May 282015
Recipe: Watermelon with Crushed Pistachios and Dark Chocolate

  It’s May and the temperature in Dubai is regularly going over 40°C (that’s 104°F for US readers)! At times like this, watermelon makes a delicious hydrating snack or dessert.   Slicing your watermelon into wedges is probably the easiest way to eat it, but if you want to make something a bit more special, why not try cutting it into cute little bite-sized shapes. Cookie cutters tend to be too large, but I have found that fondant cutters are exactly the right size.   You can dress your watermelon cut-outs by scattering anything on top, but I like pistachios because their green colour is a nice contrast to the dark pink watermelon. And dark chocolate in moderation has many health benefits, including having antioxidant properties.   Share your thoughts in the comment section below: What do you like to eat or drink to cool yourself down when the temperature soars?     WATERMELON [Continue reading…]

May 252015
Recipe: Lettuce with Tarragon Vinaigrette

  I recently got some locally grown organic Green and Red Oak Leaf lettuce heads from The Farm House (Dubai). Oak Leaf lettuce is a loosely packed head of lettuce with a soft leaf and mild flavour. It’s perfect on its own served with a simple vinaigrette.   As luck would have it, I’d been eyeing a deliciously simple herby vinaigrette dressing on the Williams-Sonoma website for ‘Butter Lettuce with Mustard Vinaigrette’, so I knew exactly how I wanted to serve these beautiful tender lettuce leaves.   I made a few small changes to the salad dressing, such as slightly increasing the amount of extra virgin olive oil and substituting scallions/spring onions for chives (I didn’t have any chives in the house), but I basically stayed true to the original recipe.   Although Williams-Sonoma calls the dressing ‘Mustard Vinaigrette’, for me the main flavour coming through loud and clear is the fragrant fresh tarragon which is [Continue reading…]

May 202015
Recipe: Kale Tabbouleh

  I really enjoy eating traditional Lebanese Tabbouleh, but making it is a true labour of love! Although Tabbouleh is a very simple salad to make, there is one rather time-consuming step: separating the large quantity of parsley leaves from their stalks.   I am not the only one who finds this a big job. I’ve seen boxes of pre-chopped parsley in my supermarket in Dubai, so there must be others who struggle with the same thing. Of course, the problem with pre-chopped parsley is that it has very little flavour and aroma compared to freshly chopped parsley.   But then something happened which changed the way I make Tabbouleh.   This week I attended the official opening of The Farm House, a shop which sells local organic produce in the UAE. The event was hosted at The Change Initiative in Dubai where Chef Yogesh prepared amazingly fresh, seasonal dishes with a ‘twist’ using mostly local organic produce. One of the many [Continue reading…]

May 082015
Recipe: Oriental Ginger Coleslaw

  My mother once told me a story about ginger.   When I was small we lived in Switzerland, a beautiful country but not one known for the use of ginger in its cooking. My mother, being Pakistani, would regularly cook with ginger, garlic, onions and lots of spices. One day while she was shopping, my mother filled a bag with several pieces of ginger root and added it to her basket. A lady approached her and asked her, ‘Excuse me, but how do you cook this vegetable?’ My mother tried to explain to her in her best French that it was not a vegetable but in fact a herb and that using a small amount went a long way. I don’t know if that lady ever did learn how to use ginger in her cooking. Hopefully she did, because the benefits of ginger are many and amazing!   Ginger has been used for [Continue reading…]

Apr 222015
Recipe: Simplest Italian Tomato Salad

Two years ago, on an evening when I was feeling rushed off my feet and uninspired in the kitchen, I decided to make that old cop-out: Breakfast for Dinner. At our house, this usually means cheese omelettes.   Rather than making roasted tomatoes to go with our omelettes (I didn’t have the patience to wait for the oven to heat up), I quickly made a tomato salad with ingredients which I usually have in my kitchen. I had no intention of posting the recipe because the truth is that the recipe is so simple and obvious that it is barely a recipe at all. But then I realised that sometimes it is the easiest and most obvious recipes that we overlook. This recipe for Simplest Italian Tomato Salad is really more of a reminder that something so simple can be so delicious.   This salad should really be prepared no more than an hour before [Continue reading…]

Apr 142015
Recipe: Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette

  Asparagus is the quintessential spring vegetable, in season between March and June.   It comes in a variety of colors – most commonly green, but also purple or white. White asparagus is considered a delicacy. Although it is the same variety as green asparagus, its white colour is cultivated by being covered with soil while it grows. This prevents it from receiving the sunlight necessary to make the chlorophyll which turns vegetables green. White asparagus tends to be twice as expensive as the green variety.   Asparagus spears come in a variety of thicknesses depending on their age, from super-skinny to medium to thick. Surprisingly, the thickness of the asparagus has little bearing on how tender the asparagus spear will be. Although older thicker stalks do benefit from some peeling of the fibrous outer skin, its inner flesh is often very tender.   There are a variety of ways to prepare asparagus for a salad. If [Continue reading…]

Apr 032015
Recipe: Simple Egg Salad

    Here is a basic recipe for Simple Egg Salad. At a minimum, you only need to use four ingredients: hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, fresh lemon juice and sea salt (if you don’t know how to hard-boil eggs, see my Cooking Tutorial: How To Make Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs.) You can add a few greens such as chopped celery, scallions/spring onions or herbs but it is not absolutely necessary.   When it comes to egg salads, the two main issues are ‘how to chop the eggs’ and ‘whether or not to use mayonnaise’. I also recently discovered a little tip about the best sequence in which to combine the ingredients in an egg salad which I will share with you at the end of this post.   How To Chop Your Eggs   People have different ways of chopping their eggs when they make egg salads. Mashing with a fork – I am an [Continue reading…]

Mar 262015
Product: Rio Largo Extra Virgin Olive Oil (South Africa)

  The Western Cape of South Africa is an ideal location for growing olives due to its Mediterranean-style climate. In fact, about 90% of South Africa’s olive producers are located in this region. The Western Cape is where you will find Rio Largo, a sustainably-run olive estate on the banks of the Breede River which produces high quality extra virgin olive oil that has been consistently winning awards since 2007.   Rio Largo is owned and managed by Nick and Brenda Wilkinson, who took over the estate in 2010 from previous owner Carlos Raposo. Nick and Brenda have an interesting background. Nick spent 20 years in the corporate world “fixing” failed large scale farming enterprises on behalf of blue chip international investors. Brenda created several businesses including a hotel guide in Zambia, a school, and a furniture business. Although they didn’t start their careers in the olive oil industry, they certainly have the hard-working ethos, dedication, passion, and attention to detail which is required to [Continue reading…]

Mar 182015
Recipe: Spinach, Walnut and Feta Salad with Pomegranate Dressing

    My recipe for ‘Spinach, Walnut and Feta Salad with Pomegranate Dressing’ is inspired by one of my family’s favorite casual Persian restaurants. As soon as we sit down, we are welcomed with a plate of feta cheese, mint leaves and walnuts. It’s a lovely combination of varied flavors and textures that whets our appetite for the main course, which is a massive platter Chelo Kebab – buttery saffron rice and tender flattened kebabs grilled on a skewer, which the three of us can easily share.   With ‘Nowruz’ just around the corner (‘Nowruz’ is the Persian New Year which marks the first day of Spring, usually celebrated on or near 21 March), I thought a salad using feta, mint leaves and walnuts would be fitting.   Pomegranate Molasses is used often in Middle Eastern cooking, so I have made a Pomegranate Dressing to go with the salad. If you [Continue reading…]

Mar 152015
Product: Nabali Tree Olive Oil (Palestine)

    I have lived in Dubai (UAE) for several years and most of the extra virgin olive oil I have bought here has been from Italy or Greece. Once in a while, a bottle of Tunisian oil makes its way into my kitchen, but by and large I have not been very experimental with olive oils from different regions.   About a month ago, I made a conscious decision to seek out good quality extra virgin olive oils from different countries. There are lots of regions in the world which have excellent climates for producing olive oil and many of them are not very far from the UAE.   But where to start? I had heard about a place in Dubai called The Change Initiative. It is more than simply a shop which sells things, it is an entire concept. The Change Initiative promotes environmentally and socially responsible living in all aspects of our [Continue reading…]

Mar 082015
Recipe: Chocolate Avocado Mousse

  I don’t know about you, but I keep seeing recipes for Chocolate Avocado Mousse and I wonder to myself, “Does it actually taste good?” I mean, I love avocado and I love chocolate but I’m not sure how I feel about attending their marriage.   I have mostly seen recipes for Chocolate Avocado Mousse on vegan blogs, but I have noticed that lately it’s been gaining acceptance amongst some non-vegan blogs and a few celebrity chefs.   I am not a vegan, so I can eat traditional (read “real“) chocolate mousse – that airy, chocolatey, velvety, creamy goodness that melts in your mouth. Still, I was interested to see how close this healthier version could get to a real chocolate mousse. Plus, I have a dairy-free child so I am always on the lookout for dairy-free desserts (and if they’re easy and healthy, that’s even better!)   There are several variations on the recipe for [Continue reading…]

Mar 052015
Restaurant and Cooking Lesson: Circle Café, Dubai (UAE)

  Total Salads’ verdict: Circle Café is an excellent place for anyone who loves salads. They have an impressive salad menu with 23 salads to choose between and very generous portions. The salads here are not just an afterthought tacked onto the menu – they are creative, well-balanced and varied. Circle Café has thought of everything – the salads are chopped which makes them easier to eat, the salad dressing is served on the side in little jugs so that diners can control how much dressing they want to use, and almost all of their salads have some kind of protein component to make them filling and satisfying meals. They also have plenty of gluten-free options clearly marked on the menu. Circle Café adjusts its menu every 6 months, which allows them to keep on top of the latest health trends and also to keep their food seasonal (the next menu change is [Continue reading…]