Food and Travel

I sometimes cannot believe I haven’t documented more of the food across my travels in the Middle East.

Travelling has opened up the food world to me, introduced me to new flavours and spices and combinations.

The tart, red dust from berries called Sumac that Damascus introduced me to, as a topping on a Fattoush salad. It is used in marinades, dry rubs and sprinkling over salad and food before serving.

The dried yoghurt/buttermilk balls in Jordan called Jameed served with the traditional rice dish called Mansaf.

The national rice dish of Saudi Arabia, Kabseh (rice and meat seems to be a common denominator across the Arab world!).

The wonderful drink, inspired by the South East Asian workers of Qatar (similar to the Indian Masala chai, called Karak.

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Tea and Pecan Cake at CocoMaya, London

The calorie-laden iskender kebab of Turkey – bread chopped up in to bite-size pieces, slices of doner meat topped with yoghurt and sometimes, tomato sauce, finished off with sizzling golden butter!

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Iskender Kebab near Haci Bayram Veli Turbesi and Mescit in Ankara

I pledge to blog more about food but you can also find photos of our food adventures on Instagram.

If there are any requests or things you’d like to see, drop me a comment or an email!

 

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Ramadan Hydration Hacks

Salaam y’all,

The blessed month is upon us! The sun has finally come out in London, the birds are singing and there are breezes of mercy flowing. Here are some tried and tested ideas, ‘hacks’ and meal ideas for Ramadan.

Hydration Hacks

Last Ramadan, I would make a DIY electrolyte/ hydrating drink for suhoor and I found it helped. Not sure if it was a placebo effect but hey, even if it’s placebo-ing my body in to staying a little more hydrated, it’s all good.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coconut water 
  • half a cup of drinking water
  • 5 dates
  • half a teaspoon of sea salt or himalayan salt

Blend ingredients together and drink!

This is a refreshing drink for quenching your thirst at iftar, or at suhoor to help you stay hydrated during the day. The coconut water is full of nutrients and vitamins (see here for more details of its benefits) – try to use 100% coconut water, preferably from a bottle or tetrapak container that has no added refined sugar. Dates, as some of us may already know, are delicious and a mineral and vitamin powerhouse. Salt, because sodium is one of the major electrolytes in our body, which we would need to replenish after a day of fasting.
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Another refreshing recipe that I have tried is taken from a blog I found a while back.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups of water (filtered or purified) or raw coconut water
  • 2 tbsp organic raw honey or organic maple syrup
  • 1/8 tsp Himalayan Pink salt or Celtic sea salt (I like Himalayan better – it has 84 trace minerals)

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a blender and blend well.
  2. Store in Mason jars or reusable glass cap bottles.

Recipe from here

I found this recipe to be very similar to this video recipe on YouTube by a lovely chef called Anna Jones so if you like your recipe in video format, click here to be taken to the video.

Hope that helps!

ps. my favourite coconut water to drink is Unoco coconut water – a little pricey but worth it in http://www.unocodrinks.com

Dishoom, Covent Garden (review)

DishoomMenuA cold late afternoon coupled with a craving for something warm and spicy led us to this restaurant, Dishoom, nestled off a busy corner in Covent Garden (although Leicester Square station is much closer I think!). We were at the Royal Albert Hall for an event, and fancied a bite to eat after. With not much around in the vicinity of South Kensington that appealed to us, we decided to take the Tube underground to Covent Garden and a four minute walk later, we stepped in to this curry oasis.

DishoomDecor

Somehow, we got a table as soon as we entered but within the next fifteen minutes, a queue formed and a waiting list developed so it was a magical-in-the-sense-that-the-heavens-were-opened-and-curry-was-destined kinda day.

A warm ambience, a little noisy with nostalgic Bollywood tunes and the buzz of conversation flowing in the background.

We ordered the Far Far and Pau Bhaji to begin with and for mains, the Chicken Tikka Roll and Chicken Berry Brittania. We followed this with two cups of chai and a mango and fennel lassi. We went with our little 5 year old daughter, who found it all pretty spicy except for the mango lassi. Whilst later browsing at their website, I discovered a children’s menu. A bit disappointed that we weren’t told about this but our waitress did say she was new and this was her first day. (All descriptions in bold are copied from their menu).

Farfar

Far far: A sort of carnival of snackery, halfway between crisp and cracker. Colourful, lemony, salty. (V)2.50

Far Far was my childhood in a plate, except I remember shapes and not a lot of flavour, just pure crunch. The Dishoom far far were long colourful cylinder crispy cracker-like things dusted with what I guessed were the holy grail spices of Indian street food (chilli, salt, sugar). A nice snack but I couldn’t help shaking the feeling of this not being starter-like. It’s like having popcorn for starters. Indian popcorn. Or a bag of crisps. You know what I mean?

 

 

 

PauBhajiPau Bhaji: A bowl of mashed vegetables with hot buttered pau bun, Chowpatty Beach style. No food is more Bombay. (V)(S)4.50

(Thanks to my lovely sister for the recommendation!). Pau Bhaji is like your five-a-day in one bowl. Just vegetables of course. It sings comfort food to me. However, the buns seemed a little greasy (for my liking) rather than buttered description but that’s just me being super nit-picky. Otherwise, it was authentic with a nice hint of spice. I’ve had a fair few pav-bhajis and although mama’s one is best, this does come pretty close. 4.5/5

The presentation was pretty simple and minimalist, because ultimately this is street food.

ChickenBiryaniandTikkaRoll

 

Chicken Berry Britannia: The Dishoom variation on the legendary Irani Café special, with cranberries. 8.90

The Chicken Biryani arrived with a little more fanfare as the waiter lifted the casserole lid that was lined with dough (more authenticity there!) to let out a steamy biryani. This was what the husband ordered. I had a spoonful, or two. Ok, maybe it was about five. I love the toppings of a biryani. They are like the cheese to the pizza. I loved the use of cranberries, typical of Persian cuisine instead of the more traditional raisins. It was missing a little crunch, which could have been easily solved by a few slivered almonds or roasted cashews. The husband felt it was flavoursome and tasty but the portion could have been bigger but he thinks that about most things. 4/5 (only because he wanted more!)

Dishoom Chicken Tikka – A family recipe, using a marinade of sweet vinegar, not yoghurt. Laced with ginger juice, turmeric, garlic and green chilli. (S)7.90

For me, Indian food is always a craving for nostalgia. Our sense of taste is such a powerful portal in to memories and all things familiar. I am sure most of us have had a chicken tikka roll at least once (Am I right?) The chicken tends to be bright red with charred edges but disappointingly dry on the inside. This however was a whole different ball game. Or chicken wrap rather. I loved the marinade, not sure I could taste all the distinct flavours individually but they were definitely mouth-wateringly tasty together. The description accredits this to a family recipe, and these are the kind of secrets best kept within the family! There was sweetness, super spiciness and tanginess amongst the tender but not dry chicken, and lettuce. The star of the show for me was the bread it was wrapped in. It just tasted bread-like (not chewy or rubbery). It came with a little sweet ketchup-like dip, not sure what it was but I liked it. 5/5

Drinks: Mango Lassi – First-class yoghurt with fresh mango pulp and fennel seeds. 3.90

We are used to that bright yellow, sugar-loaded but refreshing drink where your ami or aunty used canned mango pulp or some Rubicon mango juice but hey, it was one of your five a day. I didn’t manage to get a picture because we ordered this mainly to relive our daughter of her tongue on fire. I did manage a sip or two and you could definitely taste the fresh mango and it was refreshing, without the sugar overload that usually is present in lassis. It was just sweet enough. 5/5

We finished with the House Chai. All things nice: warming comfort and satisfying spice. Made in the proper way. All who have tried it are swearing by it. 2.50

HouseChai

 

I do like a chai. All day, every day. This again, another hit. It had hints of cloves, ginger, cardamom and black pepper. Creamy and steamy hot, and sweet. A great end to a nice meal.

 

 

 

 

Have you been to Dishoom? What did you think? Please comment, and also suggest more restaurants you would like me to review 🙂

 

 

Alternatives to bread

Bread. Such a fundamental part of our day, whether it is the morning toast or the humble lunch sandwich you’ve bought or just a baguette to have with your soup for dinner.

Over the years, bread (and more, specifically gluten) has had a bad rep. It gets pretty overwhelming as what we now eat isn’t just a simple flour, water, yeast thing. There are all sorts of preservatives and other ugly sounding ingredients listed on a supermarket bought bag of bread.

Nevertheless, it is nice to know there are alternatives that exist to spread your spread over.

Alternatives to bread

Oatcakes

These crunchy round biscuits provide a great surface for spreading nut butters, jam, hummus and whatever else floats your boat. They are fairly simple to make but are also readily available in most supermarkets. I have tried a few brands but prefer Nairns, who also conveniently have an extensive gluten free range.

Lettuce Wraps

A bag of little cute gem lettuce won’t set you back too much. Break the lettuce in to individual lettuces (You know what I mean, don’t ya?) And voila – place your choice of filling and eat away. Portion control and a nice crunch. You can’t go wrong there.

 

Vegetarian-Lettuce-Wraps-PF-Changs-Copycat-Recipe

Crepes

There are lots of gluten-free alternatives to make these crepes that have wrap like qualities. Sweet, savoury, flexible and one’s that are a little tougher. Click for my favourite crepe recipes from one of my favourite websites: Green Kitchen Stories

There are many other creative alternatives from gluten-free cauliflower bread to cloud bread to using a sliced round of sweet potato as the ‘bun’ for your burger. So get thinking out of your bread box and explore.

Sweet Potato Toast

Yes, literally sweet potato toast. This involves slicing a sweet potato in about 1/4 inch thick slices and putting in the toaster at high heat (maybe a few times to ensure it is fully cooked!). See more details here at: Nutrition Stripped

 

 

A few of my favourite things..

It has been a while, dear friends.

I am sorry for the hiatus. Now that I am back in the land of all things foodie, England. I am relishing in all those little luxuries one misses when abroad; the variety of ‘healthy’ food in a package, the perks of grocery shopping online that is delivered to your very door step, to name but a few.

I thought I would share some of my favourite things currently:

Raw Health Honey – a raw honey in a squeezy bottle! I love that it still has a thick consistency and is not ‘over runny’ (is that a word?!) and it is RAW! Oh yeah. See here for their honey selection.

With Ramadhan coming up, hydration is on my mind. One of my favourite ways to hydrate is good old coconut water. I used to love the challenge of cracking open a young coconut water but when that is not possible, I love this raw coconut water. Most of the tetra-pak brands I have tried have an odd after-taste, I presume because they are pasteurised? Who knows! This cutely packaged in a bottle raw coconut water tastes just like it does out of a coconut – it’s pink too! Not sure I like the price-tag but saves you the coconut mess – See here

A last favourite is nut butter! Although admittedly not raw and the fact it comes in a plastic jar, the creaminess of this nut butter is yet to be matched, especially since it has no added oil! It wins on spreadability marks alone. The almond butter is my favourite so far. I have also tried the honey cinnamon cashew butter but I couldn’t really taste the honey or the cinnamon or the cashews to be honest – a very neutral tasting butter if you don’t like the overwhelming tastes of nuts in a nut butter 🙂 Click here for their website.

Have you discovered any yummy favourites this month? Please do share and recommend!

Peace, love and yumminess

s

 

 

 

 

Sweet Potato Chocolate Buckwheat Cake

It has been a while, I know.. but I have a delight that will make up for the lost time! This moist, chocolate cake with sweet potato is so good. The texture is unlike any other gluten free cake I have baked – a combination of steamed sweet potato, yoghurt and melted dark chocolate all come together in a harmony of perfection!

CakeBSP

Ingredients:

100g of good quality dark chocolate (I used 85%)

115g of unsalted butter, cubed

3 large eggs, separated

1/2 cup of honey or maple syrup

1/3 cup yoghurt

A teaspoon of vanilla powder

3/4 cup mashed steamed sweet potato

3/4 cup of almond flour

1/2 cup of buckwheat flour

A handful of pumpkin seeds

A pinch of salt, to taste

(recipe adapted from David Lebovitz)

  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Butter a 20cm cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.
  2. Over a bain-marie, melt the butter and chocolate together and then let cool slightly.
  3. Whisk together the egg yolks, honey and yoghurt. Add vanilla, salt and the sweet potato.
  4. Add the above mixture to the melted chocolate and butter.
  5. Add almond and buckwheat flour to the mixture. Stir until well combined.
  6. Whisk egg whites in to soft peaks and fold in to chocolate mixture until just combined.
  7. Pour batter in to cake pan, level the top and sprinkle some pumpkin seeds and bake for 25 – 35 minutes until cake is set but the centre is still soft. Let cool and then remove from pan and serve!

Saffron lentil soup

Peace,

The weather is a little moody here. spells of rain and sunshine intermittently tease the soil and our choice of clothing. noses are runny and sniffly, sounds of hoarse coughing fills the air, and immune systems are taking a battering. at times like this, one word comes to mind: soup. soup to nourish mind, body and soul.

I have always been told, and read too that coughs and sniffles should be deprived of all things dairy. I  am still to research where and why that is, or whether there is any truth to it. I presume dairy is mucus-inducing?. Who knows but I still like to stick  to the advice given. so this soup, despite having no dairy present, is still creamy, smooth and silky. Everything you would desire from a hearty soup, whilst simultaneously  fresh and summery enough to bring some sunshine in to the body and soul.

saffronlentilsouping2

My lentil soup has sweet notes from carrots and sweet potatoes, and is delicately fragranced with saffron. A little hit from the chilli and a selection of spices decorate the palate with enough flavour to awaken your tastebuds. Turmeric, ginger and chilli are all known to boost the immune system and remedy those sniffles.

Ingredients

1 medium chopped red onion

1 chopped garlic clove

1 thumb-sized peeled and chopped ginger

1 cup of dry lentils (i used both red and yellow) soaked for at least 2 hours in 2 cups of water

1 large carrot peeled and chopped

1 small sweet potato peeled and chopped

half a teaspoon of pink himalayan salt, paprika, turmeric, cumin seeds and ground ginger

half a can of chopped tomatoes

1 pinch of saffron placed in 1/4 cup of boiling water

4 cups of water

After the lentils have soaked for at least two hours, drain and rinse them. Get your cooking pot ready,  add a tablespoon of olive oil (ghee for non-vegan option), cook the onions until softened. Once they are clear, add the garlic and ginger. After about a minute or two, add cumin seeds and the rest of the spices + salt, stir so an almost dry paste is formed. Inhale the aroma that is filling the air. Next, add chopped sweet potato + carrots and mix it all up so they are coated in the spices.

Next, add the lentils, stir again and then add the tomatoes, saffron water (disregarding the saffron threads) and the 4 cup of waters. Bring it all to a boil, then simmer for about 20 to 30 mins.

When the carrots and sweet potatoes are soft, cooked and most of the water is absorbed, it’s time to get your blender out and combine those ingredients together. I used an immersion blender, which makes life easier because it can all be done in the pot! (Perk: less washing up!)

coriander

Garnish with chopped coriander (we used coriander from our garden), roasted crunchy chickpea ‘croutons’ and serve with lemon wedges.

Chickpea ‘Croutons’

Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas and then dry.

Coat with olive oil, paprika, ground cumin, salt and pepper. Place in roasting tray and cook for about 25 mins. Discard any skins that may have fallen off.

saffronlentilsoup