Friday, October 30, 2009

Restaurant reviews

There was this book I got from Canada when I was around ten years old called Everyone's a Critic: The Ultimate Entertainment Review Journal. It's a book you fill in with book, movie, music, and restaurant reviews. At ten I obviously didn't do a very professional job of filling it in and so I searched endlessly online for a new copy- but I can't find any. Some being sold are used- but what's the point if it's already filled in?

So for the restaurant reviews, what I am going to do is use the template in the book to review restaurants here in my blog.

So the in this post I'm going to make a list of my top favorite restaurants in Dubai and will gradually review each of them.

So here's my ultimate list of good restaurants in the UAE (in random order)

Vu's @ Emirates Towers
Al Nafoorah @ Emirates Towers
Spectrum on One @ Fairmont Dubai
Cavalli Club @ Fairmont Dubai
Thai Time @ The Village Mall
Shakespeare & Co. (my two favorites are @ The Village Mall and Safa Centre)
Maya @ Le Royal Meridien
Eau Zone @ The Royal Mirage
Medzo @ Wafi
Lemongrass near Lamcy Plaza

- more to come. I just have to think ^_^

Monday, October 26, 2009

Baking tips!

I've been baking since the summer of 2007- when I started making chocolate chip cookies and taking them to the office for everyone to try. I learnt how to make brownies that summer too. Since then I've learnt some tips that make the entire baking process easier.

When you know you're going to be baking, keep the butter out hours before (especially if it was in the freezer) so that it has enough time to get to room temperature.

Make sure you have an enough amount of bowls in your kitchen as it's always easier to measure out everything first and organize them in a line according to what goes in the mixture first.

When measuring ingredients, measure the sugar, flour, and other dry ingredients on your scale first. If you put butter in first, and then measure the sugar, the sugar grains will stick to the grease in the bowl of the scale. Or you'd have to wash the bowl between the butter and the sugar and thus waste time.

Add sugar into the mixer bowl first and then add the butter. You can always use a butter knife to further incorporate the butter into the sugar while mixing.

Use an electric mixer whenever you can for beating the butter and the sugar. But don't let the bowl stay in the mixer and rotate electrically. Manually use the electric mixer with your hand to speed up the process and properly cream the butter and sugar.

Clean up as you go! It really helps!

Have a plate next to your mixer where you can keep knives, spoons, and the like... as well as egg shells.

If egg shells get into the batter while cracking them, then carefully remove them from the batter before you beat.

If the recipe calls for eggs to be beaten prior to mixing them in the batter, use a hand whisk for that.

Make sure the cakes/cupcakes/cookies do not have a trace of oven heat on them when you apply the icing as the icing will melt.

Make the icing only when the baked object is cool as it hardens quite fast.

Dedicate a little section in your kitchen to baking for easy access to everything when you need it ASAP.


So here are some of my tips that I've learnt with experience.

Spontaneous Euphoria

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Black Forest Cupcakes!

I remember going for black forest cake and soda with my aunt and cousin when I was a little girl. Ever since then have I loved the tanginess the cherries add to the rich chocolate dough. What I find even more special about black forest cake is that it brings back memories. These cupcakes make beautiful, individual masterpieces.

The recipe is taken from Cupcake Heaven by Susannah Blake (my all-time favorite cupcake cookbook. The recipes are straightforward and direct and do not take me more than fifteen or twenty minutes to prepare. The photography by Martin Brigdale is also wonderfully scrumptious.

Black Forest Cupcakes

90g dark chocolate, chopped
115g unsalted butter, at room temperature
115g caster sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons ground almonds
150g self raising flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 tablespoons kirsch or cranberry juice
50g glace cherries, halved

-to decorate:
100g dark chocolate, finely chopped, plus extra to decorate
100ml double cream
1 tablespoon kirsch or cranberry juice
12 glace cherries.

Preheat the oven to 180C, 350F, Gas 4

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water. Do not let the bowl touch the water. Leave until almost melted, then set aside to cool slightly.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the melted chocolate, then stir in the almonds. Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the mixture and fold in, followed by the kirsch/cranberry juice and the glace cherries.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases and bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To decorate, put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan until almost boiling, then pour over the chocolate and leave to melt for about five minutes. Stir until smooth and creamy, then stir in the kirsch/cranberry juice and leave to cool for about one hour until think and glossy. Spread the frosting over the cakes and top with a glace cherry. Using a vegetable peeler, make some chocolate shavings with the extra dark chocolate and pop them on top of the cakes.


I recommend making the chocolate topping first as it has to cool for around one hour. While it's cooling you can make the cupcakes. Just remember not to put the chocolate topping on the cupcakes while they're still hot. It will melt and then your efforts will be somewhat spoiled. What I did was add a little whipped double cream over the chocolate topping and under the cherry and chocolate shavings, as was shown in the photograph adjacent to the recipe.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Autumn- the sesason for rich colors and gorgeous comfort food.

Autumn's here! I love it for the wonderful colors that that it brings- the rich reds and oranges and dried greens. It's also the season which has the most creative fashion pieces in my opinion. But this blog entry is about food, and pumpkin is just about as autumn as you can get.

Butternut pumpkin is my favorite to cook with as I love how beautifully it blends with spices.

Two pumpkin soups that are perfect for this weather are pumpkin and cumin soup and pumpkin soup with chili and soured cream

Pumpkin and Cumin Soup

30g butter
2 medium (300g) onions, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 cups (750ml) chicken stock
1kg butternut pumpkin, chopped
pinch nutmeg
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives


Heat the butter in a large pan, add onion and cook until soft; add cumin, cook, stirring, 2 minutes.
Add stock, pumpkin and nutmeg, simmer, covered, 15 minutes or until pumpkin is tender.
Blend or puree soup in batches. Return to pan, reheat, serve sprinkled with chives (although coriander or parsley works good, too).

Freeze and microwave suitable and on the table in 40 minutes.
Recipe taken from Australian Women's Weekly Make it Tonight- SOUPS.

Pumpkin soup with chili and soured cream

pumpkin, 1kg peeled and chopped
olive oil 4 tbsp
red chillies 1-2, seeded and finely chopped
garlic, 1 clove
milk, 375ml
chicken or vegetable stock 750ml
coriander leaves- a handful, roughly chopped (optional)
soured cream to serve

Heat the oven to 200C/Fan180C/gas6. Put the pumpkin in a roasting tin, drizzle with the oil and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender and a little browned around the edges.
Tip the pumpkin, chilli, and garlic into a saucepan with the milk and stock and bring to the boil (don't worry if it splits). Reduce heat and simmer for eight minutes. Cool a little then whiz in a blender until smooth and season well.
Stir through the coriander, if using, and top each bowl with a dollop of sour cream.

Serves 4
on the table in 40 minutes
taken from BBC Books Olive Magazine's 101 Global Dishes: Classic Dishes from Around the World.

So there were the soup recipes. If you're looking for something exotic and sublime, maybe this dish would do. I cooked it around two years ago when I threw a Moroccan themed dinner party and it was one of the main courses. It went perfectly with the Moroccan bread and lamb tagine.

Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Stew

60g butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cinnamon stick
pinch of cayenne pepper
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
1/8 teaspoon ground saffron threads
600g butternut pumpkin
500g orange sweet potato, peeled and cubed
60g raisins
1 tablespoon honey
corainder leaves to serve

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the onion and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon stick and the cayenne pepper. Stir over low heat for 1 or two minutes. Pour in the stock, add the saffron, then increase the heat to medium and bring to the boil.
Add the pumpkin, sweet potato, raisins and honey and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and simmer for a further 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Remove the cinnamon stick, transfer to a bowl and scatter with coriander leaves.

Serves 4 to 6
Taken from Murdoch Books' A Little Taste of Morocco

So there you have it :)
Three exotic recipes with pumpkin perfect for this season.

Enjoy cooking,
Spontaneous Euphoria