Blogger: Fathima Mansoor Ahmed
Blog name: Table For Five Dubai
1. One ingredient your kitchen is never without?
A good balsamic vinegar. The rich, complex, velvety taste that it lends to food makes it an indispensable ingredient. Ideal as a marinade, drizzled over salad or strawberries, and my ideal comfort food, used as a dip with hot crusty bread.
2. One unique ingredient that has changed your life / cooking?
Zaater. It was an introduction to all things Middle Eastern when we moved to Dubai and another extremely versatile and flavoursome ingredient. I’ve used it in my grilled vegetable and chicken marinades, on flatbreads with pumpkin, sprinkled onto popcorn, as a dip or as part of my salad dressings. Adding toasted cashews and almonds to homemade zaater makes it even more delicious and healthy.
3. The best food you’ve ever tasted? Where was it? What made it so special?
The most meaningful meal would be a weekend breakfast that my kids made for me for me at home, scrambled eggs, freshly squeezed orange juice, toast, all styled on the plate! I’ve eaten so many unbelievable dishes but nothing has tasted better than a simple, thoughtful meal such as this.
4. Where do you draw inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from my mother. Shes an incredible cook, very creative in the kitchen and not afraid to try something new, one of the reasons I’m so comfortable experimenting with different cuisines. I’m also an avid foodie so if I’ve tasted a dish that inspires me while eating out, I wont hesitate to recreate it at home. Other than that, fellow foodies, magazines etc.
5. If I were to make one dish from your blog, what would it be?
If you had to make one thing from my blog it should be the meringue roulade. No dessert gets devoured as fast as the roulade and the silky combination of the meringue, passionfruit, mango and cream makes for a memorable mouthful. If that doesn’t entice you, the custard, cream and chocolate filling most certainly will. It’s not possible to have just one serving so don’t worry, no judgement here.
Legend has it that this famed Egyptian dessert was conceived at the hands of a poor villager, who was called upon to feed a hungry royal passing through her village. She combined some scraps of wheat, nuts, milk and sugar, a dish which appealed to the monarch so much that he kept returning, and so this dessert took on her name, Umm Ali [reference: Chef In Disguise]
Being a busy mum of three means that there isn’t always time for intricate or lengthy recipes which is why I often tend to gravitate towards meals that are full-flavoured yet quick to make and Umm Ali is one of these desserts that is rich on taste but extremely easy to make. I first tasted this Arabic dessert at a hotel buffet soon after we moved to Dubai and fell in love instantly and as with every popular dish, the variations of this recipe are in abundance. I’ve tried to replicate the taste of the one that originally left me enamoured, but the great thing about my recipe is that it’s easily adaptable to your preference and instead of having to bake fresh puff pastry, I’ve re-purposed stale croissants. We enjoy ours slightly creamier at the bottom so that it’s not too stodgy but if you prefer it less so, then add less of the liquid or bake it for longer.
300gr or 5 medium stale croissants
2 cups cream
2 1/2 cups milk
2 tsp rose water
3/4 – 1 cup sugar
30ml sliced pista
30ml pine nuts
30 ml sultanas
15ml chopped almonds
1/2 tbsp coconut
1. Tear croissants into smaller pieces and place into an ovenproof dish.
2. In another dish, combine the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
3. Pour the liquid over the croissants and leave to soak for a few minutes.
4. Bake in a preheated oven on 180c till liquid has reduced and golden brown on top, approximately 20 – 25 minutes.