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Hearty Ramadan dishes

Dalia Dogmoch Soubra recalls childhood recipes and the tips on eating healthy during iftar

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Dalia Dogmoch Soubra cooking in her kitchen (Oliver Clarke/ Gulf News)
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Dalia Dogmoch Soubra is known for her cupcakes but her passion for cooking goes beyond Kitsch Cupcakes — especially during Ramadan, when food features as an important element.

“I always remember my mother cooking these simple but tasty dishes for family and friends for iftar in Paris, where we grew up,” she said. “So, for me Ramadan is a time for coming together, apart from being a month for giving back. It makes me miss my family and my mum’s cooking even more. It’s probably the month where I cook most of my childhood recipes.”

“I always remember my mother cooking these simple but tasty dishes for family and friends for iftar in Paris, where we grew up”
-Dalia Dogmoch Soubra
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On the day I met her, Dalia was cooking a typical three-course Syrian Ramadan meal that she’d eaten as a child at her grandmother’s house. “I like to keep the integrity of the ingredients,” she explained. “So I try not to add too many things to a dish. We just create a lighter version of the actual dish, using low-fat yoghurt and olive oil instead of butter and ghee. Also I haven’t added any sugar to the qamarudeen [apricots] drink.”

While many would end their long day with fried, fatty food, Dalia recommends avoiding these as much as possible.

“It’s important to stay healthy and choose the right kind of meal to break fast, particularly during summer. It’s not ideal to fast and suddenly go to something as heavy as fried food,” she said. “I’ve realised that it’s easy to do this because when somebody is hungry or thirsty, and the food is already there, they don’t really think about what they’re eating. I’d prefer to put the machine on again slowly, you know what I mean? Start with a light soup. Even though lentils aren’t considered light, they are still healthy and the soup is very simple to cook.”

While the soup took over an hour to cook because of the lentils, I asked her why she wouldn’t use a pressure cooker to speed up the process. “I just don’t like them. I remember my mum giving me one at some point in time but I couldn’t bear the huge ugly utensil,” she laughed. “Moreover, cooking slowly brings out more flavours.”

So, does she prepare everything fresh?

“Well it depends on the dish. There are dishes that can be cooked in advance and they taste better if they sit and infuse for some time. Sometimes even leftovers taste better. In this case the lentil soup can be cooked early on as there’s nothing in it — such as cream — that can make it go bad. Chicken fatte is something that I recommend preparing just before eating because it has yoghurt and the toasted bread on top can go soggy if it stands too long. What you can do is prepare the ingredients separately ahead of time and assemble the dish just before eating. These dishes are simple and quick to make so they are a perfect meal to put together by someone who works and doesn’t have time to cook.”

Dalia would know the importance of time, as she once juggled a full-time job and her passion for cooking before deciding to combine both. Not only does she have bakeries in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Beirut — and soon in Riyadh — she is a food writer and blogger. For her Dubai is a food paradise. She feels “there are so many people from different regions and the beauty of it all is I can enjoy not just traditional Emirati dishes, but Palestinian dishes or Syrian dishes which I may not necessarily cook myself, but can eat at restaurants or friends’ houses”.


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