Chef On A Mission - A preview (watch the full episode on November 7, 12:55 pm KSA Time, on Fatafeat)

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Vegan Black Bean Chilli - (it's Vegan, Organic, Gluten-free & Sugar-free!)

Vegan, organic, gluten-free, sugar-free black bean chilli
with a side of cooked wild rice, guacamole (recipe on this link) & a side of tomato salsa (recipe on this link)

If you are wondering "why?" check out the previous post (this is the link) and you will understand what madness had fallen on me to have taken up such challenge "Vegan, Organic, Gluten-free and Sugar-free all at once!" and not just for a few days or weeks but for a complete 4 months!!!

So as I was telling you in the previous post, when you take up such a challenge, one that is so outside of your comfort zone, and especially outside of your cooking intellect - we all know that is not the type of food I cook or have all the time - you end up having to figure out what to eat! It was a daily struggle at first "what was I going to eat?" then even if I thought of "what", the question goes straight to "how" how am I going to make that food taste good? Be satisfying and not feel like a bunch of boiled vegetables! Almost tasteless. This was especially true because I generally do not prefer shallow flavours, in fact I would say my signature style in cooking is creating deep, full and whole-bodied flavours. The same was true to my preference even when it came to plant-based (no animal products to aid in the depth of flavour) I still wanted to taste deep, good flavours.

That was not going to have me throw the towel and walk out on this. I was determined, in fact I felt this was an exercise much needed to enhance my cookery skills too. I took it on and I stuck to it, and honestly all it took was two weeks of trials and experimentations (3 meals a day and a few snacks) and I was on it like I was born to cook that way! It was interesting and cooking was not boring or a chore whatsoever, it was a challenge and I loved every bit of it. Best of all, I was really creating deeply flavoured, very satisfying meals, very unlike the ones I have tried based on recipes and descriptions on social networks and the internet, most of which to my amazement turned out rubbish food despite the beautiful pictures and ravings about flavours! I always thought those looked so good that I wanted to try them, but when I did they were mostly tasteless and so many were truly inedible! I am sure you have come across such experiences and understand what I mean!

That is why I thought I should actually share some recipes here, because I know some of you out there are looking for good recipes for these diet requirements, and I want to make sure you have some good recipes to try at home to feed yourselves well :)

So as promised, I will be sharing some here, and I will start with one of my favourites. This black plant-based bean chilli is amazing. The flavour is fabulous, especially when you, as instructed in the recipe, use my Smoked Shatta (smoked red chilie sauce). It really gives it that kick and most importantly the depth I was talking about. (you can order this shatta and any other of my Organic Mooneh Essentials online and we deliver anywhere in the UAE. details on this link.) Also the use of the dark chocolate, fills up the depth of flavour. It is the one ingredient that no chilli should be made without! Really, try it and taste the difference.
You might think: "Wait a minute chocolate has milk and is not vegan!" yes generally it does when processed and more so in low percentages. But nowadays you can buy vegan chocolate from most stores (but that will be sweetened, make sure to check that part out) and here is a tip for you: 
100% dark chocolate is purely cacao. It is bitter yes, but it is pure cacao and that is vegan (cacao is a plant). Remember we are sugar-free here so opt for 100% dark chocolate. If that is nowhere to be found, just use 100% cacao powder (not the drink mixes! the pure cacao).
Finally before we go to the recipe, the most amazing part about this recipe is that it is quick, easy, fuss-free, whip up in less than 30 mins (after work, put on the stove then go slip into something comfortable and come back to a ready meal)!! how cool is that (those of us who work know and appreciate that bit, and those of us who are mothers cooking for families everyday know how good this is, and those of us who are free and have all the time in the world: well you don't really get to complain! :)) )
Tip: This mixture can freeze up to 3 months! make a big pot, enjoy dinner, pack in portions and freeze to heat anytime you like! 
No excuses!!! Do it!

Here you go, the recipe:
(click it to enlarge)

Couldn't read my handwriting?! No worries watch it below it is only 2 minutes long!
Short & sweet.

Have you been looking at gorgeous food pics on social lately? (you have, we all do that) but have you craved the descriptions, only to try the recipe and find it tasteless? Really I would love to know if you have had such experiences, or if I am just fussy! Share with me and allow my mind to be at rest knowing am not alone!! :0

"If it doesn't challenge you it doesn't change you" I love this quote

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Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Bring it on! - Vegan, Gluten-free & Sugar-free all at once!

Vegan, Organic, Unsweetened Apple Sauce
Organic Mooneh Essentials by Dima Sharif for special diet requirements

I don't just assume. I experience to know. I believe there is no other way to really truly know. Everything else is just assumptions and probabilities therefore at best tattle!

A few months ago, and you may remember from my instagram posts, I took on one of the food trends. The "vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free" diet! I never did for losing weight reasons, or for following trends, I did for three main reasons:

The first: because I was complaining from lack of energy. At that time I was getting tired and felt without energy very often and was recommended a plant-based diet (kind of detox for a while) and the doctor swore by it saying "you will feel massive amounts of energy if you eat right".

I still have this now because it is just simply irresistible
thanks to my amazing Almond Butter!
The second: I was also trying to figure out if I had any intolerances that I was not aware of, really for the same reason as the above, and the same doctor said that some intolerances - especially if not severe - may not show in tests and the best way to find them is to go off certain foods for at least 4 months and then reintroduce them slowly and see how the body reacts.
So all in all it felt like a plant-based (Vegan diet) was a way to figure all that out and detox my body for a while eating loads of vegetables and greens, also cleaning it from the terrible ingredient; Sugar! not to dismiss testing out the "gluten" theory.

Which brings me to the last and, to me, very important third reason: I had been reading and listening to all people talking about "Vegan Diets", "Gluten-free Diets" and so on and while I did before that take on the whole "eat less meat" action (I generally do not consume loads of meats of any type, I naturally eat more vegetables than any animal products) but it felt like for 4 months I can actually put all this to the test and strictly stick to this way of eating and then speak from experience rather than hearsay.

Also I always like to cater to all food requirements and I believe to serve these requirements you have to actually understand them and that can only happen by experience.

So off I went and stuck to this plan for 4 months.

This was a really good Thai Vegan Red Curry

The findings

Please note that I am not recommending following any type of eating plan or diet. I am simply sharing my experience fully aware that different bodies react differently and have different dietary needs. Please do not follow any diets without consulting with your physician first.

I must admit, throughout the four months I felt massive amounts of energy. I felt great! Really fresh, crisp, clear and so focused, no joke, even I was very surprised. I never once felt hungry, I felt I could eat as much as I wanted and felt over all very healthy. I did not gain/lose weight, I remained the same throughout but my body felt leaner in general.

I did struggle at first with compensating the protein, iron and calcium intake. These are very important nutrients that any vegan (plant-based eaters) have to watch out for. You must make sure that you get these nutrients from non-animal sources and that they are served with the ingredients that facilitate their absorption. That is really why you must consult with a nutritionist and a physician before you take up this kind of diet.

among the first foods I cooked for this diet
It was easy, fast and not very creative,
but that was just the beginning
The most struggle though was: "what do I eat", but that gave me a whole new challenge, which I eventually appreciated a lot, because it gave me a new way to look at the foods I cooked very often, and also pushed me to work on completely new recipes with a completely different approach (a different mind set). It was a true blessing for kitchen creativity. At home, I was eating fantastic and very tasty foods. With that said though, it was a huge challenge eating out on all fronts. I never found anything that fit the requirement, mind you, if it was vegan, it was not necessarily gluten free, or sugar free and so on... and also when I did find anything to go with what I needed, it was all rubbish food! I was surprised to see how terrible and tasteless the on-the-menu very good looking smoothies, granolas, and vegan items were, and mostly how inedible a lot of the vegan recipes out there are; despite the gorgeous photos!!! I spat more than I swallowed at first, and figured I could not eat out. So the real challenge was I really could not eat anything I did not cook myself!

For 4 months I only drank unsweetened iced-teas when I was out and if I ate I had a garden salad dressed with olive oil or the odd vietnamese vegan rice roll without any sauces (sugar)... and as 'necessity is the mother of all inventions' I had to put all my thoughts together to create fabulous, mouthwatering and satisfying meals. I did and ate perfectly good and satisfying meals at home.
Best of all I have a huge repertoire of these recipes now, from which I will share with you here. And the bestest best is that I have a full line in my Organic Mooneh Essentials dedicated to these requirements and offering you flavour-packed ingredients to help you in your plant-based diet.
Vegan, Organic, Unsweetened Hazelnut Butter
Organic Mooneh Essentials by Dima Sharif for special diet requirements

After the four months passed...

Everyone I spoke with, I told "I don't think I want to change back".

Oats, Nuts & Seeds Granola with Goji Berries
Organic Mooneh Essentials by Dima Sharif
for special diet requirements
I really felt so good I wanted to keep going that way forever... untill... I left for the summer holidays and of all places I went to London then France (the two places where we all know food is great). While in London there were a tad more options than here in Dubai, still it was almost impossible to tick all the boxes. I tried to stick to it at first, but it just proved impossible!

In France, I totally gave in! no more vegan, nor gluten free! I kept eating healthy throughout the whole trip, the most naughty foods I ate were really in one or two bite portions and not very often. However, I expanded like I was eating 10 burgers a meal! You see, this is the thing about diets that remove whole food groups out of the list. The minute you are back to consuming those, it's like you never did anything at all! In fact it is worse, because had you done nothing at all, you would have been better off!

The long story short, I came back shocked at how my body performed! I gained a lot of weight and really did not eat much to justify it!

Now am thankfully back on track, eating healthy, eating wholesome, all food types except sugar, which truly wreaks havoc in my body, and going to the gym 5 times a week. I do continue to consume very moderate amounts of meat as I did before I took this up (for health and environmental sustainability reasons) and I do have plant-based days/meals. And finally, I have adopted the good parts into my regular diet (seeds, nuts and super berries). I must tell you, there is nothing like this lifestyle. The energy is there, the good food is there, the overall health is doing better than ever (as per my doctor) and very importantly the options are there too.

I guess the most important of what I had learned throughout this experience is really: what you get your body accustomed to is what your body will be giving you back. Take things out and your body throws them out of its functions, bring them back in and your body gets confused! Really "balanced eating and activity" is all the healthy eating you need to do so long that you don't really have any intolerances, as those need a permanent special diet. As is my case with sugar!

Now tell me,

Have you tried and tested with these new food trends? What was your experience like?
When you decided to go for it, how challenging was it for you to eat good food? Eat out? Cook at
home? Do please share your thoughts with me, I would love to know.

Coming up on Thursday: 
my Vegan, Organic Black Bean Chilli Recipe 
for your meatless days

"Keep it simple in the kitchen. If you use quality ingredients, you don't need anything fancy to make food delicious."   - Curtis Stone 
(I so agree to this)

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

A Michelin Visit To Old Dubai

The Chefs:
"We should go to Old Dubai. We hear there is an amazing spice market there."
"Is it true that the old spice routes from India and Asia passed by there in the old days?"

"Why don't we go check it out? I can take you there."

And we went.

Last November, and during the Italian Cuisine World Summit - which takes place in Dubai annually (in November), and where the top Italian Michelin Chefs hail from across the globe to participate in this event - the chefs eagerly asked to go to the Old part of Dubai, where the old souk is and where the well known Dubai spice market resides. I thought why not arrange for them to go visit and also thought it will make a perfect preview video of what you can do or find when at the old quarter of Dubai. So I took them and filmed throughout the day.

I did not have any script in mind or any specific concept behind this video. I just wanted to film as we go and see what experiences they will find there without any interference from my side. The whole thing was very spontaneous and not planned, because after all when visiting a place, we are most likely to find interesting stories at every corner. If we are curious, want to know and interactive with the world around us, we might even find stories that move us and perhaps even touch us emotionally.

This is exactly what happened with Chef Walter Potenza, who (again not planned) ended up being the main character in this video, because he was so curious and interactive, he found himself really moved and emotional by the experience (you can even hear it in his voice).

I love this video because we all like to travel, and one way or another in our travels we are all looking for something. An experience that speaks to us, an inspiration, a glimpse of something new coming into our lives and giving us a push forward. This video has all that and is an encouragement for all of us to look around us and look for the beauty and inspiration in all our experiences. Best of all, this video shows us by example that unless we are curious, unless we do interact, and unless we really take a moment to truly experience a place; we will only remain passers by who stroll the streets as though they were just another set of streets.

Watch the video below and join our conversation there.
Share with us your thoughts, you never know who you could end up inspiring! Let me know if you have ever had such an experience where you felt a connectedness with a place new to you? Have you ever went on a trip and become emotional about your experience there and tell me what made you so emotional?
Or share with me your tips on how to dig for and find interesting experiences when traveling?

I love to hear your stories and am sure we will all learn something in the end.

PS if any of your friends love traveling and exploring new places and experiences, share this post with them and ask them to join our conversation.
Just imagine the amount of inspiration and knowledge we can generate if everyone chips in here!

Love always
Dima x

"Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much".  - Helen Keller

Monday, 26 September 2016

Palestinian Street Food at the #GLFoodFest2016

Palestinian Street Food at #GLFoodFest2016

Over the past 3 days I have had the pleasure of taking part in the Lafayette Gourmet Food Festival, which took place at their outlet in the Dubai Mall. The food festival is an annual affair that the team at Lafayette Gourmet design and host. It is a come together of chefs, foodies, food fans, food brands and products; where everyone is sharing their story and slice in the food world. You will find different foods to sample, many products to sample and purchase and you will even watch experts and chefs demonstrating and sharing their experience and methods with you, showing you how to use their products or replicate their techniques at home. For three days you are taught, fed and entertained: simply treated and showered with all things food.

Live DJ, Breakdance and Graffiti
at #GLFoodFest2016 
This year the theme was celebrating urban lifestyle with a focus on street food. There were street food offerings from many areas across the globe, there was live graffiti artists, a live DJ & break dance artist and many many competitions and attractions. The attention to details that the team had
shown in their decoration and creation of the whole vibe makes you forget that you are in the middle of a mall in a city still enduring the summer heat, and for an instant your mind believes itself to be at some street food event outdoor in some cosmopolitan city! It was truly fabulous!

I for one had a stand there selling Palestinian street food, from the very famous and classic options such as hummus and even fattet hummus to the less globally known options such as Kofta in Tahini subs and Musakhan Rolls... all of which were garnished and complemented with items from my line of Organic Mooneh Essentials. So everyone got to try at least two types of pickles from this range. I used my Organic Shatta (red chili sauce) to add a kick to the sandwiches and have also offered tastings from my very famous dried zaatar, preserved tomatoes and lemon and chili preserve... most importantly everything was dressed and finished with my amazing Premium and award winning Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Palestinian Street Food at the #GLFoodFest2016

Of course did not forget about dessert! What is any market visit in Falasteen if not including the munching on this country's fabulous desserts?! But even here I wanted to introduce a dessert less known than say Knafeh, because my mission is to introduce as many of the fabulous foods of the amazing Palestinian cuisine as I am able to, instead of sticking to the same old classics, which most people already know. For dessert I have gone for an option from the northern part of Falasteen, one that belongs to the kitchens of Galilee: Usmaliyeh bil Mistka (Kadaifi pastry filled with mastic cream and topped with caramelised pistachios).

Besides the stand, I also did two demonstrations, the first discussing the art of food preservation with special focus on pickling, where I also demonstrated how you can preserve tomatoes in Olive oil (confit style). You know, we are about to start the new farmers' market season, so I thought this will be most beneficial as it explores ways to preserve the new season's fabulous produce.
And the second demonstration was to show how to prepare the best loved Musakhan Rolls as everyone raved about these throughout the 3 days.

And if all the tasting made people eager to learn how to make these fabulous foods and preserves, and if the demonstration did not cover enough (as demos can never be thorough enough), I had my book Plated Heirlooms on hand available for purchase, as it is really one complete resource to all things Palestinian cuisine with in depth explanations of methods, techniques and full information on any topics such as pickling, preserving, jamming ...etc.

Organic Moneh Essentials by Dima Sharif at #GLFoodFest2016

What a great event! really, if you missed it you have missed on a great deal. It was fantastic and felt like a 3-day party with all the music, dancing, art, food art, shows, competitions ....

One thing I must say: Leave it to Lafayette Gourmet to design an event, because then you know it is kick ***! Not to be missed!

Thank you to the extraordinary Chef Russell Impiazzi and the team at Lafayette Gourmet for this marvellous event.

Thank you to all of you who have joined us. Thank you to those of you who came especially for me, and made me know it because I felt your love and support and it means the world to me. Also thank you to those whom I have met for the first time and had nothing short of sweet to say to me, I truly appreciate it. I love to serve you and this whole thing I do is just that! Thank you.

Find more images from this even on this link.

Please note that this is not an advert or a promotion, this post is not a sponsored post I have not received any compensation in any way or form to post this. I am sharing with you from my personal experience.

Having lately been involved in many activities that require hiring service providers, I have learnt the hard way that not everyone works with the passion and dedication that they promote they do. This is very disappointing really and the last thing you want is to pay for services that you end up having half heartedly if at all up to standard! 

When it comes to events and/or catering services,  I without a doubt and whole heartedly recommend you go for Lafayette Gourmet, you will always receive above and beyond your expectations and they always create fabulous events and food that become the most elemental to the success of your event. I constantly work with the team at Lafayette Gourmet and we do many events and activities together and I have not once been disappointed and very often if not always beyond impressed! It is truly refreshing to find some people still reflect the passion they promote in the work they do. Go for it and see for yourselves.

"I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things."   
- Mother Teresa 

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Napoleon Bonaparte "The Father Of Canned Food"!

A little bit of canning history...
While food preservation goes back to times when man was still living in hunter gatherer communities - using cold to freeze and heat to dry foods therefore elongating the shelf life of that food - and while food preservation is a progressive art that evolved in heaps since those days, canning in this regards is a relatively new method. However, and while it existed in the world way before the time of Napoleon Bonaparte, he is considered "the father" of canning!

Sir Bonaparte as it appears had offered 12,000 French francs to anyone who could find a way to prevent military food supplies from spoiling. Napoleon himself presented the prize in 1795 to Chef Nicholas Appert, who invented the process of packing meat and poultry in glass bottles, corking them, and submerging them in boiling water. Without realising it, he sterilised them, stopping bacterial spoilage and growth.

This military secret soon reached England where, in 1810, Peter Durance patented the use of metal containers for canning. Englishman William Underwood migrated to Boston and established a canning plant in 1821. This was the beginning of canning in the United States. Underwood (even today, a brand of "deviled ham") is America's oldest canning company.

I find these stories tremendously interesting, to see how the food we have today and take for granted was actually a creative process at those times popping up out of necessities. I tell you some of my country's canning stories and show you how to make some of the oldest traditional recipes in chapter 2 of my book Plated Heirlooms. Really an interesting read into the culture and history of Palestinian cuisine. You can buy #PlatedHeirlooms at Jashanmal bookstores, Kinokuniya, SCAFA cooking school, Book Munch Cafe and through Gulf News online store who will deliver it straight to you.
I also give you a taster of these ancient techniques and recipes through my line of Organic Mooneh Essentials ( #OMEbyDimaSharif ) which you will be able to buy straight from me at the Farmers' Market On The Terrace starting November. You can also purchase these from Al Falamanki Cafe (Dubai), Al Maeda Restaurant in Double Tree by Hilton JBR and soon from Lafayette Gourmet (Dubai). Do give them a try I know you will love them and your body will love you for it as they are organic and packed with probiotics and fermented goodness.

Monday, 12 September 2016

A blessed Eid to those celebrating and peace to all

Wishing those celebrating a blessed Eid and sending wishes of peace to everyone. 

May you all receive love, flowers, and love-filled messages and connections to make your days colorful and filled with joy.

Adha Mubarak
Love, Dima

Monday, 5 September 2016

Where to buy Plated Heirlooms

If you are visiting Dubai this #Eid then don't forget to grab your copy of my cookbook Plated Heirlooms.
As you know so far it's only available in the #UAE 🤓 

#PlatedHeirlooms is now available in:
- Jashnmal Bookstores in (MAll of the Emirates, DIFC & Mushrif). 
- Kinokuniya bookstore at the Dubai Mall 
- Scafa cooking school in JLT. 
- Al Maeda Restaurant in Double Tree by Hilton JBR
- Gulf News Online Store (they deliver to you anywhere in the UAE

#cookbook #PalestinianCuisine #classic #musthave contains all the best loved and great #recipes a complete #resource for #Palestinian #cuisine