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Ask the Chef

Food writer, Yvonne Maffei, returns to answer those pressing cooking questions!

I love Mexican food but I’m concerned about the calorie count. Is there any way to reduce the fat, and are there any recipes that are on the healthier end of the spectrum?




Most Mexican ingredients are incredibly healthy, however, it’s the cooking methods that can pack on the calories of this cuisine (just like most others). When it comes to Mexican food, some of the culprits are deep fried or oily dishes such as tortilla chips, refried beans, chile relleno, or enchiladas.



For starters, choose lighter fare when eating out – fish tacos on corn tortillas with fresh salsa and avocados are great choices. Guacamole is a really healthy dish made with avocados, cilantro, jalapeño, and sometimes even tomatoes and garlic added into it. Use it not just as a chip dip, but as a side or topping to any taco or main course meal.




Choose bean dishes that are not re-fried but simply cooked in vegetable oil, if possible. Shredded chicken, lamb or beef are other great options, as they have typically been slow-cooked and stewed in vegetables and water or broth. Add fresh cut veggies like radishes, lettuce, red onions and scallions as a healthy, low-calorie topping to just about any of these dishes without compromising flavor, but enhancing it instead.
All of these types of dishes can also be made at home, too!  Try my recipe for frijoles negros (black beans) made without lard – healthier and halal – as well as many other Mexican dishes on myhalalkitchen.com.







Salaam sis, between cookbooks, food magazines, websites, blogs and apps, I am overwhelmed with wonderful recipes that I want to try!  Could you suggest a way for me to organise my cooking and my kitchen to take advantage of these resources?



Wa’alaikum as salaam! Recipes and their photos are really an inspiration to all of us to get cooking, but it can be overwhelming just thinking about how to even plan meal time around so many options, which is why it’s best to get ourselves organized in the kitchen before we even begin to start shopping for ingredients.



Keeping a kitchen counter binder of your favorite recipes is a great start to organizing all of your family’s favorite dishes, or ones you simply want to introduce them to in the near future. To get started, take a little time out of a day or two to go through all of your magazines, online resources and apps and either cut them out or print out the recipes you’d like to keep close by. Punch holes in them and place in a ring binder, organised by meal type (i.e. dinner ideas, snacks, desserts, BBQ). Once you begin to make the meals, add your own notes to them – how you changed the recipe, if at all; who liked the dish the most; what you might do differently next time; a particularly brand of ingredient that seemed to make the taste just right, etc. If you find there are any dishes you won’t try again, simply remove them and make room for others you find interesting and eager to try in the future. Either way, you’re documenting your way to making meal prep a lot easier and recipes your family will enjoy over and over again without you having to take a lot of time digging around for that one recipe you always wanted to make.



Insha Allah, this will simplify your kitchen life and make cooking a whole lot more enjoyable, too.





To help you get organised, SISTERS recommends:

The Ultimate Collection of Muslimah-made Planners, Calendars, Diaries and Journals






My Halal Kitchen Q&A