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.
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.
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.
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:-
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
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.
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.
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.
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
It doesn’t get any better than this. I’m getting a taste of the most sublime “lemon tart” which is made to the same recipe for the past many centuries and I am doing so on the worlds beautiful city’s most beautiful terrace. And it is acknowledged to be so even by the perfectionist Parisians. It has a 360 degree panoramic view of Paris and it has the city’s landmarks within kissing distance of each other. Please take a look at the photograph and you’ll see the terrace we are on, you’ll see the Eiffel tower right there, what you cannot see in this photograph is the other landmark of Paris, The Arc de Triomph (which is also within kissing distance.) This picturesque terrace is not only located between historic landmarks but also crowns one of the city’s most loved iconic landmarks, Hotel Raphael. Did I begin this paragraph by saying “it doesn’t get any better than this”? It does. Because with me is the fourth generation owner of the Raphael, the charming, well-travelled, dynamic Veronique Valcke
Baverez. Her family Baverez, since 1898 has been dotting the city of Paris with historic landmarks, Regina, Majestic and ofcourse Raphael.I not only get a first hand account of the history of Paris and Raphael but also the recipe of the most sublime”Lemon tart” . Every last detail (from the cuisine to the plants on this terrace) is overseen by Veronique and her mother. “My mother loves roses” points out Veronique as we inhale their fragrance and are surrounded by more than 100 kinds of flowers,. lavender, Japanese apple trees, Box trees. We sit under a snow white linen umbrella, the terrace has a refined floral atmosphere in a Belle Epoque style and right next to us is the giant marble chess board, a tribute to the founder Leonard Tauber, also the cofounder of the chess club of France.
Movie buffs will instantly recognize the Raphael, because not only have many a super hit film (Love in Paris, Place Vendome been filmed here but many a film star has stayed here.) And this includes legends like Marlon Brando, Ava Gardner, Kylie Minogue.Statesmen, political leaders, academics, film directors, actors, writers have favoured The Raphael over all other hotels.
It’s not just the movie world, even the art world has been dazzled by the collection of original masterpieces here. These are normally housed in museums but find place of pride in The Rapahel. From masterpieces by Turner to those by Classical artists…Raphael is a mini-museum. It even has origianl louis xv and xvi pieces of furniture, sofas, table et al. The young patisseur Nina metayer bakes to the time tested recipes of centuries, Thomas Chagray cooks to classical ones too. Overseeing it all, is the vivacious Veronique who ensures that every last detail is a masterpiece. Like the Lemon Tart (whose recipe follows).
P.S. Interestingly, the plot to eliminate a dictator was hatched in The Raphael and the conspirators were known as Raphaelites. I didn’t take part in any such conspiracy, but Ive succumbed to the Raphael magic and am also happy to be known as a Raphaelite.
- butter 300g
- icingsugar 190g
- almondpowder 60g
- salt 1g
- eggs 113g
- Vanillapowder 2g
- Flour 500g
In the butter, icingsugar, almond powder, salt, vanilla powder and flour.incorporate the eggs. obtain a homogeneous dough, keep in the fridge. Roll out the dough to 3 mm thick and place in the tart moulds about 1.5cm high on 7.5 cm diameter each. Bake at 170°C
- Sugar 480g
- eggs 500g
- Butter 400g
- Gélatine 3 leaves
- Lemon zest 10 units
- Lemon juice 10 units
Combine in a big pot lemon zest ( grate the skin) and juice. Place the gelatine leaves in very cold water.. Mix it all, slowly little by little with a spatula. Keep in fridge. When its cold put the lemon curd into the pastry shell.
lime meringue :
- Eggs white 200g
- Sugar 100g
- Lime zest 2 units
Whisk the eggwhites, add the sugar, add the lime zest more delicately with aspatula.Garnish the lemon tart with a piping bag. Bake for a few seconds in the ovenjust for a little color
Here it is. The best inheritance we can ever receive. The legacy of legacies…the passing on of recipes and cooking styles from an older generation to the younger one. Each time I conduct my “Whats hot” tasting session in Chennai, I get even more delighted by the keen interest in cooking and baking here. Especially in all generations. And more often than not this transgenerational transfer of recipes happens from mother to daughter. Twenty six year old talented and hardworking Nahla Fathima not learnt baking from her gifted mother Amira Kalifulla but also from her mother’s equally talented sister Yasmin. “I have been baking as a kid, thanks to my mother and aunts who sparked this interest in me, and were also the cause of my sweet tooth” Nahla explains. She used to bake cakes for mostly family parties and special occassions at home. Since then, Nahla has been taking orders for customized cakes, theme based cakes and cupcakes. She set up H H Gourmet cakes and cupcakes and in September 2013, put up a Facebook page too. She joined the Home Bakers Guild Festive show case too. Her customized cakes are fondant based but she also does special buttercream frosting. What is particularly commendable is that she makes it all at home and uses only the freshest and finest ingredients.
Nahla started with the classic chocolate cake that uses melted liquid chocolate rather than cocoa powder. Initially, it was buttercream and freshcream cakes, but now her specialisation is themed and customised fondant cakes, although her clients do call her for buttercream cakes which she still does. she use french and swiss meringue buttercream which isnt like the popular and easier American buttercream available in all the bakeries.
Nahla is quick to point out “As I am a homebaker, it is mostly a one-man show, so I take only limited orders and well in advance. Especially for fondant cakes”. Nahla is happy to customise and cakes and make them as elaborately as possible usually with the client’s own reference picture. Another popular theme right now is the 2 or 3 tiered cake, especially for 1st bday parties, weddings as they rightly steal the show and look quite magnificent when placed at the venue with the themed set up. So it is Nahla’s two tiered cakes that are mostly in demand right now. Animal shapes, Barbie dalls, cars…you name it, Nahla will create it.
NUTRITIOUS & DELICIOUS
“The recipe i am sharing with you is a Banana Cake recipe, which is one that
i do frequently as a way to get my son to eat the fruit and also to use up those overipe bananas which no one wants to eat”. Nahla points out. The cake is not very sweet as most of the sweetness comes from the fruit. It also has all the healthful properties of the fruit.
The recipe is versatile as it lends to being made a pound cake, cupcakes, loaves or even as cake layers for stacking.
Butter – ¾ cup
Sugar – 11/4 cup
Eggs – 3
Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
Bananas Overipe – 4
Flour – 3 cups
Baking soda, Baking powder – 1 tsp each
Salt – ½ tsp
Cinnamon – 1 tsp
Buttermilk – 1 cup ( 1 cup milk with 1 tbsp vinegar )
Sour cream – ¼ cup
Preheat oven to 180 C. Line 2 9” pans.
Cream the butter. Add sugar to creamed butter. Mix until smooth.
To this add the eggs 1 at a time until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and bananas to this mixture.
In another bowl, sieve the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
In a third bowl, mix together the buttermilk and the sour cream.
Now, add the dry and wet ingredients alternatively.
Pour into lined pans and bake for 30 – 40 mins until springy to touch.
Do you work out of home? Would you like to be featured here?
Are you a home baker? Home chef? Please email (Rashmiudaysingh2015@gmail.com, Anjalisharma965@gmail.com) FB, instagram, tweet @rashmiudaysingh your contact details and the work you do and we will revert to you asap. We will conduct a “Whatshottasting session and invite you to it. Look forward to hearing from you and featuring you here…