A Lemony Twist On Fresa Colada

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What a typical Londoner might call a bright sunny day, we, the residents of Dubai, call a well-deserved break from the blistering summer sun that beats (mercilessly) down upon us for a good six months each year (five-and-a-half if we’re lucky). I personally love the Dubai winter, especially because it brings with it, a plethora of fresh seasonal fruits from the Middle eastern region, the most noteworthy of which are the strawberries flown in daily from Egypt.

I couldn’t resist myself from buying a kilogram of these tantalizing berries when I last went grocery shopping. Needless to say, we got tired of eating all these strawberries pretty soon, so I thought of making a refreshing drink out of it. I added some coconut water and lemon syrup to compliment the sweet and sour berries and the drink turned out better than expected.

Here’s the recipe if you want to replicate it at home. It serves two people.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups fresh coconut water (I use yellow Srilankan coconuts as they are a bit on the sweet side)
  • 6-8 medium strawberries
  • 2 tablespoon lemon syrup (alternately, you can use 1 tsp lemon juice and 2 tsp honey)
  • For garnish:
    • 2 medium strawberries (coarsely chopped)
    • 3-4 mint leaves
    • 5-6 ice cubes

Method

  1. Wash the strawberries and remove the leafy part; add them to a blender
  2. Add coconut water and lemon syrup the blender and mix well
  3. Pour the juice into mason jars and add in some ice
  4. Top the jars with chopped strawberries and mint
  5. Serve immediately

Hope you enjoy this drink as much as I did making it. I’d appreciate your comments if you do try this at home!

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Jammin’ Juice Lollies

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Who doesn’t love ice lollies? It’s easy to buy one from a supermarket freezer if you’re OK feeding artificial content (refined sugars, colours and flavours) to your kids. I prefer making one of these insanely delicious coolers, filling the lolly moulds with whatever’s left over. Three hours and a thousand are-they-done-yets later, I have happy smiling kids devouring refreshing/hygienic lollies. These especially come in handy during the summer months and are ideal as an after-school treat for kids.

You can try experimenting with other fruit juice combinations; some that work well together include:

  • Orange and mango
  • Orange and carrot
  • Pineapple and coconut
  • Lemon and honey
  • Mint and lime
  • Apple and pomegranate
  • Raspberry, strawberry and blueberry
  • Watermelon and strawberry

Coolers To Beat The Intense Summer Heat

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It’s that dreaded time of the year again. We are on the verge of summer and we all know what that means; the scorching sun mercilessly beating down upon us. The Pakistani summer is characterized by an exponential increase in the sale of all things cool and refreshing, like ice-cream, kulfi (a frozen milk-based treat with nuts and saffron) and juices. The number of juice-walas (read, roadside juice stalls) propping up all across the country is directly proportional to the ever-soaring temperatures. These juice-walas serve all kinds of tempting (albeit unhygienic) concoctions using popular ingredients like watermelons, lemons and rooh-afza (a Pakistani drink concentrate).

Commuting to work during summers is a chore most people detest, and there’s nothing more enticing than the call of the juice-wala screaming ‘Thanda Thanda Limo Pani. Sirf Panch Rupay, Panch Rupay, Panch Rupay!’ (Cool, cool lemonade for just five rupees). Please do not pay heed to the juice-wala, no matter how thirsty you may be. The contents of the juice are questionable at best and you never know when, if ever, the glass was last washed. Instead, pick up some fresh produce on your way home and make one of these five lip-smacking coolers to satisfy your summer craving.

Watermelon-Strawberry Cooler

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Ingredients:

  • 300 grams watermelon (just the red fleshy part)
  • 1½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 4-5 strawberries (use frozen if fresh are not available)

Kiwi-Lemon Chiller

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Ingredients:

  • 3 kiwis (slightly ripe)
  • 1½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoon honey
  • ½ cup water

Pina Colada

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Ingredients:

  • ½ pineapple (use 4-5 slices of canned pineapple if fresh isn’t available)
  • ½ cup of coconut water

Lime-Mint Mojito

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Ingredients:

  • ½ tablespoon lime juice
  • 4-5 mint leaves
  • ½ tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup water

Apple-Pomegranate Cocktail

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Ingredients:

  • 2 apples
  • 1 pomegranate

For all the recipes listed above, use the method listed below:

  1. Put all the ingredients in a blender and mix well; if you have a juicer/extractor or a hand-blender, those would work too
  2. Use a fine-mesh sieve to remove the pulp from the juice; press on the pulp using a spoon to get all the juice out
  3. Keep the juice in the freezer for at least 1 hour
  4. Add a handful of crushed ice before serving

These drinks are an absolute hit at dinner parties, so why not be the juice-wala your guests desperately need you to be? Remember: with great power (read, recipes), comes great responsibility!

Enjoy!

p.s. Each of the recipes listed above takes a maximum of 5 minutes to prepare and yields approx. 250 to 300 ml sufficient for one large or two small servings, depending on how thirsty you are.

Ramadan Treats: Watermelon Strawberry Coolers

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With the heat-wave that’s causing abnormalities in the global seasonal patterns, we all knew what to expect this Ramadan, especially my fellow fast-ers (using this for lack of a better word) based in the Middle East. Just today, the weather in Dubai peaked at a whooping 47 degrees (Celsius, not Fahrenheit); I was soaking with sweat and completely parched by the time I got home from work. With still a good four hours to go before I could officially break my fast, it got increasingly difficult not to think about something cool and refreshing that would not only quench my thirst, but also give me the much-needed energy boost.

They say the best ideas come to you when you need something most. I came up with the Watermelon and Strawberry Cooler on a whim, without even giving the pairing of the ingredients a second thought; my hands automatically picked out the things from the refrigerator as they just ‘felt’ right.

The watermelon I had bought a few days back was slightly mushy (and I do not like mushy watermelon) so instead of throwing it out, I scooped out the flesh, placed it in a bowl, and mixed in a few ingredients instinctively. The result was a tasty sweet-and-tangy beverage perfect for Iftaar (breaking of the fast). Let me dive straight into the recipe so that you can try it out for yourself.

Ingredients:

  • 2 kg watermelon (with the skin on)
  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4-5 tbsp strawberry syrup (the one you use as a base for carbonated drinks)

Method:

  1. Scoop out the red fleshy part of the watermelon and place it into a deep bowl
  2. Using a hand-blender, puree the watermelon, seeds and all
  3. Take a sieve with a super-fine mesh and remove the pulp from the juice
  4. Add the lemon juice and the strawberry syrup to the watermelon juice; stir well
  5. Keep it in the freezer for at least 1 hour before serving
  6. Garnish with mint leaves (optional)
  7. Enjoy the refreshing drink at Iftaar and remember me in your prayers

The quantity mentioned is good for SIX servings of roughly 225 ml each. You can adjust the quantities according to your serving requirement. For those of you who do try this, do let me know how you liked it.

Ramadan Kareem and stay hydrated!

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‘Tis the Season to be Jolly!

Try visualizing a decorated pine-tree with presents lying underneath, a fireplace with stockings all over it and a really really old man dressed in red, clanging a big bell and crying out “Ho-ho-ho”. It isn’t too hard to guess that I’m talking about Christmas, the most anticipated and widely celebrated holiday among the Christian community. The big day is just around the corner and even though I don’t celebrate it, I appreciate the values it represents. It’s not just about giving out expensive gifts to your loved ones; it’s about sharing and caring for people who do not have the luxuries some of us have. For those who don’t understand the true spirit of Christmas, it’s just another uneventful day in the calendar.

Having lived outside of Pakistan for quite some time, I have had the chance to witness some really great Christmases. It’s always the same:

  • the adults constantly complaining about being short of cash during the last days of this season and maxing out all their credit cards
  • the children writing their innocent little letters to Santa and praying it won’t be too difficult for the man from the North Pole to give them all what they have requested (ergo, the broke Dad)
  • the malls setting up exciting discounts to clean out all their low-selling items and slightly perking up the prices on their best-sellers

Although I have never really attended a Christmas party, I know that home-cooked food plays a vital role in this celebration. A simple batch of customized sugar cookies is sure to perk up the mood in your household. The Royal icing recipe included in this post is quite simple, stays firm and will let you create elegant, colorful, matt-finish designs on the cookies. So get right into the kitchen with your kids and start baking!

Recipe: Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Ingredients for Cookies

  • 1¾ cup flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ½ cup (115 gm) unsalted butter [at room temperature]
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract/essence

Method for Cookies

  1. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside
  2. In another bowl, beat the butter and sugar using an electric beater until light and fluffy (for roughly 3 minutes)
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla essence to the butter mix until combined
  4. Now add the flour mix to the butter mix and beat until you have a smooth dough
  5. Put the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour or until it is hard enough to roll
  6. Pre-heat oven to 180º C and lightly grease two non-stick baking sheets
  7. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to an even thickness of about ¼ inch; keep picking up the rolled dough so that it doesn’t stick on the surface
  8. Cut out the cookies using your favorite shapes and put them on the baking sheet
  9. Put the baking sheets with the cookies in the fridge for about 15 minutes to cool the dough, preventing the cookies to spread out and lose their shape during baking
  10. Bake these for about 10 minutes or until the edges start to turn brown
  11. Remove from oven and let the cookies cool to room temperature on the baking sheet

Ingredients for Royal Icing

  • 2¾ cups icing/confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2tsp lemon juice
  • Food colors

Method for Royal Icing

  1. Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined
  2. Sift the sugar to remove lumps and add to the  egg mix
  3. Beat on low setting using an electric beater until nice and smooth
  4. Put in separate bowls and add food colors to them. NOTE: this icing starts hardening very quickly so keep it in an airtight container or covered with plastic wrap when not in use
  5. Fill a piping bag with the icing and make your desired designs on the cookies