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Tag Archives: Dubai

Sinful Beetroot Chocolate Coffee Ganache Cake with olive oil (butter free)


My daughter loves red velvet cake but I hate food colouring. I discovered this recipe http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/beetrootchocolate-cake-1273 and had beetroots in my kitchen. Hate vegetables but liked the idea of sheep disguised in wolf’s clothing for a change. Note – chop beetroots and mince in food processor. Squeeze out all the juice by hand (drink it asap) so that the beetroot is dry and does not sink to the base of your cake pan.

But as usual, one ingredient was missing – corn oil and the fridge yielded a small lump of butter. Too lazy to call the grocery (a hidden luxury in Dubai) who also delivers very late, I tried the net for a substitute to both.

Beetroot Chocolate cake with chocolate coffee ganache

Beetroot Chocolate cake with chocolate coffee ganache

Voila. The joy of discovering that olive oil is a good substitute and actually enhances the taste of cocoa!!!! http://thewhiteramekins.com/2013/03/27/beetroot-chocolate-olive-oil-cake/. Yet scary – what if I had a disaster cake tasting like a Med salad? Decided to take the plunge..

The cake turned out well –dense and dark – around 50 minutes at 180. But check around 40 minutes for doneness since fruit cakes start to burn suddenly.  Very healthy cake.. Now for the sinful part..

Shameless promo – I love my own icings; seconded by anyone lucky enough to eat my cakes whenever I make one in two months… https://sona217foodie.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/old-fashioned-chocolate-cake-with-galaxy-dark-chocolate-icing/.

Then again, I was short of Galaxy dark chocolate – had two bars. So I substituted the other two with three bars of Galaxy smooth milk chocolate and a teaspoon of coffee (Nescafe Gold) beaten into the icing during the whipping stage. Took off the brown sugar since I wanted a pouring type of ganache..

Packed a huge chunk for my friend who dropped in for dinner (warned her not to tell her family of new ingredients for a reality check). She said that her brother (one of my biggest cake fans) asked for more. Likewise with the rest…Now go and eat your beets…..

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in Recipes

 

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The Flying Feteer show – Street food, Dubai


Despite living in Dubai for so many years, I had yet to experience the melt-in-your-mouth cheese and honey feteer from Al Ammor, Deira. My foodie forays had uncovered many hidden gems in Dubai in the last 19 years, especially, during Ramadan and Iftar time. A true foodie knows that if you want to really understand the real character of a city, then you have to try out its street food or the smaller restaurants and bakeries. Where the reputation is built up by word of mouth. Not exotic ads.

So one day, the famed Arva Ahmed of the Frying Pan Food Adventures (food tour guide par excellence) asked us to come to Deira. The bakers entranced me with the way they swirled and stretched the feteer, filled, folded and threw the bread into a 24/7 ready oven. A year later, after a short intensive course in filmmaking, I decided to capture the essence of the feteer process as my first short. I went back and spent some days with my Canon 60D…

The taste? Layers of flaky hot bread and melting cheese melding with the honey in your mouth. The dusting sugar leaves a sticky, powdery trail on your shirt and jeans. Who cares? Despite a choice of fillings, the cheese and honey remains my favourite..

Every story has to start with a once upon a time. Here goes. An ex-lightman with the RTA television channel in Egypt, Zayed Shouki came to Dubai to seek his fortune many years ago and started as a humble baker making feteer at the then famed Al Fanoos Khaimah near World Trade Centre. His salary? Dh 1,200 per month. It was his dream to start his own business. Circa 2001, he finally saved up money and started the first Al Ammor in Hor Al Anz (Deira). It nestles outside the left facade of a mosque. “He is a very humble person who dresses like his staff, might still clean tables and will take orders. His staff adores him because he lets them eat anything they want at work. He is also known to distribute free food to staff from neighbouring shops while Dubai Municipality sweepers can take free water or soft drinks from his bakeries,” said Mr Najja, who runs the Al Ammour in Karama. Today there are seven outlets in Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman. Goodness pays.

Any secret recipe? “The dough is the usual mix of flour and water. But before I start kneading, I mix some salt and sugar in the water (but never use yeast). The dough is left to rise for 15 to 20 minutes,” said Fathy Afeefi, one of the bakers in Karama. “I learned the basics from my older brother in Egypt. But I perfected the art of making feteer after coming to Dubai and working with Mr Shouki.” He has been in the profession for 14 years.

Prices? A mouthwatering cheese and honey feteer costs around Dh 15 and can be eaten by up to three people. The meshaltet, an Egyptian family favourite is either Dh 25 or Dh 50 depending on the size. In ancient Egypt, it was known as Feteer Maltoot and offered to the gods. Can see why.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2013 in Foodie reviews

 

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A photo-poetic journey of Sikka Art Fair, Bastakiya, Dubai 2013


When the Nomad Urbanista decided to take a walk … for the rest of the photo poem http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.511628202229224.1073741825.231374570254590&type=1

Street art reaches out to the soul - the beautiful Bastakiya area, Bur Dubai, Dubai, UAE

Street art reaches out to the soul – the beautiful Bastakiya area, Bur Dubai, Dubai, UAE

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2013 in Art, Travel

 

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To-die-for Mussels Tarantina


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After waiting for 15 minutes at Outback (confused and disdainful staff) on a Friday night, we left and discovered this restaurant. And decided to take a chance. Romano’s Macaroni Grill is hidden at one end of Dubai Festival City, a level below the cinemas.
The service was delightful. After we were seated, a prompt waiter introduced himself and wrote his name on the table mat; adding a smiley. While waiting for the main course, we were served a freshly baked loaf of rosemary focaccia on the house. Warm and fragrant – we ended up demolishing half the loaf. By then, my daughter and I were served our orders – a Calamari Fritti and a Tarantina Mussels – both, a first for us.
The Fritti just blew our mind. Generous portions of fresh and succulent calamari (abso must try) with perfectly crisp batter.
But the moment of true awakening was the Tarantina Mussels served on perfectly done orzo (pasta shaped like a rice grain). Every spoon was a burst of flavours – garlicky buttery orzo, hints of olive oil, sea-stock, fresh mussels and parsley; asked for a generous dash of fresh pepper. After the first spoon, my daughter closed her eyes, sat still and actually put away her BB. It was that good. We ate in total silence but could not finish. Asked to pack the food and requested to add the wonderful leftover bread. They refused and said they would give a fresh loaf! And did not charge…
The staff seemed genuinely comfortable with each other despite the rush and it was a joy to see the camaraderie in a semi-open kitchen with chefs who seemed to love cooking. Yes, I am planning to go back and try other dishes. A serendipitous experience with a reasonable bill for casual fine dining. The next time, we went back, the chef overdid the stock for the Tarantina. As a result, it was more like a soup. So do remember to warn them.

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2012 in Foodie reviews

 

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Rosemary and garlic Focaccia

Rosemary and garlic Focaccia

My first attempt at bread was during a long and cold winter. A friend and I mixed the yeast with warm water, waited, went for a walk, came back and it was still flat. We plodded on to make a bread that was hard as rock. The kind you find on beaches. It scared me away from bread for almost 15 years.
With so many different types of breads available in Dubai (my favourite being the now discontinued date and walnut bread from Spinneys), I decided not to try baking bread till two years ago. Got a good crust with an uncooked centre. Binned.
This year, the unusually hot summer made me reconsider bread again. So I read through various recipes on the internet and fell for the pixs on http://thewannabecountrygirl.com/homemade-focaccia/
I wanted that kind of bread. Followed the recipe, did the two rises but went shopping and came back late at night. So I put it in the fridge and knocked it down the next day. Divided it into three batches. The first could have made a good place mat. I tried a second attempt with a flatter shape that ended up as a shapeless alternative to a table tennis racket. I twisted the third and slashed the top. It was fragrant but hardened into a jaw-breaking roll. By then I was slowly going off bread again. Déjà vu!
So I decided now to go with my mistakes to a forum where people post their mistakes and other kind souls give solutions. This one was the best – really wonderful people who had created a long string, which detailed their methods and solutions. http://forums.egullet.org/index.php/topic/95345-minimalist-no-knead-bread-technique/
I read through the entire thread and realised that my mistakes started from step two onwards. For one, over-kneading like I was a baker starring in the movies. Two, thinking that slightly squishy dough was a mistake and adding flour to make it smooth. Apparently, the higher the water content, the better the bread. Also, the bread had to cook in a closed baking dish. Whaaat? But I trusted all these unknown people.
Combined all the advice to create a fragrant to die-for-focaccia. Of course, I want to stand on the rooftop and share my secrets with all those would-be bakers who fear bread. Go for it. My discerning teenager who loves the Carino’s bread was hooked. So I guess you can now show off to your family and friends.. Cut down on the oil wherever you wish. But why?

You need:
4 cups all-purpose bread flour + half cup extra
1/8 tsp active yeast
2 tsps brown sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 cups lukewarm water

Topping
Sea salt
2 tsp rosemary
½ tsp caraway
½ tsp black sesame seeds
6 cloves small garlic

Put yeast in warm water, stir and add sugar. It should froth in 10 minutes. Many recipes call for 2 tsps yeast but it is a mistake. Ignore. Less is more here. The Dubai summer will do the rest of the rise. Mix the salt with the flour. If you have the food processor, dig out your dough hooks and put the flour in the bowl. Switch on and slowly pour the water with yeast. Around 5 minutes, stop and continue to knead to a slightly sticky mass (Not smooth). Add 2 tsp of the oil to dough. After, say, some 10 kneads, put some oil in the food processor bowl, roll the sticky dough and coat it with the oil. Cover with a wet tea cloth and leave in a warm place till dough is doubled (say four to five hours). Those without food processors can always knead by hand. Takes the same time anyways.
Take the baking dish (the old ceramic ones with glass lids are great). Pour a generous amount of olive oil on the base of the pan. Now knock down the dough for just one minute. Not more. This is called the minimalist approach, according to the forum. Place the dough on the baking dish and press down to cover the base. Use your fingers and punch holes into the dough. Cover again with wet tea cloth used earlier. Leave for one hour till it has risen again.
Pour some olive oil into the holes. Resist urge to knock it down. Sprinkle the dough with rosemary, caraway seeds, black sesame seeds, garlic and half tsp of sea salt. Now cover and bake in a 180C preheated oven. Yes. The forum says that the steam ensures that the bread is soft. After 25 minutes, remove lid and continue to bake at 160C till the top turns a nice golden brown. Pour a quarter cup water twice during this phase on the floor of the oven shelf.  The steam makes the bread moist.

Sunset and freshly baked rosemary and garlic focaccia bread

Serve with sliced cold orange bell peppers and sliced cold peppered potatoes. The mild sweetness of the bell peppers contrasts with the mildly salted focaccia bread and the minimalism of the cold potatoes.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2012 in Recipes

 

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Moist Carrot-n-apple-raisin cake (butter-free)

Moist Carrot-n-apple-raisin cake (butter-free)

Carrot-n-apple-n-raisin cake – shot with Nikon D60

A favourite kid was coming home for Friday lunch with her parents. But dessert was a huge question mark – she is lactose intolerant. That meant that dessert must not have milk, butter and any other dairy product. It did not help that she cannot have chocolate either. For a seasoned Indian foodie in Dubai, it was a very tough situation. Since she was just three years old, I bravely decided to make a fruitcake with apples, carrots and raisins – part of her permitted and favourite food list. But no butter? OMG. I had just one hour to go.

Of fruit and cake
Being really partial to chocolate cakes, I had stopped trying my hand at fruitcakes for the last eight years. Though I love carrot cakes, the chapters of my baking history will unravel a passion for baking, a penchant for being distracted by the phone, my article or kid and the ending – with sunken and burnt fruit at the bottom of the cake tin. But this time, maybe it helped that I really adore this little kid. So I surfed the net and read through many recipes as usual. But I did not like the ingredients in some and found the others very complex.

It worked

So as usual, I went on deconstruct mode – looked through many recipes, found the most common denominators, searched my kitchen, assembled and substituted ingredients since I am too lazy to drive to the nearest supermarket. And then changed the order of the recipe to what works for me. Seriously. Most cooks omit the finer points and make scared and potential foodies think they cant cook. Not this one.
The end of this story? A really moist and delicious cake.. The little one asked for more. Was so  delighted, I packed a quarter of the cake in foil for her Mum to take home… Here goes…

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Spice powder (Dry grind cinnamon, cardamoms and half of a mace. Reserve ¼ tsp for the shredded fruit and mix rest with flour) (you can make your own fav spice mix)

Assemble
One and a half cup brown sugar
4 eggs
Half cup oil

Fruit
Grate 1 large carrot and two Fuji apples and mix it with one cup of raisins. Mix a tablespoon of brown sugar, some flour and ¼ spoon of the spice powder (mentioned above) and add to the shredded fruit. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Method

Beat eggs and sugar with the hand mixer. Then slowly add oil. Next add the spiced flour mix. Oil a springform baking tin. Dust lightly with flour. Pour half of the flour mix, layer with half of the fruit, then add remaining flour and layer on top with the fruit. Smoothen the flour batter gently over the fruit.
Bake for at least 50 mins or until knife inserted in center comes clean. Remove and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Ease off the springform pan and cool further – though I served it when it was warm and aromatic. Store rest in an airtight tin.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2012 in Recipes

 

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An authentic taste of Dubai

An authentic taste of Dubai

Over nearly two decades in this country, I have been privileged to experience many different iftars (the meal eaten by Muslims to break their fasts after the Ramadan sunsets). A cosy ladies’ majlis one in Masafi with my Emirati friend Amna, where I stuffed myself senseless with her famed leghemaat (a crispy sweet dumpling), lavish restaurant buffets hosted by Arab or Pakistani colleagues who wish to extend the camaraderie of the workplace, informal canteen affairs, and so on. It’s a time when one experiences a true feeling of shared kinship, but it is also followed by moments of regret after one has eaten too many sweets or kababs, with the fervent vow never to do so again — until the next invite.

But outside the home and the UAE’s famous luxury hotels, Ramadan is a different experience.

Tantalising pepper fritters – Ghusais, Dubai

The true foodie knows that the best way to experience the real city is to cruise the streets and pick up sizzling hot treats around 4pm from the small stalls set up just outside restaurants.

Sizzling samosas – Ghusais, Dubai

I cruised the streets with photographer Faisal Khatib who has taken these pixs – we did Ghusais, Hor Al Anz, Jumeira over two evenings.

Jaggery and coconut filled ada – Ghusais, Dubai

The famed reqqaq maker on Jumeirah Road, Dubai

Only to finally wind up at the old Safa Park mosque, which still bears witness to the true spirit and generosity of Ramadan.. The article was published in Gulf News click on  MORE..  ,

But here are glimpses of what I wanted in my piece… the real beauty of Dubai, UAE, which continues to retain the human touch..

Cleaning the grounds before Iftar – Safa Park Mosque, Dubai

Waiting for Maghreb – Safa Park Mosque, Dubai

The true spirit of Ramadan – Iftar generosity at the Safa Park Mosque, Dubai

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2012 in Foodie reviews, Travel

 

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