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Friday, 25 July 2014

Concluding Ramadan Special 2014 With A Spotlight On Sustainability



So here we go, another Ramadan Special behind us and a whole lot of topics, people, brands, causes and things to consider. While each guest comes from a different background, and each demonstrated and explored their area of interest, there was one consistent message that I have focused on this Ramadan Special and wanted to bring to your attention, and that is....

let's make responsible choices, regardless of what we do, let's always ensure we are aware and mindful in all our choices.

From the children, to the future, to our relationships and daily dealings, to earth and our practices, food choices, business ethics, to even our personal lives... every single thing we do has an effect and every single tiny change makes a huge difference on all levels, personally, socially, globally and to what we leave behind and what we are eventually remembered by. This world is in our hands, and the future these children are inheriting is what we leave them with. That future starts now and we must pause and consider how

To Appreciate, Love and Give back a little to the world we share and live in. 



Watch the last episode of Ramadan Special 2014 and do take the time when possible to revisit these posts and listen to what's been said and shared. I have put for you all the links below so you can easily check out the whole of #RamadanSpecial2014 once you have the time.

I really hope that you have enjoyed this Ramadan Special and these posts and videos. I hope that you have found inspiration, useful information and of course fun bits and pieces. As mentioned in the beginning, the videos are not perfect, not over processed and yes at times with technical issues, after all they were filmed using a mobile phone and a stills camera, no mics, no studios and intentionally 100% home-made. These videos are not meant for the oscars, in fact they could not get more organic. They are 100% real and most importantly made with love by myself in collaboration with my featured guests (not a professional filming crew).

Watch the last video and enjoy, do drop by again and let me hear from you, really I love nothing more. Also do revisit these videos and I would love to hear your thoughts about this year's Ramadan Special so do let me know what you think now that it is concluded :))






Ramadan Special 2014 Posts



Sustainable Food Words






Thursday, 24 July 2014

Traditional Maamool by The Book Munch Family



Children love the kitchen, they love to feel involved to dig in to make a delicious mess and proudly present us with their creations. Let's let them. Let's let them in on all the deliciousness of kitchen activities, lets talk to them about food, lets allow them to make their childish mess and lets help them create long lasting memories of us together, cooking, baking, messing around laughing and having an absolutely great time, together.

In today's episode I go into Dareen Charafeddin's family kitchen, building on what she was telling us in yesterday's video, we must make up for lost time with our kids and find an activity that we all enjoy and have that fun together. Dareen and her sweet family are demonstrating the traditional Maamool recipe in 3 different ways. Amer, shows us his grandmother's traditional Palestinian way of making Maamool, and Dareen shows us her family's Lebanese way while their daughter Lama creates her own take with the flavours she loves and the fusions she's grown to know. We had such good fun making the maamool and filming this video, the children were having a great time and the outcome was delicious maamool (semolina cookies) as well as a home that smells like Amer's memory of his grandmother's home. Watch and perhaps you too will be reminded of the smell of grandma's home right before Eid :)


Find the detailed recipe below the video and I have included for you 17 links for 17 Traditional Arabic Dessert recipes for you to try at home, all of which you can recreate with your kids.




To Make 
The BookMunch Family's Maamoul recipe
You NeedFor the maamoul dough
3 cups of Semolina
3 cups of flour
2 cups of butter
1/3 cup of caster sugar
1 teaspoon of mahlab
1 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
Splash of milk (about 2 tablespoons)

Splash of rose water (about 1 teaspoon)
Splash of orange blossom water (about 1 teaspoon)

For the date paste
2 cups of pitted dates
1 tablespoon of butter
2 table spoons of water
One of a combination of the spices below- I would use all three
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
½ teaspoon of cardamom

For Lama’s variation
Nutella Maamoul- use Nutella instead of the date paste and add some crushed pistachios “to give it an Arabic twist”

Follow the instructions and the method as shown in the video above.




Come back tomorrow for the final episode of Ramadan Special 2014 where I conclude this #RamadanSpecial2014




Dareen Charafeddine 

Dareen Charafeddine’s background is the perfect marriage of both the literary and culinary worlds. Her literary experience comes from a prestigious career in education and publishing, and her culinary know-how comes from a specialization in the bakery and catering business, a business that gave her professional understanding and a passionate appreciation of high quality food.

Dareen’s educational and publishing career has been impressive. With a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from Columbia University (New York), an M.A. in Education, and a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education, Dareen was the perfect choice for Publisher and Manager at Kalimat for the first five years of its inception. Her commitment to the creation, promotion, and sale of previously unavailable quality Arabic literature for young people was a vital next step towards increasing the popularity of Arabic books for children, reading for pleasure, and the love for Arabic language, in general.

Dareen’s food adventure started through her family’s respected and very successful regional bakery and catering business. Working with and tasting quality food from a young age created a solid food foundation from which she developed her own style of cooking, a style that embraced innovative yet simple cuisine. With a commitment to high-quality ingredients, the combination of style and substance has produced superb results, and as part of Dareen’s latest venture, BookMunch, Dubai food lovers can now experience wonderfully simple dishes in all their glory.

BookMunch

Dareen has travelled extensively, and having lived overseas periodically since 1999, she brings a world of experience to the multi-cultural crossroads that is Dubai. Having dreamed of a café/bookstore where her joint passions of food and books could comfortably merge, she took inspiration from the world’s leading literary cafes, and with an in-depth understanding of the business and psychology of food and publishing, it was only a matter of time before the perfect space could be created.
And so BookMunch Café was born. Dubai’s most innovative literary café now offers a friendly environment for book lovers and foodies, families and friends, all of which can gather comfortably to enjoy the very special combination of Dareen’s two professional and life passions. BookMunch Café is only one year old today and has already won the award for Best Family Restaurant by Timeout Dubai, as well as has been nominated for several other awards.

website: www.bookmunchcafe.com
Twitter: @bookmunchdxb
Facebook: Book Munch
Instagram: @Bookmunch



"In this digital age, I really believe that printed books remain an integral part of our life. Nothing beats curling up with a good book while enjoying a perfect cup of tea and a perfectly baked cookie with just the right amount of chocolate." 

Dareen Charafeddine



Ramadan Mubarak,
Appreciate, Love & Giveback a little this Ramadan :)



Relative Links

Traditional Arabic Desserts


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Grow as a mother but also grow as an individual - Women in Business & Balancing A Career and Raising Kids




"Do what you do and do it with love and get the support of those around you" Book Munch Cafe owner Dareen Charafeddin's first words as we sat to chat about women in business and the secret to success.

A very focused secret-to-success statement that covers it all really, from the passion, to actually doing the work and finding the support system to ensure success. My chat with Dareen was really interesting and great because for once a woman comes to the table really addressing the challenges that face women with very demanding careers and in all honesty. In most such conversations, we tend to always try and sugar coat the situation, make it sound less challenging, less sacrificial or having the least and most solvable impact on our lives especially that of our family's. However, in reality there are lots of challenges that face women in business, especially when it comes to mothers who have to balance running a successful business and raising kids. There are many compromises that have to take place when both parents work, a lot of adaptation and change to the 'mainstream' lifestyle that we all know, and something always has to give. Yes there is no perfect scenario, where family is 100% covered with all of our undivided attention, as well as work in the same effect. These challenges and adaptations can put families under tremendous pressure, and in most cases some one has to give up their dream, their ambitions to focus on raising the kids and home making, and in most cases it is the woman who ends up giving it all up.

But Dareen has found a formula that works for her and her family, she has found the type of support required for this and has managed to keep her family happy and her business thriving. How does she do that? What is her secret? Will it work for you too? Watch and find out as Dareen shares with us what works for her when it comes to running a business and raising kids all at the same time.





Work & Family, the reality of the matter
Before starting a family every woman is an individual too, with aspirations and ambitions. Most women are educated and quite some pursue higher education too. Unlike back in the day, most women these days will start working before focusing on marriage, and most will tell you they don't want to get married yet, that they are still young... "we want to work, live, travel, before we get stuck at home" is a statement that most young women say and believe in these days. Furthermore, many older women, who have had a taster of work life and professional growth, would tell you they are scared of marriage, because marriage would lead to a life stuck at home, only raising kids and pleasing the family, that there would be no more life for them. While to some women home-making, family life and a dedicated life to raising children is their dream come true, and they won't have it any other way, for many others this scenario is the definition of a nightmare, where the woman feels trapped and stuck.

Perhaps the key here is having a choice to begin with and then understanding that whichever choice we end up making is ours to live with. We must understand the lifestyles that come with our choices, the demands that come with it and the inevitable limitations that accompany these choices. We must stop, and stop now, the whole act of "we can do 100% well on all fronts". We also must stop sprinkling the glitter of "perfecting it all" and "superwoman" statements that the media along with a lot of working women keep pushing out there. We must stop all the judgements and the supermom competitions and instead we must be realistic and accept the fact that a very demanding career will mean a lot of juggling, very difficult time management where you will always have to choose priorities on top of a whole lot of limitations in both engagement at home and advancement in one's career. Yes this is the reality of working women and you and I both know that this is true.

With that said, does that mean we must throw our professional dreams and ambitions out and give all that up? Does that mean we cannot work? Or if we choose to work, we cannot start a family and have children? I don't think I have the answer for that, however, one thing I know is that we must be realistic in our expectations, those that we expect from ourselves, our time and our lifestyle. In the end, balance is just that: Balance. It is not perfection. The very fact that you need to balance goes to show that there will be compromises, the whole idea is balancing what to compromise and when, and that in itself is not an easy task.



On this link, watch Dareen and her family whip up one of the most traditional Arabic desserts together. They are showing us how to make Maamool in 3 different ways: Dareen's way, Amer's way and Lama's way! We are making sure that you have enough time to make your own in prep for Eid!



Dareen Charafeddine 

Dareen Charafeddine’s background is the perfect marriage of both the literary and culinary worlds. Her literary experience comes from a prestigious career in education and publishing, and her culinary know-how comes from a specialization in the bakery and catering business, a business that gave her professional understanding and a passionate appreciation of high quality food.

Dareen’s educational and publishing career has been impressive. With a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from Columbia University (New York), an M.A. in Education, and a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education, Dareen was the perfect choice for Publisher and Manager at Kalimat for the first five years of its inception. Her commitment to the creation, promotion, and sale of previously unavailable quality Arabic literature for young people was a vital next step towards increasing the popularity of Arabic books for children, reading for pleasure, and the love for Arabic language, in general.

Dareen’s food adventure started through her family’s respected and very successful regional bakery and catering business. Working with and tasting quality food from a young age created a solid food foundation from which she developed her own style of cooking, a style that embraced innovative yet simple cuisine. With a commitment to high-quality ingredients, the combination of style and substance has produced superb results, and as part of Dareen’s latest venture, BookMunch, Dubai food lovers can now experience wonderfully simple dishes in all their glory.

BookMunch

Dareen has travelled extensively, and having lived overseas periodically since 1999, she brings a world of experience to the multi-cultural crossroads that is Dubai. Having dreamed of a café/bookstore where her joint passions of food and books could comfortably merge, she took inspiration from the world’s leading literary cafes, and with an in-depth understanding of the business and psychology of food and publishing, it was only a matter of time before the perfect space could be created.
And so BookMunch Café was born. Dubai’s most innovative literary café now offers a friendly environment for book lovers and foodies, families and friends, all of which can gather comfortably to enjoy the very special combination of Dareen’s two professional and life passions. BookMunch Café is only one year old today and has already won the award for Best Family Restaurant by Timeout Dubai, as well as has been nominated for several other awards.

website: www.bookmunchcafe.com
Twitter: @bookmunchdxb
Facebook: Book Munch
Instagram: @Bookmunch



"In this digital age, I really believe that printed books remain an integral part of our life. Nothing beats curling up with a good book while enjoying a perfect cup of tea and a perfectly baked cookie with just the right amount of chocolate." 

Dareen Charafeddine



Ramadan Mubarak,
Appreciate, Love & Giveback a little this Ramadan :)



Relative Links



Tuesday, 22 July 2014

How to Prepare Artichokes for Stuffing




Are you like me? I love artichokes whichever way they are prepared. But they have to be fresh artichokes, because I really do not like the watered down, brined, canned ones. It is unfortunate that we don't always get fresh artichokes here, because I love this vegetable, love preparing it and then really enjoy eating it too. Well if you do get your hands on fresh artichokes, don't be intimidated by the look of it, it is not hard to prepare at all. However, using fresh ones will make all the difference to the flavour and texture of your food.

Watch Michelin Chef Oliver Glowig, prepare his artichokes creating little cups for stuffing. These prepared artichokes can then be filled with any of your desired fillings and served as an appetiser, or as part of a salad. Bigger ones can be prepared the same way, and they can be filled and cooked, served as a side dish or the main meal. There is really no limit to what you can do with artichokes and no limit to how much every one will love them, once made using fresh ones.




You can fill artichokes with almost anything. For a cold appetiser try cheese and nuts (fetta and pistacchios, cream cheese and almonds, blue cheese and pecans...), also try filling them with labneh and zaatar or a mixture of labneh, grated parmesan and basil... You can use artichokes as cups to fill with salad. Think dressed corn salad, chopped palmitos and mushrooms, even a tomato salsa will work.
For main course filled artichokes, go for the bigger artichokes and fill them with a basic rice and minced meat stuffing and cook them in tomato sauce, or a classic minced meat and pine nuts stuffing. you can stuff them with minced meat, top them with grated mozzarella and a layer of bread crumbs then bake them along with tomato sauce... really the sky is the limit!

You can also follow Chef Oliver's recipe on this link for stuffing the artichokes: Lobster Carppaccio Over Stuffed Artichokes


On this link, "Foodie Focus" episode with Dareen Charafeddin, the Founder of Book Munch Cafe, who shares with us how she balances a demanding career and raising kids. Her approach had helped her achieve balance between work and home, and will hopefully help you too. 



Oliver Glowig


Chef Oliver is a 2 star Michelin Chef, who started his journey alongside his father in Germany. Those early days were marked by his food curiosity and took on an adventurous style. This journey soon took on a passion for artistic experimentations. 

The art of Chef Oliver is embodied in a journey of flavors and emotions that guide his path. He left Germany in 2001, a year after he earned his first Michelin star restaurant "Watercolor" in Monaco of Bavaria. Headed to the Amalfi Coast, in Italy, where he is the Executive Chef of the restaurant "L'Olivo". In 2004, he confirmed the star he'd earned in Germany, and in 2006, he was recognised with a second Michelin star and 17/20 L'Espresso. 

"With two Michelin stars, preceded by a score of 17/20 on the Guide de L'Espresso, the restaurant of Oliver Glowing ranks among the top Italian restaurants." 




Ramadan Mubarak
Appreciate, Love & Giveback a little this Ramadan :)


How-To Links

Monday, 21 July 2014

Learn From The Masters- Lobster Carpaccio & Stuffed Artichokes



In this episode, Michelin Chef Oliver Glowig shows us how to prepare a decadent and impressive appetiser that you can easily recreate and serve at home as an impressive starter to your meal.

Watch as Chef Oliver, prepares and plates this beautiful dish. You can serve this as it is prepared here, or you can be inspired along the same lines and create your own very impressive appetiser. You can also serve the stuffed baby artichoke and lobster carpaccio without the sauce in pass around cocktail parties. Also this lobster carpaccio is so delicious, you can serve it on its own over crostini as a starter or in pass around parties.





This video was filmed using my mobile phone so excuse the light fluctuations and rolling effect :)


Come back tomorrow for how to prepare an artichoke heart for stuffing as chef Oliver will show you the technique of preparing fresh artichokes.



Oliver Glowig

Chef Oliver is a 2 star Michelin Chef, who started his journey alongside his father in Germany. Those early days were marked by his food curiosity and took on an adventurous style. This journey soon took on a passion for artistic experimentations. 

The art of Chef Oliver is embodied in a journey of flavors and emotions that guide his path. He left Germany in 2001, a year after he earned his first Michelin star restaurant "Watercolor" in Monaco of Bavaria. Headed to the Amalfi Coast, in Italy, where he is the Executive Chef of the restaurant "L'Olivo". In 2004, he confirmed the star he'd earned in Germany, and in 2006, he was recognised with a second Michelin star and 17/20 L'Espresso. 

"With two Michelin stars, preceded by a score of 17/20 on the Guide de L'Espresso, the restaurant of Oliver Glowing ranks among the top Italian restaurants." 




Ramadan Mubarak
Appreciate, Love & Giveback a little this Ramadan :)


Relative Links



Saturday, 19 July 2014

Thoughts born in the stillness after a dinner party

This is not part of my ongoing food series, however, it is a necessary interruption at this point. My heart goes out to Falasteen.
***
As I look at the stained cloth over the dinner table, the burned down candles, the empty plates, the scattered chairs, the empty cups and the few half-full ones, I realise that the house is empty now. I had just closed the door after everyone had left. It is quiet now. I gather up the pile of plates and I recall one of my guests, the pilot with all his exciting stories about freedom, that, which he found in traveling. “No one knows who you are, you don’t know who anyone is and nobody cares. We just share a space, a period in time, and that is that. At that moment in time we are all the same.” he said. I asked him if he ever feels homesick and he sighed: “Home!”...

At that point, I am looking at the mountain of dishwashing that stood witness to our occasion, our chats and our joys. I had cooked and we gathered. We ate, laughed, talked and even sighed. That must be home, I thought. What is home? Is it mum and dad? Is it Gran and Granddad, uncles and aunts, siblings, the garden, and the cherry tree next to the window, the lemon tree on one side of the house and the figs tree on the opposite side...? All those must be home. The grass in the backyard, grandma’s little herb garden, the rose trees in the front and the olive trees lined on the sidewalk like a fence around our house, those are home too. Kids running and playing, the sound of a ball bouncing off the wall, the neighbours and the neighbourhood’s football teams, those are definitely home... regardless who we are. The neighbour’s laundry on the balcony, grandma’s irritation with the sight, the small playground and the swing, my uncle shouting because we are playing loudly while he is napping in the afternoon; that too is home. The joy, the laughter, the tears and the tantrums all come with home. A safe haven, that must be home. Maybe acceptance, comfort, love; those too are home. The piles of washing trouble me!

Then I remembered my other guest, the farmer, to whom life is land. The one who revels at the thought of watching life spring from the ground. He admires produce and speaks volumes of its qualities. He narrates stories about an orange, where the characters are its colour, juices and flavours and its plot happens in a farm by the trees. A story in which you get lost in a world of senses, where you see, smell, taste, hear and even almost touch the orange of which he speaks. He takes you through acres and acres of trees in a peaceful place where noise is only that of birds and the workers picking oranges and loading them to the markets. He then takes you to the market with stories about merchants and buyers walking through an old city’s open market, where everyone knows everyone and where a merchant would be ashamed to sell you a bad orange because no one will ever buy from him again. His eyes light up as he speaks and your heart delights as you listen. I admire his passion and the simplicity of his joy. “But life is different now, the markets are different now. Some things should have never changed!” I told him. “Everything has changed! nothing is the same...” he said.

What changed? Is it the place, the people or perhaps both? Is the earth no longer fit for life? Where did the merchants go? What happened to the oranges? What about those trees, or at least the acres and acres of his family's farm?All these questions had to wait, because there was a stubborn stain on my table runner. I rub it with a stain remover and wait... and as I wait... ‘I want to have a farm one day. I want my children to look forward to visiting me when they are older. I want their little ones to be excited about visiting grandma. I want to pick oranges and strawberries with them. I want to push them on the swing in the garden, tell them their mum or dad's childhood stories. I want to cook for them and spread a banquet for them in my garden. I want to make jams, cakes and cookies with them. I want to have a farm. Where? South of France, maybe Tuscany, how about South Africa? ... Falasteen! Yes, Falasteen would have been nice!’... The stain was now pale, still there, but pale. I put the runner and the napkins in the washing machine. Full cycle that should do it.

My daughter gets up and says she can’t sleep. She is scared of monsters, aren’t we all? I tell her not to worry, that monsters do not exist. I reassure her that even if they did, they can never come inside our home. “This is home and we are safe here” I tell her then tuck her back in bed. How innocent these children are! What a huge responsibility it is to raise them and take care of them. In the end what do all children need? A home, a sense of security and most of all love? What big words: Home, Security, Love... I drink some water... as I do I remember the doctor, whom we had met through a friend and invited to dinner. A European doctor who recently volunteered to give medical care to the wounded of war. The horrors this man had seen! The injured, the bereaved and the dead... The women, the men, the children, unfortunately, most were children... the elderly, the young, the civilians, the people, the land, the sky, the trees, the houses... are all injured, bereaved and dead! The clouds, the sky, the heavens, the mosques, the churches, the synagogues, the hospitals, the schools, the streets, the stones and the walls, all were injured! Everywhere is dark, cold and miserable he described. I told him how sorry I was he had to go through such sorrow. “The horrors, the injustice, the randomness and absurdity make you feel like there is nothing worth living for, and takes all the energy to get over, if you ever do.” He said.

Monsters, do they really exist? They must if such wretchedness is a reality somewhere. But why? Money? Power? Revenge? Old dues? Sadism? Politics? Weakness? It must be weakness, a failure to look and really see what this is doing to everyone. Arrogance maybe! To think that humans hiding behind tanks and weapons are so powerful and godlike! Shame! What do we really tell our children? What will they tell theirs? We leave so much behind, but most of all we are all leaving historical rubbish for these children to deal with. I can’t even think of that Palestinian mother whose child had to witness such horror at his very young last hour. Nor can I imagine the horror of those children at the beach in Gaza, directly attacked in cold blood by a rain of bullets the source of which was cowardly hiding behind bullet-proof armour and smart false propagandas of a "right to defend"! Defend what? Defend themselves from the demons haunting them for what they have done to this country and these poor little children? Or defend their inhumane reality? Perhaps defend themselves from having brutally taken the lives of so many innocent people that their false image is finally showing its real face! Defend what? 

The dead are gone but the living remain to collect the pieces and gather the shreds of their ruined lives, trying to make sense of it all and find a good place left in their hearts!... I kiss my daughter and think of that mother. I pray for her, for heaven to give her strength, and for judgement to consider her despair.

All finished, all is washed and tucked away now, in anticipation of another day when the spotless runner is spread out, and the lamb is slowly roasting in the oven, when the candles are lit, cups are being filled and the night is long. Another night, maybe another time, when we can breathe and look with pride to our humanity. When a child sleeps scared of imaginary monsters because real ones don’t exist, when a mother cries at her son’s graduation, wedding and the birth of her grandson. When a father returns home. When a house has a garden with trees and grass, flowers and roses instead of ruins topped with grey stones. A time in which children run and laugh, neighbours hang their laundry out in the open and grandmas are irritated by that sight. A day when football is the only battleground and the ball is the only weapon. A day where people, all the people of this land, have safe homes that are theirs. Homes they can pass down through generations, within the walls of which are happy memories of children growing, newborns and a full life cycle filled with joy. A day when all the voices of heaven no longer clash but rather are peaceful, as they are meant to be. Maybe then the pilot will have a home to which he returns from his adventures, and the farmer will have a land from which life springs and the doctor will want to live to help the mother give birth to the child who will live to make her proud.


Maybe then you and I, whoever we are, will know peace and freedom.

***



Planting Tips For Your Balcony's Miracle Garden



As you've seen in yesterday's video, you can plant your own Miracle Garden on your balcony. So now you can grow your own organic herbs, fruits and vegetables as well as have them! In today's video, Laura shares with us some planting tips to get you started, including sprouting pips, and planting roots as well as how to regrow plants (even the ones you buy at the supermarket!) and how to create the perfect environment for them to grow happily. Finally she also tells us how to tell that all is well with our growing plants.

This is so exciting, and I can't wait to start my own little balcony farm! Hope you guys are loving this as much as I am :) Watch the video and don't forget to join the Balcony &Urban Gardening Group UAE for more tips as well as group activities (links below).






Come back tomorrow for another "Learn From The Masters" episode, this time with Rome's Michelin Chef Oliver Glowig who will be showing us how to make a beautiful and delicious stuffed baby artichoke appetiser..



Balcony & Urban Gardening 
Group - UAE

They are not horticulturalists or botanists, they are just people - mostly from the United Arab Emirates - who are passionate about gardening and especially growing their own organic vegetables, herbs and fruit trees and. ... on the balcony. 

The group's activities include:  
  • Meeting up once or twice a month to discuss ideas.
  • Swop seeds (heirloom only please!!).
  • Hold short workshops. 
  • Visit gardens, nurseries and farms in the UAE.
You can join this group on Facebook, where you can ask and find information about any gardening subject as well as join their activities.


Laura Allais-Mare is a trained Chef (she was trained in Italy) and a restaurant owner in South Africa. Her passion for food came from her mother, who was herself involved in Slow Food in South Africa and even started her own edible snail farm. Back in South Africa, Laura worked closely with the local farming communities, working with an organisation that empowered farmers to sustain their business by providing them with heirloom varieties of seeds. By doing this, Laura explains, farmers are able to dry out the seeds from one harvest and re-use them the next year, according to old-fashioned farming principles, rather than buying the seeds each year (necessary for genetically modified varieties), which can be a bankrupting expense for small-scale farmers.

Today Laura is the leader of the Dubai Convivium of Slow Food and is the founder of the Balcony &Urban Gardening Group. Her mission is to empower people to think about sustainable ways to live and empower locals to reserve their cultural food and local cuisine.

Website: www.slowfood.com
Facebook Pages: Slow Food Dubai , 
Twitter: DubaiSlow , Laura Allais-Mare 


Ramadan Mubarak
Appreciate, Love & Giveback a little this Ramadan :)


Relative Links




Friday, 18 July 2014

Dubai's Latest Trend - Balcony & Urban Gardening



I have always loved gardening, planting, all things green really. I love watching plants grow, and really enjoy the company of green and airy scenery... who doesn't! With that said, I could be the worst at gardening lol. No really, people who know me well, know that I keep planting things and trying to grow plants, but somehow it never works beyond a certain point! Everything would be going great but suddenly these dainty little pots of plants turn yellow, then brown then brittle... and you know the rest! I never knew what could be going wrong, or what causes my plants to die... until I met Laura and knew about their Balcony & Urban Gardening group. From her I learnt that because the plants suffer from this extreme heat, they actually need food!! I learnt how often, how much and when to water plants (as it turns out there are times during the day that watering would cause the plant to die!). I also learnt how to organically fertilise these plants... among many other tips... I could not be happier, except when I learnt that you really do not need a garden to garden! That you can also do this on your balcony... Now am really waiting to finish all the lined up work I have, which is near and I am so going to garden, I am worried I will create a jungle in that tiny balcony I have :))

Most interesting to me though, was the fact that plants (a big variety of them) can actually grow in this hot city. Yes they can, and Laura's balcony is living proof. She has herbs (mint, variety of basil, parsley, ginger...) and fruits (figs, banana, lemon) and of course tomatoes, lettuce, chilies, colocasia, celery....! She practically has her ingredients covered! I have always dreamt of having a fresh garden, where I can simply pick my salad ingredients and live the whole 'plant-to-plate' process. Love that! Now, we can as this fabulous group in the UAE are showing us how, swopping seeds and plants, sharing tips and ensuring that our plants are well and yielding :)

Watch as Laura tells us about her passion for growing her own plants, and shares her tips to get your balcony garden started, explaining soil, organic fertilisers, and how to care for your plant in this climate. Then watch how I literally almost fainted when she introduced me to her compost tea (miracle plant food) which the plants absolutely adore, but my weak side could not handle!!




Every body complains about the organic produce prices being so high. Well here you go, buy at the farmers market and grow some of your own, and you shall never complain about organic prices again ;)



Come back tomorrow for part 2 - Planting Tips by the Balcony & Urban Gardening Group to ensure you have a "Balcony Miracle Garden" :))



Balcony & Urban Gardening 
Group - UAE

We are not horticulturalists or botanists, just people - mostly from the United Arab Emirates - who are passionate about gardening and especially growing your own vegetables and herbs and fruit trees and. ... on the balcony. 

Our activities include:  
  • Meeting up once or twice a month to discuss ideas.
  • Swop seeds (heirloom only please!!).
  • Hold short workshops. 
  • Visit gardens, nurseries and farms in the UAE.
You can join our group on Facebook, where you can ask and find information about any gardening subject as well as join our activities.


Laura Allais-Mare is a trained Chef (she was trained in Italy) and a restaurant owner in South Africa. Her passion for food came from her mother, who was herself involved in Slow Food in South Africa and even started her own edible snail farm. Back in South Africa, Laura worked closely with the local farming communities, working with an organisation that empowered farmers to sustain their business by providing them with heirloom varieties of seeds. By doing this, Laura explains, farmers are able to dry out the seeds from one harvest and re-use them the next year, according to old-fashioned farming principles, rather than buying the seeds each year (necessary for genetically modified varieties), which can be a bankrupting expense for small-scale farmers.

Today Laura is the leader of the Dubai Convivium of Slow Food and is the founder of the Balcony &Urban Gardening Group. Her mission is to empower people to think about sustainable ways to live and empower locals to reserve their cultural food and local cuisine.

Website: www.slowfood.com
Facebook Pages: Slow Food Dubai , 
Twitter: DubaiSlow , Laura Allais-Mare 


Ramadan Mubarak
Appreciate, Love & Giveback a little this Ramadan :)



Relative Links


Thursday, 17 July 2014

Foodie Focus - Expert Advise on Starting A Career In The Food Industry



It has never been more exciting to work in the food industry as it is today! And especially in Dubai the community is thriving and growing by the second as many people are joining the industry. Chefs, bloggers, photographers, stylists, writers, critics, reviewers, suppliers, restauranteurs to even Media and TV personalities, the industry seems to house all. If you are one of those dreaming about making the career shift to food, then you will love this video as the senior editor of BBC Good Food Middle East Magazine & Website, Sudeshna Ghosh, shares with us some expert advice on starting a career in the food industry based on her long experience in the field.


So you have the dream, and have watched Saied's video yesterday that got you excited and optimistic and you want to follow this dream, then what? Is "passion" enough? What does it take to make the cut in a highly competitive industry? What skills are required, and what do you get in return? Watch the video and listen to Sudeshna, who covers all the basics, from the perks, to the good, the challenging and including tips for success. Then check the links below for more tips and ways to get started.





With these "Career in Food" posts I am really hoping you find the help and information you need to make that dream a reality. Do let me know if you need more specific information and what you are looking for, so I can tailor future posts and pick the experts accordingly :)



On this link, a whole different type of fun foodie focus, Dubai's Latest Trend, Balcony & Urban Gardening! Yes, we are talking about growing your own food even in a hot city like Dubai!! Check it out and see for yourself a lot of people are doing this and you can too! I love this one...




Sudeshna Ghosh

is Senior Editor of BBC Good Food Middle East, the region’s leading food and lifestyle magazine, and the newly relaunched www.bbcgoodfoodme.com website.

Passionate about food and travel, and a respected expert on the subjects in the region, she has lived and worked in media in Dubai for nearly a decade. Previously with Gulf News Magazines, she has also worked in television in the past, always striving to bring creative, relevant and positive lifestyle-based content to her audience.

Originally from Kolkata, India, Sudeshna lives in Dubai with her husband and two dogs. A love of experimenting with new flavours, and discovering new cultures and cuisines means that in her job, she can combine her passions with her flair for communication.

Sudeshna has mastered the art of (or as she puts it "is still trying to!") juggling a busy, high-pressure career with a balanced home life, ensuring she eats ‘good food’ as much as possible!
Website: www.bbcgoodfoodme.com
Facebook Page: BBC Good Food Middle East
Twitter: @BBCGoodFoodME  @GhoshSudeshna
Instagram: @bbcgoodfoodmiddleeast
Google+: +BBC Good Food Middle East



Ramadan Mubarak
Appreciate, Love & Giveback a little this Ramadan :)


Relative Links




Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Foodie Focus: Following Passions, Realising Dreams

Aspiring Chef Competition by Samsung Arabia & BBC Good Food Middle East Magazine
Announcing Saied as winner

How often do we hear the phrase "Follow your dreams"? How many of us have done all they could to realise these dreams, and how many of us have actually made them come true? Dreams are very hard to realise and that has made most people very cynical about the phrase, and about the whole business of even having a dream, let alone following one! Shall we continue to dream? Will ours ever get accomplished? Or shall we just forget about them and continue on the path that was set for us, from which we may have no escape? These are the questions that all dreamers will ask, and are the questions that Aspiring Chef Saied was asking himself too.

Saied has always dreamt of a career in the food industry, but "life came in the middle" and instead he ended up with an office job in marketing. He is cynical about the whole following dreams thing... until ... watch and find out... Listen to Saied tell you about his dream and journey.


Find relative and useful links to this topic at the end of this post





How do YOU feel about the phrase "Follow your dreams"? Do you think dreams do come true, or do you think that Saied simply got lucky? Any tips for success?


Come back tomorrow for expert advise on a career in the food industry by BBC Good Food Middle East Magazine's Senior Editor Sudeshna Ghosh, who shares with us expert advice based on her long experience in the field.


Aspiring Chef Saied El Hakim
Saied @finedicing
is an amateur chef and food enthusiast hailing from Toronto's multicultural restaurant scene. From a young age Saied has had a passion for cooking and briefly worked in several of Toronto's kitchens alongside some of the city's most talented chefs

Saied is of Egyptian origin but grew up in Kuwait and Canada before moving to Abu Dhabi one and a half years ago.
He has worked in several industries including marketing, public relations and hospitality but is now focused on growing his presence as a personal chef and is currently working on launching a food blog, "finedicing" where he explores different cuisines, ingredients, cooking techniques, tips and recipes.

Saied's igniting passion for food and cooking talent has always impressed friends and family and this talent was further validated by some of the most respected authorities on food in the UAE when he won the Samsung Aspiring Chef Competition held in Dubai last month.

Blog: www.finedicing.com will be launched soon
Facebook Page: FineDicing
Instagram: @finedicing
Twitter: @finedicing
Also find his recipe book in the July 2014 issue of BBC Good Food Middle East Magazine.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Foodie Focus: Honey! Let's Focus On Preservation, Not Depletion

Balqees Honey is Raw Yemeni Honey that is the outcome of Riath Hamed's lifelong love of honey

Some say childhood memories are forever and shape the people we become as adults, this is the story of Riath Hamed, the founder of Balqees Honey, one of the most celebrated honey brands.

I first met Riath at the Food Photography & Styling workshop with Meeta K Wolff a couple of years ago. He had come to the workshop to introduce his honey and have the participants (who came from all over the region) sample the most celebrated honey in the UAE. Riath's personality is so flamboyant, you can't miss the guy and there he was with his traditional Yemeni attire, his surprisingly very colloquial English accent, and his beautifully bottled Yemeni honey (a selection of types and fusions), speaking with a passion that only he is capable of and which goes straight to your heart. The whole experience was so not what you'd expect, your mind races in curiosity. I sampled all the honey flavours and I was tasting a very different type of honey than the usual (gourmet ones included)! The honey tasted pure, clean and uninterrupted it was a pure thick yet slick indulgence of pouring honey the type you'd see in animations of the perfect reality; it was heavenly!

What I love the most about Balqees Honey - besides the fact that it is raw, untreated natural honey - is that it is the story of childhood memories that sparked a lifelong passion for honey so strong that it became Riath's mission to offer us superior quality honey that is also very echo friendly. Yes Riath's love is not greedy, he believes in preserving resources as opposed to depleting them. He wants us to continue to enjoy honey and wants honey to continue and there is no other way for that to happen than with realising the importance of the bees and deploying practices that do not harm them rather insure their continuity. This is an aware and responsible brand, whose founder realises the importance of bees for the continuity of all mankind "When the bees go down, they take us with them. It gets to that kinda level." says Riath.
If only more brands are inspired to be as aware and responsible!

Watch as Riath Hamed tells you his story in his own very unique way. Listen to his passion and personality as they shine through his words and get to know him and Balqees Honey a little bit closer. Then watch him keep it balanced by telling us how he respects the bees, and how we should understand their importance and ensure their continuity.







On this link, another "Foodie Focus" episode about Following passions and realising dreams, with a story about a new foodie on the block, who's leaving behind an office job to pursue a life-long dream of a career in the food industry.



Learn more about Balqees honey on this link.
website: www.balqees.com
Facebook Page: Balqees Honey
Twitter Handle: @BalqeesRawHoney
Instagram: @balqees_raw_honey
Google+ : +balqees honey


Ten things you can do to help save the bees.


These are 2 links for the recipe of the Yemeni Dessert Sabayah or Bint Al Sahn (both names refer to the same dessert), which Riath refers to in the video




Ramadan Mubarak
Appreciate, Love & Giveback a little this Ramadan :)



Monday, 14 July 2014

Caramelised Onion & Goat's Cheese Tartlets - A Cheats Canapé For Busy Days


Caramelised Onion & Goat's Cheese Tartlets by Sudeshna Ghosh

It is no easy task to be the editor of a food magazine! Yes because that job comes with the pressure of long working hours to keep with deadlines as well as in a way being surrounded by food all day long and having to do a lot of eating out too! All this can make it hard to find the time, energy and appetite for home-cooking! With that said, isn't this the case for most working women? The high pressure jobs, the long working hours, juggling home, kids and work as well as having to manage cooking at least one wholesome meal for the family every day can become too stressful, and are the constant complaint of all working women.

When asked about whether she finds the time to cook and serve a home-cooked meal, editor of BBC Good Food Middle East Magazine, Sudeshna Ghosh said: "Not as much as I’d like. It’s very important for me to eat – and feed my husband - healthy, wholesome and home-cooked food as much as possible, and I try to minimise eating out on weekdays – as much as possible, work commitments permitting. Having said that, I probably end up cooking at home no more than three or four times a week at best, given work schedules etc.,... I wish I could manage more." And this is probably the case for most.

With that said, Sudeshna also told me that over the past few years she had been consciously ensuring that she cooks and eats more at home and is therefore always looking for ways to produce delicious meals and entertain successfully at home (even on the busiest days). She has found a formula that works for her and her lifestyle and is always building on it. And this is exactly what she shares with us in today's video and post. Watch as Sudeshna shares with us her go to recipe for entertaining on busy days, as well as explain the approach to cooking that works for her, which may be useful to you too.

Below the video you will find a list of Cooking Tips For working Women (or let's include everyone and call it working people). These helped Sudeshna cook and eat at home more often, as well as enjoy cooking while she is at it. Hopefully they will be helpful to you too. Also included below are 25 links for quick and easy recipes as well as pies and tarts recipes for you to try at home :)




Cooking Tips For Working People 
Most working women would agree that after a long day at work, thinking what's to be served for dinner can get quite daunting. Perhaps the last thing anyone wants at that point is to cook, and most of us will just want to put our feet up and relax. Relax, this is normal, even for the biggest foodies, in fact ask any chef you know and they will tell you after hours they can't even think of cooking dinner, and most chefs will settle for a quick sandwich! However, we all want to find ways to enjoy a home-cooked meal and remain healthy. Especially when we have such busy and stressful days as Sudeshna puts it, then the least we can do for our body is to nurture it with a wholesome, healthy and home cooked meal. So here are the tips that worked for Sudeshna and helped her cook and eat at home more often:

  • Keep comfort food and complex recipes for the days when you are on a deserted island! (basically have more time on your hands), like weekends or shorter working days. Simple and fast recipes help when we are pressed for time and are still home-cooked and can be healthy and delicious too.
  • Dedicating the time for pre-preparing your ingredients, such as chopping, portioning and freezing is a great way to save time. All that is left to do on the day is really mix everything together and cook.
  • Hiring a cook to help with prep as well as cook for you on the days when you are extremely busy helps a lot. I have a cook who occasionally comes and cooks for us (for those days when my schedule is mad).
  • Sometimes we have to cheat a little and use shortcuts. "Just please note that I am not into processed packaged food, I believe in cooking from scratch using natural ingredients. But when pressed for time, little shortcuts are needed, and as long as they are not overly unhealthy and practiced in moderation. So, for example, even though I use packaged puff pastry in this dish (I prefer to avoid processed food as much as possible), everything else in the recipe is fresh, natural, and also healthy – very little fat, olive oil and so on! So, this isn’t the sort of thing I’d recommend eating every day, but now and again, when entertaining guests at short notice, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it."
  • When it comes to health it is all about a balanced approach to food. Find the recipes that work well for you and the healthy shortcuts that help you cook in less time, don't try and slave for hours in the kitchen after a busy day because eventually you won't be able to keep it up. Cook simple, wholesome food to make sure you eat healthy home-cooked meals as regularly as possible.


To Make
Sudeshna's Cheat Canapés
Makes 10 
Cheats Canapé for Busy Days
You Need

2 medium onions, sliced

Olive oil
Splash of balsamic vinegar
Pinch of salt 
Grind of fresh pepper
1 ½ tsp of sugar (can be adjusted to taste)
Pinch of za’atar
400g puff pastry squares
100g feta cheese
1 egg, whisked
A handful of parsley or coriander, for garnish



Add olive oil to a frying pan, toss in the onions and start gently frying. Add the balsamic, sugar, salt and pepper. After about 5 mins, add the za’aatar, toss through and continue to cook on low heat for about 10-15 mins until the onions are softened and caramelised. Keep aside to cool completely (can be refrigerated to speed things up).

On a baking tray, place the puff pastry square, add a spoonful of the caramelised onion mix into the middle, crumble some feta over it, and fold the edges to make a small parcel. Brush the top with the whisked egg wash. Repeat with the rest of the pastry squares.

Bake at 180C for about 20 mins until the pastry has risen, and is golden brown in colour. Garnish with the chopped herbs of your choice and serve.

Tip If you have some onions and feta left over, just spread them over crackers to make a tasty snack. 







Sudeshna Ghosh

is Senior Editor of BBC Good Food Middle East, the region’s leading food and lifestyle magazine, and the newly relaunched www.bbcgoodfoodme.com website.

Passionate about food and travel, and a respected expert on the subjects in the region, she has lived and worked in media in Dubai for nearly a decade. Previously with Gulf News Magazines, she has also worked in television in the past, always striving to bring creative, relevant and positive lifestyle-based content to her audience.

Originally from Kolkata, India, Sudeshna lives in Dubai with her husband and two dogs. A love of experimenting with new flavours, and discovering new cultures and cuisines means that in her job, she can combine her passions with her flair for communication.

Sudeshna has mastered the art of (or as she puts it "is still trying to!") juggling a busy, high-pressure career with a balanced home life, ensuring she eats ‘good food’ as much as possible!
Website: www.bbcgoodfoodme.com
Facebook Page: BBC Good Food Middle East
Twitter: @BBCGoodFoodME  @GhoshSudeshna
Instagram: @bbcgoodfoodmiddleeast
Google+: +BBC Good Food Middle East



Relative Links
Quick & Easy Recipes from this blog for Working Women



Pies & Trats Recipes from this blog (Savoury & Sweet)



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