My Recent Obsessions

October 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’m going through a transition phase in my life… I’m trying (as much as I can) to eat and feed my family healthy food, and when I say healthy I don’t mean stuffing my 2 year old nursery lunch box with processed meat and cheese, throw in carrot and cucumber sticks with a carton of high sugar fruit juice and call THAT a healthy lunch box! I don’t have the time to make the cute stuff you see on pinterest either…

Anyways back to the subject.. HEALTHY to me is unprocessed, natural, definitely organic and locally sourced.

All this started when I was pregnant with my first baby. It was like a natural nurturing instinct, a switch that without previous notice switched on. I wanted to protect my baby and give her the best I can! I started avoiding junk in all its forms and kinds… and the search for healthy began.

To be completely honest it is a VERY VERY VERY hard job to do! We are surrounded by many temptations walking down the isles of supermarkets and even worse seeing it sitting in front of us at home when a family member is refusing to take part in his/her good health and well being!

I honestly owe it to 2 amazing bloggers and cookbook authors, Heidi Swanson and Kim Boyce.

Here is a list of amazing food blogs and recipes that i’m currently in love with:

  • all the faro recipes here are amazing
  • the indian twists here hit right every time
  • must throw this taco party soon
  • THE best raw cheesecake you will ever have, and you wont believe how easy it is!
  • my new sugar substitute
  • This is in my kids lunch box a lot recently

Thats all for now

Lots of love and good health wishes,

Fatma

Caramelized Figs with Yoghurt Balls

July 30, 2012 § 10 Comments

My patient followers, new visitors, family and friends…

Ramadan Mubarak on all.

Its a been a very  very long break for me, and I apologize for that. A lot has happened during this time… most important of all is the addition of a new member to my little family, a baby girl ‘Reem’, who’s almost 1 soon! has it been that long?!

2 months ago I was approached by a talented woman, Reem Falaknaz, who works as an Executive Producer for Noor Dubai TV, she asked me to film a cooking segment featuring talented food bloggers to share a recipe that had a middle eastern ramadan essence. I immediately jumped in! Got super excited and recipes started flooding in. Caramelized figs with honey yogurt balls was born.

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Meeting Reem and filming was an absolute joy! She’s one of those people you feel comfortable with immediately, we shared a lot in common, most important was the love of Thai food and growing up a block away from each other!!

She has a culinary palate and huge talent for photography and videography! She blogs her adventures on I Found My Day & Ate It check it out.

The figs and yogurt surprised me… give it a try and let it surprise you too.

To many more posts yet to come, I hope!


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A New Discovery and an Old Love Story

August 9, 2011 § 6 Comments

Recently I have stumbled upon a food blog that I cant believe or forgive myself that I haven’t discovered earlier. It’s Sinfully Spicy by the Lovely and talented Tanvi. Two weeks ago her blog turned 1 so happy blog-birthday to her!!

My love for Indian cuisine is no secret. I got this deep love, respect and appreciation for that cuisine! All this is traced back to my Father. Ever since we were little kids he used to take us to the most traditional indian restaurants in Dubai and introduce us to all the different flavors, textures and ingredients in it.

He used to talk to us about the history behind it and always always used to say “can you imagine how the maharaja’s used to live? how they were pampered? how all this food was created in a way to please them?” this always took me to another world, imagining their lives, how lush, extravagant and heavenly it was. I have a dream and I hope it comes to reality soon, it is to travel to India. Visit all the different regions and experience the different flavors and history from one another.

Who doesn’t love Indian food? seriously?? can u name one person? they don’t deserve to eat if they do….

Back to the food blog that got me head over heels for her recipes, photography and writing. She got me hooked when I read why she named her blog Sinfully Spicy. She writes “‘Sinfully Spicy ‘…my food blog finally! Why this name..you might ask…and will agree instantly that Indians are sinfully in love with spices.Well I m no exception either! Totally in  love with spices, herbs, fruit extracts,essential oils and anything & everything edible which infuses aroma into food.Very often people relate the word ‘spicy‘ with foods which tingles on the tongue…I am totally in love with that concept and the fact that spices unite individual entities in a dish into one.”

and I totally agree…

Since I’m in my last few weeks of my pregnancy I got so lazy and I decided to feature one of her recipes on my blog, It was so sweet of her to agree to this. There were loads of recipes that I wanted to feature but the one I settled with was the Gulab Jamun… an old love story of mine.

I just love this smoth sweet little balls from heaven, when at an indian restaurant I cant help myself from ordering one at the end of a meal. When they put it infront of me, this warm, and  shiny  little tanned brown ball sitting in a pool of golden syrup  with the  sweet aroma of cardamom steaming out of it, it just puts a smile on my face. aaaaaahhhh and when I bite into it its so smooth and spongy, warms you up instantly. I love it!

I’m never too full to have more.

Here is Tanvi’s recipe:

Ingredients (Makes 18-20 of the size shown)

For the Dough Balls (Jamuns):-

  • 1 cup nonfat milk powder ( I use Organic Valley )
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp fine crushed nuts (see notes)
  • 1/4 tsp green cardamom powder (see notes)
  • 3 tbsp ghee, at room temperature (substitute with unsalted butter)
  • 1/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature (or as required for kneading)
  • Canola Oil for deep-frying
  • Nuts/dessicated coconut for garnish (optional)

For the Sugar Syrup:-

  • 1.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • Few saffron strands (optional)
  • 4 green cardamom pods, cracked open
  • 2 tbsp rose-water (use 1-2 drops if using essence)

Notes:-

  1. I take 8-10 mixed nuts (cashews, almonds & pistachios), grind them in coffee grinder to a  fine powder.Adding this to the dough gives a terrific, nutty taste in each bite.This is my mom’s trick & I really love it to pep up the texture of the jamuns.
  2. You dont need to buy cardamom powder (its uber expensive), buy whole pods instead from any indian or middle eastern store, just crack open the pods and use your mortar & pestle to grind the seeds into a powder.This is how cardamom is commonly used in Indian homes.
  3. Traditionally, jamuns are fried in pure ghee, however I add 2-3 tbsp of ghee to the oil to add the rich aroma, if you don’t have ghee,then skip)
Method:-

For the Syrup:-

  • In a large pot,add water, sugar along with cardamom pods and bring it to a boil.We are not looking for any consistency here, just boil & stir till the sugar dissolves.About 6-8 minutes on medium heat. If you see some scum on top, remove with a spoon.
  • Let the syrup simmer for a minute and then put off the stove. After 5 minutes when the syrup has cooled down a bit, add saffron strands & rose-water to the syrup.
  • Set the syrup aside.

For the Jamuns:-

  • In a bowl or pastry board ,combine the milk powder, flour, baking powder, soda, green cardamom powder & nuts powder and mix thoroughly.You can sift this once to catch the coarse nuts or lumps if any.
  • Next add the ghee to the mix and rub between hands so that the whole flour mix is moistened.Start adding milk and mixing simultaneously to make a soft dough.The dough will be quite sticky.Cover the bowl with a cloth & let the dough sit for 5 minutes.
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan/kadhai on medium heat. The frying pan should have enough oil to cover the balls completely while deep-frying. The indian way of testing the oil temperature is to pinch a small ball of dough & tip it in the oil, it should riseslowly to the top. If using a thermometer, use the temperature you fry doughnuts at.
  • While the oil is heating, with greasy palms pinch the dough into 18-20 equal parts and roll into small, smooth balls.As far as possible, roll out such that there are no cracks on the balls.This will give the jamuns a smooth look.The balls will double up after frying & soaking in syrup so do not make big balls. Line the balls on a plate & keep covered till ready to fry.
  • Meanwhile if your sugar syrup is cold or luke warm, put it on stove again so that it warms up.We want the sugar syrup warm (not hot) when the fried jamuns are tipped into it. Once warm , transfer the syrup to a bowl big enough to accommodate all thejamuns & keep them soakedAlso keep the sugar syrup nearby because the friedjamuns will go straight from frying pan into the syrup.
  • Once the oil is hot, tip in the rolled jamuns into the oil.Do not over crowd the pan/kadhai.While frying keep flipping the balls gently for even browning all around. Fry until the jamuns become golden brown. About 4-6 minutes depending on size.
  • Once browned,using a strainer, transfer the jamuns straight to the warm sugar syrup.The jamuns should sit undisturbed in the hot syrup for at least 30 minutes before ready to serve.
  • Once soaked, serve in bowl with few tablespoons of syrup & nuts/dessicated coconut garnish.I like them slightly warm.
  • Notes:-
    1. Do not knead the dough.Just mix the ingredients gently to combine everything till a dough is formed.
    2. Do not fry the gulab jamuns too much or on very high heat..they will harden & wont soak up the syrup.
    3. Gulab Jamuns can keep well in the fridge for up to 20 days.Whenver you want to serve, just microwave for 10-15 seconds.They can be frozen for 3-5 months.

All the photos in this post are taken by the talented Tanvi.

My Best Summer Salad

July 29, 2011 § 1 Comment

Its one of those ordinary lazy hot days here in Dubai, nothing out of the ordinary… same old story, its hot, the sun is too strong, the traffic is bad, crazy drivers all over the road….. I’m really starting to hate the way my day passes by routinely, don’t get me wrong I love my family to bits and I never regret giving up my career to raise my daughter, but I feel that I have more to give to the world!

Starting this blog was one of the reasons that I didn’t know what to do with my energy.

So it was an ordinary day, I’m at my parents house lying on the couch in front of the TV most probably watching the food network (nothing better to watch), my daughter fed and in her cot napping, my father walks in the house with bags of groceries and a big grin on his face, “hey girl! where’s the little one?” of coarse since I had my daughter my existence to my family is not as important as their first grandchild.. “napping” I answered, still walking to the kitchen “I’m making a salad” he yells back at me “would you like to help?” I jump straight away and join him! I love spending time in the kitchen with my father, he is just amazing. He taught me a lot about food, cooking, flavors and the chemistry behind it (we are both majored in scientific fields, and he has a theory that people who love and understand chemistry are great cooks). He awakened our palates at a very young age, growing up eating lobster, blue cheese and caviar we knew we were different from other kids who frowned in disgust at the sight of those things!

I walk into the kitchen as he lays out the groceries on the counter, a bag of mixed salad leaves, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts (ordinary so far) he puts a pan on the stove turns the heat on and throws some sugar in it… I watched with wide eyes ” Dad? what are you doing exactly??” “caramel” he answered calmly (and the unordinary started!)

This salad was by far the best salad I had in a long time. It was crunchy, fresh and sweet, it was the perfect summer salad.

Try it and I hope you like it as much as I did.

My best Summer salad: (my dad’s recipe)

  • 1 bag of mixed lettuce leaves
  • 10-12 baby asparagus stalks
  • 1 hanful of alfalfa sprouts
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 cup of strawberries, cut up in half
  • 1/2 cup shelled walnuts
  • 1 small wheel of plain brie cheese, cut into wedges
  • 1 cup sugar, for caramel
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

First of all you need to make a caramel, lay your asparagus neatly next to each other in a row on a nonstick baking paper and clear the area around you, make sure no children are around. dip ur spoon in the hot caramel and drizzle the asparagus with it, going across it back and forth, dipping the spoon again in the caramel till you are satisfied with the amount on it.

While the caramel is still hot, you might need to put it back on the heat, throw your walnuts in and coat them with it. Lay them separately on the baking paper next to the asparagus and let it cool completely.

In a salad bowl throw in your salad leaves and toss in the cherry tomatoes and starwberries. scatter with alfalfa on top.

In a hot pan drizzle some olive oil and fry your Brie wedges on both sides till golden, not too much or the cheese will melt away.

Lay the asparagus, the seared brie cheese over the salad leaves and scatter with caramelized walnuts, drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Fatma

Tahini Cake

July 27, 2011 § 6 Comments

A new friend of mine asked me to guest post on her blog, this got me super excited and honored at the same time. She’s a fellow food blooger, an emirati, and a super Hero (i.e.full time mom) like me! She blogs at LaMereCulinaire. I totally relate to her life, juggling a toddler around is hard, and she does it with an infant on the other hand! I’m freaking out thinking about how I’m going to manage my life around 2 babies!!! I bow to you Arwa…

I’m writing this post right now while my daughter is lying on the couch next to me watching TV in a big mess of cracker crumbs around her, screaming “mommy one!” indicating she’s done with her cracker and wants one more! She’s full, now lets move to feeding mommy and making a bigger mess…. anyways back to the recipe.

Ramadhan is knocking our doors and we are getting super excited! Ramadan is a holly month that we get to clean our bodies and souls in. 29-30 days of fasting, praying and asking God for forgiveness,health, safety and anything we want. Its a time where you feel peace and serenity all around you through out the day, its truly a magical time.

Unfortunately it has been mistranslated recently into staying up late till dusk in “arabesque” tents smoking shisha, gossiping, and watching the so called arabic belly dancers. So to all you looking at us from the outside, this is not how we live it, and most certainly the purpose behind fasting and having shorter working days is not sleeping all day and being awake all night.

I ask God to bless us all and bring this month to us in health and prosperity.

I wanted to create something that had an arabic essence, a feel of Ramadhan about it. I was googling for inspiration and thought about tanini, a favorite ingredient of mine, especially in desserts. I love to have dates drizzled with tahini or some freshly baked pita bread dipped in Tahini then in date molasses for breakfast… yumm!

I immediately imagined the flavor in a cake and started searching for a recipe. I found a greek tahini cake “tahinopita” which seemed very appealing. I tweaked the recipe a bit and came up with this amazing cake that is delicious warm, bursting with orange, tahini and molasses flavors, and even better sliced and baked in a warm oven to give you the most delicious biscoties you have ever tasted.

Tahini Cake (my own recipe)

  • 2 cups whole meal spelt flour
  • 3/4 cup tahini
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • juice and zest of one large navel orange
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom water (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup yoghurt or butter milk

Preheat oven to 175C, brush your baking pan with tahini, I used a rectangular loaf pan, it really works as an amazing non stick agent.

Sift all dry ingredients together and set aside.

Mix wet ingredients together, add the sugar, orange zest and whisk till well combined. Fold in the dry ingredients gently till its incorporated in the dough.

Pour into your prepared baking pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until skewer inserted comes out clean. let it cool for few minutes and serve warm drizzled with date molasses, the cake is not sweet enough to have as dessert on its own, it needs the extra molasses and it complements the flavor of tahini well.

You can also slice it thinly into biscoties and lay on a baking rack and bake in hot oven for 15 minutes till crisp. Store in airtight container.

Enjoy!

Fatma

1001 Hot Days and A Cooling Lemonade

July 20, 2011 § 10 Comments

Dubai is practically an oven, those few months we call summer are just unbearable…. You step out of the house and the sun starts stabbing you with its strong rays, piercing your head like you have killed its only child… you get into your car and think you are safe but wait… the heat in there is worse! switch on the A/C and you have suffocated yourself! The hot air is just killing! Roll down the windows and wait for the A/C to cool then start driving to your destination.

I don’t think that 1.5-2L/day are enough to cover the insensible water loss we suffer daily in this humid hot weather. I’m sure more than 70% of residents suffer from dehydration.

If you are one of the people who get to escape the heat then you are lucky, for the few of us who are stuck here we need something that helps us get through this HEAT!

There’s a way that helps you cover the water loss and cool down.. It’s enjoying an ice cold glass of lemonade.

This is no ordinary lemonade. I had it at one of my mom’s friends house, my cool aunt “A’afary”. She’s like a mom to us. Whenever we went over we where fascinated with everything about her, clothes, vintage colorful ethnic decor, quirky touches she adds to her outfits, amazing food she serves. Its always a jaw dropping experience visiting her. I love her to bits.

I tried to recreate the drink, what I recall was a lemonade with sago and orange blossom water aroma. Sipping it ice cold is amazing, the middle eastern flavor and smell of the orange blossom water takes you to another place and after you are done you get to spoon out ice cold flavorful sago to eat. Its just perfect to combat the heat!

1001 nights Lemonade:

  • 6 lemons sliced
  • 1//2 cup sugar (adjust sugar to liking)
  • 1/4 cup orange blossom water
  • 1/2 cup cooked sago (i usually poor boiling water over it and let it stand for few minutes till its done)
  • 2 liters of cold water
  • ice to serve

Slice the lemons thinly and place in a large bowl mix in the sugar and start squeezing the juices out mix it to dissolve the sugar and let it stand for 30 minutes.

Before serving mix in the orange blossom water, poor the water and ice over it.

You can spoon the sago in each glass separately or with the whole thing, it tends to fall to the bottom so stir before pouring.

I usually do the above steps without addding the water and ice, mix in the sago and store in the fridge and serve by a glass when needed, which acts as a syrup, only add water, ice add more orange blossom water before serving.

You can also add to it some thinly sliced green apple or pomegranate seeds which u’ll enjoy munching after you finish the drink.

Fatma

An Emirati Tradition: Hag Elayleh

July 15, 2011 § 6 Comments

Since we were kids we waited eagerly for the month of Ramadan to come, part was to show our parents we grew up and we can fast the whole day but mostly was because working days are shorter and we would finish school earlier, get back home and play with our neighbors. But there also was a day we waited for every year where we could eat all the candy we want without our parents yelling at us. In the Islamic calendar “Shab’an” precedes the month of Ramadan, its a holy month too where people prepare for the coming fasting days, and on the 15th is the eve of “Hag Elayleh” (haG-el-lay-leh). It’s today!!!!

On this day the women would buy lots of candy, fill baskets and wait for the kids of the neighborhood to come dressed in fancy traditional colorful clothes with sacks hanging around their necks filled with candy and knock on the doors singing “atoona hag elayleh, atoona Allah ya’ateekom, bait makkah eywadeekom” which translates to “give us for the holy night, give us may God give you more and grant you a trip to Makkah” and the women would fill their sacks with more candy and sometimes even money.

All the Gulf countries do celebrate the day, each name it differently but still it got kids, candy and chanting.

As we grew up and Dubai grew with us, traditions became different, I don’t know if its our fault but we let them kind of fade. The world has changed and for me the Urban life is getting harder and more superficial to live. Sometimes I wish I can travel back in time and live in the simple life of the past.

This year it had slipped my mind and I regret it, I wish I prepared for it and made some traditional clothes for my daughter and sacks to send out candy for the kids of the family. Ya we stopped sending our kids out to fetch their candy we’d rather have them safe at home and send out candy to others, plus we all live so far away from each other that you rarely find clusters of locals (who actually know each other) living next to each other.
That’s my point of view and if any other locals still do it the old way, I salute you.

Here’s a video of the traditional “Hag Ellayleh” courtesy of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority click here to see it.

Fatma

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