The way I see it!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Destination Jordan - Stop 1 Amman ♥♥♥ Street Food

The Street Food of Jordan

"Whether it is served on fine china or paper plates, food brings us together and stimulates conversation. We feast to wed, mourn, celebrate, strengthen friendships, grow, and simply to be hospitable. Good eating is one of life's great pleasures."

What is the first thing you want to try when traveling to any place? For me, it's always street food. Those bits and pieces, here and there always contain the produce, the flavours and the spirit of a place. It is fascinating how much street food tells about a destination! The perfect introduction.

So when we landed in Amman, and having grown up there, I wanted to show the ladies the city and have them taste some of its best loved street food. I felt I wanted to show them, why I love this place, where we hung out back in the day and give them a quick feel of Amman and what better way to do that, than by having them taste the street food of Jordan? So we head out to Shawerma Reem, one of the most popular and best loved meat Shawerma places in town. I myself had missed it so much, and knew they would love it! The whole experience is different from any other Shawerma place. You would queue for a while until you get your shawerma (the place is usually packed), all the while watching the guy slice off shavings of caramelised meat, which he then places in pita bread, drenches with Tahini sauce and adds a few slices of tomato, red onions and sprinkles the whole with chopped parsley and sumac, then rolls... you bite into it and you can't miss the tahini, the meat and get woofs of sumac and onion... absolute pleasure! We each had a few and could not stop at just 1!
Shawerma Reem is located in Jabal Amman, close by the Intercontinental hotel. A must try when in Amman.
Happily munching on Shawerma Reem

It was already afternoon and we wanted a good cup of coffee to keep us going, and since we were close by, I thought to take them to Books@Cafe, which is my favourite cafe in town. This is where I used to hang out with my friends since school days. Every so often we would go there and spend the whole afternoon out on the terrace, overlooking the beautiful Mountain studded with very old houses; a beautiful scene of old Amman. Books@Cafe, being located in the first circle of Jabal Amman, is in one of the oldest neighbourhoods of the city. Some houses there are well over 70 years old, so immediately you are in the presence of the city's history, its old structure, and iconic enduring stone houses. You take a look around, see the many windows and terraces and can't help but wonder the lifestyle back then.

A place with houses so closely knit with windows and balconies overlooking the whole neighbourhood. Had you spoken, the neighbour would have heard you, and the streets are very narrow, however everywhere you look there is a picturesque view. This area is very close by Rainbow street, which back in the day used to house the most famous and posh shopping stores, now turned into a cafe and retaurant strip. It is also close by Al Abdali, which has always been the public transportation hub of the city as well as being so close to down town Amman, which had always been the trade centre of this city. So rightly, back in the day, these people who lived in this area lived at the centre and the heart of Amman. While the city grew and hugely expanded, these areas reamain a centre and carry out much of the city's unique character. Ever characteristic of this city, Books@Cafe looks like it belongs to another era from the outside, however, very art deco on the inside, with the book shop section greeting you as you enter and the cafe on top treats you with its multi coloured, hand-painted walls, remixes of the most famous 90's tunes and some delicious treats all in the presence of amazing scenery from Old Amman. Beautiful, and I could not be happier that a good thing has not changed!

If you do go to Amman, dedicate a day for strolling down Rainbow Street. The strip is filled with cafes, restaurants, pubs and pub gardens among others but really the best thing about it is that it is a historical part Amman, the one that paved the way for modern Amman to evolve. 
Also recomend that you visit Souk Jara during the season it operates. This is an artisanal open market in which you will find many souvenirs and beautiful pieces by local makers including, cross stitching (pillows, clothing, table runners...), hand painted plates, cups, trays... and many more beautiful things. There are often performances and concerts there as well, so it is an all round fun activity showcasing Jordanian talents.
Since we are talking cafes, another one of my favourite cafes in Amman is Blue Fig Cafe in Abdoun. The ambience of the place and the back terrace are gorgeous. One of my favourite spots for sundowners. Music is always good there (they promote local musicians and artists) and the food always intriguing! They have completely revamped the Manqooshe (bread pastry) concept. Their pesto pastry and turkey and cheese one are to die for (I always order them there). Even their burgers are very different from what you would normally refer to as a burger! Must try! 
Books @ Cafe & Fairuz Restaurant
Amman - Jordan

The day was quickly unwinding from then on, we had dinner at Fairuz restaurant (in Landmark hotel), a new restaurant that I have not tried before. I really enjoyed the freekeh risotto, completely different from the traditional freekeh, taking it out of context completely... interesting to say the least. Also very much enjoyed the Yalangi we had there, which was more similar to the Turkish Dolma and thoroughly tasty. Their Labneh balls where heavenly and all the regular Lebanese Mezzes were good too.

In Jordan, the street food ritual is never complete without a
Hummus breakfast in Hashem restaurant in Al Balad
Followed by Knafe from Habiba
It was not until the second day that we went on the proper street food hunt! You have not tasted Street Food in Amman, until you have had the Falafel, Hummus, Fool, & Fattet Hummus... breakfast! Then followed that with Knafe from Habiba! That is it. This is the street food ritual in Jordan, and an absolutely delicious one, that you really want to go on!

The most famous Hummus breakfast shops include, of course Hashem Restaurant in Al Balad (everyone's favourite), 
Al Amaneh take out in Sweifieh, 
Al Kalha in Sweifieh or Abdoun, 
Abu Jbara in Tla' Al Ali or 
Al Usra in Abdoun... All of which are highly recomended.

The most famous Knafe and Arabic desserts shops include, Habiba Al Balad, Zalatimo, Abu Sir (must try their warbat or shueibyat, Ah Divine!)... All of which are very recommended.

The second day, we did just that and even filmed parts of it for you guys to see. Watch the video below, you will see how I could not stop munching. Nothing beats the flavours and rituals of HOME!

Because we were on a tight schedule, of course we could not try everything, however managed to squeeze in the most iconic ones, including Shawerma Al Daya the best loved for chicken Shawerma. We have even gone on a Sahlab hunt as Sumaya was craving Sahlab :) (sahlab is a milk mixture that is thick and served with nuts and desiccated coconut on top, really delicious and especially during winter, very heartwarming). We looked everywhere and while this drink was always readily available even at the sides of the street, that time it was hard to find! We did find it eventually in Gerard an ice cream shop in Abdoun, and it was everything I hoped for. Fantastic and recommended!

We missed on the delicious Kaek Bisimsem (Sesame coated bread rings filled with zaatar, cheese or boiled eggs), never had enough time! These are usually sold on strollers in Abdali, Sweifieh or the 4th circle close to Al Khaldi Hospital. Do try them when in Amman, you will love them. 
Also do drop by the produce markets, because produce in Amman is really outstanding. It is all real and smells of the produce. You peel a cucumber in one room, and the whole house smells of cucumbers. The strawberries are marvelous, the oranges, pomelos, the prickly pears... all is to die for!

MY Diaries -  Little notes I wrote during this trip.
My Jordan, stop 1 Diary:

When we keep our mind open to new ways, new things and new flavours we allow ourselves to experience the essence of a place and therefore allow ourselves to connect the space in between. We must never take home with us when we travel, and must know that everywhere is unique and different and that is why travel is a beautiful activity. If we expect to find only the familiar, the sameness of home, then we might as well stay at home! When we are being overly critical and looking for things to dislike then we will find just that! Things to dislike and more space in between. But when we are looking for the unique characteristics, flavours and ways of a new place, we are then exploring and allowing ourselves to discover. That is true adventure!

Come back again soon for another sensational street food Recipe! :)

Relative Links

Adventure, Explore & Discover 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Seafood Risotto ريسوتو ثمار البحر

I am so delighted to know that you guys love my profile video, thank you very much for all the sweet words, you guys are all Super Sweet :)

I am also very happy that the seafood risotto I was cooking in my #MaggiDiaries profile video went viral! (lol) It seems everyone is inspired to cook, which makes me very happy, and yes I have received all the recipe requests for this risotto :) Of course I will share the recipe, the whole idea is to share!

So here you go, including some tips, my best loved

Seafood Risotto Recipe  الوصفة بالعربي بآخر البوست
Serves 4-6

This Risotto is super delicious, done the authentic Italian way (always tomato-based and never dairy based). For best flavour, use fresh tomatoes (go to the Friday Farmers Market on The Terrace, and buy the best organic produce there, straight from the farmers), peel and deseed the tomatoes and puree.
The addition of the butter in the end (technique known as mantecatura in Italian cuisine) is necessary for the well known texture of risotto, it is what makes your risotto creamy, so it's OK indulge a little!
I usually use home-made seafood broth for making this risotto, in the video I have used 2 cubes Maggi Chicken Bouillon, which worked very well and tasted good as well. Finally garnish this risotto with assorted seafood (mussels, clams, shrimps, scallops...) then with choped fresh parsley. 

Sateed Fresh Shrimps
You Need
3 Kg clams
2 lobster tails cooked and chopped (optional)
1 Kg shrimps, cleaned and sautéed in olive oil and garlic
500g Mussels, cleaned, de-bearded and steamed until all are opened, discard any that remain closed
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil (you can use chili infused olive oil for spicy flavour/optional)
3 tbsp white grape vinegar
juice 1 medium lemon
4 tbsp pureed fresh tomato
Salt & Black pepper to taste
3 cups  fine carnaroli or arbario rice (medium grain rice)
2 liters seafood / fish broth or water with 2 cubes Maggi Chicken Bouillon
75g Butter, diced and kept refrigerated until ready to use

In a large saucepan, slightly heat half the quantity of the olive oil. Add the crushed garlic and saute until softened but not browned. Add the clams and shake the pan to coat and saute for about a minute or 2. Add the vinegar and stir to incorporate. After about a minute or 2 the clams should have opened. Discard any that remained closed. Remove the pan from the heat and remove the clams from the shell (reserving some with the shell on the side for garnish).

In a separate pot, heat the broth together with the tomato puree until the mixture reaches a boil. Reduce the heat and continue to simmer.

Meanwhile in a separate pan, heat the remaining olive oil and saute the onion until translucent and not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil, add more olive oil if the rice is not well coated. Make sure the rice is warm before adding any liquid to it. Once the rice is warm add the lemon juice and stir to coat. Continue to cook stirring until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice looks dry. Start to ladle in the broth, one ladle at a time and cook stirring after each addition until all the liquid had been absorbed. It is necessary for the texture of risotto that all liquid is absorbed before the addition of any more liquid and you must continually stir the mixture. Once absorbed add the next ladleful and so on...

Continue this process for about 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked through. Bear in mind that risotto must be soft with a bite and is never too soft (al dente). Turn down the heat and ad the cooked, shelled clams, diced lobster and stir to mix all. Season to taste and mix.

Remove from the heat and add the cold butter mixing very well and continuously until all the butter is incorporated. Garnish with the remaining clams, mussels and cooked shrimps, then sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.

Fresh Lobster Tails

، كتير مبسوطة إنكم حبيتوا الفيديو تاعي و شكرا كتير على كل الكلمات الحلوة اللي قلتوها عنجد انتوا كلكم حلوين. كمان مبسوطة إنه عجبكم الريسوتو اللي عملته بهادا الفيديو. و صلتني كل رسائلكم اللي طلبتوا فيها الوصفة وأكيد رح أعطيكم اياها، هاي هي كل الفكرة أساسا و أنا أصلا بفرحني إنكم متحمسين تطبخوا وصفتي. فيالله هاي الوصفة مع شوية نصائح لاتقانها :) اعملوها، رح تعجبكم

وصفة ريسوتو ثمار البحر
٤-٦ أشخاص

هاي وصفة طيبة كتير و محضرة على الطريقة الإيطالية التقليدية (بالمطبخ الإيطالي التقليدي دايما السمك وثمار البحر بتنعمل على أساس بندورة مش مع منتجات الألبان). ولضمان الطعم الأفضل دايما استخدموا بندورة طازجة ويفضل اتكون أورجانك أو عضوية (جربوا تشتروا خضرتكم من سوق المزارعين مباشرة، في دبي أحسن سوق مزارعين هو سوق الجمعة اللي بصير بحديقة أبراج الإمارات). قشروا البندورة و بعدين قيموا البزر واهرسوها لتصير ناعمة واستعملوها بدل رب البندورة الجاهز

زيادة الزبدة بآخر الوصفة ضروري ليعطي الريسوتو خاصيته الكريمية المعروفة، معلش الله بعينكم هاي أكيد مش وصفة لأيام الدايت! بس اتخلصوا طبيخ زينوا الريسوتو ببعض ثمار البحر إللي إلها صدف و شوية قريدس مقلى مع قشره. بعدين رشوا عليه بقدونس مفروم و شوفوا شو طيبة

٣ كغم محار طازج
٢ لوبستر مطبوخ و لحمه مقطع صغير (اختياري)  ـ
١ كغم قريدس، منظف ومقلى بشوية زيت زيتون مع ثوم مدقوق
٥٠٠ غم بلح البحر، منظف ومطبوخ على البخار حتى يفتح (نلقي أي حبات ضلت مسكرة) ـ
٣ أسنان ثوم، مدقوقة
بصلة متوسطة، مفرومة ناعمة
١/٤ كاسة زيت زيتون (ممكن آستخدام زيت الزيتون مع الحر إذا يفضل الطعم الحر) ـ
٣ ملاعق كبيرة خل العنب الأبيض
عصير ليمونة متوسطة
٤ ملاعق بندورة مهروسة
ملح وفلفل أسود حسب الذوق
٣ أكواب رز حبة متوسطة (نوع كارنارولي أو أرباريو)
ليترين مرقة ثمار البح، أو مرقة سمك أو مرقة دجاج ماجي
٧٥ غم زبدة مقطعة مكعبات، تحفظ باردة لحين الاستخدام

يحمى نصف كمية زيت الزيتون في قدر ويضاف إليه الثوم المدقوق ويقلى حتى يطرى لكن دون أن يحمر. يضاف عليهم المحار ويقلب معهم على النار الحامية لدقيقة أو ٢. نضيف عليهم نصف كمية الخل و نحرك. بعد دقيقتين بكون المحار فتح ونلقي أي حبات ضلوا مسكرين. نزيل القدر عن النار ونزيل الصدف لكن نترل القليل مع الصدف لتزريين الطبق قبل التقديم. ـ

في قدر منفصل، نسخن المرقة مع البندورة المهروسة إلى أن تغلي، ثم نوطي النار ونتركهم يقلبوا على نار واطية. ـ

، في قدر واسع وعميق نسخن باقي زيت الزيتون ونقلب به البصل حتى يطرى دون أن يحمر. نضيف الرز ونحركه حتى يتغلف بالزيت. لازم نتأكد أن الرز دافيء قبل إضافة أي سوائل عليه. عندما يدفىء الرز نضيف عليه المرقة شوي شوي (مقدار كوب بالمرة) ونحرك جيدا حتى يمتص الرز كل المرقة. لازم ما يضل أي سوائل قبل إضافة المزيد. نضيف المرقة فقط عندما يتم امتصاص كل سوائل المرة إللي قبل. ونستمر بهذه العملية لمدة ربع ساعة أو لحتى ينطبخ الرز. بالريسوتو  الرز لازم يكون طري بس مش عالآخر، لازم يضل فيه قرشة صغيرة كتير. ـ 

 يضاف اللوبستر المطبوخ المقطع والمحار المطبوخ المقشر للريسوتو ويخلط ليمتزج. ثم يبعد عن النار ويضاف الملح والفلفل الأسود ويحرك ثم يضاف عليه مكعبات الزبدة الباردة وتحرك جيدا وبسرعة حتى تمتزج. ـ

يزين الصحن بباقي ثمار البحر المطبوخة واللي ضل عليها قشرها والصدف ويرش الوجه بالبقدونس المفروم. يقدم مع شرحات الليمون على طرف. ـ


My Heaven: Cooking Outdoors & Cooking with people. Change is fun.
مافي شي ببسطني قد الطبخ برة والطبخ مع العالم. التغيير بيعطي الحياة طعم حلو

Relative Links

  • Make sure to stay tuned on the 13th of April, when the episodes will be broadcasted on Maggi Arabia's youtube channel (do subscribe and don't miss a post).

Monday, 7 April 2014

Introducing my Adventure with Maggi Diaries!

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
-Mark Twain

I know I have been really teasing you with all this adventure talk! But here we are, all out with this little teaser, introducing #MaggiDiaries... take a look, then read on...

Towards the end of last year, Maggi Arabia called me and told me about a programme they are planning. They told me that this project is very dear to their hearts because it is all about inspiring women everywhere to try new things, to follow their dreams and mainly to live the life they desire. What was meant to be a half an hour meeting ended up being hours of chatting about women, life and building bridges between desires and realisations.

That talk was in a way everything that I believe in, and everything that I have been focusing on through this blog, my social responsibility programmes as well as my general interest activities! I fell in love!

Hardly ever does any brand come to me with such exciting and meaningful project, therefore I was in...

I get excited about people, travel, food, art, music and mostly a real good story to tell...
Just a girl following my dream!

All my following meetings with the team were amazing chats and meeting with people who read my blog and share similar thoughts, desires and passions. These gatherings of the minds behind #MaggiDiaries were always interesting, fun and really meaningful. Excitement, planning and more planning... schedules, meetings... tasting sessions and just so much fun and anticipation all round...

Then I met the ladies with whom I was going on this trip. First, I met Sumaya whom I learnt to be an absolute mother figure, with a crafty hand and an eye for arts and crafts. Absolutely adored her artistic side. She translates any piece of junk into an eye catching item, from tables, to chandeliers you name it... Her artistic talent shines when she sets a table, saying she likes to impress her guests and give them a different feel and treat every time they visit... She does and her food... I have to tell you the woman can cook!

Afterwards, I met Hatun who was introduced to me as the first Saudi woman to climb base camp of Mount Everest! Have you seen the movies about climbing Everest?! I was instantly impressed, I like a woman who goes after a challenge. But Everest to me was her smallest achievement, because with time, I had learnt that she has diabetic children and that her biggest challenge is cooking for them food that is healthy for their condition, yet still delicious! Amen, as a mother I understand Hatun. We struggle feeding our children even without such health constraint, so imagine what she has to go through!

Then I met Dalia. Dalia and I are both fooderati members (food bloggers community) however, and not sure how, we had never met before! I liked the presence of another foodie in the group, someone who will understand my obsession to know more about a single spice, or my endless questions about a tagine, my over excitement when I find a Sous Vide machine in a random kitchen in Marrakech (totally happened and will tell you more later!)! You know foodies tend to get under your skin with their endless photography, questions and need for details; so Dalia was a breath of fresh air to me, because I knew she will get it!

Then I met Nayla Al Khaja, the first Emirati film producer who is also a director and script writer. I had heard lots about Nayla, and thought what she did was amazing! So you can imagine my excitement to meet her. The woman is flamboyant, with a bigger than life character ... absolutely a pleasure.

A good project, a good team for a bigger good
After all the planning and many a discussion later we set out on the adventure as the programme is to be about this group of women traveling in the Middle East, learning about new cultures and their food, trying new things, pushing the boundaries of recipes, presentation and table settings... discussing health issues and eating healthy, exploring ways to ignite romance and keep the love alive, preserving traditions as well as finding ways for making everyday cooking easier and more inspiring.

We all went with our dreams in our hearts, the bigger goal in our eyes and our own growth and development in mind.....

That's when the adventure starts!

To be continued.....

Come back again soon for the rest :) 


Relative Links:

  • Make sure to stay tuned on the 13th of April, when the episodes will be broadcasted on Maggi Arabia's youtube channel (do subscribe and don't miss a post).

Monday, 31 March 2014

Saumon en Papillote - Salmon baked in Paper

Have I ever mentioned that green and blue are my favourite colours?
Green for earth at its best and blue for the sea and the sky.
The earth because it is life, roots and grounding.
The sea because its beautiful and mighty.
The sky because its spiritual and open.
All great things are powerful, beautiful, soulful and open yet still grounded...

Salmon is perhaps the ultimate resident of my top list favourite food. Yes sure it is full of nutrients, the Omega factor, the antioxidants, the super food categorisation and all that health talk... but mostly because it is rich! Rich in flavour, rich in nutrients, rich in giving and just rich all round. There is no way you will eat salmon and mistake it for any other fish. It is unique, delicious and prominent - a perfect ingredient for a perfect meal.

Because salmon is rich in flavour, it could sometimes be a bit too much for some. But I tell you, when done right and with the right combinations, salmon is a pleasure to eat even for the fussiest of eaters, so stay open minded (even if you have already decided you are not a big fan) and give this recipe a try.
I frequently make this and both my friends and family (including young children) always love it and you will too.

Cut long rectangles out of baking paper, fill them with
your desired ingredients then seal the paper by tightly
rolling in the sides and edges.
'En Papillote' is the French term for food cooked wrapped in baking paper. It is a popular French cuisine technique that is very similar to the Asian wrapping in banana leaves, the Middle Eastern wrapping in vine leaves or the modern wrapping of food in newspapers - where the food is separated from the ink by being wrapped in bundles of herbs first -  and it is essentially the same function as cooking in a Tagine pot. (read more about Tagine cooking on this link)

The whole idea of wrapping food with any type of paper is that the ingredients will snuggle tightly together and as they cook they will steam and continue to be moistened by the steam therefore turn out succulently moist and tender. Because the ingredients are tightly wrapped they do not lose any nutrients or flavours. In fact, they even lend their flavours to each other inside the paper, making the finished food really very flavoursome.

What more can any cooking method do for food? Therefore, do opt for 'en papillote' often and see how decadent your food comes out. Although this method is most popular with fish, it can be carried out with different meats, as well as vegetarian concoctions.

Always use fresh ingredients. Makes all the difference to the flavour and texture of the food.
Good quality ingredients always produce outstanding food.
Saumon En Papillote
Serves 4 - Easy
Choose organic, don't trust cocktails
of chemicals with your health!
You Need
4 fresh salmon fillets
a large bundle of baby asparagus
12 baby shallots, peeled and kept whole
zest and juice of 2 lemons
zest and juice of 2 limes
1 small bunch fresh coriander, chopped
1 small bunch fresh dills, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt** & Black pepper to taste

For the Baked Potatoes
1 kg Red baby potatoes
2 tbsp Olive oil
Salt** & Black pepper to taste

**I used pink Himalayan salt, love its flavour and the fact that it is not refined salt, which makes it healthier as well.

Start by roasting the asparagus. Place them over a baking sheet, drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Roast in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Turning once throughout.

In the meantime, peel the onions and set aside.

Prepare the marinade for the salmon. Mix together the olive oil, zest and juice of lime and lemon, as well as the chopped herbs and seasoning. Place the salmon fillets in the marinade and flip to coat. Set aside.

Salmon en Papillote
Cut long rectangles of baking paper and fold in half. Open the paper and place some roasted asparagus on one side then top with the marinated salmon and some of the marinade sauce and herbs. Add a few onions and fold the paper to cover. Seal by tightly rolling in the sides, then roll in the edges.

Place the papillotes on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven (375F / 190C) for 12-15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and serve hot alongside lime wedges and roasted potatoes or an assorted leaves salad.

For the roasted potatoes, 
simply dress the washed potatoes with oil and season with salt & black pepper and roast in a hot oven until tender (30- 40 minutes) or crispy (1 hour, tossing regularly).

Hope you like this recipe. Do give it a try, I know you will  it. 
Come back soon for more....
All the excitement is just about to begin!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Ratatouille Tartlets

Serves 4 |  Easy

Typical to Provençal cookery and originally from Niece comes the popular and succulent Ratatouille. Ratatouille is essentially a vegetable stew, which was first designated as an appetiser, however, is nowadays used as part of different classic preparations such as ommlettes, and scrambled eggs. It is also served as a side to roasts, braised fish, chicken and small cuts of meat.

The original Ratatouille Niçoise is prepared using vegetables such as onions, zucchinis, eggplants, assorted capsicums and tomato, along with Provençal herbs which are all simmered to a smooth creamy consistency in olive oil. For the purist - and in following the steps of the preparation from the finest Provençal Chefs - the vegetables should be separately cooked, then combined to be cooked together to finish. It was customary for the vegetables to be cubed (medium size cubes), but with the modern cuisine and emphasis on presentation, chefs started changing around with the presentation of this dish, creating many designs to include flower shaped ratatouilles where the vegetables are lined as petals of a large flower, as well as batonned vegetables that are then tied with leaks to form bundles...etc.

Besides the heavenly flavours of ratatouille, what is great about this dish is that it is open to any design that you wish to present it with. The use of different vegetables allow for different colours too, so no matter what you end up doing, this dish is most certainly to always impress.

I have made Ratatouille for dinner the other day, and had some extra vegetables that did not fit in the dish, so decided to use them in tartlets, which my kids love. Ratatouille tartlets are an excellent variation to Baked Ratatouille. The addition of puff pastry, makes it an excellent snack and side to steak. In this post, I have included both, the tartlets and baked ratatouille dish for you to try. When serving a rustic dinner, go for the baked dish as it adds to that feel. Otherwise, and for an excellent lunch, serve ratatouille tartlets along with steak, braised fish or simply a side of leafy salad with classic french dressing.

Make the tartlets for afternoon tea, as a snack, as a side to dishes or for breakfasts and brunches.
Also using Ratatouille with eggs and omelettes makes it a wonderful brunch option :)

PS do go for seasonal vegetables, there is nothing like visiting farmers markets and being inspired by the local produce on offer that season. Also opt for organic whenever possible, why intrust a cocktail of chemicals with your health? The same applies to meats, in fact, meats are the one part where organic is really necessary.

For Baked Ratatouille
You Need
2 large eggplants, washed and sliced into thin rounds
1 small butternut squash, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
4 tomatoes, sliced into thin rounds
6 small zucchinis or 2 large ones, sliced into thin rounds
1 large brown onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic crushed
6 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup tomato juice or water
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp tomato paste
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
1 tbsp fresh sage leaves
black pepper & salt
2 tbsp Olive oil + 2 tbsp extra

Start by preparing the tomato sauce. In a large saucepan, gently cook the diced onions, and crushed garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil. Cook till tender, but do not brown.

Add 1 tbsp of each: rosemary, thyme and sage. Sprinkle with black pepper and toss to coat. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir to coat with the herbed onion mixture. sprinkle with salt and stir. Add sugar, tomato paste and tomato juice or water, stir to mix. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until liquid is reduced.

Turn the heat off and remove.
Place Tomato sauce in the baking dish to cover the bottom. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the sauce for later.

In whichever manner you like, start layering the vegetables on top of the tomato sauce. I place them half standing in the baking dish, and alternate colours. Continue going around until the whole dish had been filled with the vegetables.

Sprinkle the rest of the herbs and then sprinkle 1/4 cup of reserved tomato sauce on top of the vegetables. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tbsp olive oil.

Because the vegetables are not pre-cooked, cover with foil and bake in a preheated oven for 25 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for further 20 minutes. If you have pre-cooked vegetables, then do not cover and just roast in the preheated oven for 25-40 minutes depending the size of your dish. The vegetables should still hold shape, yet be creamy when finished and easy to cut through.


For Ratatouille tartlets
You can use a cookie cutter - round or square - in any size you like. Try minis for cocktail parties. Adjust the size of the vegetables according to pastry size.

You Need

Puff pastry cut into squares of desired size.
1 medium eggplants, washed and sliced into thin rounds
1/4 butternut squash, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
2 tomatoes, sliced into thin rounds
3 small zucchinis or 2 large ones, sliced into thin rounds
1 small brown onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic crushed
4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup tomato juice or water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves
1 tsp fresh sage leaves
black pepper & salt
2 tbsp Olive oil + 2 tbsp extra

Prepare tomato sauce as instructed above. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a cookie sheet with baking paper and slightly brush with oil. Place the puff pastry squares on lined sheet about 2 inches apart.

Top each square with 2 tbsp of tomato paste (adjust quantity according to your chosen pastry size).

Top each with layers of vegetables, sprinkling ever so slightly with olive oil between the layers and sprinkling with herbs.

Start with the largest vegetables moving on to the smallest on top. Spoon a little tomato sauce on top, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with herbs. Repeat to finish all tartlets.

Bake in the preheated oven for 22 -25 minutes or until pastry is fully puffed and golden. Remove from heat, cool for 3 minutes on the sheet, transfer to wire rack until ready to serve.

Serve along side braised fish, steak, chicken or a side of leafy salad with french dressing... But hey this is good enough on its own and a perfect vegetarian treat ;)

ü Please consider the environmental impact before printing this post

Saturday, 8 March 2014

How to make Shishbarak (The Arabic version of Tortellini), A Step-by-Step Tutorial

Nothing beats fresh home-made Shishbarak

"I hope that I may always desire more than I can accomplish"   - Michelangelo

I woke up very early this morning... loving how quiet the house is. I figured to get this post going before everyone wakes up and the rest of the weekend continues :)
A recipe post since it's been a while, and coming back with more adventure soon.

Shishbarak is a Levantine cuisine preparation, that is believed to have originated in Syria. However many people believe that it's real origin is Turkish. As with most Middle Eastern food the origins are very tricky to confirm, but whichever origin Shishbarak stems from, it is delightfully delicious and making it, to me, is very therapeutic.

Making Shishbarak is very similar to making pasta. It is essentially a dough casing, that is filled with a classic meat filling. It is very similar to the Italian Tortellini, in concept and final shape. Once the dough is rolled filled and shaped, it is then slightly baked in prepare it for freezing. Or cooked straight away if having it fresh. Making the Shishbarak is the first step, then using this Shishbarak in the making of a vriety of stews is the final product (check out the Shishbarak & Kubbeh Stew 'Kubbeh o Shishbarak Bilaban' on this link).

Making Shishbarak is very similar to making Pasta

The dough used for making Shishbarak is a basic and very simple dough. Consisting only of water, flour and salt. No leavening agent, no improvers... no additions. The idea is to achieve a slightly sticky dough, that will encase the filling. The dough does not need to rise, and in fact it has to be somewhat thin as to not overwhelm the flavour of the meat filling. Shishbarak is easy to make however could be slightly time consuming. But hey... if you are relaxed in your kitchen, and listening to your favourite tunes, clearing your mind and producing delicious fresh food, then I'd say this time was well spent.

Yalla let's get rolling...

I prefer to roll dough on a 100% cotton cloth
Check the tip for rolling

The size of the Shishbarak is optional. Some like it big, others prefer it small. I always go for smaller sizes, I find them to be more elegant and easier to present... for that, I use the standard 3 inch round cookie cutter.

You Need
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4- 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
Salt to taste

1 recipe Arabic Meat Filling (meat filling recipe on this link).

Start by making the dough. here is a quick tip:

Tip 1 The moistness of dough is highly dependent on environmental conditions. If the weather is humid, you will find that you need less water. If the weather is dry, you might need more water. All you need to do is add the water gradually and mix until you achieve a slightly sticky dough. If the dough is too sticky add more flour, if the dough is dry, add a little bit more water and so on.

Gradually add the water until you achieve a dough slightly sticky in consistency. Do not over work the dough or
it will toughen up

Place meat filling in a sieve over
a bowl to get rid of excess liquids
Place the flour in a large wide bowl, or on a clean work surface. Gradually add the water and mix using your finger tips. Once the flour and water start binding start gathering and pressing them down in a knead-like motion as in picture 2 above. Continue to add water and knead until a slightly sticky dough is achieved as in picture 3 above. Where the dough will stick slightly to your fingers, but not enough to cover them.

Cut the dough into 2 portions, roll into a ball and place into a bowl. Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes as in the last picture above (numbered 3 by mistake lol).

Meanwhile make the Arabic Meat Filling. Once the filling is finished, place in a sieve over a small bowl in order to get rid of any excess liquids. The liquids are not desirable here because they will affect the consistency of the Shishbarak dough. Placing the meat on the sieve is also good to cool it down, which makes it easier o handle.

Now you are ready to start rolling the dough. Rolling Shishbarak dough is best done using a pasta roller. It facilitates rolling dough into very thin sheets, which is what we are looking to achieve. You can use a traditional Italian Pasta Roller, or you can buy the Pasta rolling attachment for your stand mixer (Kitchen aid and Kenwood both have pasta rolling attachments). Set your pasta roller firmly on the table or hook the attachment to your kitchen machine. Set the roller on size 4 and sprinkle the tops - where the rollers are - slightly with flour.

Tip 2   I usually like to roll pasta, sticky doughs, cookie doughs most doughs really on a clean 100% cotton cloth instead of a work surface. I find this to give me the best results as it does not require the addition of a lot of flour to avoid stickiness, which eventually makes the dough dry. The cotton is stick-free :)

Rolling the dough for making Shishbarak
Cut each one of the 2 dough balls into 4 balls. Place the balls under a 100% cotton cloth - as in picture 1 above - to keep them from drying. Work with 1 ball at a time. Slightly roll the ball with a rolling pin as in picture 2. Take the disk of dough to the pasta roller and roll it as in picture 3. The dough will come out of the other end in the desired thickness as in picture 4 and 5. Super easy.

Cut out 3 inch rounds from the thin sough sheet using a cookie cutter
Once the dough sheet is rolled, place on slightly floured surface, and cut rounds using a cookie cutter as in picture 2 above. Place all the cut out dough circles under the cotton cloth to prevent drying out. Now you are ready to fill the dough.

Shaping the Shishbarak is what most find difficult. It is like shaping a ravioli
follow the instructions fully and you will have no problem at all
Place the dough cutout on a slightly floured surface. Top one half of the round with meat filling as in picture 1 above. Stay away from the edges or the dough will open up after cooking and that is the worst thing to happen! Fold the empty half of dough over the filling as in picture 2 and pinch the centre to seal the 2 dough sides together. Pinch all around the edge to seal the dough making sure no openings remain. The case would look like a crescent as in picture 3. Hold the crescent from either end and fold the right side over the left side and pinch the dough to hold the shape as in picture 4. Place the dough on the work surface and slightly press the top to flatten ever so little, as in picture 5. Place the finished Shishbarak piece on a floured tray, and keep uncovered to slightly dry. Continue the same process untill all dough and filling are consumed. :))

Once done and having placed all Shishbaraks on the tray, sprinkle the tops with a little more flour. Let stand for 15 minutes.

If going to freeze the Shishbarak, bake in 400F oven for 10-15 minutes to firm up and prepare for the freezer. If you freeze the dough without baking slightly, they will become soggy when thawed and might break up during cooking. Once baked, cool completely. Place in freezer safe containers, separated by wax or parchment paper. Otherwise you can just use them fresh for cooking.


Friday, 28 February 2014

Experience what’s cooking in Spain! Join The Ultimate Foodie Tour of Spain

There’s no question Spain is one of the most fascinating destinations in the world, with vast regions of countryside to explore, amazing history, rich culture and gastronomy.

A Taste of Spain, have put together “The Ultimate Foodie Tour of Spain”, an 8 days’ group culinary tour through Madrid, La Rioja, the Basque Country and Catalonia. 2014 departures are scheduled for May 18 and October 5.

Some of the tour highlights are:
  • Savor the great food which Spain is famous for: from Tapas and Paella to Basque Gastronomic Societies and avant-garde cuisine
  • Immerse yourself in the vibrant culinary and cultural scene of Madrid, San Sebastian and Barcelona – with accommodation at 4 centrally located hotels
  • Visit the colorful Boqueria food market with our local expert chef and join him in a hands-on Mediterranean cooking class
  • Enjoy a second - truly unique - cooking class, this time at the famous members-only Gastronomic Society in San Sebastian
  • Taste and learn about extraordinary Rioja and Cava wines through private visits to family-run wineries
  • Discover the fascinating world of Ibérico ham and Sherry wines on a special meal themed around these extraordinary products
  • Experience the diverse cultures, landscapes and foods of Spain by the hand of our local culinary guide

A detailed itinerary is on this link

Created in 1999 by a group of Spanish professionals sharing a passion for the cuisine and culture of their country, A Taste of Spain is the local boutique agency specialized in the organization of innovative and exclusively designed culinary tours and services in Spain.


See the photos from my trips to Spain on these links:


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