Muslims across the world are observing the Holy month of Ramadan with religious fervor, fasting from sunrise to sunset. Throughout the month, the different facets of sacrifice, patience, spirituality, worship and brotherhood are deeply entrenched into the hearts and minds of Muslims. Ramadan’s historical significance lies in the fact that it is known to be the month when the first revelations of the Holy Quran were revealed to Prophet Muhammad.
Ramadan is meant to be a means of cleansing a person’s inner soul, warding off any temptations. That is not all, it teaches you one of the most important lessons in life; self-discipline and self-control. However, this may not always be the case. There are certain cultures which place a lot of emphasis on binging on food during time of sehri (eating before sunrise) and iftar (time of breaking the fast). Dining tables will be covered in a layer of different food items to satiate your hunger pangs from the whole day. Everything ranging from fatty fried food to desserts heavy on sugar will be present for feasting. Staying away from such practices and opening your fast with healthy yet hearty food will help you detox and wash away all the impurities that you have collected over the whole year. Hence, Ramadan helps you, not only to cleanse your soul but also the inner workings and tools of your body.
Writing the Ramadan series is my way of providing you with healthy recipes bursting with flavors that you will enjoy without expanding your waistline. The first in this series is Baked Cheese and Basil Samosas. Samosas are an essential feature of any South Asian Iftar. They are triangular shaped savory snacks in a pastry shell with various stuffing. More often than not, they are filled with potatoes and a deep fried. My variation is baked, hence low calorie and stuffed with either cottage cheese or crumbly goats cheese for that extra burst of flavor along with the crispy outer shell.
- 12 samosa shells (Note: if unavailable, use puff pastry. Cut in rectangular shapes 6″x 12″)
- 1 cup cottage cheese or crumbly goats cheese
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup basil, chopped roughly
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp pepper
- 4 green chillis, sliced thinly
- 1 egg
- Preheat oven to 375 f
- In a bowl, use a fork to break the cheese into small pieces
- Add the olive oil to make a smooth paste. Make sure not to lose the crumbly texture of the cheese
- Add the chopped basil, chillis, lemon juice and pepper and mix gently
- Lay out the samosa shell or puff pastry and spoon a tablespoon of the cheese mixture in the center of the shell
- Overlap the longer edges over the cheese mixture to form a triangle
- Cut off the extra pastry that may be leftover, leaving some pastry to help seal the edges
- Dip you fingers in water and seal the bottom of the samosa, pinching the edges. Lightly press on the surface of the pastry where the overlap meets diagonally
- Beat an egg and brush the samosa with the egg wash for a crisp outer surface
- Grease a baking tray and place the samosas leaving some space between them
- Bake for about 20 minutes or till the surface starts to brown. Keep an eye out to prevent the samosas from burning
- Garnish with a few basil leaves and serve hot
With the first crunch you will be able to taste the crisp pastry, the subtle flavors of the cheese infused with the sharp taste of the basil and the final kick will be provided by the green chillis. The sheer mix of strong flavors dispels the need to dip it in any sauce or chutney, however you can opt for a sweet chilli sauce or light mint chutney, if you so desire. Spend your Ramadan eating healthy and light fare and watch this space for more edible delicacies for your iftar table. Happy fasting and feasting.