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Posts Tagged ‘dubai’

skinnygenie logoI have been on a bit of a blogoliday as work has been super busy but there is so much going on here in Dubai it is time to return and share. The most recent of my new discoveries is a great new company called Skinny Genie. Well, we all know that bread is the enemy, and if not the enemy then a friend that you only visit on rare occasions but maybe not anymore. Skinny Genie is a boutique bakery that makes all their products, breads, muffins, cookies, quiches and party canapés etc gluten free. Not only are their products gluten free but often sugar free replacing sugar with agave syrup or using a fruit puree in place of butter and oil. Genius!

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Skinny Genie was started by Yann Jolivet and Sheikha Maryam al Qassimi. Yann explained that he was just a little tired of the same old offerings here in Dubai and decided it was time to introduce something more exciting and healthier, hence muffin flavours such as cranberry, barberry, lemon and sunflower seeds or date, orange blossom, cardamom and coconut. These can be purchased online straight out of the oven or products can be bought at outlets such as Milk and Honey, Cafe Nero and Spill the Bean amongst others. I am sure that in the coming few months these delicious baked goods will be appearing in more and more outlets. I also noticed whilst I was nosing around the bakery “lab” that there were jars of  gourmet sugar free jams and dare I say it, a sugar free, low fat chocolate spread….. True Genius!!!

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Check out their website www.skinny-genie.com or give them a call!

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Last week I was lucky enough to attend a food photography and styling course here in Dubai. It was held by Meeta K Wolff who is the author of the very successful ‘Whats for lunch Honey?’ blog. It was organized by Sally Prosser of My Custard Pie  blog fame and was held at Nasimi Beach at Atlantis where I have to say we were totally spoilt! We had cocktail demonstrations and cooking demonstrations from their talented chefs as well as a full on Arabian banquet in the evening where all course attendees got to know each other better after our first day of learning. It was great to talk and share with other bloggers and foodies.

It was very inspirational to hear how Meeta has developed her skills of photography and food styling over the years driven by her love of food and to learn of the success she is now experiencing. I personally learnt  a lot about my camera, what I want from my camera and how to use it as a proper tool.

Lunch!

Cocktails and Chefs

On day two we all met at Lafayette Gourmet at Galleries Lafayette for a guided tour by Chef Russell and for more photography challenges!

Meeta showing us how its done!!

A huge thank you to Meeta, Sally and Alison from Nasimi for all the effort and organization that went into this inspiring course!

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Kenwood have a hi-tech kitchen set up in a shop! The Jashamal store in Festival City to be precise. I was invited to a delicious Christmas lunch there last week It was a Cook & Coffee, Kenwood have been doing these events for a few years, starting in Paris in 2009, then Hong Kong and Shang Hai and now in Dubai. It is a great way to demonstrate their machines to the public in an interactive way (so you don’t have to read the whole manual!!). And as I got to eat the food it was the right kind of interactive for me!!

Now I don’t have to be persuaded as to how great the Cooking Chef is, I have had my own private lesson thanks to Sue Poynter from Kenwood where we made bread dough and cake frosting as well as pasta! Amazing, all with one  machine that chops, grinds, slices, mixes, heats, pulse stirs, whisks, steams, basically you name it,  the Cooking Chef pretty much does all it bar the washing up! (and there isn’t even much of that as you are using the same bowl!)

We were very lucky to have  Chef Dima cooking for us. She made Christmas lunch look a doddle as she sliced potatoes and butternut squash for dauphinoise, grated cheese, chopped peppers for the Mediterranean foccacia and pepper stuffing and made gingerbread cookie dough. She was so full of handy cooking tips too! Check out more on her blog, Dima’s Kitchen.

Dimas tips:

  • When cooking with olive oil, it has a low smoking point so when you add it to the pan you don’t want to hear a sizzle as that means that it is already oxidizing and you will lose the flavour.
  • Flavour your pots and pans with oil, salt, pepper and herbs before you start cooking.
  • Dry your own rosemary, buy it fresh, wash it thoroughly then leave the whole plant to dry in the sun. This has much more flavour than shop bought dried rosemary.
  • Roll cookie dough in sheets of baking paper so as to not add too much flour which would make your cookies too dry.

Then we got a chance to decorate our own cookies. I loved this bit of course……

And just as tummies were beginning to rumble we were all treated to a delicious lunch of maple brine turkey with cranberry relish, a winter bake of vegetables and walnuts and Mediterranean stuffing. I have to say it might have been the most succulent turkey I’ve ever had! Sorry mum!!

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Its done! We have completed the new kitchen in The Studio, Al Quoz. With bespoke kitchen units, a new fridge, 5-hob gas cooker with electric fan oven, a new extractor fan, a new hot water tank and even a moveable centre unit with a gas hob insert! This has been designed to be a functioning kitchen for all food stylists as well as ideal for shooting cookery webisodes. The colours are neutral greys which can be propped with numerous complimentary colours to achieve different looks. It is also equipped with chopping boards, pots, pans and knives to help food stylists lug a little less. And thanks to Rehana from Kenwood we can also boast top of the range cooking machines, blenders, coffee machines and more which are on their way as we speak!

To book this space go to The Studio. Thank you to Nick Davidson, Selva, Jumeirah Carpentry, Rehana, Elisa and Candice for making this happen.

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Well I have been in denial but I think summer is upon us! I keep on stepping outside and thinking “Oh its quite warm today!” but I fear this is it guys, brace yourselves for the on-coming 45 degree heat that we all endure (somehow) every year.

What better vegetable to come to the rescue than the Cucumber! The Cucumber is cool and soothing and is packed full of vitamins and water. Here are a few fascinating facts about the Cucumber…..

The Facts:

1. It contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Iron Magnesium, Phosphorous, Potassium and Zinc!

2. It is great as an afternoon pick-me-up as it contains the right amount of Vitamin B and carbohydrates, try it next time instead of reaching for that bar of chocolate.

3. When rubbed on skin the phytochemicals in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten so it is great to put on your eyes if a little puffy or rub cellulite areas before heading down to the pool!

4. If  you’ve had a few too many and don’t want to wake up with a hangover, eat a few slices of cucumber before you go to bed. Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients the body lost, keeping everything in equilibrium, avoiding both a hangover and headache!!

5. If you want a “green” way to clean your sink, taps or stainless steel take a slice of cucumber and rub the surface you are cleaning, It will bring back the shine with no streaks.

6. If you are using a pen and have made a mistake, take the skin of the cucumber and slowly rub to erase the pen writing,(tippex may be a bit quicker!!!) it also works on delightful crayon graffiti that kids may have decided to decorate your house with!

Here is a delicious recipe for  Gorden Ramsey’s  Chilled Avocado and Cucumber soup, a perfect chilled lunch for hot summer’s day:

2 large cucumbers, about 14 oz each, chilled

juice of 1 lemon, or to taste

2 ripe avocados

2 tbsp strained plain yogurt

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

sea salt and black pepper

½ red onion, minced

1 plum tomato, seeded and minced

1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle

3–4 basil leaves, finely shredded

1. Peel the cucumbers, quarter lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Dice a quarter and set aside for the garnish. Roughly chop the rest, place in a blender with half the lemon juice,

and whiz until smooth.

2. Halve, pit, and peel the avocados. Mince one avocado half to use for the garnish. Squeeze over a little lemon juice and set aside with the diced cucumber. Tip the rest of the

avocados into the blender.

3. Blend the avocados with the puréed cucumber, strained plain yogurt, and Worcestershire sauce until very smooth. Season generously with salt and pepper, and add lemon

juice to taste. Chill until ready to serve.

4. For the garnish, combine the diced cucumber and avocado with the red onion and tomato. Toss with the olive oil and shredded basil.

5. Taste the chilled soup for seasoning and add a splash of cold water if it is too thick. Pour into four chilled bowls and spoon the garnish into the center. Add a drizzle of olive oil and grind over a little pepper.

So simple, I actually added a little milk as well as water to it as it was very thick. It definitely makes the weather a bit more bearable!

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Last week I met Fadi Younes who is the proud owner of The Frozen Yogurt Factory in Dubai Mall. As you can imagine shooting anything frozen is tricky, with ice cream it is preferable to use fake as it can be controlled and therefore quicker in the long run. These yoghurts however had to look like Mr Whippy straight out of the machines. Sometimes these are made in resin by very talented props makers, but this is very expensive, takes time and once the model arrives there is only so much you can do with it!

I went down to the store earlier in the week to select some of the 50 toppings for our shoot, these range from fresh fruit, gummy bears, mini choc chips and grated oreos (one of the top sellers I was told!) I also had a little practice on the machines and as I suspected it was hard to get that perfect pyramid swirl! We also timed the yoghurts and worked out we had 3 to 4 mins to shoot each one! Scary!!

Fadi had three machines and the yoghurt mix, strawberry, mango and coconut delivered to The Studio the night before the shoot. Once the machine is turned on this mix is frozen in a matter of minutes ready to be dispensed, amazing! Luckily Fadi is excellent at making these yoghurt swirls so I concentrated on working on the composition and balancing the colours of the toppings. We worked out that freezing the yoghurt once a perfect swirl had been created gave us a valuable few more minutes on set!

Just after lunch, Fadi, whose background is in graphic design came up with an idea he wanted to try. We had earlier discussed that we like the yoghurt clean and I had placed the strawberries around it as opposed to on it. Fadi wanted to go step further and do circles in the flavoured syrups around the yoghurt and place the toppings in this. It made for a much more exciting image as there was movement as well as texture. I loved Fadi’s enthusiasm once we got going with this idea!

Frozen yoghurt is a much healthier treat than ice cream as it has a lot less calories. The Frozen Yogurt Factory has positive feedback in Time Out and when I visited the store there were people constantly popping in. One of the great things is that you pay by weight and it is self service so you can decide exactly how much of each topping you want.

Comment from Time Out reader

You will find the store by the cinema, opposite Sega Republic, Dubai Mall. If you are off shopping this weekend why not pop in for a guilt-free treat!

Thank you to Roger Payling, photographer and his assistant Selva and to The Studio and of course to Fadi for being such a creative and enthusiastic client!

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If there is one thing Dubai is not short of  it is restaurants! Last night I was invited to the Ahlan top 100 restaurant event at Japanese restaurant, Benkay at the JAL hotel. The party spanned all three floors. We were offered endless glasses of bubbly and delicious sushi and yakitori skewers as we marvelled at the ice sculpture taking form before our eyes!

I don’t know how you choose the top 100 restaurants in this town but the magazine is a pretty comprehensive guide of  all the well-known places. It is conveniently divided into sections such as ‘seafood sanctums’, ‘see and be seen’, and ‘creme des chefs’ etc. And on each restaurant there is a little recommendation of what to try.

There are many restaurants that we have actually shot in for lifestyle or food photography so I am familiar with them but it does make you realize just how much culinary talent there is out there and how many more beautiful interiors there are to experience and how many more delicious flavours there are to savour! I think I’ll go out for dinner this week!!

Ahlan Top 100 Restaurants , pick up a copy!

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