Vote for my Shawerma Tuna Flavour for a chance to win AED 15,000

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A medley of partners to create a unique experience!

Yesterday, I was sitting with my friend Yael Mejia, the brand consultant for Baker and Spice at their beautiful and newly launched Baker & Spice in Town Centre, Jumeirah and as we usually do: eat and chat, we were talking about what makes restaurant food honestly fantastic in some restaurants while it fails to deliver the same experience in other places. You see all proper restaurants, including the ones that seem to the diners as most casual, have all put in a lot of effort in terms of concept, decor, menu and even PR and Marketing. Every business does! These are all essential components to put your foot in any market. So while everyone who starts a restaurant must at least know a thing or two about good food, good eating experiences and creating the ambience and atmosphere to highlight all this into a unique dining experience; then the question is, how come some actually deliver and are received with great admiration while others don't? To Yael, it is simple: She believes it is all about good honest food.  (like her food, a very simple statement that holds so much meaning in its folds. "Good" and "honest" have so many definitions, but not all those who defined them, truly know them.)

Here is the thing, everyone who knows Baker & Spice knows that their food, while on the surface seems very simple in concept delivers some serious flavour. I have not yet met anyone who's ever dined there and complained about the quality of the food, the flavour nor even the overall experience. In fact, Baker & Spice is one of the very few, if not the only, restaurant in Dubai that has a community. Yes the customers of Baker and Spice are a real community. If you go there often you will see that everyone, knows everyone there and that there is always an ongoing conversation between customers and the restaurant team and friends. The team at Baker & Spice take feedback into consideration and working in a seasonal fashion, mostly organic, and always in a soulful manner, they incorporate diners' requests into their seasonal menus and as such they encourage the conversation to go on, the offering to evolve and get better and eventually change the potential of food conversation in the whole of Dubai. 

I truly think this is an example worth following and I hugely respect what they do and stand for.

As you will read in my upcoming cookbook, you will find that I too am a firm believer in the significance of family, the community, of values worth preserving and of food as a medium to connect people as small groups as well as a larger collective. (no wonder Yael and I have become very good friends) As such I had always only continued to regularly work and collaborate with like-minded people. The ones I believe in, respect and admire. I had always looked for the person/s behind the names/brands. And once you know the people and what they stand for, your choices are always clear and then the outcome is always outstanding.

Be it through my new line of Organic Mooneh Essentials, my tie-ups and collaborations to my events, I always look for the people behind the brand, and what the brand stands for. I do not really care much about the PR stories, the external glamour and what marketing positions a brand as, in the end I believe that in business, as in life, we deal with people and it's only when we forget that that we become mediocre. The day-to-day workings of business/projects/events... are 'work', like any other (nothing is perfect) but the resulting relationships are what enriches what we do and ourselves as people. 

Therefore today, I find myself again thanking my small and growing community of friends, and business partners. Each and everyone of whom had become a valuable relationship, mentor, and friend. And today I want to give a shout out to the group of great people who are helping me continue to organise a great annual event here in Dubai, The Food Styling & Photography Workshop which I hold with my friend and food photographer of choice Meeta K. Wolff.

Thanks to this small group, Meeta and I are able to hold a great workshop that over the years had helped so many aspiring food photographers, stylists, writers, bloggers and even journalists and chefs take their photography and communications skills to the next level, a level that grants them professional potential and allows them to create an opportunity out of their interest/hobby. So thank you guys so much for being part of this, for adding your touches, your conversations, your products and friendship to our event and my ongoing conversation.

Watch this collection of small videos below and get a taster from our previous workshops, hear why our sponsors love us and get in the mood for ‪#‎FotoDubai15‬ taking place next week when we will be showering social media with delicious ‪‬food pictures and gorgeous ‪food sets.‬ Get in on the action and see why this workshop gets fully booked every year.

Our #FotoDubai15 Sponsors are (click on the photos to enlarge):

SCAFA, Dubai’s School of Culinary and Finishing Arts (2012), is an innovative vocational institute focusing on guiding professionals and enthusiasts in learning culinary techniques and kitchen skills. Accredited by KHDA, SCAFA runs professional culinary programs that certify graduates as qualified chefs. The school also runs many enthusiast programs such as team building with cooking, children’s cooking classes, pastry and baking sessions, cake decorating, fundamentals of cuisine, etc. In addition to offering a range of culinary programs, SCAFA has a student training restaurant Scafé attached to the school. At SCAFA, we don’t just practice recipes, we teach techniques!
Students that enroll in SCAFA’s programs have varied reasons for joining the program. Many want a professional hospitality career, to become a restaurateur, a patissiere.

Facebook: @SCAFA  
Twitter: @SCAFAltd
Instagram: @scafa.cookingschool

“Many of our enrolled students have wonderful creativity and are interested in food styling and photography. We want our students to understand and appreciate the wider opportunities that lie in wait for them and SCAFA is the perfect setting for running a photography workshop. Working with renowned food photographer Meeta Wolff and celebrity chef Dima Sharif is a wonderful opportunity and experience for the our students and we are thrilled to host the 2015 Food Photography Workshop again.” 
- Francisco Araya - Director SCAFA

Lafayette Gourmet, temple to gastronomy and gourmandize, offers a whole range of flavors from all over the world. Guaranteed to find all what it takes to fulfill your taste buds. Experience the diversity from 8 kitchens in one location: Indulge in Italian specialties and wood fired pizzas, great salads from The Mediterranean, Asian favorites, Indian tandoor and curries, primes steaks from the Grill, Foie gras and Caviar from the Luxury section, authentic Tapas and Paella from Tapeo to Just Falafel.

Lafayette Gourmet have partnered with the food styling and photography workshop by Meeta K Wolff and Dima Sharif again in 2015 supplying fresh and luxury ingredients for the multiple styling and photography sessions as well as the second day 'Lunch by Dima Sharif'. Furthermore, Russell Impiazzi, Director of Lafayette Gourmet, will personally create an extravagant and special menu as a special finale dinner on Thursday and provide several props for the many styling and shooting session.

Facebook: @Gourmet Lafayette At Dubai Mall 

 “Coming into the 4th year of working with and supporting the fabulous Meeta K Wolff and Dima Sharif for their annual Food Styling & Photography Workshop in Dubai. Each year I have seen it grow from strength to strength. The detail and care that both Meeta and Dima put into this 2-day workshop really does deliver a ‘must do’ experience.”
- Chef Russell Impiazzi, Culinary Director at Lafayette Gourmet

Baker & Spice is an award-winning food shop and restaurant with several locations in Dubai. The concept originated in London in 1995, quickly becoming an inspiration for food artisans and copied all over the world.

Baker & Spice Dubai is a centre for artisan food excellence.

Guided by the seasons and ethical principles, our food philosophy is simple: local | organic | fresh | homemade

Facebook: @Baker & Spice Dubai 
Twitter: @bakerandspiceme
Instagram: @bakerandspiceme

“Working with Dima Sharif brought to life the visuals of what I do like no other. Her cinematographic ability shines a light and I like the perspective that she represents through her work, both in terms of food styling and her brilliant editing abilities. One of the greatest talents is not what you include, but what you leave out. As a result, her visual work whether video or stills is so focused and you walk away understanding the message. People should attend the Food Styling & Photography Workshop by Meeta K Wolff & Dima Sharif because teaching people to look and to edit what they are seeing is a skill that elevates your work from the ordinary to the extraordinary.” 
- Yael Mejia, Brand Consultant at Baker & Spice

Balqees specialise in sourcing the purest, rarest raw honey from Yemen and other countries around the world. Our first priority is quality and we work closely with beekeepers and farms in Yemen who supply us exclusively; we also visit remote areas in other countries to seek out the best honey. All our raw honey is unique in taste, untreated and unfiltered to preserve maximum goodness and from territories that are not tainted by intensive farming and chemicals. 

You can find our pure, raw honey in a range of Balqees kiosks and honey boutiques in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman or order from us direct. We will send our raw honey to anywhere in the world where it is possible to ship to.

Facebook: @Balqees Raw Honey 
Twitter: @balqeesrawhoney 
Instagram: @balqeesrawhoney #rawhoney

“The reason why I love working with Dima Sharif & Meeta K Wolff is because they are passionate about their art and I love being around passionate people who take their craft seriously as it helps me grow and evolve in my business.” 
- Riath Hamed, Owner of Balqees Honey

Lootah Premium Foods (LPF) is a division of the much-respected Nasser Abdullah Lootah Group, which was established in 1975.

Lootah Premium Foods was set up to provide the best quality produce and service to our customers, serving them with the finest produce either imported from Paris or Grown regionally. Lootah are pleased to be working with our European Partners Oakleaf who has been supplying the very highest quality restaurants and hotels throughout Europe and the Caribbean for the last 17 Years.

We have chosen to bypass intensive farming methods that ignore nature, the sun, soil and insist on overwatering, consequently substituting flavor for Yield. Instead we offer regional produce enjoyed by the people who live where the farms are utilizing what Europeans have known for years ‘Just to keep everything very natural and simple’. We have our own experienced and dedicated buyers working exclusively for us in Rungis Market in Paris, each buyer is responsible for ensuring the best quality produce from each area of the market; seafood, meat & poultry, fresh produce, gourmet items and dairy, they have a fantastic relationship with the farmers and producers to guarantee that we offer the best possible range of products at the best possible price, always searching for new and interesting products and following the current trends of this ever changing market

Instagram: @lootahpremiumfoods

“This is our second year supporting this annual event and we at Lootah Premium Foods wholeheartedly support the Food Styling & Photography Workshop by Meeta K Wolff and Dima Sharif because food styling and photography is becoming more and more important for everyone in this industry.

Through their workshop Meeta K Wolff and Dima Sharif encourage and train participants to take their hobby to the next level.”

- Tony Colley, General Manager at Lootah Premium Foods

Ronai LLC - Established in the UK in 1947 with expansion in the UAE from 2006 A. Ronai LLC is the Middle East distributor of some of the world’s most prestigious brands in Hospitality: Steelite International, Oneida, F. Dick Chef’s Knives, Genware, Glass & Co, Burco and other well-known trademarks.

More recent developments include the expansion of our own uniform brand. Created by our in-house designer and manufactured in the UAE our new “Uniforms by Ronai” catalogue features a host of bespoke garments. The collections are suitable for use in various job functions as well as the hospitality and aviation industries and they are proving extremely popular throughout the region.

It is our objective to offer an alternative supply scenario to the Middle Eastern Hospitality industry. We aim to offer fixed pricing together with a very high level of service including stock holding and a strong sales force with extensive industry knowledge. We are constantly learning and it is our hope that we become the choice supplier to the hospitality industry in the Middle East.

Facebook: @A. Ronai LLC 
Twitter: @RonaiLLC
Instagram: @Ronaillc

“Ronai are delighted to support the food photography & styling workshop by Meeta K Wolff & Dima Sharif taking place this October, as a supplier to the hospitality industry it’s exciting for us to see how our products can be utilized to create fabulous imagery and show a variety of textures and colours not only in the food but in its presentation.” 
- Rachel Matthews, Ronai LLC 

Dima Sharif Organic Mooneh Essentials
It is impossible not to taste the pluck and resourcefulness of the traditional Middle Eastern kitchen in Dima Sharif’s newly launched Organic Mooneh (pantry) Essentials; a range of pickles, made by hand, using UAE locally grown, seasonal, organic vegetables and small-batch certified organic olive oil from Jordan.

Taste summons memory and emotion, and for Dima, whose soon-to-be published cookery book is a recollection of food memories and recipes that contrast and connect people and generations, her pickles reconnect the smell and taste of her grandmother’s kitchen to the artisanal continuity of times past.

Our Partners are:

Elekta Gulf
A team of five hardworking, dedicated employees comprised the humble beginning of this now world renowned brand. Today, Elekta has a team of over 500 with export distribution in over 35 countries, all supported by the head office in Dubai, U.A.E. 

Elekta specializes in the distribution of quality T.V., audio, and large and small home appliances that are affordable and enhance one’s comfort at home.

Answering the call for energy reduction, Elekta created a sub-brand, Otto, Powered by Elekta, supplying LED lights internationally. The LED lights, along with Elekta’s energy efficient products, support Elekta’s organizational value of energy conservation.

The story of Elekta is one of commitment, perseverance, vision and focus - all in service to improving the quality of life of people around the world. Elekta envisions a person’s home to be a sanctuary for relaxation and rejuvenation, and our products support you in Making you Feel at Home!

Twitter : @elekta_gulf
Facebook: ElektaGulf
Pinterest: @elektagulf
YouTube: @elektagulf
Instagram: @elektagulf

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Skillet-fried Tiger Shrimps

Things don't have to be overly complicated to be fantastic. Sometimes the best thing is the simplest. The ingredient, the method and the whole experience, simple and gorgeous. Get your friends to sit with you in the kitchen, make these shrimps, pour your drinks, chat as you prepare the food, ask one of them to break the baguette and dig in straight from the skillet. The simplest and most fun thing to do!

Skillet fried Tiger Shrimps
16 tiger Shrimps

2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

3 tbsp butter, softened

4 cloves garlic, crushed

Salt & black pepper to taste

3 tbsp olive oil

Juice of ½ a lemon

Trim the antennas of the shrimp, and slice through the back, keeping the shell intact. Devein the shrimps, rinse and pat dry.

In a small bowl mix together the softened butter, chopped parsley, crushed garlic, salt and black pepper, until well incorporated. If you wish to serve a slightly spicy version of this dish, add 1-2 tsp of red chilli powder to the butter mixture. Stuff the opening in the shrimp’s back with this butter mixture.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and fry the shrimps until cooked through, about 6-8 minutes. Don't overcook them, there is nothing worse than overcooked shrimps!

The shells turn orange and firm when the shrimps are done. Squeeze half a lemon over the whole and serve immediately in the frying skillet alongside some pita bread or baguette.

Enjoy and have a couple of very good laughs with your friends, nothing beats that!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Regional Influences - Misinformation & The Role of Media (Mnazalet Beitinjan- Layered eggplants)

Artisanal Authentic Italian Produce
from Sardegna 

Shallow information does not an expert make. 
Those aspiring to become experts and be viewed as such, should first acquire the information, then spread the information. 
This year the Italian Cuisine World Summit is all about being informed with the right knowledge. The 2015 version of the summit talks, authenticity, regionality, innovation and evolution that remains true to the authentic cuisine and the food's history.

One of the things I have been discovering lately is the amount of ages old influences that Arabic cuisine has had over parts of Italian cuisine. This could have first started in the south region of Italy, traces of which have eventually traveled to the upper North with time. Take the Sicilian kitchen for instance, there is no denying that a lot of commonalities exist over there and surprisingly the Italians know this more than the Arabs do!

Having tied up with the Italian Cuisine World Summit over the past two years, I am realising that what I had initially thought is a commonality due to the fact that some of the Arabic regions are on the Mediterranean, turned out to be much more than a coincidence of geographically shared ingredients, but rather a straight influence and adoption of ingredient combinations and cooking techniques. Now as ever with food, it evolves, and people come up with a million versions of the same recipe some of which become so popular that the evolved recipe becomes known as the original with the passage of time. Also, in the curious case of food, once an adopted recipe had survived decades of being cooked in a foreign kitchen, it becomes an integrated part of that foreign cuisine and hence becoming local and a part of the authentic repertoire. To someone who is really into food history this information is priceless!

I know that nowadays more and more people are into food not just as eaters but someway or the other many have become professionally involved with food (be it as chefs, writers, TV personalities, or even food journalists and restaurant reviewers) and while the early years of internet journalism had allowed for misinformation to travel all across the globe, then be picked up by the misinformed, and circulated... and so a lot of ignorance had been spread over the sphere of food information (be it food history, cuisine specifications to even recipes! Yes, how many times do you carry out a recipe that does not really work?!) - all of which lead to a lot of confusion and misleading knowledge.

As you can see from the video above, the Italian Cuisine in The World Forum, itchefs, and the Italian Cuisine World Summit are all about re-informing the world about authentic Italian Cuisine. They believe that there are many non-authentic foods being wrongfully tied to Italian Cuisine and to them that causes a problem. Because they believe that what makes Italian cuisine a favourite cuisine around the world is the cuisine's authentic philosophy, which highly relies on outstanding quality of ingredients, simplicity of concepts, regional variations and the very dedicated local artisanal producers whose dedication produced supreme products that became known and in demand the world over (think Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, Ricotta... And I need a full, dedicated post to delve into Italian Olive Oil).

The problem is: spreading just any tomato puree over any dough (mostly very greasy dough) and sprinkling processed cheese-like products on top then calling it Italian cuisine is not only misinformed, but in a way an undermining of the authentic cuisine and the hard work that the artisanal producers put into their products. Producing pecorino cheese that does not follow any of the guidelines of what makes a cheese a pecorino and calling it one, is not just misinformation it's more a hoax!

Sardegna cheese
at the CAO cheese factory in Sardegna
Perhaps, all this does not mean much to the average home cook. But for those in the industry be it in the restaurant, media or even as aspiring professionals, the right information is vital to the quality of the service/product, the credibility of service/product and eventually the popularity of this service/product. 

Therefore, this year the Italian Cuisine World Summit is committed to helping you acquire the information and the tools to be top-notch in your field. Thus (besides the Michelin dinners that you will be able to enjoy right here in our beloved city - Dubai) there will be 2 main training courses on offer. 

  • One is dedicated to Media Professionals, because there is nothing more important than a Media profesional's knowledge and credibility and because the Media help in the spreading of the right information. In this training course, participants will be trained in authentic traditional cuisine, authentic contemporary cuisine, innovation without compromising authenticity, recipe development, economical planning all of which will be covered in theory and some demonstrations and presentations. 
  • The second training course will be dedicated to professional and aspiring Bakers. A "Breads" course that covers Italian Breads as well as a few other international breads. The course is both in theory and practical training and touches on topics such as Mother Yeast, Festive Italian Baking, Arabic Influences Over Italian Pastry and Baking all of which will cover, history, trends, innovation and focus on authenticity and technique.

All the details will be announced in time, this is just to let you know that during the time of the Italian Cuisine World Summit 2015 in Dubai (27 Oct. - 5 Nov.) There will be a lot of excitement, Italian entertainment, Top Tier Italian Michelin Dinners in your favourite Italian restaurants in Dubai, Many activities and local as well as international (Pizza, Risotto, Espresso) Competitions at the Speciality Food Festival, you might even win a trip to Italy!! and most importantly there is the training courses for those who wish to be separate from the rest by means of knowledge and quality of their work. It really does not get any better!

Speaking of Authenticity and quality of work there is no better example on this whole discussion than the newly launched contemporary Italian restaurant in Canary Wharf, London - Bella Cosa (just freshly launched this Sptember 16th). This is an Italian restaurant whose chef is originally Japanese, however been trained in Italy and is an Ambassador for Italian Olive Oil. Despite his Japanese origin and the completely different palate the Asian continent has, Chef Kentaro Torii was always adamant on authentic cuisine. After a successful journey that started in Italy (Tuscany then Sardegna) moving to the Asian metropolis Singapore, he now settled in the UK with his restaurant Bella Cosa. See the video on this link and meet the chef and check out Bella Cosa's concept.

That's it for now.
I will leave you with the Mnazalet Beitinjan Recipe, a delicious Arabic cuisine recipe of layered eggplants and minced lamb baked in tomato sauce, garnished with parsley and pine nuts (rings a bell?). Absolutely delicious and an Arabic cuisine popular recipe especially in homecooking. It can be served with bread, rice or couscous on the side. Usually served with a yogurt and cucumber salad or just minted yogurt and definitely some pickles ;)
Just click on the image below to enlarge and feel free to share it on your social media :))

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

All Things Together - Two Refreshing Iced Teas, Cookbook & News

Gosh! Sometimes it feels like I have been away from blogging for ages!! You see, while I do love this little space of mine, I hardly get a chance to blog lately taking everything else I am working on at the moment. So here I am with a bit of update on my cookbook that's been a major occupier of my time and mind! And while am at it, and while the weather is still too warm here in Dubai, I thought why not include a couple of my favourite iced tea recipes that will keep you refreshed as the heat starts washing off allowing for fall to finally visit Dubai :) The Lime Mint Iced Tea is one of my recent crazes and the Orange Mint Tea is one that reminds me of my childhood home and our farm's famous oranges! So two of my favourite things!

Speaking of favourite things, I have lately been consumed with all my favourite things together! Keep note of the expression "All things together" because this phrase not only sums up myself, my life and my book! (oops! yes, my book is well underway and coming your way very soon) Which when you get your hands on it and read it, you will see how such a simple phrase goes a long way to encompass all. Yes I know I sometimes tend to go far with words, I like the sound of some, and love the thoughts that combinations create, but never did I ever imagine, I was going to boil down to "all things together". 

So news number 1
There is not a good thing that can be rushed. Rushed work is just that: rushed. Trendy. Fast to come, fast to go. While mine had definitely taken a very very long time (much longer than I anticipated) but hey, this book had proven to me that it had a mind of its own. One that possessed me, took over my
life for a while, and made sure it was not to be rushed. It had to be done, redone, and redone some more... researched, researched and then some more (as you will read in its introduction)... and then more... until it was Dima perfect!

While that had frustrated me tremendously in the past, I am honestly happy it did the way it happened. Simply because as the writer, this book is a journey. Yes it is a cookbook, I know what you are thinking, but if you know me at all by now, you will know already that I do not do well with labels and limitations. I have always felt free to let my mind wander, and prefer "all things together" and my own definition of things and limitlessness. In this regards, this book is

definitely a cookbook: with over 280 recipes, techniques explained, history of food and even classifications of cuisine... but this book is ultimately a story. A story of a multitude of stories all intertwined and all related, about "all the things together". 

Therefore it was a journey, that while I wrote, I also lived and experienced. And as such it took me through the writing journey of writers I only read about and never thought to relate to! For that I am honestly grateful.

Where we are today is in the final phases I hope. But I do know for sure that we are on the countdown! How long exactly, you will have to wait and see, it could be sooner than you think. And I have so many things lined up in this effect, and right now just waiting for the snowball to start rolling! Very Soon you will be seeing bits and pieces of it previewed just to keep you on your toes because you are going to love it am sure!

My friend and Food Photographer of choice, Meeta K Wolff who's done the book's photography had been very patient as I had put her on a very long list of restrictions in regards to showing her work. Basically she's had to hold on to all the pictures, not produce anything similar, nor show them to a soul beyond herself!! You can imagine her frustration. She has managed to convince me to show some pictures at our Food Styling & Photography Workshop taking place on 7-8 October and so our participants will be the first ever to see some of the book's images and hear me read out an excerpt from the book!!! My heart pounds just as I think of this! Meeta says to me: "Baby Steps... we will take baby steps... we have to let go of our baby, bit by bit..." heheh to which I reply: "I doubt I can do that, I want to hold on to this forever" like the mother that never wants to let go of her grown child!! another story featured in the book!!! You see, all things together and all intertwined!

PS we are fully booked for the workshop, thank you all who registered so much for joining our journey. Also we have a fabulous list of sponsors (our permanent ones and some new sponsors) without the support of whom the fun would not be the same! However, I will keep all workshop updates and posts, separate to follow.

And Finally my absolute favourite time of year in Dubai is here. Yes you guessed it, it is when Dubai's food scene takes a complete turn upwards, to the stars, to The Michelins, the top tier of Chefs, the best of Italy! Yes the Italian Cuisine World Summit, which is in the making as we speak. I have loads to share with you about the summit, we are putting things together and we will be announcing all in time. SO make sure you are tuned, as you will hear it here first!

These are the updates of the latest news. I have kept a few for later, like my DS Organic Mooneh Essentials that will be officially launched during this year's Farmers Market On The Terrace. There is Italy's videos and the USA posts and videos (very eye opening trip and many exciting things to tell you about) but these all have to wait now, as we are in Book, Workshop and Summit times!

Here are the iced tea recipes