Nothing seems to quench our thirst more and nothing seems to rejuvenate our body more than delicious, juicy fruits. And we realise this even more during the month of Ramadan. After a long day's abstinence from food and water, the sound of the siren or adhan at dusk is the sweetest of all!
A cold glass of lemonade is fantastic for breaking your fast, with lime and sugar and water relishing your soul to the very core. Another popular food for starting off iftar is dates, owing to the notion that it is a Sunnah to do so.
But that is just the start. This Ramadan has luckily overlapped with the season of some of our favourite fruits -- mangoes, lychees and jackfruits. There are of course several other fruits, but these three seem to be far more popular to the people of Bangladesh.
A simple glass of mango juice made from a basic kitchen blender tastes heavenly. Ice-cold and fleshy lychees brought out of the refrigerator are a charm unparalleled. Jackfruits provide a sweet treat, along with many nutrients.
These are just common and quite ordinary things a fruit lover thinks of. But give these fruits to a chef, and s/he will come up with mind-blowing recipes that will make one rediscover fruits in a whole new level of gluttony!
To experience that, the following recipes will come in handy.
1lb lychee fruit, peeled and seeded
½ cup brown sugar
4 tbsp butter
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix brown sugar, butter and cinnamon together. Roll or shake lychees in the sugar mixture and place in a casserole or baking dish. Bake for 10-15 minutes until sugar begins to caramelise.
1 cup fresh cream
50g mango puree
4 pieces gelatine
Few drops of mango fruit colour
Put cream and sugar in a pan and start boiling it. Add gelatine and mix it well until gelatine dissolves. Move the pan from stove; leave it for a while to cool. Add puree in the mixture, whisk it well and let it cool down completely. Pour the mixture in a mould or serving dish. Place them in refrigerator and leave it there at least for 30-40 minutes till the mango panna cotta is set.
Garnish mango panna cotta either with chopped mangoes or mint leaves.
Chocolate covered lychees
1 cup fresh (6 pieces) lychees
1 box (8 oz) dark chocolate
150g chopped almond nuts
Peel fresh lychees. Take out the seed carefully and fill the holes with chopped almond inside. Fill in the chopped almonds in such a way that the lychees retain their shape. Melt chocolate in a saucepan on very low heat, stir continuously. Dip the fruit into the chocolate. Cool or refrigerate on wax paper at least 30 minutes.
4 pieces pineapple (sliced lengthwise)
8 tbsp butter
2 cups of sugar
Peel pineapple. Slice it lengthwise into eighths. Heat butter and add sugar in pan. Stir it and caramelise the mixture. Add cream and whisk it well. Place the pieces of pineapple carefully in the pan of mixture. Mix it carefully so that the pieces of pineapple do not break. Refrigerate it for 15-20 minutes and then place the pieces in a serving dish and garnish it with cream or chopped pineapples if desired.
Watermelon salad with mint and lime
20g seedless watermelon chunks
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
Pinch of paprika powder
20g mint leaves, torn
In a large bowl, toss the watermelon with the lime juice and paprika powder. Fold in the mint leaves, season with salt and serve.
Half mango -- peeled, seeded, and chopped
20g finely chopped, red bell pepper
Onion (20g) chopped
1 tsp chopped cilantro
1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp lime juice
In a medium bowl, mix mango, red bell pepper, chopped onion, cilantro, chilli, lime juice. Cover, and allow to set at least 30 minutes before serving.
1 mango peeled, seeded and chopped
150ml yoghurt (sour)
Put all the ingredients in the jug of a blender and blend. Serve with garnishing according to your choice.
Chicken and pasta in mango cream sauce
8 ounces uncooked penne pasta
1 tbsp olive oil
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cubed
1 onion sliced and separated into rings
1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
3 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 mango peeled, seeded and chopped
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp fresh parsley to garnish
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add penne pasta. Cook for 8 minutes, until almost done and drain.
Heat half the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, place chicken in the skillet and cook 10 minutes or until juices run clear. Remove from heat and set aside.
Heat the remaining olive oil in the skillet and cook the onion and green pepper until tender. Mix in garlic, ginger and mango and continue to cook and stir 5 minutes or wait until mango is soft. Gradually mix the heavy cream into the skillet and cook 5 minutes, until thickened.
Return the chicken to the skillet, stir in the partially cooked pasta and season with salt and pepper. Cook and stir for 2 minutes until ingredients are well blended. Mix in the cheese and garnish with parsley.
Asian noodles with chicken and pineapple
6 ounces green beans, trimmed and halved lengthwise (2 cups)
1 red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, thinly sliced lengthwise
8 ounces rice noodles
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
½ fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and sliced into bite size wedges (2 cups)
¼ fresh mint chopped
½ cup peanuts, chopped
In a large pot of boiling water cook beans until tender, about 3 minutes. Add bell pepper and stir to submerge, using a small sieve. Transfer vegetable to a bowl. Add noodles to boiling water and cook until al dente for 4 to 6 minutes. Drain, rinse thoroughly with cold water and reserve.
In a small skillet, bring one cup salted water to a simmer over medium heat. Add chicken breast, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, let steam until chicken is cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken with a fork.
In a large bowl, whisk together lime juice, soy sauce and sugar. Add reserved vegetable and noodles, chicken, pineapple, mint and ¼ cup peanuts. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat with dressing.
Mango chicken curry
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped (2 cups)
½ red bell pepper (chopped)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp fresh minced ginger
½ tsp ground cumin
2 mangoes peeled and diced
2 tbsp cider vinegar or with vinegar 200 ml canned coconut milk
¼ pound skinless boneless chicken thighs or breasts. Cut into 1 inch pieces
Salt and pepper
Cilantro for garnish
Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and bell pepper, cook, stirring occasionally until it gets soft. Cook about 5 minutes, add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute. Then add the curry powder and cumin. Cook for a few more minutes, the spices will absorb some of the oil. So if anything begins to stick too much to the bottom of the pan, add a little more oil.
Add the vinegar, coconut milk and one of the two chopped mangoes to the pan. Increase the heat and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain a low simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from heat. Scoop the sauce into a blender, puree the sauce, and return the sauce to the pan.
Add chicken pieces to the pan, return to a low simmer, cover the pan and let cool for 8-10 minutes. Chicken should be just cooked through. Add remaining chopped mango, cook at a very low temperature for another minute or two uncovered. Adjust seasonings, if a little too sweet, add a little more vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro.
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Recipes and food preparation by Mainul Islam, Executive Sous Chef, Radisson Blu Water Garden Hotel