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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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Pastel White Chocolate Mousse Pots

These pastel white chocolate mousse pots were made to serve as a treat for Iftar during the last few days of Ramadan. I am so glad I made them, because they went down so well and were loved by everyone. 

I had initially planned on making chocolate mousse pots and set about making sure I had all the ingredients. But once the time came to make them I realised I had missing the one main ingredient I needed - chocolate! I nearly always have some form of cooking chocolate in my pantry and didn't think to check. All I had on hand was white chocolate but I really wanted to make the mousse so white chocolate it would have to be! I actually wasn't sure if the mousse would turn out the same way as if I were to used plain or milk chocolate, because of the butter to cocoa difference in ratio between the two. Still I didn't let this deter me. I also discovered I had little jars of pastel coloured chocolate curls, and so of course, a little light bulb went flashing on in my head telling me to make pastel coloured mousse!

The result? This mousse came out perfect. It was creamy, smooth, with little air bubbles and so delectable even the non-sweet toothed members of my family enjoyed it. Its fairly easy and simple to make, and if you want to make it less complicated or just want plain white chocolate mousse, you can definitely leave out the food colouring.

The pots I used were petite, and the right size for serving something sweet after a day of fasting without any food. It is a very sweet mousse, as white chocolate is definitely the sweetest of chocolates, though this did not make the mousse sickeningly sweet in any way at all. 

And wouldn't these be really pretty to serve at a dinner or birthday party (just as I like to think a lot of my desserts on Beela Bakes are!). I already know this is another dessert I'm going to be making time and time again, and looking at these photos I'm already drooling and dreaming up the next excuse I have to make them!

Pastel White Chocolate Mousse Pots
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Makes 8 small portions, or 4 normal

228g white chocolate, chopped
5 tblsp water
2 eggs, separated
1 tblsp caster sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup, plus 2 tblsp heavy/double cream
Pink and green food gels, for tinting
White or coloured chocolate curls to decorate

1. Combine the white chocolate and water in a medium bowl. Place the bowl over a small saucepan filled with about 1 inch of water, and simmer over low heat.
2. Stir the mixture continuously until it is melted and smooth, and remove the bowl off the heat.
3. In a large bowl whisk together the egg yolks, salt, and one and a half teaspoon of the sugar until it is smooth. Now pour the white chocolate mixture into the eggs and whisk well to combine. Let the mixture cool slightly for about five minutes. 
4. Using an electric whisk, beat the egg whites until foamy for about one minute. Add the remaining sugar into the egg whites and now whisk for about two minutes until soft peaks have formed.
5. With a spatula gently fold a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Add the rest of the egg whites and fold in until the white streaks have disappeared. 
6. In the same mixing bowl used for the egg whites, add the heavy cream and whisk until it begins to thicken for about a minute. Fold the cream into the mousse mixture, until no white streaks remain. 
7. Separate two-thirds of the mixture equally into two smaller bowls, so that a third of the mixture still remains in the large bowl. Using a tooth-pick tint a very small amount of green gel food colouring, about two drops worth, into one of the bowls, and mix until a pale green colour is formed. Repeat with the pink food gel in another other bowl. You will now have three mousse mixtures - white, green and pink. 
8. Spoon the mixtures into individual serving cups and cover with plastic wrap/clingfilm. Leave to set in the fridge for at least two hours and upto twenty-four hours. 

N.B. Look for pasteurized eggs at your supermarket if you are concerned about using raw eggs here.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Ramadan Special Guest Post: Tropical Fruit Cheesecake Pots (No-Bake)

I am so excited to share this amazing recipe for no-bake exotic fruit cheesecake pots over at Lubna's blog Kitchen Flavours. Every year Lubna posts a series for Ramadan called Joy From Fasting To Feasting, where for each day of Ramadan she shares a recipe from a guest blogger. I am grateful to have been asked to participate this year, not only because its for Ramadan, but also as it is my first time as a guest blogger anywhere! 

Lubna asked me to share a recipe that is made for Iftar in my house, and since I love coming up with sweet treats to enjoy during Ramadan, I decided to share these cheesecake pots. You might recognise that they are a twist on the cheesecake recipes I have posted before, but this time I added a sublime layer of pineapple, mango and kiwi fruit for an "exotic" touch. Not only is it great to make in Ramadan, but also for parties, summer BBQ's, and any get-together. 

To see my post with the recipe, head on over at Kitchen Flavours, and be sure to have a look at the other participating bloggers with their recipes! 

Joy From Fasting To Feasting - VII

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Dining Review: Café Blanc Lebanese restaurant at The Dubai mall

Growing up in London as a young girl, my dad was always keen on exposing my mum, older sister, younger brother and I to all types of different cuisines and foods. He would regularly make it a point to take us out for lunch or dinner on the weekend, especially during the warmer months. From when I turned about ten years old, my dad had an Egyptian friend who introduced us to Lebanese food for the first time. I remember feeling very tentative with every bite I took for that first Lebanese meal, not enjoying the new sensations and tastes, and neither did my siblings.  Still, my parents seemed to relish it, and it soon became a regular occurrence for us to visit the famed Edgware Road for its plethora of Arabic and Lebanese restaurants. Needless to say, I eventually grew to fall in love with Lebanese food…

I happily feel at home now in any Lebanese restaurant, and can easily order my favourites off a menu. What I have always loved about this cuisine is its freshness, simplicity and consistency. Piping hot falafels, smooth and creamy hummus, juicy and tender grilled meats - I know what I am going to get, and I know I am going to enjoy it.

That’s why I was delighted recently when Brand Terminus, a branding agency in Dubai invited me to dine along with my husband at Café Blanc, a Lebanese restaurant they look after. Situated on the lower ground of Dubai Mall, with an outdoor seating area facing the Dubai Fountain, Café Blanc is a restaurant which prides itself on combining traditional Lebanese food with a modern approach. The interior is sleek and contemporary, with pops of lively colour and geometry inspired décor - an aesthetic which is carried through into its food too.

We were talked through the ethos and history of the restaurant, before deciding to seat ourselves in the entrance dining area of the restaurant. Rather than ordering off the menu, we were presented with a variety of dishes to sample. For starters many of the well known appetizers were offered, including fattoush, hommos, tabbouleh, moutabel. stuffed vine leaves, cheese stuffed rolls, and fresh Arabic bread. In addition were a few hot dishes, most of which I admittedly have never sampled before – small chunks of beef seasoned in soya sauce and lemon juice, diced spicy fried red pepper potatoes, and delicious pan-fried mini spicy beef sausages.  All three were tantalising highlights. Something else I had never tried was the arayess halloum, a combination of halloumi cheese, parsley and onion, stuffed into flat Arabic bread and toasted – exactly the type of bread which the term ‘good comfort food’ takes after. With so many dishes to sample from there were those which I didn’t care much for, found satisfying in the familiar sense, or enjoyed enough to help myself with seconds. The moutabal was some of the best I’ve ever had. Smokey and smooth, it was delicately peppered with pomegranate arils, parsley and onion, and much creamier than most aubergine dips I have tried before.

Any true Lebanese meal is not complete without grilled meat. Our mixed platter came with one skewer each of chicken taouk, cubed beef and a minced lamb kafta. I was neither pleased nor disappointed as I found the meat to be nothing out of the ordinary and thought it could have done with being a little more juicy and tender. Once again, it was the smaller unattested dishes which stole the show. A creamy tomato dish with halloumi and chicken cubes was lip-smackingly good, as was the ras asfour – diced marinated beef with sautéed onions.  The syadiet samak, showcased a more traditional dish consisting of grilled fish with rice and fried onions, accompanied with a fish sauce.

All of the food was beautifully presented, in the same way that all regular diners would also receive their meals. Even though traditional style pots were used, touches of individual details and twists to the dishes are what made them stand out in a playful yet modern way – I carefully noted the freshness of lettuce leaves and accompanying sides such as olives. The custom-made tableware and cutlery added to the contemporary take on otherwise traditional fare.

To finish our meal, we were given a small glass of warm orange blossom water,  important to note as this what the restaurant takes its name after – Café Blanc, the drink beloved by generations of Lebanese as the perfect ending to a meal. Of course dessert came too, and again we were spoilt for choice. The familiar knefe and mouhallabieh were presented alongside aysh el saraya (soft juicy bread topped with kashta and nuts, and served with syrup) and byzance (a cheesecake topped with a layer of rose loukoum). As a huge fan of perfumed desserts (one only has to look at the recipes on my blog!) all four treats were sampled with delight, albeit on full bellies.

As this was a little different from the typical review style whereupon my dining partner and I would have ordered off the menu by ourselves, I felt that some of my usual reviewing crietira had to go out of the window. Instead I took the opportunity for what it was, graciously accepting the experience offered by my hosts. Infact it almost felt like having been invited around a friends house for weekend lunch, where traditional Lebanese fare had been laid out for all to enjoy, and with that touch of originality that comes with eating home-cooked food. By the end of our meal, the restaurant was packed to the brim, by many of whom were Middle Eastern customers.

It’s often lovely to stop by a dining venue where you are confidently secure the cuisine is one you are accustomed with. With so many restaurants to choose from in the Dubai Mall it is unlikely to be the type of place one would actively choose to dine at. However if it is Lebanese you are after and you do chance upon it, Café Blanc is a welcome retreat to stop by. Having also eaten at a couple of Lebanese restaurants within the mall, this was definitely my favourite thus far. There is something for all taste buds, and so much more variety to choose from than I have seen at most Lebanese eateries.

I have always felt that Lebanese cuisine is amongst the most ‘homeliest’ one can experience, and as a Lebanese establishment Café Blanc does this very well.

Photo credits – Brand Terminus


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Rose Saffron Baked Donuts

Hope everyone's Ramadan is going well! It gets pretty hectic in the kitchen in the hours before iftar time, and with so many little dishes to prepare I often just want a really quick and easy sweet recipe to enjoy with a cup of tea for those later hours!

Naturally I scoured my blog for some ideas, and came across my post for Chocolate Glazed Baked Doughnuts. I loved how sweet and perfectly bite-sized these doughnuts were and thought I'd give them a little twist by turning them into something a little more suited to Ramadan.

These rose saffron baked donuts are great for fixing that sugar-craving after a day of fasting, and you don't have to eat too many, just one or two if you are trying to stay away from refined sugar. They are like little bite-sized pieces of cake - share them with family and guests over tea and watch them disappear as quickly as they were made!

Rose Saffron Baked Doughnuts

Makes 14-18 mini round doughnuts or 8-10 large

Doughnut pan or small round moulded pan
Oil, for brushing pan
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
Seeds of 2 cardamom pods, crushed 
Half a large egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk
1 tblsp butter, melted
2 tsp rosewater 
Few strands of saffron

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Brush doughnut pan with oil, then sieve a little flour all over pan. 
2. In a large bowl, sieve together the flour, baking powder,  and mix in the sugar and cardamom. 
3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, melted butter and rosewater. Mix in the saffron threads. 
4. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined, without over-mixing. Pour batter into the moulds of doughnut pan, until the moulds are only half full. You do not want to fill them too much as they will rise when baking. 
5. Bake for about 15 minutes, until doughnuts are puffed and golden, using a toothpick to test for doneness. Leave to cool 5 minutes before removing from pan and adding sugar glaze.

For the rosewater glaze:

1 cup icing sugar
3 tblsp water
1 tsp rosewater
Pink and/or yellow food colouring
Pistachios, chopped, for decorating
Dried rose petals, for decorating
Saffron, for decorating

1. While doughnuts are cooling, make the glaze by mixing together the icing sugar, water and rosewater in a small bowl, until all the icing sugar has dissolved. The glaze should be a glossy white in colour, and not too thick or too runny. If the glaze is too thick, add a few drops of water, or a little more icing sugar if it is too thin.
2. Divide the glaze into two small bowls, and add a drop or two of pink and yellow food colour in each bowl. Mix to achieve pale pink and yellow glazes.
3. Dip doughnuts individually into the glaze and sprinkle chopped pistachios, rose petals and saffron strands over the top. Glaze will set after a few minutes. 

Store glazed donuts in an airtight container, and eat within three days. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Date & Walnut Loaf Cake

The holy month of Ramadan is only a few days away now, and as it was fitting, I thought it was about time I shared a more personal recipe closer to home. This is probably the first post where I am sharing a recipe which has been in the family for a pretty long time - across generations and continents, and for at least forty years.
What makes this date and walnut cake so special, is that as a young girl growing up it was only made on Eid. I have vivid memories of waking up on Eid morning's to a huge celebration breakfast prepared by my mum. This cake was always a welcome feature on the table and readily, one, two, three slices would be eaten quickly in succession! Apart from the two Eid days in the year, it was rare for my mum to make this cake on any other day.

Since it has been in the family for a long time I wanted to find out how the recipe came to be, and also why, as it definitely is not traditional or native to my Indian/East African heritage! So I naturally went about asking those who I knew had made the cake the most - my mum, paternal aunt, and paternal uncle. It was soon clear there was a little contention as to its origins -  it appears that though my great aunt (paternal grandfather's sister) was the first to start making the cake, it has since been adapted, tweaked and made to taste individually, as with any recipe which gets shared and passed down.

My uncle can clearly remember this cake being made when he went to stay with my great aunt in the late 1970's, in a small town called Mbeya on the mainland of Tanzania. She had tweaked the recipe from a little cookbook, and as dates were not readily available back then she would only bake it on Eid and special occasions. The dates were bought in the market, open in hessian sacks, where you would choose the amount you wanted to be weighed by the shopkeeper - markedly different from the variety of packaging and labelled dates we are used to buying now! Once bought the dates had to be cleaned, before being soaked ready for baking. On rare occasions you could buy little bars of good quality dates, packed in cellophane, which were cleaner but more expensive.
A few years later my uncle landed in the UK for boarding school, and happened to come across the same book in a sale at the school and bought it! As a result the book came to be shared with my mum on his visits home for the weekend, and thus the date walnut cake soon became a regular feature on our Eid breakfast table too. In the meantime my paternal aunt had also borrowed the recipe from my great aunt, and it similarly became a cake enjoyed in her own household. 

Still when I spoke to my mum, she maintained that at some point she had bought an Australian published baking book in the supermarket, when she became interested in baking cakes, also containing a recipe for a date walnut cake. It had less flour and more dates than the original older recipe, and its this method which my mum started to use instead, and which I came to know and love.

Unfortunately since moving to Dubai, my mums version has become misplaced and so its the original inspiration for the date and walnut cake which I have shared here, kindly given to me by my aunt. Its just as delicious and moreish though, making a perfectly loaf sized cake to share with the family! If preferred, it can be baked in a larger square tin, adapting the baking time as below. Don't over bake it though, as I clearly did in these images! Quantities less or more, I don't think you can ever go wrong with dates and walnuts in a cake! My aunts version also comes with a warm brown sugar sauce for pouring over the cake, which the sugar-craver in me loved! 
So there you have it, a cake born outside of tradition which has become tradition!

Special thanks has to go my aunt, uncle and mum for their insight, plus my great-aunt for bringing this cake into our family. To this day she is an amazing cook, and loved by all for her unique and interesting recipes.  

I might have broken the tradition by making this cake for the blog, but I know come Eid day I will definitely be keeping the tradition alive by making it again. As for my readers, whether you make it only for Eid, or for a rainy day, definitely do make it!

Date & Walnut Loaf Cake

250 ml boiling water
225g dates, chopped
1 tsp baking soda
75g butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
210g soft brown sugar
275g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
50g walnuts, chopped

For the topping:
75g soft brown sugar
2 tbsp. milk
25g butter
50g walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 180 C, and grease a tin loaf pan, or square pan.
2. Pour the boiling water onto the dates, and stir in the baking soda. Leave to stand.
3. Cream together the butter and sugar, then add the egg and vanilla and mix well.
4. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt a little at a time, until all incorporated. Add the chopped walnuts, and then finally the date mixture, mixing to form a cake batter
5. Pour into greased tin pan and bake for 50-55 minutes if using a loaf pan, or 35-40 minutes in a square pan. Check for doneness.
6. Leave to cool in the tin.
7. To make the topping, heat together the sugar, milk and butter in a small saucepan. Boil for three minutes until all the sugar has melted.
8. Take off the heat and leave to cool slightly before spreading on to the cake, and sprinkling with chopped walnuts.

N.B. For those who don't want the extra calories, the topping can be excluded. It is still just as yummy!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dining Review: Mo's at the Citywalk Dubai

Having never done a restaurant review on the blog before, I have to admit I was a little tentative at first when I received the offer to come and dine at Mo’s. Do I want to go down this route on my blog? Am I upto the challenge of writing a review? And what if I don’t like the food?!
But simply put I swept my fears aside and told myself at the end of the day I had nothing really to lose by giving it a go. That and the tempting knowledge that the restaurant has an extensive dessert and milkshake selection! It is also part of the group that brings us Caramel in the DIFC – situated near my old work haunt, and a place known for attracting city workers.
Alas I am not a complete newbie having written a review for a magazine before, and thanks to being a part of Fooderati Arabia I felt I knew enough about what I was letting myself in for without completely throwing myself in at the deep end.

So about a week ago, off my husband and I went to Mo’s at the Citywalk Mall in Jumeirah, to sample what was to be an admittedly fantastic meal and enjoyable evening. Citywalk Mall itself is an outdoor lifestyle concept with various dining options and fashion brands, and is only about six months old. It boasts great cityscape views of the Burj Khalifa, and has a European piazza like feel about it, which makes it a great place for meeting with friends in the evening.

We chose to sit in a booth type setting by the wall, although the restaurant itself was spacious and very open in plan. I was expecting a stereotypical diner type décor concept, and was pleasantly surprised by how sleek and minimalist the interior actually was. There are no brash or kitsch colours here, and even the long milkshake bar didn’t stand out overbearingly.

Looking through their menu it was clear how highly extensive it is, ranging from a large breakfast menu, to starters, salads, burgers, sandwiches, mains, and a range of signature entrees too. And that’s not even mentioning the varied dessert menu.
Knowing that we wanted to leave enough space for dessert, we decided at first to order only one starter to share, and went with the queso fundido – a velveeta cheese dip with pieces of turkey chorizo, and served with crispy tortillas. I’m a sucker for munching on nachos and cheese whenever I’m at the movies, and dipping the perfectly crispy fresh tortillas into this dip was like dipping into the mother of all cheese dips!
However as a number of salads feature on their menu, we ended up giving in to our one starter rule, and were recommended to try their Chinese chicken salad. This was a crispy concoction of grilled chicken pieces, sprouts, cabbage, tangerines and an Asian peanut dressing. Give me a hearty, unleafy salad, and pair it with Asian flavours and I am in love. My taste-buds delighted in every mouthful, and my mind wanted to be able to recreate these flavours for myself. Even the husband, (who will avoid a salad at all costs) gave a great seal of approval.

Being the great burger lover that he is, it was only natural that the husband decided to go for a classic burger for his mains. And well, admittedly having overlooked the signature entrees and rather than ordering a sandwich, I went with a burger too, but was swayed by the veggie option. My edamame burger patty consisted of a mix of edamame, lentils, herbs and spices, and was served between a toasted whole wheat bun with tzatziki sauce. As far as veggie burgers go it was good – you could taste the quality, the bun was lovely and fresh. But as someone who would almost always choose anything over a burger, I did wonder if I should have ordered something different. Hubby’s classic burger came with a kobe beef patty, signature sauce, all the salad trimmings, and a toasted brioche bun. The quality here is also something he found worth remarking on, especially that of the meat. Both of our burgers came with delicious thin seasoned fries.

As if this wasn’t enough, we were soon guided towards the signature entrees and persuaded to try their TNT shrimp tacos – I loved how these were mini, and each taco could be eaten in three or four bites. Made up of battered shrimp, they reminded me of wasabi prawns, and were served with guacamole, slaw and chipotle mayo to slather on top. I enjoyed these much more than my burger, and made a mental note to come back with my seafood-loving mum for a lunch date.
We had milkshakes with our meals, only in true American style. Whilst my husband remarked that his vanilla milkshake was everything that it should be, I was a little disappointed with how under rich my Rocky Road was, but perhaps this at least meant I could consume my meal better!  

Stomachs near bursting we still knew we couldn’t leave without a slice of cake. We went for Jim’s carrot cake, a gigantic three tier cake slice which would be enough for even three or four to share. I’m not one to be disappointed easily by dessert, and found the cake to be perfect in its entirety, taste, texture, frosting and all.

Would I go back to Mo’s? Yes I would. I’m not a huge fan of eating breakfast out, but I would definitely go back to sample more of their lunch/dinner dishes, if not only to have that chicken salad and the shrimp tacos again. Portions were all very generous, the quality was fab, and their service was understandably impeccable and over-friendly, although I did notice attentiveness was met all round at other tables as well.  Having said that their business seemed a little slow, which we were assured was due to the area still being a grower. A dinner meal for two would probably set you back about 300-400 AED depending on the type of meals chosen. As an American casual dining concept, Mo’s is easily accessible to both families and couples, but doesn’t let you down in the way that the quality of most family restaurants do on food.

As far as a first review goes, my experience at Mo’s will be one I look back on fondly and I would only hope that their standards remain the same for all dining guests.  Fully replete, we left deciding to take a short amble around the Citywalk and with enough time to squeeze in a little shisha!


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Musings: on Instagram & food photography

Stripy squid ink pasta with homemade pesto, grated beetroot & fresh basil

Its been a while since my last post, and I haven't truthfully been regularly posting on the blog for most of this year so far. Perhaps its the inevitable direction that most personal blogs take - you start your blog in the midst of bordeom/a quiet/unbusy period of your life, and then eventually you become busy again and life takes over. 

Busyness is definitely and obviously the reason here, but I've also found that I want to post more original recipes now, rather than how this blog started out in the beginning - recreating recipes from other blogs and cookbooks. Its still fun for me to try out the numerous recipes pinned on my Pinterest board, but I save these for practicing my photography skills on, and I'm glad to say I think it has its benefits. 

Breakfast  yoghurt bowl with papaya, assorted berries & almonds

I'm quite proud and happy with how my photography has developed over the past year and a half. I still have days where I feel like I have no idea what I am doing when it comes to setting up and shooting, but for the most part I have a good idea of how I want it to turn out. I am still definitely trying out different styles, but I enjoy the process of trying to create a 'professional' food photograph look. 

So although I haven't been posting much on the blog, I do like to post these 'practice shots' regularly on my Instagram account. In fact I would go as far as to say I have become pretty addicted to Instagram! In the absence of recipe posts, I thought it would be fun to show you what kind of things I've been sharing on my account (and yes, hopefully try and get you to follow!).

Rose cupcakes with rose buttercream frosting

Breakfast yogurt granola bowl

Roasted cauliflower & lemon relish salad

Baked banana oatmeal 

Orange blossom cake with Persian fairy floss

Avocado, yogurt, honey, mango & strawberry smoothie

Strawberry chocolate dipped cherries
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