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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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Old-Fashioned chocolate cake with Galaxy dark chocolate icing

Old-Fashioned chocolate cake with Galaxy dark chocolate icing

This recipe is dedicated to my dearest friend who ate many of my burnt and strange dessert experiments with chocolate cakes and such over various dinners. As well as chocolate icings.. One day, when I apologetically announced to my guests that I had made a chocolate pudding, he looked at me straight in the eye and said, “You just bake or make whatever sweet you want.. Let us eat and then christen the dish after deciding what it really is.. But never ever tell us the name of the original recipe.” This was said between much munching and background chuckles of other friends.. Some of them usually loved the burnt bits of cake so I was mollified.. But I have lost my baking block since then..

So tired of eating over-airy sponge cakes with sad icing, I decided to recreate the taste of the good old-fashioned chocolate cake from memories.. The search on the web led to good ole Nigella Lawson.. http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/old-fashioned-chocolate-cake-119..

However, the temptation to make something new arises whenever I am on deadline to submit an article.. While thoughts ferment and fizzle, I cook or bake to clear my head of conflicts in the story. And to douse my nervous energy.. This means that I have to work with whatever is available in the kitchen from the last experiment and the supplies from my sweet grocer who does not cater to gourmet foodie experiments… So the below recipe as usual deviated from the original… So did the icing… It really deviated based on past experiments with icing and my love for certain chocolates…. Aand is wicked on the waist…

good old-fashioned chocolate cake

Cake:

200g plain flour
200g brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
40g best-quality cocoa (I used Cadbury’s cocoa)
175g soft unsalted butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla powder (did not have the real thing)
1 cup Nestle fresh cream pls six tbs yoghurt to heighten the cocoa taste.. (did not have sour cream at my grocery)

Mix the dry ingredients.. And add to the wet ingredients in a food processor… I would do butter, sugar, eggs, cream and alternate with the flour mix added slowly.. Pour into two springform round tins and bake at 180.. for 25 mins.. Check and cool..

Cut thin squares. Very decadent cake..

And the icing too…

4 Galaxy bars dark chocolate (they work for me)
1 tsp vanilla powder
Half cup brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tub Nestle fresh cream
1 cup icing sugar

Melt cream and brown sugar using the double boiler method. Take off heat and add broken dark chocolate, vanilla powder, salt and let chocolate melt. Whip and blend in the icing sugar and keep in the fridge for an hour to thicken.. When cake cools, ice the top part of the first cake, place the second one on top and continue to spread icing till it finishes.. Use a fork to create the decorative swirls on top..

Sinful moist old fashioned Chocolate cake with Galaxy dark chocolate icing...

Lick icing pan..  Does not last too long..

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2012 in Recipes

 

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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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Sabudana Khichdi – soul food for winter brekkas

Sabudana Khichdi – soul food for winter brekkas

Sabudana khichdi – winter brekka


Mumbai leaves its stamp in more ways than one. The foodie in me loved the Zen simplicity of sabudana khichdi. It is also known as vrat khana (Hindu food for fasts).

Being far away from home for the last many years, I missed this Maharashtrian dish and had to make do with kind samplings from friends or colleagues (like once a year maybe?). But whenever I tried to make it, I always ended up with a congealed mass of stickiness that ended up in the bin. After I ate some in a false show of spirit.

After the long summer of 2011, December in Dubai means smaller days, colder nights and a craving for soul food. Did a lot of research on the net and remembered tips from friends. Finally I understood where I was going wrong. I was treating sabudana like dal (lentils) and soaking it in too much water. When I should have treated it like moong kept to sprout. With less water. Here is the new result.

Assemble a night before
1 cup sabudana (sago) – Peacock brand works for me
¼ cup roasted and cooled peanuts ground coarse

Wash the sabudana and soak in water – slightly less than the sago amount. Stir once every half hour before you go to sleep. You can roast and de-skin the peanuts while watching your night fix on telly.

Next morning assemble

½ tsp sugar
1/2 tbs salt (add more if you wish)
½ cup boiled potatoes with some salt (microwaving a potato for 3 mins speeds up process)
Some mustard seeds, half sprig of curry leaves
½ tsp cummin
1 green Thai chilly and a handful of dhania (cilantro) ground coarsely
½ tbs ghee but you can use oil (I like ghee)

Mix sabudana with salt, sugar, and coarsely ground peanuts. Heat oil. Add mustard seeds. When it splutters, add curry leaves and then cumin in quick succession. Stir for half a minute.
Add coarsely ground chilly and dhania and stir till you get a nice aroma. Add potatoes, sprinkle some salt on them and 1 tsp water, stir and close for 2 minutes.
Then add the sabudana mix and stir thoroughly. Add 5 tbs of water and close. It cooks with the steam and hence you can afford to use ghee. After five minutes, open lid and stir for a while. Taste for salt and serve hot with sweet black coffee.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2011 in Recipes

 

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