With the start of Ramadan less than a fortnight away, this week's publication of Anisa Karolia's The Ramadan Cookbook is all the more timely
The debut from the Leicester-based recipe blogger and self-taught cook is an attractively photographed collection of 80 recipes to inspire the home cook looking to feed family and friends at suhoor, iftar and Eid.
Among the new recipes are ones already popular with Anisa's 240,000 or so followers (including on her YouTube channel @cookwithanisa). Dishes high in protein and slow-release energy fill the chapter on suhoor. The pre-dawn meal must sustain the diner through hours of no food or water, so a banana, date and oat smoothie, chilli-spiced shakshuka, and date and nut slices are suggested. Snacks such as jalapeño and chicken samosas and classic pakoras give a burst of energy when the fast is broken at sunset. Then, an iftar meal might include lamb haleem with rice and pulses, or quick-cook lamb steaks marinated during the day in Worcestershire sauce, chilli sauce and chilli powder.
Anisa attributes the recipe for elaborate lamb biryani, often served at Eid, to her grandmother. Lamb is marinated in chilli-garlic-ginger paste, mint, coriander and Anisa's meat masala (recipes for spice mixes are a useful section), before being cooked with spices and layered with rice. She suggests adding a splash of rosewater to the saffron-infused milk poured over the rice and meat. She acknowledges the mainly female influences in her culinary upbringing, with her aunt's naan gosht, her mother in law's fenugreek-inflected chicken balti and grandmother's chicken, mogo (cassava), and corn casserole that remembers her Malawian upbringing. Recipes become all the more appealing for the human dimension.
The Ramadan Cookbook's recipes are ones to please and feed, not show off, and Anisa's approachable style feels true to the spirit of sharing and feeding that, as she explains, is essential to her faith, during Ramadan and beyond.
The Ramadan Cookbook by Anisa Karolia (Ebury Press, £22)