Mindful Cooking

Cookbook author, TV chef and restaurateur Zahra Abdalla is challenging herself to create new recipes using parts of ingredients she’d typically throw away
Zahra Abdalla (L) shares her recipe for borani (R) with us
ITP Images
Zahra Abdalla (L) shares her recipe for borani (R) with us
April 29, 2020

The world that we live in today, which I hope is a temporary one, is all about finding a new norm in the abnormal. As I write this, we are living in a time where we all need to practise self-isolation and social distancing. It is a time when we show love to our friends and family by staying away from them and not hugging them. The magic of words through facetime, a phone call or a simple text message have all become our means of connection. We’re all needing to support and strengthen relationships in unconventional ways. It’s important to practise gratitude, to maintain a positive perspective and to be mindful of all our blessings. The key has been to try and find a silver lining and make the most of this new uncomfortable situation.

For the past few weeks I have found a great appreciation for the blessings that I have: from the food on our table to being able to stay safe at home and spend time with my family. I am conscious not to overwhelm my children about the true gravity of the situation, but at the same time it is important, now more than ever, to teach them to value the simple things we usually take for granted.

Over the last month, the kitchen has brought my family closer. My grandmother, whom I am lucky enough to have staying with me during this crisis, has taught me how to make yoghurt from scratch. My boys and I have been busy making fresh bread together – they love the toasty smell that fills our home. My sister is baking for us and my husband has been more adventurous in the kitchen with his creations.

We are learning how to make lots of wonderful recipes from real and whole ingredients while being conscious of not being wasteful. This is a wonderful time to be creative in the kitchen and build memories with your family. This Ramadan I will be making lots of our favourite recipes. One of my son’s preferred dishes is stuffed vine leaves and courgettes. Typically, I would absentmindedly core the courgette and discard the middle, but my self-challenge is to be creative and come up with new recipes using parts of ingredients that I would usually throw away. This delicious courgette borani, a Persian dip, is a twist on a traditional Persian spinach borani made with sautéed spinach and onions mixed with yoghurt. It’s a light and flavourful dish that is made with the cored part of the courgette, which is fried with onions and garlic to give it a rich flavour.

I hope you enjoy it and I encourage you to come up with your own wonderful creations.
With love, Zahra


(Persian style courgette dip)

2 tbsp spinneysFOOD Mediterranean Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp minced garlic
300g courgette filling, finely chopped
spinneysFOOD Salt
spinneysFOOD Black Peppercorns, freshly ground
410g Greek yoghurt
85g labneh
½ tsp spinneysFOOD Fine Paprika
1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
2 tbsp spinneysFOOD Fresh Mint or Dill, finely chopped

1 In a medium-sized pan, over a medium-high heat, add the olive oil and onion. Sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the onions are golden. 2 Add the garlic and fry until fragrant. 3 Add the finely chopped courgettes and 60ml water; sauté for 5-7 minutes, or until the courgettes become tender and slightly golden and the excess liquid has evaporated. 4 Season with salt and freshly ground black peppercorns and stir. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. 5 In a medium-sized bowl, combine the labneh and yoghurt. Fold in the courgette mixture and adjust the seasoning to taste. 6 Drizzle with the olive oil before serving and top with the paprika, pine nuts and fresh mint. Enjoy as a mezze with warm pita on the side.