COVID-19 quarantine brings out the best chefs in UAE: Mums

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The pots, they boil and steam and churn. The smells, they waft and envelop and entice. Being at home often means a bigger appetite. As some UAE-based homemakers will attest to.

As the world deals with the coronavirus pandemic – which at the time of writing as crossed 2 million confirmed cases – by employing strategies of social distancing and isolation, each home has become an island with its own natives, its own rules – and its own cuisine.

With not much to do and increased hunger pangs, not to mention the unavailability of easily employed restaurant visits, the mums are getting busy. Pretti Modi, a Dubai-based expat, explains: “Initially, it was really difficult, but now I am enjoying this family time.”

It’s helped her bond a bit more with her son. She says: “Every day, me [and] my son are both doing new and great things in my kitchen. Sometimes it’s cake, sometimes salad, sometimes cookies – every day we are experimenting.”

Notes are exchanged on Facebook, or WhatsApp or over phone calls with friends giving inputs and tricks they’ve picked up through their own trials. The result: fun, happy meals.

Every day, me [and] my son are both doing new and great things in my kitchen. Sometimes it’s cake, sometimes salad, sometimes cookies – every day we are experimenting.

Pretti Modi

For Ramya Bharat, who says she’s not a baker, this time in quarantine has ensured the smell of bread, pizza and other treats she’d normally get delivered wraps itself around her. “I’m trying to make pizza, burgers and garlic breads and stuff. And trying all new recipes, healthy and nutritious, nothing which is unhealthy for them,” she says.

COVID-19 has no cure and no vaccine – it’s up to a person’s own body and immune system to fight back. So these mums are giving their kids the best fighting chance they have, good health. “Right now it’s good to give them immunity-boosting foods,” says Bharat.

Ramya Bharat (right) with her daughter, Samruddhi Bharat.
Image Credit: Supplied

And it was on this quest of hers that she found a delicious, deceptively simple way to get her kids – Samridhi and Samarth – to sip on a berry-and-nut smoothie. “Berries and orange [are] these are very high in vitamin C and most of the kids, they don’t enjoy having strawberries and blueberries, so it’s a good idea to make a smoothie and give it to them in a way they enjoy, with some nuts,” she explains. (This was a recipe given to her by a fellow Dubai mom.)

Samridhi has been happily surprised at this change in her mother’s meals. “Different type of food that we eat every day, I’m not used to something like this. One day it’s Indian, the next day is Italian.

It’s healthy as well as yummy so it’s quite good,” says the 12-year-old.

Meanwhile, there have been other revelations for some, too. “I think I have already become a little wiser and the lockdown has really helped me in realizing that all these frequent trips to the supermarket are just not needed… now, I know the importance of food,” says Seema Ramesh Nair.

Healthy pumpkin soup. Read all the way down this article for the recipe.
Image Credit: Supplied

First she pruned her shopping trips, going only once a week. Next, she began to store things differently. “I have noticed that red pumpkin when we buy, as soon as we bring it home, if we cut off the seeds and keep it in cling wrap, it tends to stay fresh for a very, very, very long time.”

She also recommends buying yam, aubergine, beetroot, carrot, which can stay fresh for long durations. “So I make it a point to use one pulse and one veg in a day. So in that what happens is the stock of vegetables that I have extends for some more time,” she explains.

Did you know? Green Chillies can be kept fresh for longer than two weeks by removing the stalks and storing in an airtight container lined with tissue paper, says Nair.
Image Credit: Supplied

“Secondly, these days I try to make a lot of soups, and soups these days I make with vegetables, like pumpkin, which is a great source on antioxidants, vitamin A and K. It is very nourishing and filling at the same time,” she says.

As for leftovers, they get an upcycle. “Today’s cabbage subzi becomes a paratha tomorrow,” says Nair.

The stay home to stay safe initiative has meant a hard look at ourselves and our actions – but, it has also meant turning creative in the daily aspects of our lives. Let the pots boil and the saucepan simmer, another delicious meal is on the way.


Recipe for Seema’s healthy, hearty pumpkin soup



250 gm Pumpkin

1 small onion

A small piece of ginger

2-3 cloves of garlic

1/4 tsp chilli powder

Salt to taste


Saute the onion in 1 tsp oil. Add finely chopped ginger and garlic and saute till the raw smell leaves. Add the chilli powder, pumpkin cut into cubes, salt to taste and water and cook till pumpkin gets tender. Then blend everything together and serve hot.

Ramya Bharat’s roti-pizza

Pizza roti
Image Credit: Supplied

(NOTE: amount as per taste)


Wholewheat dough rolled out into a roti

Golden corn



Red pepper

Yellow pepper





Chilli flakes


Take one roti spread some grated cheese. Cover it with another roti. Spread some sauce and cheese spread on this base. Add the veggies. Add grated cheese. Sprinkle some chilli flakes and herbs.

Pre-heat non stick pan on low flame. Keep the roti and cover and cook it for 10 mins.

Pretti’s yoghurt kabab with jalapeño chutney

Pretti’s yoghurt kabab with jalapeño chutney
Image Credit: Supplied

For the kebab

500g Hung yogurt

1 Green chilly 

1 chopped green capsicum 

1 bunch coriander leaves chopped

Grated ginger

Salt according to taste

Crushed coriander

1/2 tbsp Cumin powder

1/4 tbsp Cardamom powder

For Jalapeño chutney


Fresh coriander


Lemon juice


Method for the kebabs

1. Mix all the ingredients.

2. Take little oil in palms then make balls out of it.

3. Dip these balls in cornflour batter.

4. Coat it with crushed corn flakes

5. Either fry or bake

Method for the chutney

1. Blend all the ingredients together and serve.

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