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Nespresso One Lattissima Review

Sikka April 201826240

I have been coveting the Nespresso coffee machines for years now and when I got the chance to try it out, I jumped. What really caught my eye with the Nespresso Lattissima One was the fact that it uses fresh milk. Now for those that know me well would know that I’m not a huge coffee connoisseur- however, my husband is and was more then happy to taste as I tested the various coffee flavor pods.

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Outrigger Konotta, Maldives


I think it’s safe to say that Maldives is on everyone’s bucket list- if it’s not, hopefully this post will convince you to put it on there, and soon. One international 4 hour flight, another internal flight within Maldives and a 20 minute boat ride later, we had arrived in the paradise that is Outrigger Konotta. Even though we took a red eye flight to get there, as soon as well arrived and saw the pristine white beach paired with azure blue sea, our eyes were wide with excitement.

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Walking in Paris- Part 1

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I’ve always been a ‘list’ person. My moleskin is full of lists- lists of pending jobs, lists of photo editing that remains, grocery lists (split into urgent and weekly of course), even lists of what lists need to be made. They’re on my fridge, in my car, on random notebooks. My children even have a habit of writing them, Maryam in particular. She will make list of what she will do on her playdate with her friends, what to include in her homework, her breakfasts for the week.

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Baghrir Pancakes with Honey Mascarpone

Our summer has finally come to an end. It’s been long and eventful. Filled with lots of travel, family visits, celebrations. And work too amongst all the play. We celebrated Ramadhan, then Eid. A few birthdays were dotted along the way- it seems like July is a popular month for birthdays, no? We ate a lot of this.
We visited the beautiful city of Cape Town. One of the most amazing holidays I’ve had. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed the different shades of blue, turquoise, emerald and green I saw in Cape Town. That’s when I realised how much I missed raw nature, the countryside, seafood, the mountains and rain. Yes, rain. And fog. And that light! Cape town has amazing light. And beautiful sunsets.
And the best part of the summer holidays- long and leisurely breakfasts. We had eggs every way possible- baked, fried. But not poached. That’s just not up my alley. Or Maryam’s. Or Hassan’s for that matter. In fact, eggs are not up his alley at all. Yet. I’m hoping that will change though.
But what we all did agree on and always have is, pancakes. They’re usually the Saturday pancake kind. Standard batter but different toppings. Maple syrup for me, honey for the kids, Nutella for everyone. Oh, and additional sprinkles for the kids. Sometimes, we add fruit and nuts too.
These are a slight variation though, semolina pancakes. I first had these in Morocco- everyday for breakfast at El Fenn. I was smitten, still am actually. Even the name, baghrir, meaning one thousand holes that appear on the surface whilst cooking, is beautiful. Agree?
They smothered theirs in honey butter at El Fenn. I decided to fill mine with honey sweetened mascarpone instead. We were celebrating Eid actually so its seemed only appropriate. They went down well, really well actually. Although the kids would have preferred to have their topped with sprinkles.
Our Eid celebrations were topped off with my mom’s smoked kofta biryani and gulab jamuns. You can find the recipe on the Tesco blog who commissioned these recipes.
Baghrir Pancakes with Honey Mascarpone
250g (8oz) fine semolina
2 tsp flour
1 tsp instant yeast
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
480ml (16fl oz) warm milk
500g (16oz) mascarpone cheese
4 tbsp honey, plus extra to serve
butter, for greasing
pistachio nuts, to serve
In a large bowl, combine the semolina, flour, yeast, baking powder and sugar. Put the milk in a blender and add the dry ingredients. Whizz until the pancake mixture is combined and no lumps remain. Transfer to a bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave in a warm, dry place for 45 minutes, until slightly risen and bubbles have formed on the surface.
Meanwhile, whisk the mascarpone with the honey and set aside. When you are ready to cook, whisk the pancake mixture – it should be the consistency of double cream. If it is too thick, add a little water.
Put a large nonstick pan over medium heat and grease with butter. Ladle some batter into the pan, tilting and swirling it around for an even layer. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the bottom is set and many bubbles have formed on top. Using a fish slice, remove the pancake from the pan and set aside on a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Dollop a spoonful of the honey and mascarpone mixture over each pancake, then fold it over to make a half moon; pinching the edges to seal. To serve, drizzle with a little more honey and scatter over the pistachios.
Makes about 40 pancakes.

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Indian Roast Chicken and Smoked Kofta Biryani

My very first post on this blog was a beef stew. A very muddled and brown looking concoction that graces our table at least once a week. A curry that I can cook with my eyes closed and my brain off, a recipe that doesn’t really follow exact measurements. One that is based on taste as opposed to numbers.

Since then, I have published numerous recipes on this site. Many new, some old. Numerous experimental ones, some that were mistakes that turned out glorious. But definitely not enough heirloom recipes. You know those ones that you eat day in day out and don’t even consider a recipe. Those meals that you learnt from your mom who learnt it from hers who learnt it from hers. The one that you teach your child just before they head out to university. The recipe that no one at home requests purely because it’s such a staple. 

Today I’m sharing two such recipes. My mom makes this biryani recipe often. It’s a Sunday tradition, an Eid tradition, a welcome back home tradition, a celebration tradition. A special occasion tradition that we like to have once a week even when there is nothing in particular to celebrate. Whilst the recipe is the same whether she cooks it with lamb or chicken, this smoke kofta version is my favourite. Smoked anything is a favourite of mine really.  

Then there is the roast chicken. Everyone’s family has a roast chicken recipe. Everyone’s mom makes the best roast chicken. Well, mine never did. We never really had a roast chicken for dinner. Ever. But that doesn’t mean I can’t start that tradition with my own little family. This recipe is definitely a keeper and one I hope will evolve into an heirloom recipe. It is requested often and I have a feeling it will be one of the first recipes I lovingly hand down to my own children when they head off to greener pastures. 

Other images are recipes for Pea, Potato and Egg Bake and Smoked Fish Skewers with Coconut Rice. 

Indian Roast Chicken

125 ml yoghurt, whisked
1 inch ginger, grated
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 tbsp tomato paste
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
60 ml sunflower oil
1.3 kg whole chicken
2 handfuls curry leaves
2 cucumbers
1 packet wild rucola
2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade. Mix the first 12 ingredients in a bowl and coat the chicken thoroughly. Stuff the cavity with curry leaves and tie the legs with bakers twine. Place on a baking tray and roast for 30 mins. Add 250 ml water to they tray, mixing all the juices in the tray and baste the chicken. Roast for a further 90 minutes (or until thigh juices run clear when tested with a skewer), basting every half hour. You can add more water if there is no basting sauce left in the meanwhile. Remove the chicken and play on a clean tray, covering with foil, and leave to rest. 

Prepare the salad by shaving the cucumber with a peeler lengthways using a vegetable peeler. Place in a bowl of cold water and ice for 10 minutes to allow it to crisp up. Drain and toss it with the rucola and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately with the chicken. 

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 1/2 – 2 hours
Serves: 4

Smoked Kofta Biryani

900 g onions, thinly sliced with mandolin
3 large potatoes (370 g), peeled and quartered
300 g beef mince
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 inch ginger, grated
1/2 tsp red chili powder
2 tbsp water
350 g basmati rice
3 cardamoms
1/2 tsp saffron threads
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 cloves
2 cardamoms
1 small cinnamon stick
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
250 ml tomato paste
60 ml yoghurt, whipped
1 tbsp + 1 tsp brown sugar
2 tbsp chopped mint
4 tbsp chopped coriander

Heat oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion in batches and fry till golden brown, stirring with a slotted spoon every so often. As soon as the onion starts to turn golden, stir more often and keep an eye out as it can change color very fast. Drain on a paper towel and use two forks to separate the fried onion completely (this will help to keep it crispy). Repeat till all the onion is fried and set aside.

Fry the potatoes in the same oil on medium heat until golden and cooked through. Drain on a paper towel.
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. In a bowl, mix together the mince, garlic, ginger, red chili powder, water and season well with salt. Make 1 inch meatballs and drop into the boiling water. Allow to boil for 5 minutes, then drain and set aside.
Rinse the basmati in several changes of water and soak in a pan. Bring another saucepan of salted water to the boil and add 1 cardamom to it. Cook the rice until just done and drain. Crush the saffron threads in a pestle and mortar and add it to the milk in a small bowl. Heat in the microwave for 20 seconds and add to the drained rice (make sure the rice is completely dry, about 20 minutes). fluff roughly with a fork.
In a heavy bottom saucepan, heat oil on medium heat and add all the dry spices. When the cardamoms fluff up, add the garlic, ginger and tomato paste. Add 3/4 of the fried onions (reserve the rest to garnish later), crushing them as you add to the pan and 200ml water. Fry on low to medium heat with the lid half covered, until the oil separates. When the oil has separated, add the yogurt and sugar and stir till incorporated. Add 300 ml of water and allow to simmer on low heat with the lid covered for 30 minutes. Add the potatoes and meatballs in the last 10 minutes, making sure not to stir too much so that the meatballs don’t break.
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade. Layer the biryani in a heavy bottom saucepan suitable to use in the oven. start with a thin layer of gravy and meatballs followed by the rice, fried onions, some mint and coriander. Repeat again making sure the top layer is rice topped with onion only. Cover with a lid or foil and heat in the oven for 20- 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Serves: 4-5 

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Rib Eye Steaks with Zaatar Butter

If you asked me what my weekend looked like 10 years ago, even seven, I’d describe it like this. A few days in advance, I would scour the internet and newspapers trying to decide which restaurant to make a reservation at. There were many rules- it had to be one we hadn’t visited before, it needed good reviews, somewhere close to a tube station, somewhere that served good honest food. That was all- we didn’t ask for much!

I’d get home from work early and have a long hot bath (read bath- not shower), put on my fancy date clothes, spend time doing my make up, the works. Me and Akber would walk hand in hand to the tube station, him holding an umbrella over my head (it ALWAYS rained in London), me clutching a tiny purse under my arm. 

We would talk hours on end, about our day, our work, our bosses, our life ahead. We would spend time looking through the menu, our fingers stopping to read each course. We ALWAYS ordered dessert, always. That was a given. Sometimes, we would just walk on the streets and casually walk into a coffee shop for a quick crepe, an ice cream, just coffee. People watch until closing time.

Our weekends are quite a bit different now, not that I would have it any other way. Sometimes weekdays merge into weekends and I don’t even realise what day it is. Except I find that my two kids tend to wake up earlier on a weekend. They just know somehow, you agree? The day is spent in and out of high chairs as we go from one meal to another. In between, I find myself cooking the next course. 

Meals are quick, messy, loud. There are normally four people all trying to have a different conversation but at the same time. Eventually me and Akber give up and then we watch, and listen, as Maryam and Hassan talk, scream, eat, make a mess, enjoy.

The rest of the day is spent ferrying the children to different playdates, parks and birthdays. I usually grab the first outfit in my cupboard, there is no time for make up and my clutch bag has now been replaced by a larger contraption. One that houses a house literally. Trust me when I say I have EVERYTHING in my bag. It’s just a question of finding it. 

We still walk hand in hand though. Except I hold Maryam’s and Akber Hassan’s. Eating out is a chaotic affair. We usually know exactly what we want to order and don’t even require a menu. The staff generally know us, pretty well too. But like in the past, dessert is a must. Some things just never change. 

As you can tell, life has changed dramatically. and you know what, I love it. I do love this new life of mine, my family, the busyness, the chaos, the noise. All of it. But every once in a while, I crave some alone time with Akber, a date night if you like. On those rare and special nights, the kids are in bed early and most of the time, we would book a fancy restaurant. Occasionally though, I cook for us at home and it’s usually like this. A quick juicy steak with mashed potatoes or fries, a little green on the side and a little something to jazz up the steak.

Usually it’s a creamy pepper sauce or a peri peri style one. This time, I opted for a zaatar butter. Laced with honey, it goes perfectly with the sharpness of the sumac and fresh herbs. A beautiful meal eaten with a beautiful person. 

Tell me, what special meals do you cook when dining alone with your other half?

Rib Eye Steaks with Zaatar Butter

1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp fresh oregano
1 tsp sumac
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp honey
100 g salted butter, room temperature
2 rib eye steaks (about 250 g each)

To make the zaatar butter, pound the sesame seeds in a pestle and mortar. Add the rest of the ingredients until salt and pound to make a rough paste. Add honey and butter and mix through. using cling film, form a sausage shaped roll about 1 inch think and refrigerate until firm. 

Brush both sides of the steaks with olive oil and season really well with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat a grill pan on high heat until smoking. Add the steak to the pan and cook on each side for 3-4 minutes for medium rare (or to your liking). Place on a warm plate loosely covered with foil to rest for  a few minutes. 

Slice the butter into rounds and serve on top of the hot steak with steak fries or mashed potato on the side. 

Note: Extra butter can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. 

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Serves: 2

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Spicy Peanut Prawns and Garlic Noodles

One of my most favourite things to do on a weekday morning when I have no work scheduled, when the kids are in school, when I have that precious few hours to myself is to lay out all my food magazines, cookbooks and recipe cards around me. Last week was definitely one of those weeks. 

As I was flicking through glossy page after page, bouncing from cover to cover, I came across Food, Love and Life from Dalia’s Kitchen. A dear friend’s cookbook, a friend I text when I’m worried about that rash that Hassan has, one that I consult about work with, one that I share exciting news with. A cookbook that I had the immense pleasure of of photographing. Such fun it was.

I still can’t believe it was nearly 18 months ago we worked together on this. We both always gauge time according to when we shot the cookbook. When our babies were 9 and 12 months. They’re now two  and two and a half. That’s how time has flown. Two birthdays have gone by since that time. And Dalia has had a beautiful baby girl since then. 

One of the best parts of shooting the book was Dalia introducing me to so many foods I had never eaten. Through this cookbook, I ate in Germany, Italy, USA, Lebanon, France and so many other places. All from the comfort of Dalia’s home in Dubai. Not many people know but I’m quite a picky eater, so many foods I haven’t yet tried. It was through Dalia’s book that I got to try so many new ingredients and meals. 

She also introduced me to classics such as banoffee pie, panna cotta, lemon meringue tart, pizza bianca and Umm Ali- all with her own twist though, of course. Muffins that are healthy, savoury cakes – oh yes, there is such a thing. And those salad dressings. Possibly my favourite section of the book? It’s hard to decide. 

But today I want to share her recipe for Spicy Peanut Prawns with Garlic Noodles. It’s everything I look for in a meal- ease and simplicity, sweet and sour, crunch and spice. And more. Most importantly, it’s a family everyone in my family adores. I usually cut back on the chilies just a little when serving it for the children but I highly recommend keeping if serving to adults only. It’s definitely a meal to serve when entertaining, when sharing, with friends and loved ones. 

Spicy Peanut Prawns and Garlic Noodles
From Food, Love and Life from Dalia’s Kitchen by Dalia Dogmich Soubra with permission

Spicy Peanut Prawns

1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp reduced salt soy sauce
1/2 cup hot water
2 tbsp nut or vegetable oil
1 tbsp ginger, grated
3 garlic cloves, minced (1 tbsp)
1/2 red chili, sliced
12 tiger prawns cleaned with tails intact)
salt and cracked black to taste
2 tbsp spring onions, chopped
1 tbsp  toasted sesame seeds

In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, rice vinegar, miring, sesame oil, soy sauce and hot water. Mix well and set aside. Heat the nut or vegetable oil in a large sauté pan or wok over a medium high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, chili and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the prawns. Depending on the size of the prawns, cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the peanut sauce mixture and cook for another minute just to incorporate the sauce. Add a little more soy sauce if it needs seasoning. Sprinkle with spring onions and sesame seeds. 

Garlic Noodles:

4 1/2 cups rice noodles
4 tbsp sesame oil, divided
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp grated ginger
1/2 red chili, finally sliced
3/4 cup oyster sauce, combined with 1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup soy sauce, plus more for garnish
3 tbsp sesame seeds
1 spring onion, finely chopped
salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Prepare noodles according to package instructions. Drain and set aside. In a large wok or sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil over a high heat until almost smoking. Stir fry the garlic, ginger and chili oil for approximately 30 seconds. Add the oyster sauce, hot water and soy sauce, and cook for approximately a minute, or until bubbling. Add the noodles, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until warmed through, for approximately 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with spring onions and sesame seeds. Serve together with the spicy peanut prawns. 

Serves 4

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Coconut French Toast

Breakfast hasn’t always been my favourite part of the day. I’ve told you that before right? Well, it is now, especially on a weekday. Whilst the day starts early and hurriedly for me, breakfast comes after the kids are in school. They’re comfortable and laid-back. Almost lazy. 

It’s the time I look forward to leisurely talks with Akber, my favourite way to spend time together. It’s our time to reflect on the day before, make plans for the day to come, be together. Talk work, talk without being interrupted, actually finish a sentence. You’re nodding your head in agreement, yes?

The only quiet time where Maryam isn’t telling me step by step instructions on how create the perfect crown to wear to her birthday party this Thursday. Or Hassan trying to eat what he calls Mummy’s ‘um um’- i.e. Mummy’s breakfast. He seems to have a habit of eating multiple breakfasts. One on his own, one with mummy, one with papa and one with the nanny. 

Breakfast is when I get time to linger around the table, make feasts, have a moment to catch up on my favourite reads. It’s also when I can make something for myself, without having to worry about who doesn’t eat what and who will moan about what. Usually something sweet for me and eggs for him. 

When I say sweet, it could be just a muffin or perhaps a smoothie. Maybe even pancakes. For today, it was these coconut French toasts. I urge you to make them. So leisurely, so decadent. 

Coconut French Toast

60 ml double cream
125 ml coconut milk
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of nutmeg
7 brioche slices
100 g sweetened coconut flakes
butter for frying
mango slices, raspberries and maple syrup to serve

In a shallow pie pan or bowl, whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla extract and nutmeg. Heat a frying pan on low to medium heat. Use a stick of butter to coat the base of the pan lightly. Dredge the brioche slices in the custard, allowing excess to drip off. Coat both sides with the coconut flakes and place on the frying pan. Allow to cook for 2 minutes or until the bottom is golden. I found low heat works best so that the egg mixture is cooked but the flakes don’t burn. Flip over cook the other side until golden. When the bread is pressed in the centre, it shouldn’t be soggy. Repeat until all the brioche is cooked. 

Serve warm with fruit and a small drizzle of maple syrup. 

Note- I used ready sweetened coconut flakes. If you are using the unsweetened variety, make sure to add caster sugar to your custard mixture one tablespoon at a time until it’s sweetened to your liking. I found about 2 tablespoons was right for me. 

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