Posts Tagged ‘cuisine’

Abu Dhabi GP – Trying out some Emirati cuisine

November 14, 2011

As a result of the cancellation of the Bahrain GP this was Formula 1’s first visit to the Persian Gulf this year and therefore my first chance to try out the cuisine of the region.  The cuisine is traditionally a fragrant one of rich spices, rice and meat.  I cooked two dishes over two days.  The first (for the Saturday qualifying) was from the modern cuisine of the regions, a Shawarma chicken kebab.  For the race itself I made something a lot more traditional – a chicken Kabsa (كبسة).

So, my Saturday night ‘Quali kebabs’ (my partner works Saturdays so I catch up on quail in the evening).  For these I used:

  • 2 breasts of chicken
  • Lebanese flat breads (or any Arabic bread or pitas)
  • Ground cumin
  • Ground coriander
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Harrisa powder
  • Lemon juice
  • Garlic
  • Yogurt
  • Dried mint
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes

Despite this long list of ingredients this is a really simple dish to make and it took about 10 minutes start to finish.  I began by flattening my chicken breasts, coving them in cling film and hitting them with a rolling pin.  Next I prepared the spices to go on them.  I mixed ½ teaspoon each of cumin and coriander with ¼ teaspoon each of cinnamon and harrisa (I bought my harissa several years ago in Morocco and it’s incredibly strong so you may want to use more!). To this I added 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and another or oil (I used peanut) and smothered the resulting marinade over the chicken.

I then cooked the chicken in a griddle pan for ¾ minutes each side so that the chicken was cooked but still moist.

While the chicken was cooking I quickly whipped up the accompaniments.  Some cherry plum tomatoes were sliced and some lettuce was shredded!  For the sauce I combined half a little tub of yogurt (about 60g) with ½ teaspoon of dried mint and a good squirt of garlic puree (I would guess about 2 cloves worth).  Finally I sliced the cooked chicken into strips about 1cm wide and it was time to assemble the kebabs!

Onto each flatbread went the shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes.  The chicken went onto and then plenty of garlic sauce finished things nicely.  The amounts I have given made three kebabs, two for the hungry boy and one for me, but you could also make two deep filled kebabs!

I really enjoyed these kebabs, they were quick to make and fine to eat.  The bread I had let things down a little, it was quite dry and sweet, but that’s my own fault for buying the pre-packaged version as the fresh was sold out.  The chicken itself was wonderfully tasty and the garlic sauce was to die for.  I think that it may soon be accompanying many of my meals.

The chicken Kabsa was not so quick to make, but still pretty straight forward.  For two I used:

  • 4 chicken thighs
  • A carrot
  • A tomato
  • An onion
  • A small tin of tomato puree (140g)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Orange peel (Satsuma peel in my case)
  • 8 ounces of long grain rice
  • Flaked almonds
  • Raisins
  • Two cardamom pods
  • Two small cinnamon sticks
  • Two cloves

The cooking started, as so many great dishes do, with the browning of the onions.  To the onions I added the chicken thighs, the chopped flesh of the tomato, two crushed garlic cloves and the tomato puree.  This combination was stirred and left to cook for 5 minutes.

Next into the pot went the carrot, which had been grated, the satsuma rind and the spices along with 375ml of hot water.  The lid went onto the pot at this point and everything was left to simmer for 25 minutes.

Once the chicken was cooked I removed it from the pan and placed it, covered, in a dish in a warm oven to keep it hot.  The rice was then added to the cooking liquor and the lid went back on for another 30 minutes for the rice to cook and absorb all the juices.

When the rice was done it was time to serve.  The chicken thighs were retrieved from the oven and served on top of the rice, then the sliced almonds and raisins were sprinkled on top.

I really enjoyed this dish.  The chicken was wonderfully soft and the rice had loads of flavour.  My partner wasn’t particularly keen on the fruitiness that resulted from the peel, but I loved it (spicy fruity couscous is one of my favourite meals, but he won’t go near it!).  This dish had no spice, but it still had plenty of flavour.  The amounts I’ve given should have served two, but it produced loads of rice!  With a bit more chicken it would go much further and as it is I will be using the spare rice as a lunch this week.

As for the race, Vettel didn’t win for a change.  Unfortunately this wasn’t because he was fairly beaten but because he fell off the track at the second corner with an unexplained right rear puncture which ended his race.  Hamilton was quick to take advantage of this and speed off into the lead, with Alsono in pursuit with both of them barely seen for the rest of the race.  The top end of the field was mainly about strategy, with not much overtaking, the main highlight being Buttons intermittent KERS system .  Further back there were plenty of squabbles as the lower teams fought hard for non points places in an effort to secure their seats for next season.  All in all this wasn’t the most exciting of races, but it wasn’t the worst either, and hard though it may have been on Vettel, it was great to see Lewis back to his winning ways.

The Monaco GP – Salt Cod and Champagne (well , a sparkling white!)

May 31, 2011

So this weekend was the “Blue Riband” event of the F1 season: the Monaco GP.  Given that I’m still in temporary accommodation a full on glamour Monaco party compete was out of the question (maybe next year….) and I had to settle for watching the race on the Citadines big screen in the foyer with some British commentary streaming off our laptop.  It may not have been A-list or exclusive, but it was a great race and I enjoyed it all the same.

In the evening after I cooked my traditional dish from the region.  I struggled to find a recipe to cook for Monaco, the few websites that described Monegasque cuisine all said the same thing (I wonder which wrote it first…) without giving details of how to cook the dishes they described.  After much searching I eventually discovered a great site in French with quite a lot of dishes.  From this site I decided to cook the Morue rôtie à la sauce tomate (Roast cod with tomato sauce).

I ate once salt cod about 15 years ago when on holiday in Portugal, and remembered it as unusual but not unpleasant.  Although it seems to be present in most of the supermarkets around here I had not, however, tried to cook with it. Mentioning the recipe at work showed that no one there had attempted it either, so I can only assume that it is used by a very select group of locals.

Salting cod is an ancient way of preserving the fish.  Unfortunately the salt cod itself was quite off-putting.  It was hard as a board, encrusted in salt and it didn’t smell overly pleasant (I thought it wasn’t that nice, but my partner wouldn’t go near it because of the smell).

The salt cod

Before it could be rendered edible the salt cod needed to be soaked for 24 hours + (I did mine for close to 48 hours) in water that is changed every few hours.  This helps to each out much (but not all) of the salt as well as re-hydrating the flesh leaving you with something a lot closer to a fresh fillet than you would expect from first looking at the dried salted version.

The salt cod at the beginning of the saoking (left) and after 48 hours (right)

If I’m completely honest the salt cod smelt pretty bad while it was soaking as well.  About 6 pints of water was not sufficient to cover that smell! When the fillet was finally ready to use my next challenge was to try and turn it into fillets.  I have never filleted a fish before and this turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be.  The salt cod I was using was quite thin and bony and the slightly rubbery texture didn’t help matters.  In the end I managed to get off 5 (rather small) pieces before I gave up.  These were patted dry and coated in flour ready to be fried later on.

The reults of my poor attempt at filleting

The next thing to crack on with was the tomato sauce.  I peeled and finely chopped a carrot and an onion and chopped some garlic.  I then put crosses on the bottom of 6 tomatoes and plunged them into boiling water for a minute before draining them and rinsing them in cold water (all measurements are an approximation of the recipe since I don’t have the means to weight anything).  This enabled me to peel the skin from the tomatoes easily before quartering them and removing the seeds.  I cut the remaining flesh into smallish pieces.

Preparing the tomatoes

To make the sauce I fired off the onion, carrot and garlic in plenty of olive oil for about 5 minutes till they started to colour.  I then added the tomato flesh and a sprig of time giving everything a good mix before leaving it over a low heat for half an hour to combine.  After this time the components were still separate but held together by the wonderfully flavoured oil and finished with the addition of some chopped parsley.

Making the sauce

With the sauce finished it was time to cook my salt cod “filets”.  These went into a hot pan of oil for about 5 minutes to get some colour and cook through, after days of preparation the cooking didn’t take long at all!

Frying the salt cod

I served the salt cod and sauce with some simple boiled potatoes, there were plenty of flavours happening already and I didn’t want to overpower the dish.

All served up

After the rather pungent smell of the cod in its uncooked smell I didn’t have the highest hopes for this dish, however I was very happily surprised. For sure it was rather unusual and there was a distinct saltiness and a taste of the sea that was very strong. However that wasn’t unpleasant, just different.  The sauce turned out to be very sweet despite me not having added any sugar and this was a nice contrast to the cod, if slightly overpowering at times (maybe I shouldn’t have served up the whole sauce!) .

Despite being in France I couldn’t quite stretch to a bottle of real champagne.  Wanting to try and maintain a bit of glamour I still decide to accompany this dish with a bottle of sparkling white, however I resorted to a perfectly pleasant, if slightly sweet, bottle of €2 Muscador.

Our "Champagne"

Overall this dish was nice, but it was not nice enough when you consider the amount of prep involved.  Yes, this is only soaking, but the water does need to be changed every few hours and by having the salt cod in one pan for so long I drastically reduced my cooking equipment!

The race itself was amazing. The final part of qualifying had to be stopped after Perez crashed heavily into the barriers leading to a concussion which prevented him racing.  After the session restarted no one was able to beat the time that had been set by Vettel giving him his fifth P1 of the season.  He went on to make it his 5th win as well, after a crash involving a large selection of the mid field resulted in the race being red flagged in order for Petrov to be extracted from his car (he luckily escaped uninjured).

Before the red flag Vettel’s, who tyres were just about shot, was being closely chased by both Button and Alonso.  However under the red flag conditions the racers were for some reason able to change their tyres meaning that after the restart a sense of equilibrium was restored and even Hamilton barging Maldonado out of the way couldn’t upset the order of the top three.

Moksh Cardiff bay – An award winning curry

December 3, 2010

As part of the celebrations for getting my new job I went out for a meal with my family to the Moksh restaurant in Cardiff Bay.  I had wanted to visit the place for a while, having heard good things about it and smelt the wonderful fragrances while walking past.  The chef and owner, Stephen Gomez, is from Goa and has was won several awards in recent years including Chef of The Year 06/07 and Best UK Curry, amongst others. He proudly displays these along with articles and reviews in a glass case outside of the restaurant.  Given the all the above I had high hopes for this meal!

The restaurant itself is quite small, maybe 30 covers.  It was fairly loud and busy, with quite a modern funky feel with lots of coloured light.  We were lucky enough to be sat at one end, in a small alcove with a Buddha spray painted on the wall.  As the other tables in there remained untaken, this felt like having our own private room. It was great as we were away from the bustle in the rest of the restaurant.

The funky Buddha

The menu has a huge range of choice, and being a first time visitor I found it a bit overwhelming. If only their website was up and running I could have browsed the menu at my leisure! So not entirely knowing where to start, and with this being a celebration, we all eventually decided to go for the Chefs Taster Menu.

This was a four course feast priced at £28 a head, pretty good value as starters are between £3-5 and mains £12 – 14 plus rice.  The exact content of the taster menu was not written down, and although it was explained to us before we started,  I struggled to remember it all.  Luckily everything was explained again as it was served so we knew what we were eating.

First up was the selection of starters.  There were three: A cheese, onion and spinach samosa, an aloo tikki potato cake and a lamb shammi kebab.  The presentation of these was unlike anything I have seen before. The samosa was upright on its own stand and a spring of lamb’s lettuce was stuck in the top of the shammi kebab.  This was not bad, just unusual!

My Starters: Aloo Tikki, Samosa and Lamb Shammi Kebab

Everything tasted great.  The aloo tikki and kebab were fragrant and subtly spiced, the meat in the kebab was extremely finely ground and the samosa was crisp and tasty.  I was really impressed with the flavours.  Also, considering that all three items had most likely been deep fried they were all remarkably light and non greasy.

The next course was our kebabs from the tandoor.  Each of us was presented with a plate with a freestanding skewer containing chicken, beef and a king prawn.

The Kebab

This was visually very impressive; however it was much easier to eat if you shifted the freestanding skewer out of the way once you’d removed the food!  The meat itself was lovely.   Everything was coated in an aromatic paste of spices which, although hot, was tasty and did not overpower the dish.  The chicken was moist, the beef had a deep earthy flavour and the prawn was soft. This well cooked prawn was my favourite of the three kebabs.

After a little breather it was now time for the main course!  This consisted of four pots of curry each with a selection of plain, garlic and keema nann, and plenty of pilau rice.  The curries were Chicken Szechwan, Lamb Navarin Bhuna, Malabar King Prawn Curry and Tarka Dal.

Lots and Lots of Mains!

The chicken Szechwan is an Indian take on the Chinese dish.  This was quite different to the other curries and it certainly packed a punch.  There was less sauce with this as it had chunkier veg and chilli pieces.  The Lamb Navarin Bhuna is another interesting cultural blend, being Moskh’s take on the French classic.  The meat was very tender and rich and although I failed to spot the French influence/flavours it was very tasty and a lovely medium curry.  The Tarka dal proved slightly divisive with the girls enjoying it and the boys not so sure. I think this had more to do with the lentils themselves rather than the way in which they had been cooked.  My favourite of the four dishes was the Malabar King Prawn Curry.  This had a slight sweet fruitiness to it which came from the coconut milk and moderate spicing.

Clockwise from top left: Tarka Dal, Lamb Navarin Bhuna, Malabar King Prawn Curry and Chicken Szechwan

Of the accompaniments, the rice was rice, nothing more, nothing less. There was however a huge amount of the stuff!  The nann breads were lovely, the garlic nann was smothered in garlic butter and delicious.  The keema contained one large piece of (processed) meat rather than the mince I’ve usually seen which was meant you got plenty of meat with every bite.

The service was leisurely which suited the style of meal.  You had plenty of time to consume and digest one course before the next was served.   Despite these long pauses by the time desserts came around I was still very full!  For dessert we had two mini chocolate ginger cakes and two mini cheesecakes which we shared between the four of use.

The desserts

Both desserts were interesting, but very small and not quite up to the standard of the rest of the food. But having already eaten so much I wasn’t too bothered by this.  The final thing to be served just before we left were some Welsh cakes, which struck me as odd in an Indian restaurant, even if it is in Wales!

The Welsh cakes

These were again nice enough, but did leave me with the feeling that perhaps desserts were not this restaurants strong point!

My only real complaint came when the waiters started to mention that their card machine was “not always working”.   When we came to and explained that we needed to use the card they were quite insistent that the machine would not work and that we should visit a cash point nearby without trying the machine.  However when we also insisted and did try the machine it miraculously worked first time!

Although I had really enjoyed the food and the evening, the farce with the card machine did spoil things a little. It would also make me think twice about recommending the restaurant to someone.  However, I’ve never heard similar complaints, so I hope that this was a one off!

Overall I thought the food was great, it was nice to see attempts to create fusion dishes (even if I could not have guessed some without being told!).  I think a lot of the food was innovative, well executed and well presented.  Now, having tried the chef’s selection I fancy trying some of the other dishes on the menu such as the Lamb with Gunpowder and the Goan Fish Curry.