Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie is one of Simon's and my favourite meals; when I made it last week I realised that many people may not actually know how to make this fantastic, quintessential British you'll be able to! This pie can be made with either lamb mince or beef mince but the dish has a different name depending which meat you use. It was many years before I realised that Shepherd's Pie, as the name does actually clearly suggest, contains sheep (lamb) and Cottage Pie therefore contains beef. Not being a big lover of lamb, I always make Cottage Pie but the recipe remains the same if you want to use lamb mince and I suppose it could be made with chicken or pork mince although I've never tried it.

Internationally, British food often has a less than positive reputation but made in the right way, the stews and pies that form the foundation of British cuisine are healthy, satisfying and downright delicious. If you read my article on the food I ate in the UK on holiday last year (English Food - WOW!), you'll see that I was totally blown away by the fabulous fresh food we found there - so the bad reputation could soon be a thing of the past! Cottage pie is not a light meal, it is a hearty one that provides you with your meat, potato and numerous vegetables so it's perfect in cooler weather when you want to eat something substantial. Using lean mince (they call it steak mince here in Dubai) and including lots of vegetables also means that this is a very healthy meal - I've even made it with sweet potato mash on top instead of regular mashed potato which makes it even better for you since sweet potato is full of antioxidants.

Ingredients (for 4 people)
600g lean mince (I reckon on roughly 150g meat per person)
1 x onion (optional)
3 x medium potatoes (you can put more potato but I try to keep our starch levels down)
As much and whatever type of vegetables you like (whatever amount you would usually make for 4 people)
Bisto gravy granuals (this is optional and you could just use flour to thichen the sauce but I find Bisto easy and it adds a nice bit of taste and colour)
Red wine (optional)
Enough water to cover the mince
Salt, pepper and herbs as per your taste
Grated cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
2. Heat a pan with no oil, tip the mince in and brown it all over - drain off any juices that come out so the meat doesn't boil at this stage but keep the juices to put back in later.
3. Once the meat is all browned, add the chopped onion and some of the meat juices that you drained off.
4. When the onion has softened, add a mug of Bisto (300ml hot water and 2 teaspoons of granuals), any juices that you had drained off and enough red wine to cover the meat (or a mixture of red wine and water or just plain water).
5. Add herbs, salt and pepper, cover with a lid and bring to the boil.
6. Once the liquid is boiling, reduce the heat so it is simmering and leave to cook for 30 minutes (or up to an hour if you have time). Keep the lid on or the liquid will boil off and you won't have any sauce.
7. Chop the potatoes into large chunks, put in a pan of salted water and bring to the boil - lower the heat to a simmer once it's boiling or the potatoes will all break up and become watery.
8. Once the potatoes are cooked through (if you can put a fork through them easily then they are done - usually about 15-20 minutes), drain them, return them to the pan and mash them with some butter, milk (if you want them more creamy) and salt to taste.
9. When the potatoes are almost ready, cook the vegetables in a little oil and some water in a large pan - as they cook they will release liquid so cooking them in with the meat dilutes the gravy which is why I cook them separately.
10. Tip the meat into a casserole dish (check the seasoning and adjust if necessary), drain the vegetables and then mix them into the meat, finally cover everything with the mashed potato and put in the oven for at least 30 minutes.
11. If you like cheese, you can sprinkle some grated cheese on top just before serving and then put it under the grill for a minute.
Don't eat it all at once!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dubai Restaurant Review: Biella, Times Square - Take 2

In a nutshell: friendly service, good food and reasonably priced.

My last visit to Biella was a total disaster but as I said in that posting: stick to the Italian basics or the salmon and the experience should be a lot better. On this visit, that is what we did. I had the salmon that I have had countless times before and Simon had the spaghetti bolognese - verdict: lovely lunch.

Our waitress was a trainee but she was clearly getting good training as she understood the menu, was friendly and efficient. In the past the grilled salmon was served with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables and I would always substitute those for chips and salad, but the new menu serves the fish only with a fennel salad and a salsa. After requesting the waitress to substitute my usual side dishes, she spoke to a more senior waiter who then got the manager to come and speak to me. I was advised that they would have to charge extra for the chips, which I was fine with but I asked that I only get a small side portion - not a huge plate of chips - and that is what they did, charging me just Dhs 9 for a half portion of chips. It was all handled politely and professionally.

The salmon (Dhs 73) was perfectly grilled and bone free, the fennel salad was mainly just mixed lettuce leaves with some slices of fennel on top but it was very flavoursome - chips or rice was definitely needed though or it wouldn't have been filling enough for lunch. Actually, I had wanted to have the lemon creme brulee for dessert but was too full to face it so maybe skipping the chips would have been better! Creme brulee is dairy though (which I am meant to avoid) so I suppose I was saved from my own temptations. Simon's spaghetti bolognese (Dhs 60) was just the right size; sometimes spaghetti portions can be quite over-facing. He enjoyed it but then, unless poor quality mince is used, it would hard to go wrong with such a basic dish.

This visit redeemed Biella in my eyes, although I will continue to have the salmon every time since I know that this will suit me exactly. Hopefully next time I'll have enough room for that delicious lemon creme brulee...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dubai Restaurant Review: Aquarium, Dubai Creek Yacht Club

In a nutshell: fabulous food, excellent service and fantastic value!
The last time I ate at Aquarium at the Dubai Creek Yacht Club was in 1996 to celebrate my A'Level results! 15 years later, encouraged by my Entertainer voucher, I thought it was about time to try it again. Simon had eaten there 6 years ago and remembered the meal as being excellent and I'm pleased to say that our dinner was an unequivocal 5/5. The restaurant is upstairs from The Boardwalk and the floor to ceiling windows give great views out onto the Creek, if you are sitting with your back to the window then you still have a great view of the huge aquarium (apt considering the restaurant name) and its muticoloured fish.

The staff were all very friendly and we were surprised at how busy it was - we heard numerous diners greeted by name so they must have a loyal following of regulars. I had to change my chair because the table we were given had those low, armchair-style seats that I never find comfortable to sit in when I'm eating. There was no fuss made about my request though and the 'proper' dining chair I was given was much more to my liking.

The menu offers a fixed price 4 course dinner...for only Dhs 160! The first course was sushi and the second course choices were carpaccio of salmon or a crab trio. I don't like raw fish (and can't eat it anyway since I'm pregnant) but decided that selecting the fixed menu and then asking to change the options was not quite the way it is meant to work. I later saw that the sushi appetiser was actually a cooked prawn over rice (I'm sure it has a specific Japanese name!) and a California roll - so no raw fish after all. Oh well. There is also a fixed price menu at Dhs 190 that allows you to choose any three courses from the a la carte menu, barring a few expensive dishes that are asterixed as excluded. Simon and I did the maths to work out whether the fixed menu or the voucher would be most economical and the voucher won by Dhs 100. There are also fresh fish and seafood laid out 'market style' that you can choose from but we found the menu was missing information on the available side orders; our waiter informed us that each side dish was Dhs 18 but there was no actual list of sides to choose from - small thing to improve on the menu.

My starter of scallops wrapped in smoked salmon on a bed of tagliatelli vegetables (Dhs 74) was excellent. The scallops were perfectly cooked through without making them chewy and the salmon gave them that extra bit of flavour since scallops can be a little bland sometimes. I loved the presentation of the vegetables and I read in a recipe book the other day that you can make these vegetable ribbons by using a potato peeler - I'm going to try it later this week. Simon's prawn spring rolls (Dhs 58) were also beautifully presented and tasted delicious - not greasy even though they were deep fried - with a zesty alcoholic lime dressing.

We both opted for the surf 'n' turf for our main course. This wasn't actually on the a la carte menu, it was only on the set menu but they said we could have it. We were a little surprised at the price of Dhs 140 since the whole 4 course menu was Dhs 160 but as we were getting one free with the voucher and we both really fancied some cigali (Omani lobster), we went ahead with it regardless. The portion size was perfect with just enough potato and vegetables to eat with the fillet steak and lobster - I wasn't able to finish all my steak but my human food vacuum polished it off for me. We had a small consternation when I requested no garlic because the waiter informed us that all their sauces were made with a stock including garlic. Luckily we did not have a repeat of an experience I had at Hunter's Steakhouse at the Westin Hotel a few years ago where the chef came to see me and I had to tell him to simply add some wine and cream to the steak juices to make a non-garlic sauce! The chef at Aquarium made a lovely mushroom sauce for me. The whole main course was fantastic.

Now for dessert...the only disappointment of the meal. We had planned to share a mixed berry pavlova and a dessert that sounded delicious on the menu: coconut tart with lime cheesecake topped with pineapple and coconut ice-cream. As we were both pretty full after the main course we decided to go with just 1 dessert and the coconut tart was (sadly) the dish of preference. The tart was not the light pastry I expected but a heavy base that tasted more like a crumble topping (think mouthful of dry flour), the cheesecake was rock hard and tasteless and the ice-cream was full of ice particles. We saw a pavlova getting delivered to another table and it looked divine. Despite this disappointing end to the meal, I still feel that the overall experience and the non-dessert food was delicious and that the value for money for such a meal was amazing. We have 2 more vouchers for Aquarium and I have a feeling we'll be using them both!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Recipe: Prawn Laksa

It has been a while since I cooked anything that I thought worthy of including on Bon Appetit - not that I've been making disastrous meals, just nothing very 'wow'! That was until I made this fabulous prawn laksa the other day; Simon and I both agreed this was one to write about. Prawn laksa is a complete meal in a bowl but since it's also a sort of soup, it can be a bit messy with noodles and sauce splashing around so I recommend wearing a bib to eat it!

I have to be honest that it did take quite a bit of preparation and from starting to get it ready to sitting down to eat it took a full hour. However, it would work well for a dinner party because it could all be prepared in advance and the putting it together and cooking it part only takes 10 minutes. That is definitely what I'll do next time so I don't feel that I've been stood up chopping and stirring forever when I finally sit down. Also, my blender is one of those very small ones that don't click closed so as I started to blend the ingredients the lid came off and sprayed me, the work top and the floor!! If anyone knows how to get turmeric stains out of my white apron I would love to hear it please!

This is a Thai recipe so it uses fish sauce but I have realised that I really don't like fish sauce since the taste seems to linger in my mouth for ages afterwards. In the Thai cooking class I did last year at the ICCA we were told that fish sauce is the Thai salt - if a dish doesn't have enough salt, fish sauce is added and if it's too salty then coconut milk is added. Since soya sauce does the same thing in Japanese cooking, I will personally use soya sauce instead of fish sauce in the future.

Ingredients - it looks like a lot but it's not that much!
1.5 tablespoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin (I used 0.5 teaspoon curry powder instead as I don't like cumin)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 x 3 cm piece fresh ginger, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves (I left these out since I can't eat garlic)
3 lemongrass stems, bottom part only, sliced
6 macadamia nuts (I couldn't find these so used cashews instead - I put in a liberal handful)
4-6 small red chillies (I always worry about the potential heat of chillies so I used half a teaspoon of chilli sauce from a bottle)
2-3 teaspoons shrimp paste (I couldn't find this either so just left it out)
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock (I only used about 750ml stock because I didn't want a huge amount of sauce)
3 tablespoons oil
4 kaffir lime (makrut) leaves
2.5 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
750ml coconut milk (I actually just put in one 400ml tin of coconut milk, it depends how much soup / sauce you want)
2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
750g raw prawns, peeled and cleaned (you can keep the tails on for presentation but I always find that a pain when I'm trying to eat so I removed the tails before cooking)
250g dried rice vermicelli
90g bean sprouts
4 fried tofu puffs, thinly sliced (Simon doesn't like tofu so I didn't include this)
3 tablespoons mint, roughly chopped
2 large handfuls coriander (cilantro) leaves

Not actually part of the recipe but I thinly sliced mangetout (snow peas), courgette, baby corn and bok choy to give a bit more vegetables to the dish.

1. Place all spices, onion, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, nuts, chillies and shrimp paste in blender. Add 125ml of stock and blend to a paste.
2. Heat the oil over a low heat, add the paste and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly.
3. Add the remaining stock, bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes until slightly reduced.
You could stop here and finish the cooking just before you're ready to eat.
4. Heat a small amount of oil in a pan and add the mangetout, baby corn and other vegetables - they will take about 5 minutes to cook. Add a little water as the steam will help the cooking.
5. Place the vermicelli in a large pan and cover with boiling water, put a lid on the pan and leave for 5-7 minutes then drain. The pan doesn't need to be on the heat, the boiling water from the kettle is enough to cook the noodles.
6. Add the lime leaves, lime juice, fish sauce, coconut milk and sugar to the laksa and simmer (don't boil) for 5 minutes. Do not cover or the coconut milk will curdle.
7. Add the bean sprouts and prawns - cook until they are pink (only takes about 2 minutes). Do not overcook the prawns or they will be chewy.
8. Put the dish together: place noodles in the bottom of a bowl, lay the vegetables on top and then ladle the prawn laksa over everything, top it off with the tofu, mint and coriander leaves.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dubai Restaurant Review: Dome Cafe, DIFC

In a nutshell: good food but lacking vegetables so not the best value for money

There is now a huge choice of restaurants at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and they were all pretty full with the countless office workers based in and around the area. The service at Dome Cafe was slick and we didn't have to wait long for our order to be taken, meal to be served or cheque to be delivered - every lunch is an express business lunch in DIFC I suppose. I have written previously about The Noodle House at DIFC which is more or less underground, the great thing at Dome is that it is part of a strip of restaurants that also have outside seating looking onto the water features of the DIFC courtyard - a much more relaxing environment.

Dome has a fairly extensive menu but they also have daily specials and it was the Monday special of prawns with fried rice that my friend Louissa and I both went for. The menu described the prawns as having bell peppers and courgette but when it came there were only a couple of pieces of each, although plenty of olives - which I don't like. In my experience fried rice also usually has vegetables cooked in with it but this fried rice was cooked with egg and nothing else. The portion of prawns was generous but I was disappointed at the lack of vegetables and at Dhs 65 I would have expected a more rounded dish. It did taste good but can't be compared to the value for money that I found at Cafe Havana last weekend - it's not as though vegetables cost a great deal for a restaurant anyway. I'll know to order a side portion of veg next time anyway!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dubai Restaurant Review: Cafe Havana, Dubai Mall

In a nutshell: Great location, excellent food and fantastic prices

The Mall of the Emirates branch of Cafe Havana was one of my first reviews on Bon Appetit and I was pleased to find I rate it as highly now as I did then. The Dubai Mall branch sits at the far end of the Dubai Fountain lake so you get a great view of the water and the Burj Khalifa - it's a little far to clearly see the fountain display although it is still visible and the accompanying music is clearly audible. Their outside area is huge and they have split it with smoking and non-smoking sections which I loved since so often outside areas are smoking zones and that can ruin the experience for me. The only problem with such a big area is that it can make getting a waiter's attention a little more difficult. Although the staff were friendly they just aren't at the same standard as Japengo's (I ordered a water that never came and our waitress didn't seem to know the menu that well), hence the one point difference between these two chains.

Simon ordered chicken fajitas (only Dhs 42) and they came beautifully presented with the chicken mix sizzling on a platter and the guacamole, tomato salsa and sour cream served in small pots for you to mix as you prefer. There were only 2 tortillas (not many but I presume we could have asked for more) and a portion of rice - Simon actually found this a really nice way to serve it since it meant he could have his tortillas but then mix the remaining chicken and sauce into the rice. His verdict on the flavour: delicious.

I must admit that Cafe Havana's seabass with mango salsa (Dhs 60) is my new favourite meal when I'm at a mall and want a guaranteed great dish - the Dubai Mall lunch was actually my 3rd time to have this! My first taste was at the Cafe Havana in the Umm Suqeim Spinneys mall just before Christmas and it blew me away (I didn't do a posting on it since I didn't have my camera with me) and my second was a week later at the Mall of the Emirates branch. So this was my 3rd time in just over a month, which says something about the flavours. The mango salsa is a mixture of mango (of course), tomato, onion and spices cooked together to give a slightly sharp flavour that goes perfectly with the fish. It seems that each branch makes theirs slightly differently and so far the Spinneys branch one comes out the best as it had a strong ginger flavour that I loved. The fish is pan-fried but next time I have it (since I'm sure there will be a next time) I'll ask them to grill it instead since I found the Dubai Mall one, whilst still fantastic, was a little too greasy. The official accompaniments are rice and garlic mashed potato but every time I have it I substitute those for chips and salad (counter-balances the chips!) and there has never been an issue with swapping.

Last night I made my own mango salsa to have with our Nile Perch - it was tasty but needs a few more tries to get just right I think. Maybe I need to speak to the chef at the Spinneys branch to see if he'll share his recipe with me!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dubai Restaurant Review: Scoozi, Dubai Festival City

In a nutshell: adequate food at reasonable prices

Scoozi is a rather strange Japanese-Italian themed restaurant. The menu is split in two with the Japanese menu featuring mainly sushi and the Italian menu focused predominantly on salads, pizza, pasta and some mains. I couldn't quite understand the rational between combining these 2 cuisines in one restaurant, unless someone decided the Japengo format (sushi with many other cuisines also on the menu) seemed to work and they wanted to copy it. Unfortunately, whilst Japengo ranks as my favourite mall-based restaurant, Scoozi doesn't reach the same bar.

The staff were friendly and the manager came to speak to my Mum and I during our meal to check that everything was OK, so that was really good. However, the pineapple juice I ordered tasted like it had started to ferment (that fizzy taste fruit juice gets when it's on the turn) so I had to send it back. It had been freshly squeezed but the pineapple they had used must not have been very fresh. Mum likes very plain spaghetti and they had a spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and chili that sounded a step up from her usual spaghetti with butter. She said it was very tasty but since I don't eat pasta, garlic or very much chili I had to take her word for it!

I opted for a healthy salad with calamari (Insalata Scoozi) and I have to say it was very good with an amazing French dressing. The only issues I had were the minimal amount of calamari and the rather soggy, heavy batter the squid was covered in (which I removed). The salad itself had fresh lettuce leaves, avocado, broccoli, cucumber and tomato, so a great variety that the fantastic dressing added perfect flavour to. At Dhs 42 for the salad (Dhs 36 for the pasta) it was also excellent value. I must admit that I did try the warm wholemeal, nutty bread they served us since it just looked too good to abstain from...and I was glad I did as it was worth it!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dubai Restaurant Review: Thai Chi, Wafi

In a nutshell: mediocre food and disappointing service.

I was really looking forward to dinner at Thai Chi as it's a restaurant that has been on my list for years, however I was sorely disappointed. Their slogan is 'two restaurants under one roof' as they offer both Thai and Chinese food - hence the name. The decor is decidedly more Thai than Chinese (temple style ceiling details and pale wood tables with leather chairs) and the restaurant is huge with a massive outdoor area as well as indoors - we sat inside since Simon was only in shorts and t-shirt and it was a little bit nippy. They seemed fairly busy outside but we were the only people inside so there was a distinct lack of atmosphere, I did like that they were playing Thai / Chinese music though.

Not being ravenous, we decided to share a starter and then order 2 main courses to share. Plus, we had our Entertainer voucher so we needed to order 2 main courses in order to get one free! The table we were ushered to initially had no light above it - we noticed that numerous ceiling lights had blown all through the restaurant and not been replaced - so when our satay arrived I couldn't get a good photo of it. Not only that but I was not 100% confident that the centre of the chicken pieces was cooked through as they had a slightly pink look, although it was hard to tell properly in the dim light. When I told the waitress that I'd left a fair bit of chicken because it didn't seem to be cooked properly but that I couldn't see properly in the dark, she didn't seem too worried about the chicken issue although she offered to move us to a different table. To be fair to her, she was a trainee - although after 4 months I would have expected her to be out of her training period and this just shows to me that she hasn't been getting an appropriate amount of training.

At our new, properly-lit table, our duck pancakes and sweet & sour prawns with lycee and pineapple arrived. Peking roasted duck should be slow-cooked so that all the fat melts away leaving crispy skin and succulent duck, sadly their duck had a thick layer of fat on it - similar to my experience at Noodle House a few months ago but at least there the price was not a 5-star one. The pancakes were also all stuck together which always adds a tricky edge to your meal as you attempt to pry them apart without ripping them into shreds! The prawns were tasty but I didn't find them any better than the almost identical Noodle Factory dish we had a couple of months ago - at shopping mall prices.

In terms of Thai Chi's prices, their starters were all about Dhs 60 or so and the strange thing was that all their side dishes of vegetables, noodles and rice were also about Dhs 60! Main courses ranged from Dhs 90-120 which is what you'd expect from this sort of restaurant. My biggest shock came when I saw they had added 10% service charge to the bill - to my understanding this is not allowed in Dubai anymore. I only realised this after I'd paid but I decided that questioning it would only bring blank stares from the staff and irritation on my part so I didn't bother. All in all a disappointing experience that I won't be repeating.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dubai Restaurant Review: Lake View, Creek Golf Club

In a nutshell: great location, good food but disappointing menu and service

The plan yesterday was to use one of our new Entertainer buy-1-get-1-free vouchers for lunch at The Thai Kitchen in the Park Hyatt. When we got there we found that the only option on a Friday is a buffet brunch spread across The Thai Kitchen, Traiteur and The Terrace - it looked excellent, you can sit outside looking over the Creek and it only cost Dhs 195 which is amazing value for a Friday brunch. However, we weren't looking for a huge meal so opted to go to the spike bar at the golf club instead - it is definitely on the list to come back to in the future though.

The Dubai Creek Golf Club's spike bar, Lake View, aptly looks out over some of the golf course lakes as well as the Creek so it provides lovely views both from outside on the large terrace as well as from inside. The menu was quite expensive with main courses at around the Dhs 100 mark or more. I fancied a salad but none of them sounded very interesting so in the end I decided to have a smoked salmon bagel - wheat, yeast and cheese...not ideal for me but it did sound good...and it was. The bagel was spread with a little cream cheese and was then piled high with a mixture of bell peppers, tomatoes, lettuce and feta cheese with the salmon laid on top. Impossible to eat without a knife and fork! It really was delicious with numerous herbs mixed in to give it more flavour. Simon's club sandwich on brown bread was equally tasty and well-presented with bacon, egg, grilled fresh chicken and salad.

The thing that let Lake View down, apart from the menu and prices, was the service. Although very friendly, I found there was a lack of coordination and efficiency. I would regularly see 6 or more staff standing at the bar but nobody seemed in any rush to get the drinks out to their customers. There was a clear system of sections being used but that meant that our drinks sat on the bar waiting for our waitress to bring them when there were 2 other waiters standing around with nothing to do. If I was in the area again for a light lunch, I would most certainly head to The Boardwalk at The Dubai Creek Yacht Club rather than return to Lake View at the golf club - and that is what I would recommend to anyone else thinking of going over for lunch by the Creek.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Galette des Rois - The End of Christmas

The 6th of January is the date of Epiphany and the official end of Christmas; this is reputedly the day the three kings arrived with gifts for the baby Jesus. In France, Epiphany is celebrated with a cake called a Galette des Rois (Kings' Cake) in which a ceramic figurine is hidden - whoever gets the figurine in their slice is crowned King or Queen for the day. I was given a recipe for a Galette des Rois by a teacher of mine in France way back in 1997 and had never made it. Fourteen years later I finally decided to give it a go and incorporate a new tradition into our family!

A galette is a cake made with puff pastry, I bought frozen pastry that I had to roll out but it would have been even easier if I'd bought the ready-rolled variety. Inside the galette is a layer of almond paste, although we all agreed that adding a bit of cinnamon or ginger to the paste would have given the cake that little bit extra flavour. As I didn't have any ceramic figurine - a plastic one wouldn't have been a good idea! - Simon came up with the good idea of placing a whole almond inside instead and that worked perfectly. It was extremely easy to make, took just 30 minutes to cook and it can be eaten either cold or hot straight from the oven. My memories of the galette in France are of a much thinner cake than mine turned out to be, but that was probably just the type of pastry I had bought. Before you think I've lost track of my days...I was having dinner with my parents and extended family yesterday and not tomorrow so I just tied it in with that!

2 pre-rolled sheets of puff pastry (approx. 250g each)
100g almond meal (if you can't buy it then just grind up almonds in your food processor)
100g butter (make sure it's soft before you start)
80g caster sugar
2 whole eggs (plus 1 yolk for glazing)
50 ml rum (I just realised I forgot to put the rum in my cake yesterday - that would have added that little bit of kick to the flavour!!)
1 whole almond

1. Preheat the oven to 210 degrees (less for fan-assisted ovens).
2. Beat the butter until it is soft and mousse-like.
3. Add the sugar and beat together until it forms a paste.
4. Beat in the almond powder.
5. Mix in one egg, then add the second egg.
6. Add the rum.
7. Lay one layer of pastry on a baking tray and spoon the almond paste on top - leave a border of about 3cm the whole way round.

8. Lay the whole almond somewhere in the paste.
9. Cover the paste with the second layer of pastry and press the two pastries together around the edges with your fingers so they are totally sealed.
10. With a fork, prick all over the top of the pastry (this lets the steam escape).
11. Glaze the pastry with the egg yolk mixed with a teaspoon of water.

12. Place the galette in the fridge for 15 minutes.
13. Move the galette into the oven and cook for approximately 30 minutes in the centre of the oven.
14. Keep your fingers crossed that you get the almond and become the Queen or King!

NOTE: In France, the galette is round but I decided it would be easier to leave the pastry square, although as I write this I realise that I could have used a round tin as a template to cut the pastry so both sheets would have been the same size. Next time...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Dubai Restaurant Review: Bocadillo, Dubai Mall

In a nutshell: very friendly service, good food and great price!

On our recce of the Dubai Mall's 2nd floor food court, my Mum and I stopped to look at Bocadillo's menu and told the welcoming hostess that we might come back. Recce complete, we decided that Bocadillo would fit the bill and on our return the hostess smiled broadly and said, "Welcome back!" Yes, we had just spoken to her 3 minutes earlier so she would have been unlikely to forget us, but not all restaurant staff would actually make the effort to acknowledge the previous interaction.

Although located in the food court, Bocadillo is not a fast food restaurant along the lines of Pizza Hut, Hardees or one of the many outlets selling food from bain-maries. The menu is Spanish-focused with hints of Italy and it offers various tapas, salads, sandwiches, wraps and baked potatoes. There are surprisingly few restaurants that sell baked potatoes and it was this that attracted us to Bocadillo. I ordered a potato with tuna & sweetcorn mayonnaise and Mum had a potato with butter and sweetcorn. I was a little worried that we might get one of those awful blackened potatoes that have been sat in a warming oven for hours on end, but luckily our potatoes were fresh and there was a generous amount of filling with a simple side salad. I had requested minimal mayonnaise with my tuna and no pepper (of course!) and that had been followed exactly so a thumbs up there.

I had seen jars of nutella as we walked into the restaurant and sure enough, crepes were on the menu (savoury as well as sweet). I talked Mum into sharing a nutella crepe with me and it was delicious. In my eagerness to tuck into this sweet delight, though, I forgot to take a photo! Buying a nutella crepe from a road-side vendor is one of my favourite things to do any time I'm in France and although this crepe was a little thicker than a French one would be, it was still the perfect end to a great simple lunch.

My biggest surprise of the day came when I got the bill - just Dhs 100 for both of us and we had had drinks as well as the potatoes and shared dessert. This is definitely where I'll be eating next time I'm at Dubai Mall and just want a straight-forward lunch that's light on the pocket.