Thursday, December 25, 2014

Rose, Orange Blossom & Pistachio Breakfast Parfait

The past month or so has been super fun-filled and packed starting with a trip 'home' to London, birthdays, anniversaries and ending with my first event selling my artwork under Biha Designs, at the Dubai Garden Centre Fashion Festival a couple of weekends back. Infact I've been so tied up that I didn't even get a chance to do a post for my 2 year blogiversary, but we'll see if I can do something about that soon ;) 

In the meantime if you follow me on Instagram you'll be aware of my frequent love of posting my breakfast pics. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day (lunch is a very close second), probably because its when my energy is at its highest. I namely have one of two things pretty much every morning - either a loaded smoothie, or a fruit parfait with granola. I love to use whatever I have on hand, but I also like to be creative with my fruit and flavour combinations.

No surprise really then, that eventually my fondness for all things rose and pistachio would soon creep into my breakfast too. I'm not going to wax lyrical about how much I enjoy using these ingredients because my previous posts are evident enough, but I can't believe I didn't come up with this Middle Eastern inspired yoghurt parfait sooner!

It has all the usual layered goodness of a breakfast parfait - alternating layers of yoghurt, granola and fruit, but its the rose water, orange blossom water, pomegranate, dried rose petals and pistachio slivers here which give it that Arabian touch. What's even better is that this parfait can equally double up as a healthy dessert treat. Mixed into the yoghurt, both the rose and orange blossom lend that subtle floral aroma which I so love in desserts - and it is quite subtle here, as you don't want it to be too overpowering for breakfast! Raspberries and pomegranate arils make up the fruit layer, because these complement the flavours so well both visually and in taste, and of course pomegranate carries on the Arabian theme. The pistachio and dried rose petal granola provide the necessary crunch we all need in a breakfast parfait, and can really just be mixed into whatever granola you already have on hand.

Since I don't believe something like breakfast should be made to the T, please feel free to change around the fruits, type of granola, or yoghurt you use. I used plain yoghurt instead of Greek as I find its less heavy on the stomach, and I also think strawberries would be a good substitute or addition to the fruit layer. There's no added or refined sugar here too - just a drizzle of honey for a touch of sweetness. 

Rose, Orange Blossom & Pistachio Breakfast Parfait
Makes 1 large serving

1 cup plain/Greek yoghurt
1 tsp rose water
1 tsp orange blossom water
1/4 cup pomegranate arils
8-10 raspberries
1/3 cup granola (homemade or bought)
2 tbsp pistachio slivers
1 tbsp dried edible rose petals, crushed 
Honey, to drizzle 

1. In a small bowl mix the rose and orange blossom water into the yoghurt.
2. Mix the pistachio slivers and dried rose petals into the granola.
3. In a jar, glass or bowl scoop a layer of granola to the bottom. Next add a generous amount of the yoghurt, with a drizzle of honey, before adding the fruit on top. 
4. Repeat layers until the glass is full, and serve. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Moroccan Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad

I was looking through my blog the other day, and was shocked to see how infrequent my posts have become. The reality is I am forever planning my next blog post, even if I never actually find time to get in the kitchen to make my recipe, take photographs and then write up about it. I often feel like much of my day is spent preparing breakfast, eating it, preparing lunch, eating it and preparing dinner just to eat it too. Don't get me wrong, food is my passion. But perhaps that's why as my days have become more and more busier in recent months, I've found less time to bake and dedicate my blog to posting about what 'Beela bakes.'

Instead I've become more inventive with my meals, and one of my favourite things is to come up with creative lunch options for my husband to take to work with him. And that's exactly how this Moroccan inspired quinoa salad came to be. In truth, the recipe for this quinoa salad is already about a year old now, and I have to admit that it's not really made solely for the husband anymore. But rather it has since become one of my favourites, if not the most favourite lunch to make.

This recipe gave birth to my love of roasting veggies, as well as my love for this particular spice blend. It's become second nature to put the oven on whilst I quickly chop some carrot, beetroot and coloured peppers, and add in the amazing mixture of spices. In fact I don't really measure the spices out, and you don't have to stick to the measurements in the recipe below either. Sometimes I add some chopped broccoli or mushrooms too. For brussel sprout haters (me included) they work really well when roasted with the spice blend here - they actually become bearable, I promise! Regardless, the smell of these vegetables roasting in the oven makes this a lunch which I always look forward to, and which I'm pretty sure will have you wanting to make it a regular lunch too.

I've always loved strong spices and the combination of cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, paprika powders, as well as dried chilli flakes and a dried herb mix, really lifts the vegetables in this salad from just being an average quinoa salad into one that's special. Moroccan cuisine was definitely an inspiration here, hence the aptly named title, and I played on the idea of how cous cous could be swapped out for the quinoa. Feel free to also swap out the baby spinach for any salad leaves - I've often added mint, coriander or parsley too. 

The recipe below makes enough to share between two, and tastes just as great eaten the next day. Its healthy, filling, and so relevant to the types of nourishing wholesome salads which are so regularly craved today. I think its even great served as a sharing platter for entertaining guests. If you do only one thing from this recipe, have a go at roasting the veggies mentioned here (beetroot, carrot & coloured bell peppers) in the spices mentioned too. I've always loved my veggies, but it's given me a whole new love for them, and it just might for you too. 

Moroccan Veg Roasted Quinoa Salad

50g or half a carrot, peeled & cubed
40g red, orange or yellow peppers, diced
50g beetroot, peeled & cubed
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
Pinch of paprika powder
Pinch of dried chili flakes
Pinch of mixed dried herbs (thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary all work well)
1 tbsp olive oil, plus 1 tsp extra
80g quinoa (about half a cup)
1 cup water (chicken or vegetable stock if preferred)
Salt to season
2 cups baby spinach
Squeeze of lemon 

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Meanwhile prepare to cook the quinoa in a medium pan with the water or stock, using your usual method. See here for how to cook quinoa. (I don't always have stock on hand and add like a little dried stock cube to my pan if I'm only using water). 
2. Put the chopped carrot, beetroot and pepper into a small bowl. Add all the spices, season with salt and mix well so the spices are evenly distributed through the vegetables. Add one tablespoon of the olive oil and mix well until vegetables are coated.
3. Spread the vegetables evenly on a baking tray lined with foil and put in the oven to roast. Switch off the oven after fifteen minutes, but leave the vegetables to sit for a little while. 
4. In the bowl used to mix the vegetables, add the remaining one teaspoon of olive oil, plus a generous squeeze of lemon, mixing to catch all the remaining spice residue. Keep aside.
5. Prepare your serving dish by layering the spinach leaves first, and adding the cooked quinoa on top. Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven and add onto the quinoa. Use the reserved olive oil mix to pour over the salad.
6. Serve straight away or enjoy as leftovers the next day! 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Rose Mint Lemonade

Gosh its been long since my last post. I didn't get to travel anywhere over the summer but I've been busy with the usual such as painting commissions, visits from family and relatives, as well as actually starting a part-time job (in the food business!). I know summer is pretty much over, but if you're lucky to live in warmer climes then a cool, refreshing homemade drink will be a welcome beverage at all times. I was inspired to make a rose mint version of lemonade simply because of my love of all things rose infused - and this recipe has been made two, three, four times over the past couple of months which is why I knew it was worth sharing. Its easy too as I just mix everything straight into the jug I use for pouring. 

I also think its a very 'Dubai' drink - I am a sucker for lemon mint mocktails when dining out, and I'm always oohing and aahing about certain mixes which bring a different flavour to the table. So perhaps subconsciously I wanted to recreate a similar mindset with this drink - doesn't everyone love the idea of sipping on an ice cold citrusy juice (alcoholic or not) on a restaurant verandah, whilst relaxing and taking in their surroundings?

It might seem odd to some to add rosewater to a lemon and mint concoction, but actually this all blends together really well. As with most recipes where rosewater is added, the result is a mild yet pleasant aromatic hint of rose. Not too powerful but enough to stir the senses. It's definitely a very summery drink, and perfect for those warm balmy days in the garden.

Rose Mint Lemonade
Makes 2 tall, or 4 small glass servings

1 whole lemon
Half a lime
2 tsp rose water syrup
1/2 cup sugar syrup
3 cups water
Handful of mint leaves, chopped
Dried rose petals

1. Make the sugar syrup, by heating half a cup of sugar with 3/4 of a cup water. Bring to a boil, stir and then turn the heat off once all the sugar has dissolved. You will probably have more than you end up needing.
2. Juice both the lemon and lime. Pour the juices into a small jug, and then add the cups of water, rose water, and a third to half a cup of the sugar syrup.
3. Mix well and taste, adding a little more sugar syrup and water if the mixture is too sour. Add the chopped mint and a few dried rose petals.
4. Leave to steep in the fridge for at least an hour.
5. When ready to serve add a little crushed ice if desired (I prefer without) to the mixture and pour into serving glasses.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dining Review: Sukh Sagar at the JBR Walk

Delightful Indian vegetarian fare in the JBR Walk, that will leave even meat-eaters wanting more...

Subzi humjoli (r) & dhal makni (l) with naan

It’s been a while since I’ve eaten out for Indian, and being invited by Brand Terminus to try out Sukh Sagar my expectations are high. As much as I enjoy a good chicken curry, I am secretly looking forward to trying out dishes from their vegetarian only menu - I love paneer, I love thick lentil curries, and to be honest I just love anything veg. The husband on the other hand would only choose to dine out at a vegetarian establishment if it was the last choice on a list. Saying that, as we set off for Sukh Sagar we conclude that if he was to choose any type of vegetarian cuisine then Indian would most probably be it!

Sukh Sagar has a number of branches in Dubai, and we visit the JBR one. Located right opposite the Hilton and with The Beach across the road for ease of parking, we eventually get there after a multitude of wrong turns due to Marina area road works. With both upstairs and downstairs seating to choose from, we are seated near the entrance with prime view of the teppanyaki dosa station (yes you heard right, more on that later on!)

Paani Puri

The origins of Sukh Sagar start in India itself, when the first branch opened back in 1962.  Since then they have grown to more than 20 branches across the country, becoming one of India’s best known and loved vegetarian restaurant chain. There are four branches in Dubai, including one in Karama and a central kitchen. The JBR branch is decidedly more quiet, although enjoyably so. Throughout the evening we see mostly Indian families and groups arriving, which is always a good sign. For first impressions I am slightly surprised by how simple the interior is, as design and aesthetics have not been made much of a focus here. Still, I encouragingly hope that what the atmosphere lacks in, will be made up for by the food, and let’s just say it definitely doesn’t disappoint…

Dahi Batata Puri

Before even choosing our starters, we are presented with a plate of paani puri – puffed flour semolina discs filled with spiced moong, potatoes and chilled lemon minted water. Indian street snacks like these are an absolute favourite of mine, and as we eat and leaf through the mammoth menu, my eyes light up at the variety and choice.  We decide to order a kebab sharing platter (veg of course) for starters. With paneer tikka, tandoori mushrooms, marinated cauliflower and potatoes, and hara bhara kebabs all served with a mint dipping sauce, it’s a feast for the eyes. Everything is cooked delightfully, and I find there is nothing I can fault. The husband absolutely loves how the mushrooms cleverly remind him of barbecued fatty beef! We also order another favourite street snack, the dahi batata puri - semolina discs this time filled with potatoes, topped with yoghurt, drizzled sweet chutney and lots of crispy fried flour noodles. By this time I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve already shot wide-eyed gestures of appreciation to the husband! However I do order the chilli cheese toast based on an online recommendation, expecting something original, and sadly getting something more closer to what is essentially just spicy pizza slices. Saying that I probably would have overlooked this dish, if I hadn’t been eager to order based on the suggestion.
As we chat to the head chef we learn how the restaurant prides itself on keeping every recipe intact in all its branches, whilst also accommodating to the needs of religious and health requirements, for example by ensuring a meal ordered by a Jain customer doesn’t have potatoes or onion, or offering more health friendly options.

Kebab sharing platter

Up next is an opportunity to sample the teppenyaki dosa station. As we settle over at the bar-top like counter, the dosa chef proceeds to pour small rounds of batter over a hot teppenyaki style stove. The idea is to be served a variety of mini dosa’s (a traditional South Indian style crepe made with rice and lentils) and uttapam’s (a thicker version of the dosa) with your choice of fillings and toppings as they are cooked live – just as you would encounter at a Japanese teppenyaki. Not only can you can repeat a dosa but you can also have as many as you like. This is an innovation of Sukh Sagar, only seen at the JBR branch and certainly an experience you are unlikely to encounter at any other Indian restauarant. We tried the sada, masala, mysore masala, pav bhaji, Manchurian, rava sada, and spinach and cheese dosa’s before declaring our fills worth, but there were upto eighteen varieties including a chocolate version to end with. A highlight was the ragi dosa, made with millet – a delightfully nutty grain which aids weight-loss.

Teppanyaki Dosa

Back to our seated tables, we decide we have to order a dish or two to sample the more heavier mains. We went with a classic dal makhni which is popular all over India. The black lentils had been cooked overnight on a clay oven, and then combined with Indian herbs and clarified butter to make a creamy and filling dish - one of the best versions I’ve had. We also tried the subzi humjoli, a combination of both a creamy tomato and spinach gravy served with two vegetable koftas. This was equally good, and I loved the play of both flavours together with the veggie but meaty kofta balls. We mopped both these curries up with warm buttered naan bread – always good! Last of all we made sure to try the pav bhaji, a speciality of Bombay street food, known for its warming and comforting connotations. The thick chunky bhaji is made up of a variety of finely chopped or pureed vegetables cooked with spices including masala, cumin and turmeric, and is served alongside pav, small bread buns. I have to admit it was the first time I had knowingly eaten phav bhaji and I could see why this has become a much loved meal for those on the go. What I also liked is how we could choose to eat the bhaji with either white or wholemeal pav buns. The buns were soft, and made the perfect tool for mopping up the warm vegetable curry.
We washed our meals down with fresh mixed juices – ginger lime watermelon for my husband, and carrot beetroot for myself. We only just about managed a bite or two of some traditional gulab jamun and ras malai desserts to end our meal, but I think if I were to visit in the future I would skip the desserts altogether as the mains were just so filling and satisfying by themselves.

Pav Bhaji

Sukh Sagar takes inspiration from both North and South classic Indian food, and here is absolutely everything you can imagine from Indian vegetarian fare on the menu. From crispy dosas, to lentil curries, street food to Chinese inspired dishes, and vegetarian barbecue there is literally something to everyone’s taste and palette. We did actively steer away from the International style dishes. However bar the chilli cheese toast, I enjoyed every meal whether recommended to us or individually chosen.

None of the meals were overly spicy, whilst the majority only had a slight hint, and we were asked on our preference accordingly. Everything was flavourful, and the quality was definitely more than notable. You won’t find curries doused in lots of unnecessary oil here. The value for money too is highly reasonable. Every dish we ordered was priced at between 20 to 40 AED, with the most expensive being the teppanyaki dosa station. Still for 50 AED, you can eat as much as you want, even if we did only manage eight mini dosas on top of everything else! Waiters were very helpful and our food arrived quickly too. It’s safe to say I now have a bigger appreciation for vegetarian Indian cuisine, and my meat-loving husband definitely has much bigger appetite for it too!

Watermelon Ginger Honey Lime juice

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