Recipe

Secret squirrel Karen McLean dazzles

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SHHH! SECRETS AHEAD

Im about to share a very yummy secret with you. Correction: many secrets that will help you cook and eat healthy as well as tasty. And creating  these recipes and sharing them freely is a slender, slim and sunshiny young girl. I was  so rivetted by her instagram posts that I requested to meet her. Whoa! What an amazing success story…Karen McLean , this Australian-Vietnamese girl moved to Dubai only two years ago and since then has millions of fan followers. She’s a qualified CA who came to a foreign country (Dubai), loves cooking and her dad and grandpa are amazing cooks. But healthy eating recipes are her very own and it was accidentally that Karen started sharing them on her website and instagram and voila! her fan following hit sky high.

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MY DATE WITH HEALTH AND TASTE

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MY DOUBLE TREAT

It’s a treat to beat all treats. A Double Treat, whichever way you look at it. And Im not only referring to the delicious nutritious dates (which I cant stop eating) but also my delightful dates from South India. The brilliant Executive chef Thirimalai Murugan ‘s award winning dish blends South India and Dubai so is it any wonder that the dish was given highly prestigious  UAE award? The creative and hard working chef from kanyakumari has not only honed his talents all over the world, but has also spearheaded many a hotel pre-opening team.

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#DubaiDiaries: DIVINE DESSERT IN THE DESERT

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Dessert Delights: Chef Cizeron and Deveekaa Nijhawan
Dessert Delights: Chef Cizeron and Deveekaa Nijhawan

 

A request. Please take a look at the accompanying photograph: would you believe I shot this in the hot,  arid desert? Such a fabulous relief to be amongst lush tropical gardens and trees in this concrete skyscrapered Dubai! It gets even more exciting because here in the cosmopolitan, diverse Dubai, not only does this multi-talented, brilliant Executive chef share his recipe of my most favorite dessert, the Crepes Suzette but many an invaluable multi-cuisine cooking tip too. Here he is, flambéing the pancake dessert by drizzling the Grand Marnier liquor down the orange rind and swapping many an interesting culinary story too.

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IN THE HEART OF HOLLYWOOD

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AND THE OSCAR GOES TO…

Go on. Say the magic word “Hollywood” and revel in the glamour drenched shimmering images of the land of eternal summer. Over the past 10 years that I have been going back to Hollywood, it  has been imperceptibly and slowly working it’s magic on me. Reality  has been becoming more exciting than fantasy. For the past ten years, to get the flavour of Hollywood, I have been staying in the  iconic hotels where the stars and movie Moghuls live and dine. The “Pretty woman hotel” the Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills Hotel and Belair Hotel. But it was this time that I got to the very throbbing heart of Hollywood, right there on the Hollywood walk of fame and the Dolby Theatre where the “Oscars” are held in all their glory and glitz.

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THE DEFINTIVE RECIPE FOR HEALTH

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Found. Finally.  The only one of it’s kind. A guiding light. It guides through the  swirling, whirling tidal waves and tsunamis of information and misinformation on “food” and  it’s “health benefits”. Should we reduce our carb intake? Increase our protein? Atlast, there are definitive answers. The reason?

They are based on science and evidence-based medicine from the globally renowned medical center. They are being conducted in the world leader of medicine and reseach, Mayo Clinic (a non profit center). Not only does Mayo Clinic have 150 years of expertise in complex medical conditions, they also have extensive knowledge of how wellness affects our health. They are applying their knowledge and research it so that everyone can benefit.

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SPECTACULAR FEAST

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Feasting on the spirit of Dubai with Cynthia Munoz and Chef Alan Gobeil in Zeta
Feasting on the spirit of Dubai with Cynthia Munoz and Chef Alan Gobeil in Zeta

Here’s a feast to beat all feasts. It pampers all my senses…there is light, sound, dance, music and ofcourse food. As though all this were not enough there is also the worlds tallest building and the worlds biggest choreographed fountain to keep me company. If the accompanying photograph had a video and sound track, heres what you’d see and hear… glittering and shimmering fountains leaping and swirling and twirling into the evening sky as different colored lights bathe and sway with them. These fountains dance to music and Whitney Houston’s husky ”I’ll always love you” echoes sensuously as the fountains sway to it’s melody. And as though blessing it all and taking the ringside seat like a benevolent all-caring Pasha is the worlds tallest building, The Burj Khalifa which shimmers glamorously. And right here while feasting on this spectacle I am feasting on the freshest of fare created by the brilliant Executive chef Alain Gobeil . All this is the glamorous Zeta Restaurant where the heart of Dubai seems to throb  in all it’s  glory. In many different ways.

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A BANQUET FOR THE SENSES

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Palace Hotel.

What you are holding in your hands is an open invitation to join me at a uniquely spectacular banquet. If you take a look at the accompanying photographs Ive shot, you may begin to get an idea of whats in store. Ofcourse, its just a whiff, a tiny flavor. It begins with the amazing breakfast safari in the magnificent desert and a platter of Bedouin breakfast. It ends with an elegant, authentic Thai meal in a Palace, with the worlds tallest singing and dancing fountains regaling us. In between I not only dine in world class restaurants. Meet world-renowned chefs (our very own Sanjeev Kapoor is here too) but also taste the food of a myriad restaurants in the “Beach canteen”, watch cooking classes, eat at the “Ripe market” in the park. The Dubai food festival not only serves up a flavor of the world but also the homegrown authentic, exoti Emirati ones. And I relish each one!

BREAKFAST IN THE DESERT

Its exhilerating to speed over rolling sanddunes. Nothing can match the vivid blue skies and cool desert  Februrary sunshine as we head towards the Bedouin camp. Here not only do I bask in the sun as I sip on the Arabic coffee (heady with cardamom and saffron,) but also chat with the chief of the Bedouins (looking majestic in his crisp white headgear). A bumpy roller coaster ride on a camel and my appetite is kickstarted. The wholesome Bedouin breakfast (please see photo) of wheat noodles (balaleet) with a whisper of sweetness, the airy light pancakes and “rotis” with zattaar nourish and energise. I couldve stayed on for hours but it’s time to drive on and watch wild animals in the conservation camp

PALACE OF PLEASURE

From the wilds of the desert to a luxuriously pampered dinner in the shimmering majestic, Arabian-inspired Palce hotel in Old Town, right near Dubai Mall. This Palace hotel sprawls langourously around the  placid lake. And it is in this lake that twinkling, dancing, singing fountains leap and piroutte in the sky. They provide an amazing backdrop to our dinner at Thiptara, the authentic Thai restaurant. It is here that Chef Chaiwat conjures  sweet, spicy magic.   In between tripping out on Thai dimsum, succulent Chicken satay and fragrant velvetty curries we converse with renowned chef Yousuf Khumayes from Saudi Arabia. He is here for the food festival and has not only been inaugurating but also sharing his views on healthy cooking at many a Food festival event. Explaining the exciting details of the Food festival (which is on till end of February) the dynamic director, Debora Greenwood elaborates on how this is a treat for foodies,

Through it all, I not only fall in love with this charming, Arabesque hotel which the dapper Fabrice Dufry helms but also nibble on the masterful Thai fare from which lemongrass, galanagal,

Makrut and other Thai herbs leap and delight. Much like the fountains around us.

MIDDLE EASTERN FUSION 

It’s a delight to meet the young, and down to earth,  renowned chef Yousef Khumayes who has been cooking since the age of four. Since then he’s certainly left a track of awards and accomplishments in his wake as an adult! Originally from Jeddah, (his mother is Irish) Chef Khumayes also has international exposure (having honed his skills in leading hotels and restaurants around the world) he has evolved a wide variety of culinary styles and techniques that he often blends in what he dubs ’Middle-Eastern Fusion’, something that is evident in his delicious, exciting, and surprising dishes. He continues to blaze trails in‘Top Chef’ creating  winning dishes and winning hearts too.

He shares with us one of his favorite yummy recipes

 

 

Scallops and quinoa salad:-

 

INGREDIENTS

8 ounces dry sea scallops/

4 teaspoons light soy sauce/4 tablespoons canola oil/

1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed

2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic / 3 cups water /1 teaspoon salt /1 cup sliced snow peas.  /1/3 cup rice vinegar/ 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil /1 cup sliced scallions / 1/3cup finely diced red peppers / 1/2 A red chilli finely chopped  /1/4 cup finely chopped fresh coriander

 

PREPARATION

Toss scallops with 2 teaspoons light soy sauce in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Place a large, pan on medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil and quinoa. Cook, stirring constantly, until the quinoa begins to colour, 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add water and salt and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium heat until the water is absorbed, about 18 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to the side, covered, for 8 minutes. Stir in snow peas, cover and leave for 7 minutes more.

Meanwhile, mix 3 tablespoons canola oil, with 2 teaspoon light soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil. Add the quinoa and snow peas, scallions and bell pepper, mix to combine.

Remove the scallops from the marinade and dry. Heat a big pan on high till it’s really hot. Add the rest of the canola oil and cook the scallops, turning once, until golden brown, about 3minutes each side. Toss the scallops into the quinoa salad. Serve with coriander and a squeeze of fresh lime juice and enjoy.

OF FOOD, FILMS AND FRESHNESS

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Here reality is more exciting than fantasy. Here food, films and freshness are sparkling with high-voltage glamour. Whoa! What action there is in these immaculate kitchens of this iconic hotel which has distilled decades of Hollywood glamour! It is not only a legendary landmark but also officially on the  National Register of Historic Places of the United States. Here, the brilliant French chef Thomas Bellec conjures magic and today I have invited our very own Los Angeles based Indian cookbook author Neelam Batra. Interestingly Neelam has cooked before in the very same kitchens for Vijay Amritraj’s Foundation dinner.

CALIFORNIA INDIAN

What happens when a gifted  Indian cookbook author and a brilliant French chef cook in California?  They not only delight in the freshness of the vegetables and produce here, go shopping to Farmers markets themselves but also on request share their fabulous recipes, bursting with freshness and goodness. Having won several awards for her three cookbooks and taught cooking in Los Angeles (which she still does), Neelam Batra has been wowing Californians with her special brand of Neelams californiacuisine and raising the bar.  Happily, Neelam has also been a judge on the prestigious James Beard awards and continues to reign supreme. Having honed his skills around the world under the greatest chefs, Chef Bellec from Brittany in France is how himself on the global gourmet scene. He creates gems of wizardry for the recently introduced high tea which we feast on together with   travel and style writer founder of @stylegroove  pretty woman Carrie Mitchell.  Chef Bellec’s little jewels of savory and sweet delight dazzle as he continues to reinvent and wow.

HOLLYWOOD TO BOLLYWOOD

All this action is taking place in the historic Beverly Wilshire which has not only played host to many a high profile event but

celebrities such as Elvis Presley, Warren Beatty and Steve McQueen have all lived in the Hotel. And then ofcourse the  Hotel shot into global fame when 25 years ago it was the the movie Pretty Woman starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere was shot here. And so the pretty woman turns twenty five. And located on the glamour and fashion drenched Rodeo drive this Pretty woman continues to charm.   Several other movies likeClueless, Sex and the City: The Movie and Valentine’s Day   have also been shot here. I have dined here with Anil kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Gulshan Grover and many others in the Beverly Wilshire. Both Hollywood and Bollywood lives and dines here.

RECIPES FOR FRESHNESS AND GOODNESS

  • Both Chef Bellec and Neelam agree that  freshness of ingredients is the most important  key to a great dish. Author of three award winning cookbooks   1,000
    Indian Recipes ( the most-sold Indian cookbook in the US,) she shares with us her favorite, easy to make versatile recipe using tomatoes. And Chef Bellec generously shares his unique recipe for tomato soup.

 

  NEELAM’S OVEN-DRIED TOMATOES

  • 30 to 40 medium to large cherry tomatoes
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon garlic or kosher salt
  • Cut each cherry tomato into half from the stem to tip. Put in a mixing bowl and toss with the olive oil and salt. Line a tray with aluminum foil and place  each tomato half,  cut-side up and bake in an oven at 400ºF for about 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 200ºF and let the tomatoes sit in the oven until they look shriveled and dried, 1½ to 2 hours.
  • Remove from oven and set aside.

     SERVING SUGGESTIONS

  • Allow everything to cool and then refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Serve them on the side with grilled fare or over your favorite crackers, or present them with cheddar cheese on warm toasts, make sandwiches or lightly scatter them atop a simle cumin rice pullao!

THOMAS’ TOMATOES
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lb plum-Roma tomatoes
14 oz chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 large fennel bulb chopped coarse (if you don’t have fennel, use saunf)
1 large sweet onion chopped coarse
2 garlic cloves minced
2 spring fresh thyme
1 spring fresh rosemary
2 fresh leave laurel
Salt and pepper to taste

Sweet onion and garlic with no color in olive oil. And fennel and tomato cook of for 5 minutes. Add stock and herbs,cook at slow heat for 30 minutes, blend in food processor strain and seasoning to taste. Enjoy!

PICNIC IN PARADISE

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I write from Paradise. There’s no other word that describes the feeling of being amid lush green nature in the heart of  throbbing, cacophonic Manhattan. And even more tempting in the “Big apple” is the gourmet picnic fare that seduces with it’s masterful flavors and tastes. Each dish unerringly made by the brilliant and exceptionally gifted chef Ashfer Biju.

WHY PICNIC?

I love picnics and ever since my childhood have gone on one at the drop of a hat. But this is my most spectacular and memorable picnic ever. Interestingly, picnics have been a part of history and art and literature too. Did you know that  in 2000, a 600-mile-long picnic took place from coast to coast in France? This was to celebrate the first Bastille Day of the new Millennium. Even here, in the United States, the 4 July celebrate American independence is a popular day for a picnic. In Italy, the favorite picnic day is Easter Monday. The energy and abundance of nature infuses itself into the food and whoa! What amazing chemistry takes place. And when there is a maestro orchestrating the goodies in the picnic basket then even more magic happens.

BIJUS BEJEWELLED BREAKFAST

Kudos to Ashfer Biju, this young Indian chef who has captivated the highly sophisticated tastebuds of New Yorkers. Ofcourse, he has gourmet genes: his father had a highly popular  restaurant in Hyderabad still runs a super restaurant in Malaysia and chef Biju started cooking in his teens.

Not only did this young Executive chef  start off by wining the National Level Young Chef’s Competition, in Mauritius but has continued to be showered by accolades and awards. Nationally and internationally. Having worked in many a Leading Hotel of the world he now heads up the iconic Pierre hotel. Here elegant history and glamor tango with modern high-tech luxury. Not only has it played host to royalty and state heads but many a Hollywood star like Elizabeth Taylor have made it their home for several years. It is here in their cutting edge TwoE that  he has introduced many an amazing flavor palatte. Two e goes classic, Classic reinterpreted and many such spectacular dishes blitz the tastebuds here. And chef Michael Mignano’s dessert menu also dazzles, with it’s sorbet samplers and more. Interestingly, Pierre  also offers Mediterranean vegetable-based dishes, Indian vegetarian, vegan Halal, gluten-free and Kosher meals too.

Through the various menus this brilliant young chef’s passion for traveling and exploring different ethnic cultures, cuisines and people shines through.

His interest in Ayurveda and Medicinal Cooking keeps him evolving amazing recipes too.

 

Chef Biju has an impressive roster of international work, from Kreo-Asian Food Promotion at Hotel Palace, Luzern to

training at “Claridges Hotel”

“Mosimann’s Club” London.

 

FRENCH CONNECTIONS

 

Chef Biju’s  culinary training is rooted in the French and Basque regions. Interestingly, The Pierre has a huge and impressive culinary history. It opened in 1930 serving food in the classic French style, initiated by celebrated Master Chef Escoffier who developed the original menus. That tradition continues. And Chef Biju brings to the table amazing and dazzling flavors and textures. Our picninc basket too overflows with tasty magic…I request for the recipe of the superb buttermilk pancakes and end with the wish “Ma your life be a picnic always”.


 

Silver Dollar Buttermilk Pancakes

Makes 25 tiny pancakes (the size of silver dollars)

2 cups                    refined flour                  sifted

2 tsp               baking powder

1 tsp               baking soda

½ tsp                     salt

2 cups                    buttermilk

2 ea                large eggs               yolks & whites separated

2 tbl sp                  powdered sugar

2 tsp               melted butter

 

¼ tsp                     icing sugar                     for garnish

10 ea                      strawberries                   for garnish

1 cup                     maple syrup                   as accompaniment

1 cup                     chocolate chips                     optional

1 cup                     blue berries                   optional

 

Method of preparation:

 

  • Pre-heat a griddle or a non stick pan to medium high heat, lightly smear with oil (or use pan spray) and wipe off completely. There should not be any residual oil on the pan, but for a light coating

 

  • Combine flour, baking powder, soda and salt in a mixing bowl
  • Mix egg yolks and buttermilk together in a separate bowl
  • Prepare a soft meringue by beating egg whites and adding sugar gradually
  • Combine all three mixtures in a large mixing bowl ensuring the mixture is homogeneous using a spatula or a paddle, Do not over mix
  • Add melted butter to the batter

 

  • Pour the batter on to pre-heated griddle (approximately a table spoon full for each pancake)
  • To prepare chocolate chip or blueberry pancake, gently place some toppings on to wet pancake top at this stage
  • Once the pancake starts to bubble on top, turn and cook the other side for about a minute
  • Remove the pancakes from the pan, dust with icing sugar, Serve hot with maple syrup and strawberries