Time to get cooking at Treat
Given the choice between Continental cuisine and Subcontinental cuisine, 9 out of 10 times I'd choose the later. For the simple reason that it's the sort of food I find more appealing to the eye and more exciting to the palate.
But, every now and then I realise that sometimes simplicity has its perks and two of the biggest are dramatically pared down ingredient lists and speedier preparations. For anyone looking to make quick, delicious and elegant appetizers, Continental cuisine definitely comes out on top.
So it was with the aim of adding to my repertoire of easy appetizer recipes that I picked the Modern German masterclass with Chef Diyan from Radisson Blu Hotel Dubai Deira
Creek at the ongoing Treat food festival at BurJuman yesterday evening.
On the menu - Smoked Salmon Roulade. Sounded just like the sort of dish I could whip up quickly and stick into the fridge before having friends round for a drink. Turns out it was :)
I'd attended one of the masterclasses at the inaugural edition of Treat last year (check out the post on making Za'atar Crusted Lamb Chops with Crushed Lemon Potatoes here
) and just like the last time, the compact little Teka stands were neatly set up with the mise en place
for the dish, the participants were handed out their Treat aprons (which we got to keep, bonus!) and we were ready to go.
Making the savoury sesame seed pancake batter
First step, beat 60gm of white flour, 120ml milk, 1 egg, salt and pepper to a smooth batter. Add a couple of tablespoons of sesame seeds and fry up a few thin crepes. That was super quick and easy.
The chives add a delicate oniony flavour to the filling
While the crepes were cooling down, we beat together some cream cheese and chives and seasoned the filling with a little salt and pepper.
Watching the creation of the cheese basket with a little trepidation
Thankfully, the basket firms up into the right shape :)
In a small hot pan, we then sprinkled a thick layer of grated cheddar cheese which we left to melt into a little cheese pancake. We then overturned the pancake onto a small bowl and moulded it around the bottom to make a small cheese basket. I'd seen this being done several times on TV but had never actually attempted it. Happily it turned out just like the one on Chef Diyan's counter so was quite pleased with myself and will definitely be making more of those :)
A quick balsamic dressing for the salad
Next, we dressed a small bowl of salad leaves with a balsamic vinaigrette made from half a cup of reduced balsamic vinegar, a cup of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of mustard, all beaten together and seasoned to taste.
Rolling up the salmon roulade
To make the roulade, we placed the pancakes on a clean board, spread a generous layer of cream cheese and chive filling, placed thin slices of firm, pink smoked salmon on half the pancake and rolled it firmly into a log. In ideal circumstances, Chef Diyan advised us to then place the rolls in the fridge until it was time to serve to allow the cheese filling to firm up. We skipped this step during the class but the results turned out pretty neat anyway.
Then it was time to plate up! To begin, we created a zig-zag pattern on the plate with some cocktail sauce (half mayonnaise-half tomato ketchup). Next, we sliced off the ends of the roulade to neaten the edges and cut each roll into two on a slant. The roulade pieces were placed in a row on the plate with the cheese basket at one end, filled up with the dressed salad. Ta da! Smoked salmon roulade all made in less than 20 minutes.
A quick and easy appetizer that looks great on a plate
There are free masterclasses and demos galore at Treat - the BurJuman World Food Fest every evening until May 19th, with Arabic, Continental, Italian and Indian cuisine still to come in the days ahead. Check out BurJuman
's website for more details and its facebook page
for the daily schedule of classes available. There were also some amazing chocolate displays (check out the gallery below) and audience competitions with great giveaways taking place all across the mall. I might be paying it another visit this weekend :)
One continent, four countries, plates and plates of awesome food!
You will have to forgive me for being a bit on the back foot with updating the blog... three weeks on holiday in some of the most stunning places I've ever been to has made me forget (quite happily) the internet and everything else associated with sitting at a desk and typing out stuff.
Still, there's too much great platetrotter-friendly material to post about, I figured I better get back to it :)
I thought a round up of some of the best dishes I came across in each of the four countries we went to might be a good place to start:
Ceviche at Tataku Vave, Easter Island, Chile
Ceviche heaven on Easter Island
Plump pieces of the island's ubiquitous white tuna, prawns, scallops and cuttle fish doused in tangy lime, tossed with onion and tomato and turned out in a giant sea shell - just the sight of Tataku Vave's ceviche was enough to make us lose interest in anything other than getting forks to mouths. The food was incredibly fresh and the setting would put most restaurants that claim a sea view to shame - luminous blue Pacific waves crashing just metres away, giant clouds and spectacular sunsets... what more could you want?
Steak with Jalapenos at La Parrila Del Nato, Guayaquil, Ecuador
Spicy steak Ecuadorian style
I was dutifully warned by the waiter that the dish was spicy when I made my order but I'm happy to say the warning was unnecessary. La Parilla's jalapeno steak was hands down the best steak on the table that evening - incredibly tender and bathed in a creamy onion and jalapeno sauce that hit just the right piquant notes. Just thinking about it is making my mouth water...
Trout with Creamy Ginger Mash at Toto's House, Aguas Calientes, Peru
Trout time at Aguas Calientes
I'd never eaten trout and I can't believe it has never made it onto my plate before - it's too good to have been ignored this long. The trout at Toto's House was silky, served with a caramelized ginger topping for a truly simple yet sublime dish. The creamy mash which had just a touch of ginger (and what we thought might have been coconut milk) made the perfect accompaniment to the fish. Add to that a perch just above the crashing Urubamba river and you have a top-quality dinner spot in an otherwise overly touristy town.
Pastel de Santa Ana at Mercado Municipal, Sao Paolo, Brazil
Getting tarted up in Sao Paolo
I've waxed lyrical about Portugal's Pasteis de Natas before and while I don't mean to change loyalties, the Pastel the Santa Ana might just be my new favourite. This eggy tart probably uses the same ingredients as the former but the filling is rendered denser and richer as opposed to a custard... almost like raw egg yolk beaten with sugar. Best eaten with a bica to cut the sweetness, it was the perfect sweet ending to an awesome food-filled trip.
My dietary plan in South America includes a big dose of dulce de leche (Image: chow.com)
I am a condensed milk junkie. Yes I know it's unsophisticated eating at its finest and is the sugar + dairy haters' poster child for foods that do bad things to you, but it tastes so good!
I remember the feeling of pure joy watching a tin of Milkmaid being emptied into a glass jar, ready to be dug into after each meal. My mother would puncture two holes at opposing ends of the tin and balance it precariously on the rim of the jar and I'd watch the entire contents slowly ooze out in a thick swirly flow.
Then it was time to eat - smooth and sweet straight from the jar or thick and lickable after it had been left to sit in the fridge for a bit. Condensed milk in coffee, tea, on bread, chappatis, pancakes - all were fair game.
After that came the invention of squeezable tubes of the stuff (convenience defined), and my discovery of Vietnamese coffee (to me purely a vehicle for the delivery of sweetened evaporated milk). My childhood obsession with the stuff has definitely grown with me.
So it's little wonder that I am over the moon to be heading to South America this weekend. South Americans have managed to improve what, in my mind, is something I thought no living person could make any better. They've managed to do it by caramalising condensed milk to turn it to dulce de leche - milk candy that is even more delicious than the stuff it's made from.
Beijinhos were introduced to me by my old Brazilian flatmate... time to try them on their home turf!
I can already taste those Brazilian beijinhos (soft dulce de leche candies coated in coconut sprinkles) and hope to eat my share of manjar - the thick milk candy spread available in Chile and Peruvian Tejas - dulce de leche nut candies coated in fondant and chocolate. Basically I plan on tasting very single version of the stuff I can find :)
I predict a picture gallery in the near future!
These Peruvian candies seem like the perfect treat post a hike up Macchu Picchu
Sliced, salted, smoked and ready to be swallowed
It isn't everyday you meet the Guinness World Record holder for the fastest pin-boner and carver of a side of salmon.
(Yes, believe it or not, this category does exist.)
Or have the opportunity to wander around Britain's oldest salmon smokery.
Or eat a delicious meal of silky fish and a gooey golden syrup pudding, all while gazing out at London's Olympic Stadium.
So it was a nice surprise to have the chance to do all three in one evening while on a business trip to London... a bit of a change from the old sit-in-a-meeting room and-hope-your-presentation-goes-down-well routine :)
The site of this little dinner excursion was Forman's Fish Island
- widely believed to be Britain's oldest salmon smokery, located down a quiet street in London's East End in a building quite aptly shaped like a darne of salmon.
The Formans - if I got my facts right - originally hailed from Russia and started off smoking salmon sourced from their homeland, before realising that there was some incredibly tasty salmon to be had right in the UK, just upstream in merry ol' Scotland.
Following the brief introduction on the smokery and its rather colourful recent past - the original building was at the centre of the Olympic Stadium relocation controversy
- the evening proceeded with a brief tour of the gleaming new smokehouse facilities and a carving and pin-boning demonstration by the Guinness World Record-holder himself, Darren Matson.
Then it was time to eat! Dinner was a hearty selection of courses comprising smoked salmon - of course - with traditional accompaniments like sour cream and onions, wild sea bass with vanilla froth, roasted garlic and truffle mash and golden syrup sponge pudding with rum & raisin icecream.
I would love to say the salmon was the highlight, but being the sucker for sweets that I am, dessert proved to be the real star of the show.
The pudding arrived puffed out of a syrup tin, bready all the way through and stickily sweet at the end - it wasn't really a dainty dessert but no one complained too much as we dug our spoons into the layer of settled syrup lining the bottom of the tin. It was definitely a sweet note to end the night on.
If you are ever in London and feel like getting up to something fishy in the East End one evening, I suggest you give this place a go. The smokehouse has a list of clients that make up the gourmet glitterati of London, including Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White, Fortnum & Mason, The Dorchester and The House of Lords amongst others, so you can be sure you are in good smoked salmon-appreciating company.
Here's a peek at what would be in store:
Bahla Fort - site of my slightly suspect harees meal
Ok, before anyone gets defensive, I'd like to say that this post is in no way a commentary on the lack of Platetrotter-worthy food in Oman.
I'm sure there is plenty of it out there. I've definitely read enough about the mix of Arab, Indian and African ingredients and techniques that shape the country's cuisine. And I've definitely had enough people praise the halwa or the tender shuwa meat that falls off the bone after being slow roasted for two days to want to try some.
I've heard about the delicately spiced rice and meat dishes like maqbous and arsia. And the sweet wheat, date molasses and milk soup called sakhana that's traditionally used to break the fast during Ramadan....
I've just never found anywhere to actually sink my teeth into any of it! Despite visiting Oman five times - more than any other country I've ever been to - and driving through some of the country's largest cities as well as several remote towns.
Two of these visits were during Ramadan and Eid - possibly the best time to try out some local delicacies - and I still came out empty-tummied!
For this and this reason alone, Oman has been a personal Platetrotter failure.
I have come close to having a few successes. I have tasted harees (the wheat and meat porridge that makes an appearance in some form or the other on local menus of several of the Gulf states). Sadly, the first thing I noticed about said pot of harees was a big black splotch right in the middle that looked suspiciously like a fly (I convinced myself it was cardamom because the people offering it to me were two tottering old men whose feelings I didn't want to hurt) but it was almost literally a case of finding a fly in the ointment - or in this case harees - that ruined my enjoyment of the dish.
The second potential success was finding an Omani village preparing for an Eid feast of shuwa. Sadly, the shuwa was in a rather early stage of preparation (read more blood and guts than tender, succulent beef) and we couldn't stick around for the lengthy roasting process.
Still, with a trip to Muscat on the cards this weekend, I'm hoping the curse of the non-appearing Omani food will finally be broken.
If anyone has any tips on where to find the best Omani food in the country's capital - or names of dishes I need to try - I'm definitely taking notes :)
Probably should have headed back for the Eid feast later
These doughy pillows stuffed with cottage cheese-like curd are officially my favourite Russian breakfast food
I've had my share of pancakes in Russia. From the obligatory blini smeared with sour cream and a glob of caviar, to the ubiquitous potato pancake crisped around the edges and served with everything from omelettes at breakfast to a hunk of beef at dinner, they seem to make an appearance in some form or the other at pretty much every meal.
Not like I'm complaining... pancakes make the perfect stodgy base to carry the rich, salty and oily flavours of the ingredients that usually accompany them.
But their savoury avatars aside, on a whistle-stop trip to Russia's northern jewel St Petersburg this past weekend, I came across a sweet version that could well be my favourite Russian pancake of them all - syrniki, or Russian curd cakes.
Syrniki (coming from the Russian or Ukrainian word syr meaning cheese) look like obese little blinis - round doughy pillows stuffed with chunks of solid curd. The ones I tasted were served with the ever-present smetana (heavy sour cream) and fresh strawberry compote at the cosy Singer Cafe, which overlooks St Petersburg's main thoroughfare Nevsky Prospekt and the Greco-Roman Kazan Cathedral.
Singer Cafe serves up a hearty breakfast with a side of great views
My association with syrniki was, however, short and sweet. Having picked a generously sized savoury egg and potato pancake combo for breakfast, I had to make do with stealing a piece off my friend's plate and keeping my fingers crossed that there'd be another opportunity to order an entire portion for myself.
Sadly, that never came to pass (it was a very quick trip) so I have been left with a taste for a plate of syrniki that can be added to an ever-growing list of delicious dishes I'd like to relive eating in Russia.
But until I get to board a plane in that direction again, does anyone know a place that serves good syrniki in Dubai? I'd gladly book myself a spot for a Russian-style breakfast :)
Nothing like a hot, sweet, spicy alcoholic drink to celebrate winter :)
Honey wine. The name alone does it for me. (But then again, I have a soft corner for the sweeter end of the wine scale, so that's hardly surprising.)
I got my first taste of honey wine - or mead - more than four years ago in the little Russian town of Suzdal, a few hours out of Moscow.
Suzdal - site of my introduction to honey wine
Suzdal did mead-tasting in style! It had an entire hall bang in the centre of town dedicated to it - complete with long log wood tables, stained glass windows and servers dressed in suitably serving-wench-like attire. All it needed to complete the mead-tasting-tableau in my mind were a few Vikings slapping down mugs of the stuff and platters piled high with chicken drumsticks stripped clean.
Ok... I'll admit... my overactive imagination may be running a little away with itself :)
Still, the mead tasting hall left an impression on my mind... and a lingering taste for the stuff in my mouth.
Suzdal's colourful mead-tasting hall definitely magnified the happy effects of downing 10 cups of honey wine
So when I found a stall selling mead at the very festive Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park in London a couple of weeks ago, I was first in line!
The stuff on sale was mulled mead. All the better in my opinion... nothing quite like a hot, sweet, spicy alcoholic drink to take the edge of a chilly winter's evening :)
I was all ready to part with my pounds having already downed a little taster cup when the server placed another cup in front of me containing - the rather intriguing sounding - Viking Blood.
Viking Blood... my new mead love!
Viking Blood is mulled mead (hence the Viking connection) tinged with cherry (hence the red = blood connection) and I'm pretty sure it's inventive name accounts for a good chunk of people having a go at trying it.
But even without the creative marketing, I think Viking Blood would be a winner.
Mead on its own can have a bit of a cloyingly sweet aftertaste. I remember the mead-tasting hall in Suzdal serving up its honey wine laced with a number of different ingredients including pepper and juniper berries, and the flavoured mead tasted a lot nicer than the plain variety.
10 varieties of flavoured mead in Suzdal... something for everyone
The spices and tartness of the cherry brings the same advantages to the Viking Blood. I could easily have gotten through a few more cups of it... I may have to make like a vampire and hunt down a Viking or two this winter to get my fill :)
Where to eat, what to do - and where to shop - if you find yourself with 24 hours in the Lion City, Singapore.
PS: Thank you to my best friend, Rana - the big-haired lady behind Singapore's favourite fashion blog Bonjour Singapore
- for her super shopping tips and for acting as my personal food guide when I paid Singapore a visit this summer.9.00am: Dive into some coffee and kaya toast at Killeney Kopitiam
The service may be curt, the coffee may slosh over your cup before it gets to your table, and you may have people hovering over you in the hope you'll relinquish your seat, but one bite of a warm toast slathered with butter and coconuty kaya jam will make you see why Singaporeans can't do without their favourite breakfast treat at this cafe, the oldest kaya toast joint in the city. For a more laid back experience, Hanis on Wilkie Road also does a mean caramel toast version.In and around the area: The sorbet-coloured shop houses of hip Haji Ali for some one-of-a-kind designer finds; the quirky blog shops of Bugis Village for some great bargains. 12.30pm: Crab by the coast
Head out to Singapore's East coast seafront for a taste of the city's most famous crustacean delights, Singaporean Chilli Crab or Pepper Crab. It may be spicy and messy, but there are few better ways to spend an afternoon in Singapore than digging into a massive mud crab doused in fiery, flavour-packed sauce.In and around the area: Head back to the city centre's most famous shopping address, Orchard Road, for some mega mall-hopping; go souvenir shopping for ceramics, chopsticks and hand-waving kitties at the colourful crazy warren that is China Town; traipse the rainbow-hued streets of Little India for on-trend ethnic jewellery.6pm: Hit the hawker centres
Other Asian cities may snigger at Singapore's super-sanitised street food stalls but your tummy will be grateful... From the popular and practical Maxwell Road Hawker Centre to the gorgeous Victorian cast-iron splendour of Lau Pa Sat, Singapore's hawker centres are landmarks in their own right and a food lover's dream! No matter where you choose to head, some must-tries on the menu include laksa, chicken rice and as many versions of dim sum as you can get down.In and around the area: Catch a HiPPO tour from Clarke Quay and take in the city at a more leisurely pace or wander down to Gardens by the Bay for the spectacular Super Tree Grove Sound & Light Show. 10.30pm: Toast the city from the top of MBS
Grab a cocktail at Ku De Ta, perch by the railing and take in Singapore's sparkling skyline from atop one of its most iconic landmarks - the megalithic Marina Bay Sands. In and around the area: Cross the water to pay a midnight visit to Singapore's most legendary resident - the Merlion statue - responsible for the island's Lion City moniker.
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A legendary Bangkok oyster omelette in the making
Bangkok's oyster omelettes had attained an almost legendary status in my food-obsessed mind for some years now...
I've been wanting to get my hands on these omelettes ever since I first watched a wrinkled old lady fry one up on a promo for The Hairy Bikers
' Cookbook. It seemed to have all the ingredients of a winner - salty oysters, eggs, various sauces, dips and vegetables haphazardly stirred together into a hodgepodge filled with creamy and crispy bits.
So, when I heard that our hotel was not too far from one of the best place to try them in Bangkok - Thip Hoi Thot Phu-khao Fai (translated to mean volcanic fried mussels - a name with promise if ever there was one) there was no way I was going to miss attempting to finally fulfill my wish!
Thip Hoi is located in busy Bang Rak - just round the corner from Robinsons department store - and proved incredibly easy to find even for someone as directionally-challenged as moi
The restaurant's name comes from its earlier avatar as a street stall that cooked up oysters over a flame-spewing stove. While it may have evolved since then, don't go there expecting a fancy restaurant - Thip Hoi is not much more than a few tables and chairs piled into a small shop, with a large wok in the front display window and a pot of sweet and tangy sauce on the main counter.
Thip Hoi may not be much more than a wok in a window with a few tables and chairs, but it serves up a mean oyster omelette
We opted for the mixed oyster and mussel omelette and it proved to be everything I had hoped it would! An eggy mound stuffed full of plump, briny oysters and tiny, tasty mussels, topped off with crunchy bean sprouts.
The restaurant claims to make an oyster omelette with the "perfect ratio of gooeyness to crispiness" and I am happy to say it is a claim that is well-founded. Just thinking about it makes me want to go back for a plateful doused in sweet, vinegary sauce :)
Thip Hoi Thot Phu-khao Fai is located at 3 Soi Charoen Krung 50 (next to Robinson Bang Rak). BTS station Saphan Taksin and is open Monday-Saturday from 9:30 am -7:30 pm.
The omelette boasts the perfect ratio of gooeyness to crispiness. I'd happily second that!
The perfect setting for a tête-à-tête
Two words come to mind when I think of the evening I spent at the Rillette Bar at Le Bistrot du Sommelier.
Duck and wine. Both very good words in my lexicon of culinary experiences.
Especially when said duck arrives in the form of foie gras (yes, I know how it's made and I feel bad, but I'd be the world's biggest hypocrite to say I don't LOVE it!) ... and said wine comes in the form of a balloon glass filled with a smooth French red, courtesy of Max Fedkiw - the man who puts the word sommelier in Le Bistrot du Sommelier.
Le Bistrot might serve French cuisine but it is just the sort of place you would like to end up in on a rainy tropical night. It's cosy, rustic, unpretentious, stripped back to plain wooden furniture and hearty plates of food.
I stopped here for what was meant to be a light bite - but the foie gras with fig jam and the duck rillette on the menu sounded too tempting to ignore, so all pretenses of a restrained meal quickly flew out the window.
Paired with crusty slices of bread, piquant gherkins and a fresh green salad, our choices were inspired. Smooth and rich in both texture and taste, it all went down very easily despite the more-than-generous portions.
The rest of the menu looked equally tempting - top of my list were the trotters stuffed with sweetbreads (might have to come back for that). But after the rather indulgent feast of fattened duck liver and potted meat, we resisted the urge to be greedy and decided to go straight to dessert; one order of creamy crepe mille feuille bursting with berries and vanilla custard, and a palate-cleansing lemon sorbet starred with mini meringues.
The team behind the restaurant - Max Fedkiw (Sommelier of the year 2011) and Chef Patrick Heuberger (Chef of the year 2008) - unsurprisingly, have some serious fans within the Singapore dining scene and the place can get quite full, so make sure you make a reservation as early as you can... especially if you are only in the city for a few nights.
Definitely one of my top meals in Singapore and I'll definitely be back for more!
These luscious desserts may have to be preceded by the more-than-luscious mains on the menu the next time