheese (optional)

 

 

Directions:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C, Gas mark 6)

 

Place all veggies and garlic in a large Pyrex (thick glass) dish or roasting pan.

 

Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, sprinkle spices on top, and stir to coat.

 

Cook for about 45 minutes or until veggies are tender when you poke them with a fork.

 

If you like, sprinkle the mixture with feta or grated Parmesan cheese before serving.