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…]

Feb 192015
Recipe: Roasted Potato and Green Bean Salad with Capers and Olives

      I have had a potato salad revelation (yes, there is such a thing!).   Up until now, I have always boiled my potatoes whenever I made a potato salad because, well, that’s just what you do, isn’t it? But this time, I decided to try roasting the potatoes for my salad instead, and I was amazed at what a difference it made. The potatoes went from simply being a carrier of flavors to being an integral taste component of the salad, bursting with flavor and texture.   I often roast potatoes for dinner as an easy side dish, and we always eat them hot straight out of the oven – crispy and flavorful on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. I had never even considered eating them as part of a cold dish until one late afternoon last week when I decided to make a potato [Continue reading…]

Feb 172015
5 Great Reasons: Eating Avocados Gives You Beautiful Skin

    Avocados are nutrient-dense fruits full of monounsaturated fat (the good type) and packed with close to 20 vitamins and minerals. It’s no wonder that they are great for nourishing your body in so many different ways. We know that they are supposed to be excellent for maintaining healthy youthful skin, but what exactly do they do?   Skin ageing is caused by internal factors which we can’t control (ie. our age and genetics) and external factors which we can control (ie. sun exposure, environmental toxins, stress and diet). There are various lifestyle changes which can be made to help keep your skin looking beautiful and certain foods, like avocados, stand out as champions.   Here are 5 great reasons why eating avocados is a great way to make your skin look young and beautiful.   1 – Prevents the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by increasing skin density. From around the age [Continue reading…]

Feb 122015
Recipe: Leafy Green Salad with Garlic-Parmesan Croutons

    Most people associate Valentine’s Day with romantic foods like chocolates, strawberries and oysters, but I think that dark green leafy vegetables should be up there on the list too. Dark green leaves are great for the heart, which is an excellent reason to eat them on Valentine’s Day! If you don’t want to mix your own leaves, you can buy pre-mixed bags of leaves which have 4-6 varieties in them.   To make an easy and delicious Valentine’s Salad, try tossing mixed leaves in balsamic vinaigrette and topping them with some delicious home-baked garlic-parmesan croutons. (To learn how to bake croutons, see my Cooking Tutorial: How To Bake Croutons.)   Home-made croutons are so much tastier and healthier than store-bought ones. They are also very easy to make and you can prepare them in large batches and store them (tightly sealed) in your refrigerator to throw onto salads for the whole week!   Some people [Continue reading…]

Feb 102015
Recipe: Hummus

    It has taken me a long time to get around to whipping up my own homemade batch of hummus from scratch.   One reason is because I live in Dubai, which means that I have easy access to good prepared hummus virtually everywhere I go, from supermarkets to take-aways to restaurants. They vary in quality, at best lightly whipped and flavorful and at worst heavy but still tasty. I recognise that this is a poor excuse and just constitutes laziness on my part.   The other reason it has taken me a while to make homemade hummus is because I think I over-researched the recipe. I discovered that what I thought would be a simple and quick recipe is actually a very hotly debated topic with different people having their own strong opinions on the technique which leads to the smoothest and airiest hummus.   All the recipes agreed on one thing – you need to [Continue reading…]

Feb 042015
Recipe: Mashed Avocado on Toast

    ‘Mashed Avocado on Toast’ has become a modern classic which can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or a light dinner. Avocados are full of fiber and monounsaturated fat (the good kind of fat which reduces bad LDL cholesterol and promotes a healthier heart). They also help you maintain beautiful skin (see 5 Great Reasons: Eating Avocados Gives You Beautiful Skin). Mashing them onto toast is probably one of the simplest healthy meals to make but, as we all know, the simplest recipes are often the ones where we have to be most fastidious about the quality of our ingredients.   First of all, the avocado has to be perfectly ripe. Without a perfectly ripe avocado, there is no ‘Mashed Avocado on Toast’. You can tell that your avocado is ripe if the skin just gives under light pressure from your thumb. If it is rock hard, keep it aside and check on it every day until it is ready. Avoid [Continue reading…]

Jan 292015
Recipe: Spicy Roasted Vegetable and Chickpea Salad

      Salads are evolving. The idea of a salad as a diet food of tasteless leaves seasoned with a low-fat tangy dressing to hide the fact that it is just so boring is starting to be replaced by a completely new concept. Now, salads are seen as nutrient-dense meals packed with a variety of colors, flavors and textures. A salad dressing is no longer a cloak to hide the mediocrity of a salad, but an exciting way to experiment with flavors from different cultures. If you feel like Mediterranean flavors, whip up a lemon and olive oil dressing. Want to make it North African? Add some cinnamon and red chilli. Make it Mexican with cumin, lime and jalapenos. The possibilities are endless.   Despite this trend in salads, friends still tell me that although they love salads they just don’t find them filling enough. And I suspect the reason is because they are not eating salads with enough protein [Continue reading…]

Jan 252015
Product Review: 'Terra Creta' Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Greece)

    Traceability is a buzzword in the food world these days, with more and more people wanting to know exactly where their food is coming from. Terra Creta is a Greek olive oil company which incorporates traceability into each bottle of olive oil that it produces, connecting its consumers to the olive groves and farmers in Kolymvari, a region in western Crete.   Kolymvari has been recognised by the European Union as a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) due to the high quality of their extra virgin olive oils. PDO essentially means that the quality of the olive oil being produced in Kolymvari has very specific characteristics which cannot be replicated using olives or production processes from any other region. It connects the quality of the olive oil directly to the land where it was produced – the soil, the climate and the people.   Terra Creta has a strong focus [Continue reading…]