“Are you breaking your diet in Ramadan?”
The first question my mom asked me when we started talking about preparing for Ramadan.
Unfortunately, Ramadan is a time where most of the 2 billion Muslims in the world throw health and nutrition out the window.
It’s too hard, we tell ourselves. Or it takes too much time to prepare healthy food. Or we just can’t bear giving up our childhood iftar (breaking fast) favourites.
Technically, I was paleo last Ramadan. But that didn’t go too well. I didn’t have a plan or any guidelines. I’d put myself into situations with no other choice than to indulge. And I enjoyed it — at least momentarily.
This year I’m having none of that. While Ramadan is a time when we’re supposed to think of food little, the vast majority of people think of food A LOT. I’m no exception. I have fond memories of the sights, smells and tastes of greasy, salty, crunchy, spicy food. Samosas, spring rolls, chaat and pakoras are some foods that come to mind.
While delicious and incredibly addictive, these foods are counterproductive. They are overly indulgent, harmful to our bodies and don’t sufficiently nourish our bodies — at a time when we need nourishment the most.
So this year I’ve mapped out the next four weeks of real food for Ramadan. And I’m going to share some of it with you. I’ll be posting recipes and tips to help you eat real food and spend less time in the kitchen. These recipes are perfect for anyone that is strapped for time but wants to feed their family well. I’ll be offering simple and healthy alternatives that can be quickly whipped up with little hands-on work or can be made ahead of time.
I’ve got a whole line-up of simple breakfasts, appetizers, snacks and dinners to help make this Ramadan a healthy and productive one. It’s Real Food Ramadan. Follow me here and on Instagram (@borderlinepaleo) for more quick meal ideas and tips on making it a #RealFoodRamadan for you too.
And now the irony of ironies: padri chaat. The quintessential greasy Ramadan food — paleo-style. Neither is it nutrient-dense or quick to make – but I’m celebrating the start of the month here, people. This snack is a popular street food that’s found all over the Indian subcontinent.
Growing up it would often make its way onto the iftar table with fruit salad, dates and Rooh Afza. It’s made with a base of a crispy fried dough and topped with cubed boiled potato tomatoes and various chutneys and spices. It has everything going for it. Some salty, some sweet, some spicy and sour. Need I say more?
Ingredients for padri (fried bread):
- ¾ cup tapioca starch
- ½ cup roasted mashed sweet potato
- 1 egg white
- 1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon grass-fed ghee
- ½ kosher salt
- Grass-fed ghee for frying
Ingredients for mint-cilantro chutney (hari chutney): Makes about ¾ cup
- 1 cup fresh mint leaves
- 1 cup fresh cilantro
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 1-3 Thai green chilies, deseeded – depending on your heat threshold (optional)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 garlic clove
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
Ingredients for date-tamarind chutney (kajoor-imli chutney): Makes about 1 cup
- ½ cup packed pitted dates
- ½ cup deseeded tamarind paste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ teaspoon Indian chilli power
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups water
- 1 boiled potato, cooled and cut into small cubes (you can use cubed roasted eggplant is you’re avoiding white potatoes)
- 1 medium tomato, diced
- ½ red or yellow onion, minced
- ⅓ cup goat’s milk yogurt or coconut yogurt
- Fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
- Spices: black salt (kala namak – can be found at South Asian grocers), chaat masala (likewise, but check the ingredients for a clean list), chilli powder, ground cumin
Sev (vermicelli-like crunchy topping – optional):
- 1 medium potato, spiralized
- 1 teaspoon frass-fed ghee, melted
- ¼ kosher salt
- ¼ turmeric
To make the (very optional but amazing for texture) sev combine the spiralized potato, ghee, salt and turmeric and thoroughly mix. Spread out the “noodles” on a baking wire rack and pop it into a preheated 300° oven for 20-30 minutes or…
… Until they look like this:
To make the mint-cilantro chutney, combine all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. The chutney should last up to a few weeks. It goes well with grilled meats and vegetables.
In a medium pot, combine all the ingredients for the date-tamarind chutney. Set it on medium high heat for 10-15 minutes or until the dates and tamarind have softened.
Put the cooked ingredients through a ricer to remove the fiber or a blender to get a smooth texture. This can late up to a few months, give or take.
To make the papri combine all its ingredients into a small mixing bowl until it forms into a dough. It will feel soft but will lack the give and elasticity of a traditional dough.
Divide the dough in half and place one piece between two pieces of parchment paper and roll it out with a rolling pin to at least 1/16th of an inch. With a small round cookie cutter or other circular object cut out little circles.
Gently lift each circle up with a rubber spatula and fry in a pan with ¼-inch of ghee on medium heat, flipping halfway (about 2 minutes) so both sides are lightly gold. Remove the papri with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel lined plate to cool.
To assemble, put down layer of papri, top with a few pieces of potato and sprinkle with pieces of onion and tomato. Add small dabs of yogurt, mint-cilantro and date-tamarind chutney (about ¼ teaspoon each). Sprinkle the whole plate with the black salt, chaat masala, chilli powder and ground cumin. Top with crushed sev and serve.