Mar 27, 2012

S.P.I.C.E. at Gulf Food 2012

Gulf Food 2012 was not only an international food exhibition, but a one of a kind cultural experience.  I was whisked away into the smells and tastes from every corner of the world, but the food that really stood out to me was from Singapore.  On behalf of the Singapore International Culinary Exchange (S.P.I.C.E.) I was honored to be  in the presence of one of Singapore's finest chefs, Haikal Johari. 
Before attending Gulf Food 2012 the only thing I knew about Singaporean cuisine was the infamous Chicken and Rice as well as the Chili Crab.  But there was so much more to learn......

 Chef Haikal prides himself on his innovation when it comes to this unique cuisine which is an amalgamation of Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, and European.  He takes the best of 4 worlds and combines modern technique with old world flavors to create something very special.  

Pictured Below is a Foie Gras Terrine and Black Sesame Pudding with Umeboshi espuma (not pictured).  This had to have been the tastiest morsel of Foie Gras I've EVER had.  With a range of flavors from the orient to Europe it had just the right amount of savory and sweet, it still lingers in my mind. 

His other claim to fame was this Thai Tea Panna Cotta with White Chocolate Ganache and Mango Gel.  Words cannot event describe the joy this dish brought me, but the smile on my face said it all.  Smooth, creamy, sweet, and delicious! My only complaint was that there wasn't enough.  I could easily have eaten 10 portions.

Chef Haikul Johaira may be Singaporean in origin, however to enjoy his delicious Singaporean cuisine, you must travel to the banks of Bangkok and book ahead, because the intimate setting gets filled up quickly.

For more information on Chef Haikal Johari check out:

For more information on the Singapore International Culinary Exchange:

A Feast for Friends!

This past weekend will go down in my history books as one of the best meals I have prepared in my life!  But I honestly could not have done it without the support of my sous chef and all the other culinary experts I have consulted with throughout my passionate gastronomical journey.  

The meal consisted of 6 plentiful courses, all of which were flawlessly executed!  The first course was Petite Wagyu Beef Kababs with a Sweet and Spicy Green Chutney garnished with a grilled red chilli.  The Wagyu Beef was marinated with traditional spices, yogurt, and chillies, then grilled to perfection on a Weber (it makes a difference).  The Green Chutney Recipe was courtesy of my Grandmother (Dadijan), but slightly modified to appeal to a wider demographic.  Dadijan has a great sense of taste, but her tolerance for spicy food is like nobody I've met before.  She could bite into a whole chili as a condiment to her meal, and not even break a sweat, where as everyone else would be breathing fire....
 Next up were the Karahi Chicken Croquettes with a Chili Mango Lassi Dipping sauce. Karahi Chicken was the first dish my mom taught me to make.  Although this isn't the exact replica if her dish, it is inspired by it! 

The chicken was milk poached with loads of aromatics and spices, then shredded and mixed with a dry potato mash and a sauteed ginger and chili combination then topped with fresh coriander.  Mashed, mixed, seasoned, spiced and formed into logs, panko crusted and deep fried to a golden brown perfection.  The Chilli Mango Lassi dipping sauce was equal parts Alphonso Mango and Yogurt, 1 green chilli and a pinch of salt.  The sweet and spicy flavors of the dipping sauce balanced well and cooled off the hot and crunchy croquettes.  

Course three was my personal favorite, This recipe was a rendition of cholay (chic pea dish) my mom would make traditionally for Iftar during Ramadan.  I refined the recipe by combing finely diced tomatoes, sweet yellow peppers, red onions, and a gorgeous tamarind chutney (recipe by my Dadijan).  Topped off with Olive Oil, light spices and seasoning.  There is NO way one couldn't like this dish.  The addition of the Grilled Tiger Prawn also refines this dish by adding a sweet and succulent protein that compliments the savory deliciousness of the chic pea salad. This recipe can also be found in the April edition of BBC Good Food ME

Course Four has a funny story behind it.  A couple years back, when I was looking to explore media options in the Middle East I created a pilot cooking demo.  I sent it over to some networks in Dubai and landed a job presenting and cooking on Dubai One for Ask One, then Studio One.  The dish below is a version of that dish,  with spicy stewed red lentils (Masoor Daal, Mom's recipe) seared Cod (a little reminder of my home town Boston, Massachusetts) and a pickled carrot and lime garnish.  The flavors work very nicely together and the pickled carrot provides some texture to this soft and savory dish. 
 Course Five was hands down the winner though.  I cooked this dish back in November 2011 for a photo shoot I did with Ahlan! Gourmet magazine on entertaining at home.  The recipes are available under the recipe section of    

It's difficult to say where the inspiration for this dish comes from. All I know is that I love sweet potatoes, and lamb is one of those proteins that pairs well with this vegetable.  I also found that often times, lamb is not cooked properly in this part of the world.  It's often overcooked which gives it that gamey smell and tough texture.  When lamb is cooked correctly (I prefer the pink color at a medium temperature as served below) the natural juices and flavors are tantalizing.  The lamb was cooked with a honey spiced glaze then topped with a crust of nigella seeds, sesame seeds,  and toasted almonds. Nigella seeds are commonly used as a pickling agent or to season breads and stews.  It's not commonly found in this form and is highly underestimated.  Served with the Tamarind Whipped Sweet Potatoes and Grilled Asparagus, this dish knocked it out of the park! 

 And the Grand Finale.....Gajar Ka Halwa!!!! This traditional carrot dessert is simple to make and oh so tasty!  They say you need to use Pakistani carrots to keep this dishes authenticity accurate.  I didn't have Pakistani carrots available unfortunately, so I made do with local ones.  How I refined this dish was by infusing Vanilla Bean/Pod into the carrots along with raisins, almonds and pistachios.  I then topped it with cardamom yogurt ice cream and garnished with candied orange and pistachio brittle.  It was a heavenly combination that received the Pakistani stamp of approval!
The final offering at a Pakistani dinner is the candied fennel seeds, It is most commonly used as a mouth freshener/palette cleanser after a meal, this just took it up a notch. Using a traditional brittle recipe I mixed the fennel seeds in and allowed it to cool down into this interesting and colorful treat!  It was a nice touch and an unusual use of a common Pakistani food item.
The meal was a success, and I look forward to more of the same.  Recipes like this plus much more in the Modern Pakistani Cuisine cook book (COMING SOON!!!)

I owe so much to my family who instilled this passion in me at a young age and the support I receive from friends and loved ones from all over the world is incomparable.  It's a long road, but I am enjoying every step of the way.  Stay in touch through my web-site and blog for updates and news on my culinary journey ahead!

Mar 6, 2012

Gourmet Abu Dhabi Closing Ceremonies

The international food fest finally came to an end on Thursday February 23rd.  Chefs form around the world came to the UAE to showcase their skills and share their love of gastronomy.  I was keeping up every step of the way.  The ceremonies were held at the Rocco Forte Hotel in Abu Dhabi. a swanky venue for a classy event.  The decor and lighting were warm and inviting including the citrus laden centerpieces on every table.

Mariam and I were dressed for the occasion and ready for the feast! Not only were we set to enjoy a a six course meal by the culinary greats from the event, but we were also hosted and entertained by Mr. Won Ho Chung and Mrs. Suzanne Husseinni! 

The First course consisted of Swiss Michelin star Chef, Denis Martin's interpretation of a posh breakfast.  The bircher muesli "Suisse" de foie canard.  My interpretation of this rather simple looking dish was pop rocks with gooey gellie of duck foie gras.  The textures were unbelievable in, It was a party in my mouth, literally!! Everything was popping, crunching, melting and munching!

Denis Martin is an ultimate representative of molecular cooking in Switzerland, achieving two-Michelin-stars under his belt in the process. He is a chef who is as capable of manipulating the textures of ingredients as he is with its spices, resulting in dishes that are original and always very tasty. Chef Martin and his dedicated crew are continually looking for new possibilities and they are forever trying to break the boundaries of their culinary imagination, discovering amazing new techniques and developing them throughout the year.
The second course was by the UAE's first female national chef, Khulood Atiq, from Dubai.  Chef Atiq is currently developing an Emirati cuisine cookbook, which she hopes will help raise international awareness of this highly-traditional type of food.
This course consisted of three different types of fish:
  • Azzam-nayeera with beyah arabi and Emirati spice
  • Grilled Shari Eshkeli with Green Mango Sauce
  • Salty Fish Cakes with Naiser Mousse
They were all beautifully executed and varied in texture flavor and color.  This was my favorite course out of the six. 
The third course was focused more on the local produce, called desert vegetables rice with yuzu aioli by Rodrigo De La Calle of Spain.

Course four was a palette cleanser by Pedro Arceyut of the Rocco Forte Hotel.  The spicy mango sorbet & pumpkin seeds was the perfect density and balance of flavors necessary for this to serve its purpose.  

These fabulous concoctions were created by award winning Swedish Mixologists, Ben-David Sorum, Dannie Sorum, and Thomas Anostam  with drink names like Sargeant Pepper and Frisky Business,  these guys are not only skilled at their craft, but also tap into their creativity when it comes to their presentation

Gourmet Abu Dhabi has set the bar very high for other culinary events. It was an honor to be part of the festivities.  With so many more outlets opening in Abu Dhabi, the next year promises to be event better.  For more information check out the website: