6 May 2020

    We gave Funny Looking Food a Makeover with these Iftar-Friendly Recipes

    By Emirates Nature-WWF Team ,

    Last year in Ramadan, Chef Khaled and Emirates Bio accepted our challenge to transform funny looking vegetables into a delicious treat. Keep reading to see how they did this!

    While grocery shopping, have you ever passed over an oddly shaped potato? One that has a lot of bumps, and holes in which mud has gathered. “It’ll take too long to clean and peel,” you tell yourself. “Let someone else pick it up.”

    But then you also skip the tomato that doesn’t look red enough. And the carrots that are too thin and hairy. And the green pepper that looks too twisted. Someone else will take them too, right?

    Well, maybe not. It turns out a lot of people skip the funny looking foods when buying groceries, and this behaviour is actually contributing to food waste.

    Supermarkets know this and try to stock up on foods that are visually ‘correct’ looking to cut down on waste in their stores. But this just passes the burden on to farmers, who are stuck with wonky-looking foods.

    Some of this produce is used to make soups and other dishes, but most ends up as waste. Which makes very little sense, as they contain the same nutrient content and flavour as ‘good’ looking foods.

    Save funny looking food. Save the world.


    This Ramadan, let’s pledge to buy the funny looking foods that we come across in supermarkets and farmer’s markets. This simple action can have a significant, positive impact on the planet.

    It can help reduce the amount of fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers that land up in the trash (we currently waste nearly half of these products).

    It can also help conserve valuable natural resources like land and water, and ensure there is enough food to feed us for years to come.

    Soups, salads, stocks, curries, pies, baked goods – there are so many types of dishes that can be made wonderfully with wonky looking foods.


    How can you get started?

    To help you get started, we asked @Chef Khaled, a renowned Emirati chef, to share some recipes for Iftar that will look great and taste fantastic... even if they are made with oddly shaped foods. 

    Chef Khaled in action

    Chef Khaled in action at Emirates Bio Farm

    Scroll down for three exciting recipes:

    • a refreshing eggplant dip
    • healthy baked carrot chips
    • spicy carrot ketchup (perfect for when you have extra carrots!)

    Now the next time you buy groceries, add two funny looking foods to your basket and give them a makeover! Share your ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos with us on Instagram at @ews_wwf


    @dubaicarbon, @thesustainabilistme & @winnowsolutions

    and challenge a friend to do the same.


    Yalla, let’s go green with these Ramadan-themed recipes.


    Refreshing Eggplant Dip

    This dip will fit in perfectly at your Iftar table. It takes about 45-60 minutes to prepare and cook and will pair well with veggie sticks and breads.

    Watch Chef Khaled prepare this dip in the video below, and then scroll down for step-by-step instructions.




    Ingredients: 3 funny looking eggplants, 1 white onion, 1 big tomato, 4 cloves of garlic, basil leaves, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, lots of salt and pepper to taste

    Prepare the eggplants 

    1. Slice some eggplants into half, and sprinkle with salt.
    2. Place the salted side down on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Keep a plate under the wire rack, to collect the liquid that drops out of the eggplants.


    Meanwhile, prepare the onions and tomato

    1. Chop white onions and sauté till caramelised. Make sure to chop into similar sized pieces, so that it cooks evenly.
    1. Peel the tomato. The best way to do this is by creating a cross at the bottom and then dropping the tomatoes into boiling water for 60 seconds (just enough for the skin to start lifting from the bottom).
    1. Slice the tomato in half and cut without damaging the sides. Remove all the liquid and seeds from the centre (you can keep the liquid for another recipe).
    1. Chop the tomato into tiny cubes and keep on the side.


    Back to the eggplants… 

    1. Remove the eggplants and dab off all the liquid from them.
    1. Place a few garlic cloves into the space you've created in the eggplants.
    1. Season the eggplants again, with salt.
    1. Heat some olive oil in a pan.
    1. When the oil is hot enough with a little bit of steam rising, place the eggplant in the pan with the flesh side facing down. Keep cooking until the garlic cloves have cooked through.
    1. Once the eggplant is cooked on the outside, transfer into an oven friendly dish and place in the oven at 175˚C (350˚F) for 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the eggplant.
    1. Take the eggplants out the oven and let it cool. Place on a chopping board with the flesh side facing up. Hold the tip with a firm grip and scoop out the inner part of the eggplant with a spoon. This is the part that will be used for the dip.
    1. Mince the scooped eggplant very finely, by chopping from one end to the other. Aim for a mushy consistency (not stringy).


    Bring the ingredients together

    1. In chunks, drop the minced eggplant and tomato into the caramelised onions and sauté with oil.
    1. Add ground coriander and ground cumin to taste. Season with salt and pepper and mix everything together well.

      Optional: You can also add cardamom, saffron and star anise for a richer flavour.
    2. Remove the eggplants and onions, and add basil leaves for sweetness. 

    Optional: You can also add roasted walnuts to add a crunch.

    Voila, your dip is ready to be served!


    Healthy Baked Carrot Chips

    Bake some carrot chips as a garnish for the eggplant dip, or for a healthy snack. 

    Ingredients: Carrots, olive oil, salt

    Prepare and bake the carrots

    1. Soak some carrots in cold water for 5 minutes.
    2. Pat them dry completely, as moisture prevents vegetables from being crispy and can result in a soggy chip with burnt ends
    1. Cut into thin slices.
    1. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and salt
    2. Place in the oven on parchment paper or a baking sheet at 95˚C (200˚F) until they get crispy.

    Optional: You can substitute carrots for beetroot. Cut the beetroot into very thin slices and bake in the oven at 200˚F (95˚C). You can increase the heat to 105˚C (220˚F) for an additional 10 minutes if the beetroot needs more time.

    Beetroot burns quickly, so make sure it is completely dry before placing in the oven.


    'No-Waste' Spiced Carrot Ketchup

    Have some extra carrots at hand? Try this exciting recipe for a different take on ketchup!

    Ingredients: Carrots, vinegar, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, butter, smoked paprika and sugar.

    1. Bring a litre of water to boil in a pot.
    1. Chop carrots in large pieces.
    1. Add carrots to the water (the water should be just enough to cover the carrots).
    1. Add 200ml of vinegar, cumin seeds and coriander seeds.

     Optional: Add celery and sautéed white onion

    1. Once the carrots are completely cooked, drain out all the water.
    1. Add melted butter.
    1. Blend using a hand blender until smooth.
    1. Pass the mixture through a fine strainer.
    1. Add smoked paprika and a small teaspoon of sugar.

    Stir, and enjoy!

    Stay tuned for more Iftar-friendly recipes. Subscribe to the Yalla Green blog to get notified of new blog posts.


    Tomato - L'imaGiraphe on Flickr (Creative Commons - AT-SA)