Ramadan Recipes: Chicken Box Patties

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Ramadan is finally upon us, and with it, the culinary experiences we typically associate with this holy month. The activity in and around the kitchen increases significantly, owing to the maddening aromas emanating from the kitchen right around iftaar (time to break the fast). Family members who usually don’t even bother with the food-prep start hovering around to see what’s on the menu.

I belong to a family of food-lovers. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my mother planning her iftaar menu weeks before Ramadan. I still remember how she wrote everything on a wall calendar; everything from appetizers to desserts. She made rainbow-colored jelly eggs and lip-smacking kukray (D-shaped samosas with mung daal and minced meat filling),  always on the hunt for new recipes to try. Watching her make those things was the highlight of my day and I have only her to thank for my culinary passion.

The Ramadan dastarkhwan (floor mats/carpets on which food is served) is empty without a selection of appetizers. I know of some families who absolutely positively need to have samosas and pakoras at iftaar, whereas others try different things. Luckily, I belong to the latter group. For me, an appetizer is the most important course, as it is the first thing you attack after breaking the fast. Thinking about first impressions, it can make or break your entire dining experience.

This Ramadan, I shall be sharing with you some appetizers handed down to me and others acquired along the way. The first entrant in this series is Box Patties. These perfect squares, created using samosa strips, are filled with a savory shredded chicken mixture that instantly satiates your spice cravings.

Prep time: 35 minutes for the filling and the box patties + 4 minutes for frying (per batch)

Yields: 18-20 patties

Serving size: 2 patties per person

Ingredients

  • 250 grams chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon green chili paste
  • 1 tsp salt (for chicken)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 medium potato (boiled and diced)
  • 1 medium green bell pepper (capsicum – diced)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour (stirred in with 1 tablespoon water – for filling)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (for filling)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (for paste)
  • 1 cup water
  • 40-50 samosa pastry strips

Method

  1. Add chicken, ginger paste, garlic paste, green chili paste, salt (for chicken) and water to a pot and cook it till the chicken is tender and the water has dried up
  2. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it and keep it aside
  3. Heat butter in a pan and add the green bell peppers to it; stir-fry for 1 minute
  4. Add soy sauce, salt (for filling), black pepper and red chili flakes to the capsicum and stir for a minute
  5. Add potatoes and the shredded chicken and mix it well
  6. Finally, add the flour and water mixture to the chicken; mix it immediately to prevent the flour from turning the filling too sticky
  7. Cook for a minute before turning the stove off
  8. In a bowl, mix the flour (for paste) in water; microwave for 40-50 seconds to get a thick glue-like consistency
  9. Fold the box patties as instructed in the video
  10. Deep fry in hot oil till the patties are crisp and golden-brown
  11. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce and enjoy!

Note: Ramadan is an ideal time to get in touch with your spiritual self, but sometimes, we just get too fixated on food and what to make for iftaar. I prefer making these appetizers in a larger batch and freezing them; they can be used for up to 15 days. This will give you plenty of time to reflect on yourself and significantly lessen your kitchen workload.

Please remember me in your prayers!

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Islamic Architecture: A Photo Montage

A Sumptuous Liwan-ese Iftaar At Al Ghurair Rayhaan: Photo-blog

For someone who’s fasting during Ramadan, Iftaar is a special moment, and what makes it more special is the company of some new-found friends over a spectacular culinary experience. I was graciously invited to a bloggers’ Iftaar at Liwan, one of several restaurants at Al Ghurair Rayhaan by Rotana, and I almost didn’t go before actually deciding to; turns out, it was a good decision.

Even though this is a photo-blog, not a restaurant review, I will not hesitate to mention that the tantalizing dessert selection is by far the best around.

Let the feast for the eyes begin!

Culture Vulture – Sheikh Zayed Masjid, Abu Dhabi

I had been waiting on the Abu Dhabi Cor-niche bus stop with my friend, Khalid, for almost an hour and there was still no sign of a bus.

“It’s almost sunset and the precious daylight would be gone in another hour or so”, I said in a melancholy tone.

“Don’t worry, Yousuf. We’ll make it to the masjid on time”, said Khalid.

“Humph! So much for my photo adventures”, I replied.

This was the first time I had been to Abu Dhabi and was most eager to take in all the sights in a single day before heading back to Dubai. There were two places I was eager to visit; the Emirates Palace and the Sheikh Sayed Masjid. Since I had already accomplished half my goal, I was eager to get to the masjid to complete my photo adventures.

The bus finally came but it was full; the driver didn’t even bother to slow down. After another 15 minutes, we finally managed to squeeze in on the second bus. This particular bus took us to the terminal and we switched buses; it was just 10 minutes to sunset and time was running out.

Generally, the masjids have poor night-lighting and I was positive the photos would come out pathetic. My stomach lurched from anticipation as the bus moved towards our destination, the pessimist in me taking full control of my mental faculties.

Fortunately for me, I was dead wrong!

The entire masjid was bathed in what looked like blue clouds clearly being projected from strategically selected locations. Since time was precious, I could only spare a few moments to admire this man-made spectacle. This right here is one of the first decent photos of the masjid I took after I got off.

The First Look: Mesmerizing

The First Look: Mesmerizing

Breathing a sigh of relief, I walked into a long and winding driveway. I was breathless, not from the long walk, but from what lay in front of my eyes. I cannot convey the awe I was in into words. I was so taken by this location that I went back later to take more shots. Here’s one that has been treated to highlight all the gold. Take a look for yourself.

Golden Reflections

Golden Reflections

As it was time for Maghrib prayers, we asked for directions to the ablution area. I was struck, not by the size, but by the sheer extravagance of the interiors. Everything from the brightly colored wall murals to the detailed carvings on the ceilings and the domes was perfection, and a sense of serenity set in on me, as it should when you walk into a place of worship.

The carvings on the ceiling

The carvings on the ceiling

The wall mural

The wall mural

Coming to the ablution area, I was taken by the uniquely styled ablution stations. These were undoubtedly the best ablution stations I had ever seen as they took into account the comfort of the worshiper.

The ablution chamber

The ablution chamber

After we were done with our ablution, we started walking towards one of the smaller prayer chambers. As we walked through the arches, I couldn’t help admiring the perspective of depth they so elegantly created.

An arched perspective

An arched perspective

After my prayers, I stood up and looked around me. The stained glass work on the windows was nothing short of spectacular.

Refractions

Refractions

We came up to a door that led to the entrance area that further led to the main prayer chamber. All the walls were covered in embossed floral patterns. A grand chandelier took center-stage and was undoubtedly the most note-worthy piece in the room.

Floral fantasies

Floral fantasies

The chandelier

The chandelier

After soaking in all the extravagance, I could not wait to see what the main prayer chamber looked like; I was not disappointed. The minbar (area where the imam stands for prayers) couldn’t have been more gorgeous. The entire wall was selectively back-lit with white lights and covered the 99 names of Allah in a mesmerizing floral structure. The waxing and waning of lights only added to the magnificence I beheld.

The minbar

The minbar

When it came to domes and chandeliers, this masjid did not disappoint. right in the center was the biggest chandelier I had ever seen. The dome within which it was set was equally impressive.

Let there be light

Let there be light

Out of nowhere, a guard appeared and requested everyone to leave the main chamber, as it was almost time for Isha prayers. I couldn’t resist myself from taking a photo of the chamber as the doors were being closed.

Closing

Closing

As we had had a long day, Khalid was too tired to further explore the masjid with me. I left my backpack with him and camera in hand, ventured out to the central courtyard. It was here that the true size of the masjid was revealed to me.

The view

The view

This masjid reminded me of the great Badshahi masjid in Lahore, Pakistan in so many ways. The way the courtyard was laid out to the domes on top, I could see strong influences of the Mughal architecture with inspiration from other Islamic styles, of course. As I only had about 20 minutes before Isha, I tried my best to capture the essence of the masjid as much as I could.

After our prayers, we reluctantly headed back out, but not before taking a few more photos of the reflected arches.

Reflected arches

Reflected arches

Right outside the masjid was the final resting place of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the visionary behind this massive project. I said a quick prayer for him and with one final look at the beautiful masjid, started walking towards the bus stop.

Rest in peace

Rest in peace

Here is a complete gallery of my favorite shots from the trip; hope you enjoy them.

This here is an account of my personal experience. For more details on the masjid, you can visit the Sheikh Zayed Masjid page on Wikipedia.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette

Silhouette photography can be a whole lot of fun. Not only are these photos great to look at, but also seem to have an aura of mystery and drama surrounding them. I recently posted some of my best silhouettes and I had to go back to my image library to find one that I hadn’t already published. This is what I could come up with on such short notice. Hope you like it.

Women: Stronger Than You Think

Whoever categorized women as the ‘weaker sex‘ was definitely a moron. In this male-dominated society of ours, women are labeled as pretty half-brained individuals lacking the physical/mental prowess men (supposedly) demonstrate. Maybe men can run or swim faster, but women should be given full credit for what they are capable of. To me, strength is more than just the ability to life weights; it’s about endurance, perseverance and the ability to go on even in the toughest of times.

Not Just A Pretty Face

Having been surrounded by so many strong women all my life, I just needed to jot down my personal experiences, my observations of, and my interactions with these amazing individuals. From my grandmother who’s 85+ and going strong to my year-and-a-half-old daughter who’s getting naughtier by the minute, each and every one of these amazing ladies is a constant source of inspiration. The scenarios that I am listing below vary from culture to culture, but if you are a woman, you are sure to relate to some of them.

1. Women sacrifice a lot more than men

Women are more susceptible to giving up their dreams for the greater good than men. This act of utter selflessness makes me admire them more every day. It’s the female who sacrifices her passions for raising a family, gives up her dreams so that her children and/or her husband can realize theirs. Rarely have I ever heard about a husband moving to a different continent so that his wife can continue her education, but you see wives relocating, whether it’s for the husband’s education or his job, on a regular basis. The sad part is that it doesn’t end here; we keep on asking them to forswear everything that has the remotest possibility of keeping them happy until all there is left is an empty shell.

After the death of her mother, my grand-mother took care of her six sisters for many years until all of them were married off, all the while raising six daughters of her own. My grandmother passed on the same values to her daughters too. My father’s sudden death was a serious blow to our entire family and would have ripped us apart, if not for my mother, who kept us together, sacrificing her personal needs to fulfill ours. Whatever I am today, I owe it all to her.

I promised myself I won’t be a narrow-minded, self-absorbed, irresponsible imbecile once I grew up, so when it was time to decide between continuing a lucrative career abroad or living closer to my family, I decided to go for the latter. Often, people tell me how stupid I was to leave my last job; then again, I don’t expect them to understand my emotions, my feelings towards my mother and the rest of my family.

2. Women have a lot more endurance

Endurance is all about the ability to control yourself in extreme circumstances, i.e. scenarios you have absolutely no control over. A woman is better suited to deal with such situations compared to a man mainly  because it’s in her very nature to keep up with everything that is thrown her way. Whether she is banned from going to a co-ed college for fear of tarnishing her family honor or forced to live with a domestically violent man she was coerced into marrying, women endure a lot!

To make my point, let us take a look at the stark differences in our lifestyles. A man like me gets off the hook by working 8 hours a day and moaning about it the rest of the time, minus the 8 hours of beauty sleep we so covet. A woman with kids and work, on the other hand, is a force to be reckoned with. She has a 24×7 job with no vacations, no weekends, no breaks. Never have I ever seen someone multitask with such efficiency, a milk bottle in one hand, a dirty diaper in the other, a red pen in the corner of her mouth for marking her student’s exams, all the while talking on the (speaker)phone with the doctor about what the baby’s cough might signify.

To take things in a much literal context, take an everyday life scenario of endurance: pain. We’ve all experienced it, some more so than the others, but when it comes down to the battle of the sexes, studies confirm that females deal better with pain than men [1]. Having witnessed the miracle of birth twice (well, thrice, if you count Stephanie’s Birth), I have to say that delivering a baby is akin to passing a kidney stone the size of a golf-ball; bad analogy, but maybe you’ll get the idea.

3. Women are more adept at demonstrating their emotions

Two terms that you may rarely hear together are ‘men’ and ’emotional mess’; it’s an entirely different story if you substitute the term ‘men’ with ‘women’. Unlike popular belief, I think that the capability of demonstrating emotions is a character strength, and that you are comfortable enough to let your feelings out, positive or otherwise, to everyone [2].

In a society where phrases like ‘boys don’t cry’ and ‘you are a weak little girl’ prevail, we (men) are brought up with the notion that showing some of our feminine emotions is a sign of weakness. We are, however, really good at expressing rage, a trait that demonstrates male dominance and superiority. Being an intelligent species, we need to realize that there is no such thing as a ‘weak’ or a ‘strong’ emotion; the sum of our emotions is what defines our humanity. As parents, it is our duty to shatter these stereotypes, these misconceptions that infiltrate our society, as these not only have a direct impact on our mental health but also on our physical (blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, etc.) [3].

I don’t let an opportunity to teach go to waste so here’s my two bits: while being overly expressive or repressive are both detrimental to emotional health, we all need to find the right balance of emotional expressiveness for a healthier lifestyle.

4. Women can be a source of strength

The adage ‘Behind every successful man there is a woman’ may not be applicable in all situations, as some people have very rich fathers/father-in-laws backing them, but in my case, it is as true as it gets. Men and women were created to support each other through life. Think of life as a front-wheel-drive vehicle, where women are always marked as the rear-wheels capable of doing nothing but going wherever the front-wheels (i.e. men) drag them. I, on the other hand, have a more symmetric approach to this problem, where men and women are the left and right sides of the car respectively (notice that I labeled women as the right side), each side giving the other a sense of direction and balance while moving towards a destination through mutual consent; it’s a guy thing and I couldn’t help myself from putting in a car reference.

Having said that, I have always found some of the best advice from women around me. My wife, for instance, is my best friend and knows my deepest secrets, my darkest fears, my purest passions, as well as my idiosyncrasies. Whenever I feel lost, she turns into my moral compass, steering me in the right direction. Whenever I’m shattered into a million pieces, and then some, she fixes me, one piece at a time. Whenever I’m crashing and burning, she puts out the fires. She’s the one whose shoulder I lean on, and I make sure she has mine when she needs it.

5. Women keep on going against the tide

We’ve all heard of ‘Eve teasing’, but have you ever heard of the term ‘Adam teasing’? It’s because there is no such thing, except maybe in highly progressive societies. The use of the word ‘Eve’ in the aforementioned phrase signifies the ‘temptress’ nature attributed to females, rendering the term derogatory. Apparently, it is the woman’s fault that she is harassed, their male perpetrators just innocent victims of the woman’s sorcery [4].

In our culture, women have to suffer all their lives with harassment and gender discrimination, turning life into a constant battle. Whether it is boys hooting/whistling at a bus full of college girls, or men making snide innuendos in the presence of female co-workers, this great injustice and violation of basic human rights is prevalent everywhere.

I salute all those brave women who don’t hesitate to slap a man across the face trying to grope them in the bus or in the bazaar, and deliver a tongue-lashing/diatribe that he is sure to remember as long as he lives. Take off your sandals and hit him hard, sister (its even better if you’re wearing stilettos)!

Break Free From The Chains

Suicide rate is, or at least I think it is, one of the socioeconomic indicators that may reflect on the strength of character demonstrated by people in the face of helplessness. So on a whim, I googled for suicide rates by gender: hips may lie, but statistics don’t. According to the World Demographics, there are currently 1.01 males to every female in existence (roughly 50-50), yet the difference in suicide rates is drastic [5]. In support of my argument, the World Health Organization conducted a survey that suggests women having far less suicidal tendencies compared to men [6][7]. I rest my case.

Life in a man’s world can be challenging, to say the least. Seeing how some men treat women can be downright annoying and at times, I feel like we are still living in the pre-Islamic era when females were buried at birth. Haven’t we progressed enough as a society to give women the respect and recognition they deserve? Islam teaches us the lesson of equality, and that in God’s eyes, we shall be tested on the strength of our faith rather than our gender [8][9].

Naturally, this article is an homage to all the strong women in my life; my dear mother, my loving wife, my adorably head-strong daughter, my sweet sister-in-law, and my obstinate best friend (please take this as a compliment). You make my world brighter!

References:

[1] Chandwani, Silky (2011); Women deal with Pain better than Men; read online here
[2] Thompson Jr., D. (2010); Gender Differences in Emotional Health; read online here
[3] Lee, C & Glynn Owens, R (2002); The Psychology of Men’s Health; Open University Press
[4] Wikipedia (2012); Eve Teasing; read online here
[5] Wikipedia (2012); Demographics of the World; read online here
[6] World Health Organization (2012); Suicide Statistics and Graphs; read online here
[7] Wikipedia (2012); List of Countries by Suicide Rate; read online here
[8] Al-Qura’an; Surah-al-Ahzaab Ayat 35; read online here
[9] Al-Qura’an; Surah-at-Taubah Ayat 71; read online here

In Perspective: A Glimpse Into Persia

Persian Dreams

This photo was taken at Ibn Batutta Mall, Dubai, UAE and is one of my favorite shots ever. I love seeing things in a different perspective and the results are pretty interesting most of the time. Enjoy!