Dubai: When Dubai-based Indian businessman M.K. Ahmad and his wife Nadira were at their daughter Shijna’s home at Mudon for iftar last Thursday, he couldn’t help himself from contrasting the fancy spread she had laid out on the dining table with the rather modest meal he would have during Ramadan when he first came to the UAE in 1965.
“I was a bachelor back then and a group of us boys would just have some biryani. We could not have imagined the kind of foods that are available now, with so many healthy options to choose from,” he said.
Shijna and her entrepreneur husband Sajith Ansar, however, will not have it any other way. As their two children Tanaaz, 15 and Zain, nine, put it, it’s a much-awaited “snack party”.
“I try to pack in as many nutrients as possible into the menu,” said Shijna, a passionate cook.
“I avoid frying and bake wherever possible, use stuff like gluten free oat flour, quinoa, fresh fruits, vegetables, lean chicken and chia seeds in my dishes so they are filling and full of antioxidants.”
The chia pudding, a hot favourite with the family, for instance has a blend of mixed berries, gluten free oats, chia seeds, mixed nuts and wheat germ powder. Just like the special homemade banana bread which is baked with gluten free oat flour, almond flour, some quinoa and bananas.
I try and avoid frying and bake wherever possible, use stuff like gluten free oat flour, quinoa, fresh fruits, vegetables, lean chicken and chia seeds in my dishes.
“My mum loves to try out new things and they are always delicious,” said Zain, going over the colourful spread on the table that among other things includes fajitas stuffed with chicken, baked oat cups with chilli chicken, cinnamon and cream cheese pie, lemonade and orange juice.
There is also Ari Pathiri (rice flour rolls) with chicken stew that Nadira has made, giving the menu a traditional touch. “We are a Keralite family and relish this combination, especially when it is prepared by my wife. She is a fantastic cook,” said Ahmad, adding that the couple feel blessed to enjoy iftars with their three children and their families, including six grandchildren, all of whom are settled in the UAE.
“I am his favourite,” claimed Tanaaz. “Do you know, he swam all the way from India when he first arrived?”
“Yes, she is right,” said the proud grandfather. “A group of us bachelors just decided to come here by sea from Mumbai. It was like an adventure, but after I came here, there was no question of going back. This country has given us so much over the decades. We feel truly blessed.”
Sajith, who has been in Dubai for 18 years, can’t agree more. He cherishes the bonding with his family. “Ramadan is a time when we connect with our loved ones and focus on the spiritual,” he said.
“Being in a place like Dubai makes Ramadan extra special. Everyone is very respectful and mindful that you are fasting. Even non-Muslims here join the fast in the spirit of Ramadan.”
Recipe of the day
100 gm almond flour, 50 gm flax seed flour, 100 gm coconut sugar, 70 gm coconut oil, 4 eggs, 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder, 1/2 tsp sodiumbicarbonate, 1tsp vanilla essence, salt, 2 ripe bananas, 50gms walnuts
Mix the dry ingredients and keep aside. Beat eggs and coconut sugar till fluffy. Add rest of the ingredients and mix well. Pour coconut oil and toss in the walnuts. Bake the mixture at 175C/ 350F for 60 min.
Allow it to cool before serving.