Saturday, 30 April 2016

Plantain Salad Imoyo

Assalamualaykum warahmatullah wabarakatuh. I will be sharing a healthy recipe today; nice but reasonably healthy. If you're into the whole fitfam thing then I guess you can add it to your list of low calorific meal. I don't really count calories but it is probably less than 10% of your total allowance for the day and considering it can be eaten on its own, its a win-win situation.
I loooove plantains in all forms of it. Ripe, unripe, dough, boiled, fried and as my all time favourite plantain chips - which I always have a stash of thanks to amazing family and friends, alhamdulillah.
I came across this recipe as I was looking for an alternative to making plantain and I've since added my own twist to it. Here's a version I love.

What you will need

1 ripe plantain
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper,
1 small bell pepper (green, red or yellow) - chopped
1 small green chilli (optional) - chopped
1 small cucumber - diced
3 medium sized salad tomatoes - diced
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (optional)


Cut the plantain in 3 - 5 pieces unpeeled
Cover with water and boil for 5 minutes
Remove and rinse under cold water
Once cool, peel the plantain and cut into cubes
Mix with the other diced ingredients and black pepper
Drizzle with lemon juice, olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Why not add some tuna for sweet tuna salad and alternative to tuna with sweet corn.


Friday, 4 December 2015

Tipu Sultan - Sumptuous Halal Fine Dinning

Assalamualaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatu. Ya Hayy!!! I cannot believe it's been so long since I've last blogged!!! And so much to catch up on and even more to reflect upon. All khair, Alhamdulillah. In that little time, yours truly has gotten married and had a baby boy, Alhamdulillah. Of course with juggling marriage, moving, commuting, work, etc. (ahem procrastination), I didn't really have much time for blogsville but I've had you all in mind. Thought I'd come back with anther restaurant review seeing as I've been to so many amazing restaurants in the last few months and of course enjoyed some more than others. Therefore, before I archive the pictures, I thought it might be worth posting them here first.

So what do you do, when you bump into a few friends at a conference unexpectedly, you of course go for dinner afterwards. As I have never lived in Birmingham, we had to rely on a local who I must say absolutely impressed me with her choice.

The restaurant is located at number 43 Alcester road Birmingham. I can't even really remember how we got there, got in the cab, got there - easy. However, I did not think the area was busy and I'd certainly say more residential than commercial. But if in doubt, ask Google maps.

I kid you not but this is perhaps the fanciest restaurant in terms of décor that I think I have ever been to. Yeah yeah, I know there are Michelin-starred restaurants that will cost an arm, a leg and a bit of your heart but you need to understand that I'm only a junior doctor so usually can't afford any of those. Take that Jeremy Hunt! So on getting there, the first thing I thought was whether or not we could afford it. Don't blame me, there was a Bentley parked outside and I was not prepared to feature in the daily mail for being unable to pay my restaurant bill.

The restaurant stands elegantly in it's own grounds with plenty of parking spaces as well as a banqueting hall on the first floor for events. I could not see any facilities for private dinning area that will let's say allow niqabis to take off their niqabs. However, the eating booths with their magnificent chandeliers create a cosy enough environment to eat your food without the feeling that someone is staring at you; not if you count the statues. Yes, there are several statues there that it gets disconcerting but you just have to ignore them. The food of course is halal but I could not remember seeing any HMC certification although they verbally confirmed that their meat is indeed HMC certified. 

Customer Service
As you walk in, there is someone waiting to find you a seat and although we went there on a Saturday evening without any reservations, we got seated pretty quickly. The food also surprisingly did not take that long to arrive considering how busy they were; partly because we did not order anything too fanciful. You also got given wet hot towels to clean your hands like they do in a lot of middle eastern restaurants.

The menu

It is a North Indian restaurant so you should be able to find something to eat there. As said before, we ordered food that we could recognise but I must say one of the curries was Hot!! Even for my spicy Nigerian taste bud so if you cannot tolerate the heat, it is worth mentioning this to your waiter. In terms of taste, most of the food was spot on and even the mocktails made an impression on me.

Final Verdict
I could throw words like opulent and majestic at you but you've got to hand it to them, they do offer something different to your day to day halal restaurant, the luxurious environment. And that was well executed. So if you're looking for something different with the family or just want to dine out with that extra glamour, why not give Tipu Sultan a go. Did I mention, it was very affordable! And according to Tipu Sultan, they are opening new branches soon in London, Manchester, Bradford, Luton and Leicester. How soon? Allahu A'lam.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Allergies, Intolerances and Free From Foods: The Food Jihad

Assalamualaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatu. I was recently approached by a friend to devise a food timetable for her. Why anyone would want a food timetable in the first place is baffling but I suppose we've all been there before as we stand in front of the fridge/freezer with glazing eyes wondering what on earth to eat. The thought of sparing the brain of having to do that is enticing for those that it works for provided you don't have a spouse that wants something 'different' every day. So, I've agreed to help with the timetable because it sounded challenging as one of the requirement is that it needs to be wheat free (and loosely based on a Nigerian diet).

Before I go any further, I'd just like to clarify the meaning of jihad as it is often misused and associated with negative things in the media. Jihad literally means to struggle/to strive/ to endeavour. So jihad can mean to struggle in the way of God or against own desires. "Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) asked : 'Messenger of Allah, we see jihad as the best of deeds, so shouldn't we join it?' He replied, 'But the best jihad is a perfect Hajj(pilgrimage to Makkah).'" (Sahih Al-Bukhari). On another occasion, a man asked: "Should I join the jihad?" The Prophet (SAW)  asked, "Do you have parents?" The man said yes. The Prophet said: "then do jihad by serving them!"(Sahih Al-Bukhari). As you can see from the above examples that jihad does not just mean the holy war.

Disclaimer over, back to the topic. Allergy can be defined as an inappropriate immunological response to a normally harmless allergen. An allergen is something that will produce an allergic (hypersensitive) reaction in people who are sensitive. An allergic reaction are usually external  on the skin ranging anything from itchiness, hives to the more serious anaphylactic reaction which can be fatal.
Intolerance is usually as a result of your body being unable to deal with certain ingredients; usually due to lack of an enzyme or another but does not cause an immune reaction. This isn't to say that intolerances cannot be serious - particularly in children as they can cause developmental delays if not picked up earlier. An intolerance will often cause gas, abdominal pain and diarrhoea in some cases.

And then you have the neither here nor there; not an allergy but not also intolerance but equally crippling in the case of coeliac disease. This is an autoimmune condition where your body identifies substances in gluten as dangerous; mounting an immune reaction against it which also damages the lining of the small bowels.

The problem with atopic people (people predisposed to allergies) is that they are sensitive to several things ; i.e someone who is allergic to dust mite will also usually be allergic to other things like wheat, milk, etc making it impossible to cater for them at events. It sometimes also can run in families with siblings having different allergies.

Using dairy as an example, most desserts / snack will probably have a dairy product in  one form or another(Alhamdulillah for fruits!). Imagine adding wheat intolerance or allergy and you can already see the list of allowed food dwindling. Wheat itself is increasingly making it's way into the book of bad foods. Not just because of it's established effect in diseases such as coeliac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis and gluten ataxia; but also gluten is becoming associated with other conditions such as endometriosis, Crohn's disease and even osteoporosis to mention a few. As if that isn't enough bad name for gluten, it has been shown in some studies (can't say how well the studies have been carried out) that a gluten free diet improves autistic spectrum disorder.
The good news is a lot of children will outgrow their allergies. Actually most with lactose intolerance tend to outgrow it. The classic example is thinking your child is lactose intolerant but keeps having yoghurt and cheese in school with no effect although I shudder when I think, what if it was an allergy?

So how do you survive this jihad?
Well, it depends on which of these affect you. Technically speaking, Muslims already have to follow a special diet anyway; The halal food diet. Now if you are particular about what you eat, where it comes from and whether or not it's ethical as well as organic not to mention the boycott list, then you see how what's available to you can decrease very very quickly.  But, all hope is not lost as a lot of people seem to be trying to improve what they eat, the government is trying to tempt people to eat healthily with some government even offering gold for people who lose weight - which is probably cheaper than treating diabetes and it's complications in the long term. Even without the encouragement, we all need to strive to be healthy (I know it isn't easy) but your body is an amanah from Allah so you need to take good care of it. In the Qur'an Allah said “..And eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes not those who waste by extravagance” [al-A'raaf 7:31]
Also it is said that the prophet and the sahabas will not eat unless they were hungry and will stop eating before they were full.
It was narrated that Ibn Umar said : A man burped in the presence of the Prophet (SAW) and he said: 'Withhold your burps from us! For the most hungry of you on the Day of Resurrection will be those who ate their fill in this world."'- Sunan Ibn Majah

Those words are heavy and are enough to serve as a reminder for us all. I'm thinking Fridge magnet or wall sticker for my kitchen.

So how to deal with this? Well, you can either Abstain, Alternate or Replace depending on the actual condition.

1. Abstain : this isn't even an option for most because it's as simple as, eating peanuts make my face swell up and can potentially make me stop breathing: I'm not suicidal; therefore, I'll stay away from peanuts. I'll become an expert in reading the ingredients list and gain the eyes that most muslims possess as they scan food labels looking for that 'V' sign that has brought joy to many triumphantly crying out Alhamdulillah. I will learn not to get upset with those manufacturers that write "Nut free" but also add the annoying tiny disclaimer that says all effort has been made to not contain nuts; however, this crisp has been processed in a factory where nuts and seeds are processed leaving you to decide how badly you want the crisp. That clause needs to be banned!

2. Alternate: Look for something else to substitute. As dairy as well as different consistency of it is up there in the ladder of allergies and intolerances, it's no wonder several companies have come up with alternatives for the people who find themselves in this category so they don't lose out completely. There is now a whole range from soya milk to the nut based ones such as almond and hazelnut milk and even rice milk not to mention the original milk's cousin in the form of goat's milk as they contain different proteins so will be suitable for those with milk protein allergies. Many manufacturers are now recognising that there is a lucrative market in the free from department giving people more choices than they'll have had about 5 years ago. As of 2012, the global sales of gluten free products was rstimated to be around 6 billion dollars and I'm sure will be more by now.

3. Replace: Enzymes can be used for those whose intolerances are as a result of insufficiency of certain enzymes, it may just be a case of getting the enzyme. Like those who have pancreatic insufficiency have to do by taking Creon. For this to work, there has to be a certain amount of expertise to nail the calculation and hats off to those 7 year olds out there that do this excellently, children are just amazing like that until they get to the age where they rebel and they think they're smarter than everyone else.The prescribed enzymes are very good whilst the over the counter ones vary depending on how well you use it and whether or not there are good instructions. But it needs a lot of discipline and dedication for one to realise the advantages.

So whilst planning the food timetable, I came to realise that Africa has so much potentials and with the right intentions can become very great. Several wheat alternatives I discovered are found all across the continent that are good sources of energy and even healthier than wheat. OK, so the popular wheat alternative daddy of super foods (SF) aka Quinoa (pronounced as keen-wah) branded as "the miracle grain of the Andes" is not really found in Africa but ever since Quinoa has gotten the SF stamp, it's become so sought after by health conscious people in developed nations; driving the price of the food insanely high that even the people from Peru and Bolivia that normally have it as a staple food can no longer afford it. We really need to think of how what we do impact on others.
So it is probably a good thing that things like Fonio - a cross between rice and couscous except it's gluten free (from Senegal) or Sorghum (known as dawa in Hausa language) or even gero (pearl millet) isn't that popular yet because all you need is a celebrity to mention it as a diet plan and many scramble for it without thinking of the consequences - Allahu musta'an. So this wheat free timetable wouldn't have been difficult if we were in Africa but as we aren't; I'll have to make do with what is easily accessible. Other wheat free alternatives include buckwheat (I know the name is misleading), corn meal , oat,  rye and barley although the later two are not gluten free and usually processed in the same place as wheat. As in the case of oat, the jury is still out on whether it is suitable for people who require a gluten free diet and it is also usually contaminated during production.

So here is an example of the food timetable I made for my friend (she's obssessed with her special cereal so thought I'd leave that for her). Please note that this is for an adult and it is not advisable to exclude particular food from a child's diet without seeking medical advice. Also, if you ever want to exclude a certain food group from your diet, it may be worth visiting a dietitian or a nutritionist if you have access to them first.

Handy tips
1. If you have the space then buy in bulk particularly when food is on sale so you always have key ingredients at home
2. When making something with a substitute free from ingredient, never assume you'll need the same quantity as if you are using the original ingredient.
3. Always read the label as well as the tiny disclaimer
4. Join support groups as they often have recipes, tips as well as will usually be able to tell you what works and what doesn't. Coeliac UK is an amazing website for people with coeliac disease
5. When travelling, let your airline know everything you're allergic to as well as any special diet, you'll be surprised what they can accommodate. They'd rather spend the money to get you a 'free from' food than to have to deal with an anaphylactic attack on air (along with the poor medic who will have to attend to you).

Finally, I found this wedding invitation food choice on line that made me chuckle and thought I'd share ...
Courtesy :

Shout out to all the food jihadists out there be it following a free from diet , trying to lose weight or ahem trying to gain weight, you are not alone and it'll be worth it in the long run. Just imagine, in Jannah you'll never have to deal with any of these food issues. So aim high and think Jannah - insha Allah!!!

This post is dedicated to Abdullah A with his numerous allergies and Fatima S who we're still unsure what she's allergic to along with their parents that work tirelessly around the clock with the aim of making their little ones comfortable.


Sunday, 8 December 2013

Reader's Contribution: Finnish Sandwich Cake

Assalamualaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatu strangeville. I can't believe it's been 8 months since my last post but it seems my procrastination has now reached a new level. There's no other way to describe it - unless perhaps Instagram is the culprit. Yes, let's blame my blogging laziness on Instagram. So I'd like to share this Scandinavian recipe of sandwich cake that my friend makes.

Firstly, about the person that sent this recipe; when it comes to cooking and baking, masha Allah the sister's got the talent but she isn't interested in any of these writing shenanigans; otherwise she'll feature more on this blog. I only just got my hand on this recipe three months ago after asking for almost a year!
So I first experienced this thing called sandwich cake also known as voileipäkakku (in Finland) and smörgåstårta (in Sweden) almost a year ago at my friend's henna party. She'd made them herself and they masha Allah looked astonishing; I was then told they were only layered sandwiches that were finished to perfection with an artistic touch. I was reluctant to try it because anything that starts with ch and ends in eese scares me silly - lactose! I did try a little bit after several prompting (cowardice - I know) but I honestly can't remember what the verdict was that first time. I think I must have been so nervous that I didn't even bother to chew it - probably just swallowed. Anyway, three month's later, we met again at another friend's henna but this time as I was hosting, there was leftover sandwich cake just taking a big space in my fridge the following day. So decided to swap my normal hot lunchbox for a cold voileipäkakku and let's just say sandwiches never tasted the same since then. Perhaps the fact that it was a busy day at work and I was quite hungry by the time I got my 5 minutes break helped.

So what is smörgåstårta? It is a Scandinavian dish comprising of several layers of bread with different fillings and is served just like you'll serve a slice of desert cake except it's savoury rather than sweet (usually).

Ainekset - What you'll need (Serves 24)

36 pieces Whole meal toast bread

Chicken filling
450g chicken pieces
1-2 table spoon vegetable oil
1/2 tea spoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
320g salsa sauce
300g cheese dip

Vege filling
150g  avocado dip
1 red pepper - chopped in cubes

150ml of water
50ml lemon juice

150g avocado dip
150g crème fraîchea

To decorate
1 yellow pepper
200g cherry tomatoes
10 thin slices of cucumber
10 black stoneless olives
Small piece of onion - sliced in thin rings
Those Doritos with no flavour

Fry  the chicken pieces in oil. Add salt and pepper. Allow to cool then mix in salsa and cheese dip.
Cut edges off from the bread. Put 9 bread pieces on a tray. Wet the bread with lemon –water mixture. Place half of chicken filling on top. Place another layer of bread on top and wet it. Add vege filling on top of that. Then add a third layer of bread, wet it with your mixture. Put rest of chicken filling on top. Put fourth layer of bread and wet that too.

Spread the topping (avocado dip and crème fraiche)  on top of the sandwich cake including the sides. Decorate with cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, olives, onion rings and parsley. Decorate sides with Doritos.


From the pictures, you will notice that the ingredients can vary just like any other recipes. And based on what I've seen - you can use almost anything depending on whatever takes your fancy - ranging from spinach paste to salmon. I've seen recipes with eggs, prawns, even fruits and you can also use rye bread . And apparently this sandwich usually tastes better if you make the sandwiches and keep in fridge overnight then decorate on the day.

I haven't made it yet - because I'm not artistic at all but insha Allah will try it out - one day.


Friday, 29 March 2013

Morocco - First class food diversity

Assalamualaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatu. I've recently returned from a few days trip to Morocco and thought I'd do a destination food on the country. Morocco also known as Maroc or Maghreb is located in the Northern part of Africa and has a very rich culture where Arab culture meets the Western; indeed Morocco's other name translates into "The Western Kingdom". They mainly speak a variety of Arabic, French and Berber with most people able in the major cities able to understand some amount of English. You could imagine the shame and the horror I felt after realising that my French was better than my Arabic! And although neither was anything to write home about, at least some of the French I studied in high school came in to use. The currency is the Moroccan Dirham and 1 Dirham is equivalent to about 8 to 9 pence. Religion is mainly Islam with more than 97% Muslims and the rest Christians and Jews. Moroccans are very accommodating; at least that was the feel I got whilst in Marrakesh which was my main destination. I realised after coming back that not everyone has a positive story to tell as some who have previously been were not impressed of being harassed by local touts. From what I gather, the less touristy the area, the better you're likely to enjoy your stay which I guess isn't much different from anywhere else in the World.

Hassan II Mosque
Marrakesh Rail Station - exterior
Interior Marrakesh station
Cassablanca beach at sunset

Palm and Oranges: This is arguably the first thing one notices; they sure have palm, they clearly have oranges and most certainly make good use of these two in beautifying the city. The roads are enhanced by what looks like rows and rows of tangerine trees which are occasionally enriched by a palm tree or two. Subhanallah - the orange trees and the palm oasis (mainly date palms) are just picturesque in addition to the Atlas mountains that appear as if floating in the Background. Every single time I pass by the mountains, I was reminded of Allah's Greatness as it was a sign for me to see the mountains which are white due to the snow that covers them reflecting the sun. It certainly isn't something that words can describe nor is it something that pictures can cover.

Date palm oasis

Orange tree
Sliced oranges

Bread: I loooooooove bread; any type of bread Pitta bread, sliced bread, leavened bread, arab bread, turkish bread, I could honestly go on. My addiction to bread used to be so bad that I'd have bread for breakfast, a mini bread snack for lunch then also for dinner. Thanks to the French influence, there was abundant bread in Morocco with a wide range to choose from. Even better, the bread were freshly baked - you know that smell of oven baked bread was just everywhere you go, bliss! I fell in love with one of their breads / crêpes called Msemen or Rghaif. Basically it is sort of crêpes which are square in shape and tastes absolutely wonderful. Insha Allah will share the recipe once I've made it myself.
Leavened bread

The making of Msemen

Tagines are basically dishes which are named after the traditional clay pot in which it has been cooked. Basically it serves as both a pot and a serving dish. Originally designed by the Berber, it ensures that no condensation leaves the pot giving you a succulent and tender finish to whatever you cook in it; either meat or vegetables. This trip I was more adventurous with my meals and actually had the traditional food such as chicken Tagine,  Lamb Tagine - mainly with couscous whenever I got the chance. Having said that, I didn't get to eat at a proper Berber restaurant as every one was convinced that it'll make us tourists sick. I wasn't too keen to find out if they were right. 

Tagine served on a normal plate
Tagine earthenwares

Oils,Herbs and Spices: Moroccans are known for their herbs and spices and now oil as well; thanks to all the craze for Argan oil. The herbs are usually a mixture of your normal herbs so actually are the spices. It was actually beautiful to be able to visit a garden where most of these things were grown and see how they're processed. I also confirmed that I cannot haggle to save my life so got cheated so much it hurts to even think about it. Now I know the other reason apart from convenience (ahem lazyness) why I prefer internet shopping, it gives me the opportyunity to haggle by comparing prices online. Needless to say I brought some of the 35 spices in one back with me as well as herbs that goes in their traditional tea. I don't know if it is the hospitality but all I know is that whenever you get anywhere, market, etc you're offered tea constantly and because it's herbal- I always accept graciously! Having said that, I'm still yet to recreate the taste of the tea I had in Morocco - probably due to lack of a traditional tea pot.

Oils and spices

Dried fig (tin) and dates
Bush basil
The making of Argan oil - L'huile d'argan
Argan oil - for cosmetic use and for cooking

Spice grinder

Miscellaneous and the wonderfully wierd: The night market was definitely different and I didn't understand it at all. It looked like everyone was just waiting till sunset before they can go about their business. Actually it was a little unnerving seeing so many people in a market at night; didn't just feel right. If you're squirmish, now is the time to look away. One of the oddities of the night market is the street food and outdoor tent restaurants. A favourite with the locals are snails; in particular, baby snails. These are pots of stewed baby snails made with local spices. You can buy different sized bowls, and get to eat them with toothpick after which you drink the soup. I still actually can't believe I tried them and they were not too bad.

Baby snails

The Berbers: It was lovely experiencing the actual traditional cuture in the midst of all the civilisation. We went into the ourika valleys and got to see the amazing ways in which the Berbers manage without much technology. For instance they'd put their drinks under the water that's falling from melted snow of atlas mountain and that's their refrigerator sorted. In fact I sometimes saw Tagine under waterfalls too.

Berber kitchen
Berber restaurant
Manufacturing couscous
Maroc is a heaven when it comes to food diversity but it isn't for everyone. Your experience will depend on where you visit but I loved it and insha Allah would be visiting again - once my Arabic and haggling skills get better.