Family value

Family value

Afia Begom

Afia is the creative cook behind the hugely popular Afelia’s Kitchen blog and Instagram account. A mum of four with a passion for Bangladeshi food, she tells us what cooking means to her, and shares her favourite Ramadan recipes

Born and bred in London, a city that celebrates food from all over the world, I enjoy cooking and eating lots of different cuisines — but my heart lies in Bangladeshi dishes. I was never that passionate about cooking growing up, and certainly wasn’t the first to jump into the kitchen. But, at secondary school, I really began to enjoy baking and bringing things home. 

‘When I started branching out into other dishes, I found that traditional British recipes didn’t really suit my family’s palate — I needed to add flavours like cumin, coriander or chilli to brighten them up. That’s when I really became interested in cooking and learning the basics from scratch. 

‘The name of my blog, Afelia’s Kitchen, was inspired by Delia Smith — it was actually a suggestion from my sister. I love entertaining and feeding family and friends. It was on one of those occasions she said to me that I was like their own version of Delia — and so ‘Afelia’ was born! Family is super-important to me and eating together is a big part of that. With everything that’s happened due to the pandemic, our routines have changed. Sometimes lunch these days is grabbed from the fridge while running to another video call — but I always make sure we eat dinner together. 

Family is super-important to me and eating together is a big part of that

‘I also get all four of my kids involved, whether that’s setting the table, sorting out the salads or helping to serve. My teenage daughter enjoys baking with me, but there are sometimes more interesting distractions for her! 

‘Growing up, it was mainly my mum in the kitchen, though now and then she’d let us take the reins. We’d start with the onions, meat and tomatoes, but the spice blend was always her job! Food was her way of expressing love. 

‘For Ramadan this year, while nobody quite knows how things will be in terms of being allowed to entertain, I want to ensure we make the effort, no matter what celebrations look like. Even if we can’t have people round, that doesn’t mean we can’t mark the occasion with rich dishes. I don’t want simple curry and rice; I want sweet treats and platters of delicious food to share with the ones I love. 

‘These three recipes are some of my all-time favourites, and I hope you like them, too!’ @afeliaskitchen


Dali bora (VG) (GF)

‘These lentil fritters are without a doubt one of the most consumed snacks during Ramadan in Bangladeshi households. They’re called fiyazi or fiyaza in Bengali’

Makes 40 • Ready in 50 mins, plus soaking  

  • 275g Co-op dried red split lentils 
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • ½ x 25g pack coriander, chopped
  • 4 green chillies, finely chopped
  • Co-op vegetable oil, for frying
  • Sweet chilli sauce, for dipping (optional)
  1. Soak the lentils in water for at least 2-3 hours prior to use; they will expand in size. Wash them well until the water runs clear.
  2. Drain the excess water from the lentils and whizz in a blender until smooth. Add a little water to loosen slightly. If you like a crunchier texture, don’t blitz the lentils too finely.
  3. Transfer to a mixing bowl with the onion, coriander and chilli, then season. Mix until combined, then set aside for at least 30 mins. Carefully drain away any water in the bowl.
  4. Fill a large, deep pan two-thirds full with oil, then set over a medium-high heat. It’s ready when a cube of bread dropped in turns golden in around 15 seconds.
  5. Fry tablespoons of the lentil mixture in batches, for 3-4 mins, until golden on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper. 
  6. Enjoy with sweet chilli sauce for dipping, if you like. These are great for Iftar (see ‘More about Ramadan’, below), if you’re able to entertain guests, or just as a snack on their own.

Sana biran (V) (GF)

‘This recipe is a firm favourite among Bangladeshis. It is typically served during Ramadan with kisuri, which is a porridge-like soup made from rice’

Serves 10 • Ready in 40 mins  

  • 2 tbsp ghee or butter
  • 2 tbsp Co-op vegetable oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 3cm ginger, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 green chillies, halved and deseeded
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1½ tsp curry powder 
  • 1 large white potato, peeled and cubed
  • 2 x 400g cans Co-op chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • Coriander, chopped, to garnish 
  • 5 Co-op British free range eggs, hard-boiled and halved
  • Flatbreads and lemon wedges to serve (optional)
  1. In a large nonstick pan, heat the ghee (or butter) and oil. Add the bay leaves, onion, ginger, garlic and chilli. Season, then cover and cook for 5-8 mins, until the onion is soft.
  2. Stir in the turmeric and curry powder, then fry uncovered for a few minutes. Pour in ½ cup of water, then add the potato. Cover and cook for 5 mins.
  3. Tip in the chick peas, then reduce the heat. Cover and cook for 10-15 mins, stirring occasionally, until the potato is tender.
  4. Season, then garnish with the coriander. Serve with the boiled eggs, plus flatbreads and lemon wedges on the side, if you like.

TOP TIP

To accompany this dish, check out my kisuri recipe at afeliaskitchen.com.


Kheer (V) (GF)

‘A small portion of this dessert with Iftar (see below) will satisfy your sweet tooth’

Serves 6 • Ready in 1 hour 10 mins, plus soaking and chilling  

  • 160g Co-op basmati rice
  • Small pinch of saffron (optional)
  • 1 litre Co-op whole milk, plus a splash more if needed
  • 170g Fairtrade caster sugar
  • 4 cardamom pods, crushed and husks discarded
  • Pomegranate seeds and chopped pistachios, to serve (optional)
  1. Wash the rice once or twice, then soak in cold water for 20 mins. Drain as much of the water as possible, then grind the rice in a food processor until it looks like coarse semolina.
  2. Add the saffron, if using, to the milk and bring to the boil. Stir constantly with a spatula, scraping the bottom of the pan to avoid it sticking. Simmer gently for 25-30 mins, until thick and creamy.
  3. Stir in the ground rice, 1 tbsp at a time. Once incorporated, simmer for 25-30 mins, until the rice is cooked through and the kheer is thick but still pourable; if it becomes too thick, loosen with a splash of cold milk. Add the sugar and cardamom, stir well and cook for 1-2 mins, until the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Once cooked, allow the kheer to cool, then leave in the fridge until completely cold. Sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and pistachios to serve, if you like.

More about Ramadan

From 12 April, Muslims in the UK will be observing Ramadan — a 30-day period of prayer and community, in which Muslims fast between dawn and sunset. The meal taken before sunrise is known as Suhoor, and the meal eaten when it sets is called Iftar. Ramadan traditionally culminates with friends and families uniting to celebrate Eid al-Fitr (‘The Festival of Breaking the Fast’).