Posts Tagged ‘Fruit’

Blackberry Custard Tarts

She comes every year, yet I cannot get enough of her. She’s like the house guests we always look forward to, making sure to lay clean crisp sheets on the bed for them and lavender bags in the cupboard. After a few days we grow tired of them and crave to have our house back in order.
This time was no different. When she arrived, her bags were bursting at the seams. She brought with her berries and currants. Zucchini and cantaloupes. I loved seeing the layers upon layers of gems that slowly came out of her suitcase. My heart was giddy and my brain throbbed with menu plans.

To fill her days, we would go for a swim to cool down. Of course, a popsicle had to follow. She loved having us devour melon with sea salt and nibble on cherries. She beckoned us for picnics under the shade.  My most favorite thing about her though is the visitors she brought with her. Whilst she was here, my nieces visited. Then there was Akber’s brother. Finally, friends from far away graced our humble abode.
Every morning, she welcomed us with beams of golden light darting through the lace curtains. Every morning…..without fail. Even when she was sad, she never threatened rain. She was our alarm clock to wake, our cue to put the kids to sleep when she set.

Towards the end, she unraveled treasures of ripened peaches, dusky plums. We ate them over the kitchen counter, their juices trickling down our elbows. Then, unashamedly, we licked our elbows. She didn’t judge. Just when we thought that was the last of her bounty, she surprised us with one last present. Little nuggets of sweetness. In different shades of red, ruby, crimson. Tomatoes. We made soups, roasted them with honey, ate them as is.
This time though, She behaved and didn’t outstay her welcome. Gave us enough to savor but also had us begging for more. So until next time. Summer……we will miss you. But before she bid us adieu, she let us in on a little secret.

‘Shortly, someone very special will visit you- her name is Autumn. Someone that will bring you the smells of fall, cinnamon and nutmeg. She will have boxes upon boxes of apples and pears. She will entice you to wear your best angora sweaters and to dance to the pitter patter of gentle rain. You will know she is here when you see an envelop of fog in the morning.
Don’t forget to make her a warm cup of flavored tea when she arrives. And in exchange she will lay a carpet of leaves for you- rusty shades of orange and red to thank you with. However, don’t be so fickle and forget me. I am sure to return. As I always do, year after year.’
We will miss you Summer. You are always welcome, anytime.

Blackberry Custard Tarts

Pastry Crust:
200 gms butter, room temperature
100 gms sugar
1 egg
300- 350 gms all purpose flour
Custard filling:
300ml double cream
1/4 cup + 1 tbs sugar
3 egg yolks, lightly whisked
1 vanilla bean, deseeded and stick discarded
1/2 cup blackberries, halved
To make tart bases, cream the butter and sugar using the paddle attachment on your mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well. Stir in 300 grams of flour. If the mixture doesn’t clean the sides of the bowl, keep adding more flour a tablespoon at a time until it does. Shape the dough into a disc and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade. Grease your tart bases and roll out the tart dough using minimal flour to a 1/4 inch thickness. Fill the tart bases and use your fingers to mould tart dough into shape. Pierce the tarts with a fork and bake for approximately 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.
In the mean time, make the filling by mixing all the filling ingredients together until incorporated. Fill tart shells and with custard filling and place 5-6 blackberry halves into each tart. Bake for a further 15-20 minutes until custard is set.  
Can be eaten immediately but we refrigerated ours and ate them cold.
Filling enough for 8 tarts. Leftover dough can be frozen

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Cantaloupe, Lime and Mint Slushy

‘Are we going to Abu Dhaaaaabi tomorrow?’ Maryam asked in her sing song voice. Those that know her will know what I mean when I say her sing song voice. Akber gave me that look- the one questioning me why I tell her these plans so early.

We both knew the consequences. That is all she asked the whole day, every hour! Not only did she wake when the first flitter of morning sun seeped past her blinds the next day, she was ready to leave by 7am. Yes, that is right. And so, at a more respectable 10am, both kids were packed into the car and one picnic basket of snacks that Akber remarked could feed an army in the desert.

I had been meaning to visit the Grand Mosque (or Sheikh Zayed Mosque) ever since I arrived as a tourist in Dubai more than five years ago. One failed attempt two years ago occurred when the imposing structure was within arm’s reach but the spaghetti off roads surrounding the mosque meant it still remained elusive.

Not this time though. We carefully planned our route. Akber had some work in town so it was about 4:30 or so when we reached. Perfect time for a sunset tour of the mosque and the best time to take photos. Although still very hot, the mosque was bathed in a golden aura. Through the heat, it looked as though the numerous minarets were dancing.

As my feet burrowed into the plush, plump carpets, I was taken in by the light and colors. The light that bounced off the shimmering chandeliers, the light that was reflected off of the jeweled scriptures, that amazing, dreamy light. It took my breath away.

At every step, there was a sight to inspire, rows and rows upon rows of gilded columns, enchanting calligraphy, stories behind every corner. I had many questions that our guide automatically knew the answer to without hesitation.

As I sat near one of the many reflective pools, I took in all the beauty, the peace and calming atmosphere. Around me, I saw faces of every culture, every color, every age all gathered as equals. Beautiful. I highly recommend you to visit this marvelous structure if you are in UAE.

And this drink? Well, after a long and hot day taking photographs at every opportunity, this is exactly the kind of cooling drink I needed. We all needed actually. It is a forgiving recipe- all the ingredients can be varied according to your taste.

The best part is- we have had it as a slushy, a popsicle, a sorbet, a granita. Same recipe, many ways to enjoy it. I hope you will give it a try in some form before summer slips away. Ramadhan Kareem everyone.

Cantaloupe, Lime and Mint Slushy

sugar syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

1 cantaloupe- I used half honeydew and half cantaloupe
juice of 5 limes
3 tbs chopped mint
1 tbs lime zest
sugar syrup to taste
3 cups ice cubes

To make the sugar syrup, boil water and sugar until the sugar has just dissolved. Depending on the sweetness of the melons, you will not use up all the sugar syrup which can be frozen as ice cubes to use some other time.

To make the slushy, blend all the ingredients at high speed in a blender. Pour into glasses and serve immediately.

Makes 5 glasses.

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Eton Mess Trifle

To say it has been humid lately would be an understatement. And hot too. My hair is resembles an Afro wig, my skin sweaty to the point that it is difficult to separate skin from clothes, my eye glasses fog every time I leave the apartment.

I am typing this as I sit under a a cloud of billowing cold air blasting from the AC. Sipping a cold ambrosia melon, lemongrass and bruised mint granita to nurse this heat hangover. My eyes are heavy, drooping from the weight of the sun. The sun which only grazed my body for those few minutes as I walked briskly from the elevator to my car on my way to to do the school run. That was more than enough.

Yet, we aren’t even in the thick of summer. The temperatures are still set to soar, this is the mere beginning. We have already been trying in vain to beat the heat by lounging by the pool, playing with sprinklers, opening the fridge for a gasp of cool air.

To keep cool in this weather, I usually find solace in the form of slushies….any fruit will do. Whirled with a few bricks of ice, sometimes yoghurt and a touch of honey or sugar. We’re ready to go…..and when I say go, I mean fast. Or you’ll see it melt before you.

But before I give you the recipe for the melon slushy, let’s talk about these strawberries. The ones that disappeared from our Farmer’s markets weeks ago. The ones that I barely had a chance to nibble on before their time was up.

Yet, whose sweetness still lingers in my mouth. Strawberry season may be over in Dubai but we’re still able to find them in their troves thanks to American and British seasons. And nothing cools and soothes like strawberries with cream. A gentle cooling balm in this scorching weather.

I decided to make this classic British dessert with a Middle Eastern twist. A splash of rosewater in the meringues and a scattering of pistachio nuts. You may leave both these out if you are so inclined. Meringues has also been on my wish list to both bake and eat for the first time.

My first few attempts were disastrous- sugar syrup weeped from the meringues during baking (I didn’t beat the caster sugar and egg whites sufficiently. Make sure it doesn’t feel grainy or else beat them more). My second attempt didn’t even make it ot the oven. I added vinegar and the meringue curdled. But third time lucky and one more dessert marked off the bucket list.

A slushy melts before me and an afternoon nap beckons so I will be off. Stay cool until next time…..

Eton Mess Trifle

3 egg whites
2 pinches salt
3/4 caster sugar
1 tsp rosewater (optional)
handful chopped pistachio nuts
10 ounces strawberries
2 tbs caster sugar
500 ml whipping cream
4 tbs caster sugar
chopped pistachios for garnish

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Centigrade and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Tip the egg whites into a clean and dry mixing bowl and start beating at medium speed. Add the salt, Whisk until frothy. Whisking at high speed, start adding the caster sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking 3-4 seconds between each addition. Whisk until stiff peaks form. The meringue will appear very glossy and puffy like clouds. It should not feel gritty (If it does, keep whisking until sugar has dissolved). Add the rose essence if desired and whisk for 30 seconds until incorporated. Scoop a large tablespoon of the mixture onto the baking tray, using another tablespoon to ease it onto the parchment paper. Leave a 1 inch gap between meringues. Sprinkle with pistachio and bake for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hrs, rotating after 1 hour. I baked mine for 1 hour and 20 minutes to achieve a crispy outer shell and a marshmallow centre. Bake for longer if you’d like it crispy all the way through. Turn the oven off and leave the door open. Allow meringues to cool in open oven. Break roughly by hand.

Hull the strawberries and chop roughly. Add the caster sugar and allow to macerate for 30 minutes. Whiz into a puree. Beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form (I added sugar to mine but that is optional). Fold the strawberry puree into the cream roughly to create a marbled effect.

To assemble the trifle, start with a layer of strawberry and cream followed by a layer of broken meringues and lastly, a sprinkle of pistachio nuts. Repeat layers 3-4 times and serve immediately.

Makes 5-6 trifles depending on glass size. Unbroken meringues can be stored in airtight container for 2 weeks.

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The Colors of Tanzania and Pineapple Mango and Coconut Crumble

Come, pull up a chair. Get cozy and comfortable. I’m going to take you on a little journey and share with you a small part of me. A glimpse into my childhood, where I spent the first 18 years of my life, where my parents still live, where the big five can be found and peacocks roam free, where the ocean has a hundred hues of blue, a haven of peace. This is Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

There is so much to tell you about Dar es Salaam- this post won’t even scratch the surface. Exotic, colorful, lush, tropical. As soon as you land and the rush of hot hair hits you hard, you know you’ve arrived.

We had glorious sunshine followed by tremendous outpours. Such stark contrasts. Lush green vegetation cocooned by the deep azure seas followed by arid and red dry land. Every day we had a different activity planned. Naturally, we spent a lot of time at the various local beaches. But Dar es Salaam has so much more to offer.  

There were visits to crowded local markets in Kinondoni where you would find more exotic produce such as avocados and the crunchiest variety of pears I have ever eaten. Or the more local market in Kariakoo where vendors stalls are literally piled on top of another, produce piled like little mountains on each table. And sellers hollering and jostling to get your attention. The place is bustling.

We visited The Slipway- a local tourist district from where you can take fishing trips, cruise the Indian ocean, eat local fare and just watch the sun set. We bought some hand crafted wooden souveniers and local ground coffee to bring back for friends. I was thrilled to catch a man skillfully chisseling at some wood to make a delicate carving. We were enamoured with the colorful and saturated ‘tinga tinga’ paintings- a style of painting developed in Dar es Salaam.

Then there was the food, oh the street food. The grilled corn or ‘makaai’ sold at every street corner-vigorously scrubbed with keffir lime and a generous helping of chili powder and salt. Deep fried ‘mihogo’ (cassava) drenched in a speciality sauce of local scotch bonnet pepper and tomatoes. And one of my favorites- mishkaki. Tender pieces of lamb eaten right off the skewer. Coconut water after each meal- ‘ngumu kyasi, maji tamu’ (slightly hard, but with sweet water we would tell the vendor). Yes, every day. Those are the little things we miss here.

We made sure to eat at least one meal a day at home. Infact, the first meal we had as soon as we came back from the airport had been planned weeks in advance. Slow cooked chicken stew which is then barbequed and simmered again in a rich creamy coconut sauce, ‘kuku paka’ similar to this. With sticky coconut rice on the side. Typical African fare.

As much as we ate at home, we ventured to quaint local restaurants from time to time. Especially those dotted along the beaches. At Mediterraneo, we ate fresh off the boat kingfish which was simply grilled. No spice, no fuss but full of flavor with a side of pickled garlic and scotch bonnet peppers. Definitely one to replicate at home. But that’s another post. 

Evenings were spent feeding the peacocks that wandered from the fauna and flora garden we live next to. Maryam wasn’t keen at first but she quickly warmed to their cries in the evenings. She was chasing them in the garden and before we knew it, they were more weary of her. At night, the days’ culinary adventures were digested with a few slices of papaya sprinkled with passion fruit and a dash of smoked paprika.

We were also lucky enough to visit a dairy farm on our last day. It wasn’t on the agenda, sort of just happened by accident. On the way to a picnic at my aunt’s beach house, I came across a herd of cows- a beautiful sea of velvety browns and blacks. A masaai was leading them to a nearby field to graze. You could tell they were happy cows. 

I made a few quick calls and it seemed we were destined to visit. The farm was owned by a lively Greek man who just happened to be a family friend. His passion for providing his family an open and green space, a place where nature roams freely, a place nature meets nurture led him to develop the organic farm.

Each of the twenty five cows are milked manually. Completely non commercial, the milk produced is given to local school children in the area. When he wants to show a token of appreciation to someone, he will gift them a cow. Anyone who knows local Tanzanians would now how much how heartfelt and revered a gift like that is. Such an inspiring man.

And so we watched a cow being milked and its baby calf being fed from a huge bottle. We were treated to smooth and creamy homemade yoghurt. Eaten Greek style with a dollop of honey. Simple, wholesome and so moreish. We were made to feel part of their family. It was a day to remember. The perfect end to a wonderful trip.

And so we are back in Dubai. But not empty handed. We have these memories locked in our hearts, our bellies are full with the beautiful meals we had and these photographs to remember good times spent. And these pineapples. I knew they would somehow find their way into my suitcase from the moment I had my first bite. Their sweet fragrance still lingers in my suitcase.

And that is not all I brought back. There was fiery red scotch bonnet peppers- fiery in appearance and taste. ‘Mali maao’, local keffir limes that I have been sprinkling on anything in sight. Very strong and pungent with a crackled green skin. We’ll be cooking with them in the next few days and I can’t wait to show you the results.

I mentioned this crumble before and that is the first thing I made when I came back, to celebrate the foods of my country. I added some seasonal mango and toasted coconut in the crumble. If you haven’t added coconut into your crumble before, you must. Tanzanian produce with exotic local flavors. Each bite brings back good times…..until we visit again.

Pineapple Mango and Coconut Crumble

1 large mango- cubed
1 pmedium pineappe- cubed
3 tbs muscivado sugar
1 vanilla pod desseded
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup muscavado sugar
5 tbs cold butter- cubed
1/2 cup dessicated coconut- toasted
3 tbs ice cold water

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade. Toss the first four ingredients on a baking tray and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

In a food processor, pulse the flour and butter until it just resembles bread crumbs. Incorporate the sugar and coconut. Add the water and rake gently with a fork until some clumps are formed. Freeze for 10 minutes.

Line your baking tray or ramekins with fruit and top with crumble. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown (time will depend on size of each serving). Serve hot with custard, cream or ice cream and toasted coconut flakes.

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Cardamom Crepes With Rhubarb Compote

‘What’s that Mamma?’ she asked, a curious twinkle in her eye. I glanced over to see where her finger was pointing. ‘That’s rhubarb,’ I said. An incredulous giggle escaped her. ‘That’s not Rabab!’ It was my turn to laugh. Rabab is a friend of Maryams and she certainly doesn’t look like a ruby red sword sitting comfortably on the supermarket shelf.

She grabbed the rhubarb from the shelf- ‘See Mamma, this isn’t Rabab.’ I explained to her that rhubarb was actually a fruit. One that we hadn’t eaten or experimented with ever. ‘Like strawberries?’ Hmmmmm, not quite. We put it into the trolley and I promised we would transform it into something magical.

When we got home, I had forgotten but she had not. ‘Can I eat Rabab?’ As I carefully washed the woody stalk, I wondered what I would do with it. I have never eaten or cooked with rhubarb so I knew I wanted to do something simple.

And what could be more simple than compote- sophisticated and uncomplicated. Maryam grabbed a small piece and put it into her mouth. The pained expression on her face told me she wasn’t a fan. ‘Once it’s cooked, it will taste much nicer, sweeter.’

I quickly tossed the pretty rubies in sugar whilst throwing together the rest of the ingredients in the blender for the crepes. In no time at all, we had paper thin cardamom crepes topped with the prettiest pink compote I have ever seen. Some finely chopped pistachios to garnish….just because everything tastes better with nuts.

Maryam was unsure about putting the cooked rhubarb into her mouth- once bitten, twice shy, no? With some reassurance, she did. Although there wasn’t that pained expression on her face, she didn’t ask for seconds. That’s OK though. She doesn’t have to like every fruit. At least she tried though.

The crepes, however, she loved. Topped with plain icing sugar. Gobble gobble gobble and then lick lick lick the dust of icing sugar from around her lips. ‘Yummy in my tummy,’ she squealed. I had never heard that expression from her before but it’s once I hope to hear many many times.

And so that is the story of how we both discovered rhubarb!

Cardamom Crepes with Rhubarb Compote

1 ½ cup all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup milk
½ cup soda water
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs butter, melted and cooled
½ tsp cardamom powder
Melted butter for frying
2 cups chopped rhubarb
¼ cup caster sugar

Mix all the ingredients in a blender and mix until the batter is smooth and lump free. If lumps remain, sieve the batter. Let it rest for at least an hour or more.

In a non stick frying pan set over medium heat, ladle approximately 1/3 cup batter at a time (the amount will depend on how big your pan is) and swirl the batter around the pan. Cook for about 1-2 minutes. You can add a few drops of butter to help lift the edges off to flip the pancake over. Cook for a further minute on the other side. Serve immediately with icing sugar or rhubarb compote.
To make the compote, cook the rhubarb and sugar until the rhubarb is soft (less than 5 minutes). Serve with crepes warm.
Makes 10 crepes.

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Cinnamon Infused Clementine Custard

When I was pregnant with Maryam, I had many cravings. But healthy ones. Cravings for foods that would nourish my body and that of my growing baby. I went through phases where I would eat boxes and boxes of strawberries. Then came watermelons- I couldn’t get enough. I preferred eating them as is but would relish them in salads, smoothies as well as granitas.

This time has been different though. The cravings have been rather unhealthy. Every night after dinner, I seem to gravitate towards dessert. Anything will do really- a cheesecake, coffee ice cream, brownies. Sometimes when there is no sweet treat in sight, even a few small squares of dark chocolate will suffice.

As the arrival of baby number two looms close, I thought I’d treat myself to one more dessert, one more indulgence, one more craving before I start to eat healthy again. And this clementine custard certainly hit the spot. A pinch cinnamon for warmth, citrus for some freshness and zing.

I have been eating these beautiful French clementines for a couple of months now. Perfectly formed, sweet but not overly so and the most scintillating orange red hue you will ever see. They usually don’t last long in our house. Either Maryam will eat them as is or I will have juicy slicy with some vanilla infused yoghurt for breakfast.

But I saved a few aside for these clementine custards. The fragrance of clementine and cinnamon simmering in a pot made the whole house warm. A small dose of sunshine in our day for what has been a chilly start to the year in Dubai. There was also a citrus tabbouleh we had which I look forward to sharing with you soon. Perhaps after baby comes along?

Click above for printable recipe

Cinnamon Infused Clementine Custards

3 cups milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
5 tsp cornstarch
5 tsp water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup sieved clementine juice
1 tbs clementine zest
6 egg yolks, lightly beaten
clementine wedges to garnish

In a bowl, mix together 2 cups milk, sugar, clemntine juice, zest and egg yolks. In a separate bowl, dissolve cornstarch in water until there are no lumps. Add this to the milk mixture.

In a saucepan over medium heat, boil 1 cup milk with cinnamon. Remove from the heat and whilst constantly whisking, add your cold milk mixture to the saucepan. Place saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly until the mixture coats the back of the spoon (can take up to 10 mins).

Pour custard into individual ramekins and refrigerate until set for at least a couple of hours. Serve cold with clementine slices.

Makes 4- 6 ramekins depending on size. Please note the texture will not set as a mousse but will be like a creme anglaise.

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Apple Cardamom Cake

Something has been on my mind for a few weeks now. I’ve been pondering over it for some time. Should I, should I not? Will I succeed? What will Akber and Maryam think? Are they going to be open minded and accepting? Or will they scoff at me and turn up their noses? 

You see, the reason I’ve been so hesitant is because I’ve been thinking of breaking a marriage, a union, a relationship. A longstanding one that has stood the test of time. A marriage with no fights and arguments. A marriage that is an example, one that everyone looks up to. One that is ideal and perfect but also boring and ordinary.

But the urge was too great and so I did it. It felt good…. I was relieved and at the same time apprehensive but when I got the nod of approval from Maryam and Akber, I knew I had done the right thing. Just in case you’re wondering, I’m talking about the harmonious alliance that once existed between apples and cinnamon.

The two have always gone hand in hand. But I have found a better partner for the apple. A match that may be unconventional but still comfortable- apples and cardamom. They form a happy family in this cake that I adapted from this Pear and Almond Cake I have made numerous times. Out with the old and in with the new and everyone who ate a slice agreed. Apples and cardamom are very content with one another, they compliment each other. 


Click recipe card to print.

What more could you want from a relationship? Roasted almonds and custard played happy friends with this delicate cake. Try this new combination and you won’t be disappointed.

Have you broken a longstanding (food) relationship? Were you happy with the results?

Apple Cardamom Cake:
2 Fuji apples
3 tbs butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1/4 cup roasted almond flakes plus extra for serving
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Centigrade. Grease and flour an 8 inch pan. Core apples and cut thin slices. Place apple slices in water and squeeze half a lemon into the bowl to avoid discoloration.
Using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer and at medium speed, beat the sugar and butter until light and creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the bowl when needed. Reduce the speed to low and add the rest of the ingredients except roasted almonds. Gently stir in the roasted almonds and pour batter into cake pan. Arrange sliced apples in a circular fashion and press gently into the batter. bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out nearly clean.
Let the cake stand for 5- 10 minutes on a rack before turning it out. Serve with a drizzle of custard and sprinkle roasted almonds on top. This recipe will serve 12 people.

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Mini Apple and Cinnamon Bundt Cakes

I was recently asked what I thought was the quintessential fall fruit. My mind instantly turned to apples. Perhaps it was the abundant sea of warm reds and lime greens that welcome me every time I enter the supermarket this time of the year. 

Or perhaps it was the weather. That morning, when I woke up and looked at my clock, it was 8am. I turned to ask Akber to check his watch and I heard a muffled ‘8am.’ But how could it be? There were no rays of bright morning light sneaking past my shutters. Maryam, my dependable alarm clock, had failed me that morning as well. She was fast asleep.

I opened the shutters and the scene that greeted me was one I hadn’t experienced for a while, probably won’t see it again in the forseeable future. Dewy mist, grey skies, hazy views, crisp air, even some rain. Some….not a lot. And not for long. But we savored it whilst we could. Until it makes an appearance again. Some day……

And so to welcome the cooler climes in Dubai, I developed these three fall recipes for BBC Good Food Middle East using apples. Although I instantly think of desserts baking when I imagine apples, I enjoyed experimenting with it versatility by using it in a salad and soup as well.

From the three recipes, this one for apple cinnamon bundt cakes is my favorite, the one that excited me the most. It’s as though cinnamon was created to be used with apples. Almost like you can’t have one without the other. A lasting reunion.

I used some homemade applesauce that Maryam normally eats with her banana and porridge for breakfast. I wished I had added some whole chunks of apple in the batter. Next time. There surely will be a next time. Perhaps I’ll rock that happy marriage of apple and cinnamon by replacing it with some cardamom?

In other news, I have made some minor changes to the way I have laid out blog posts. You might see some pops of colors here and there. The recipes can also be printed out by clicking on the recipe card at the bottom. Color is such an important part of food, of photography and of nurturing creativity and that’s what I am hoping to do.

I was inspired by this post Rosie wrote on art, color and inspiration which introduced me to the beautiful concept of Design Seeds. It is as though color is for the eyes what music is for the ears. You can get lost in both these sites and happily spend hours looking at various color palettes that you may never have imagined. Do you like the new changes here on Sips and Spoonfuls? I would love to hear your opinion.

Click on the recipe card to print.

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Pomegranate Molasses and Arabic Fattoush Salad

Did I tell you I have been having a lot of cravings lately? Not all healthy I’m afraid. There’s coffee ice cream with chocolate fudge sauce, nutella doughnuts. Do you see a trend here- anything with chocolate will do.

However, there is one healthy snack I’ve been munching on guilt free. Nature’s jewels, I like to think of them a nature’s rubies. Pomegranates. Even their name sounds regal. Did I tell you my mum’s name means heaven’s pomegranate in Farsi- Anar.

Although it’s a messy affair trying to get these treasures out of their shells, especially when a keen 2 year old helper is involved, the results are worth it. Maryam loves to peel them because that means she can eat them straight away. Raw and fresh. Other times, we coat it in some thick, creamy yoghurt infused with vanilla seeds.

Since moving to Dubai, pomegranates have featured commonly in our meals- as garnishes on hummus and pilafs, as refreshing cocktails, as tangy marinades. But my favorite use of this is in a fattoush salad. My very own individual salad as Akber describes it. Yes, I eat this solo when I make it or order it at a restaurant. It really is too good to share.

The crackle of the Arabic bread, the marriage between sweet and savory, the crunch from every mouthful of peppery radish, the juicy explosion of each cherry tomato. That is how I would describe fattoush.

I have included a recipe for pomegranate molasses too, an essential part of this salad. Although it is readily available in Middle eastern countries, it is so easy to make at home.

Pomegranate Molasses:

4 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer on medium heat. Keep stirring once in a while for approximately 1.5 hours until the liquid has reduced by half and has thickened. Allow to cool before storing in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Recipe minimally adapted from Alton Brown and makes approximately 1 cup.

Arabic Fattoush Salad:

2 cups chopped lettuce
1 cucumber chopped
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup torn mint leaves
1/2 cup torn flat parsley leaves
4-5 radishes thinly sliced
handful of pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup deep fried or toasted phyllo dough/ pita bread

1/2 cup olive oil
3 tbs pomegranate molasses
juice of 1 large lemon
salt to taste

Mix all the salad items in a bowl and toss to mix (except the fried phyllo dough). Prepare the dressing by mixing the oil, molasses and salt. Stir vigorously but you will notice that the molasses and oil will not mix due to differences in viscosity.

Apply the dressing just before serving and sprinkle with the fried phyllo dough.

Serves 2.

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A Birthday Weekend in Ras al Khaimah, a New Life and a Banana Cake With Passion Fruit Cream Cheese Frosting

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We have never been big birthday celebrators. In fact, to date I can only remember two birthdays that have stood out for me- the first was in my early teens when my Mum planned a surprise party for and as cliched as it may sound, I have never been so surprised and overwhelmed. The second was fairly recently when I received some shocking news regarding my health on my birthday. 

But this birthday was different. We decided to spend the weekend relaxing, eating and playing- and resting. We’ll definitely be needing the rest in just a few months time. You see, I’ve been wanting to share this news with you all for quite some time. But I waited…..and waited.

Until now I can no longer fit into my regular clothes. I eat at odd times, have unusual cravings. I’m constantly hungry, sometimes irritable, always grateful though- grateful to feel the vibrations of tiny kicks inside me, kicks that make me toss and turn at night, kicks that reassure me everything is OK.

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Me and Akber are so excited to welcome a new little lamb to our family very soon and Maryam can’t wait to become a big sister. She talks to her new sibling everyday but isn’t excited at giving up her crib or high chair just yet.

So since traveling abroad is no longer an option, we decided to load up the car with family and spent a lazy weekend in Ras al Khaimah. We started the day with a pancake cake that I had made the night before. As usual, Maryam assumed it was her birthday and insisted on blowing out the candles. I promise to share that recipe soon but I couldn’t get any good shots with all the commotion in the morning.

On arriving in Ras al Khaimah, the views from our hotel were breathtaking, magnificent. The hotel is perched on a cliff and scenes of endless blue seas beckon at its feet. We headed straight to the beach- sunk our feet into the hot clammy sand, built sandcastles and collected shells. When Maryam wasn’t busy burying herself in the sand, she was splashing in the pool, playing with the gentle break of the waves. We rested lots and played cards.

In between all that, there was lots of eating- we had fresh fish, cheesecakes, paper thin crepes filled with maple syrup, pear and almond tarts and exotic Lebanese platters. All washed down with the freshest juices. And of course ice cream to cool off.

We had a fabulous weekend, a birthday to remember. And of course, my last as a mother of one. Today I’m sharing with you one of my latest cravings- a homely banana cake. It really is the best recipe for banana cake I have ever eaten or baked. Try it- you must!

And be sure, that in the coming few months, many sweet cravings will be shared in this space. Can’t wait for another wee baker to join our family.

Banana Cake With Passion Fruit Cream Cheese Frosting

3/4 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/12 cups buttermilk
2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas

For the frosting:
225 gms cream cheese
3 tbs butter
3/4 cup icing sugar
3 tbs passion fruit pulp (optional)

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Centigrade. Grease and flour 2 loaf tins or one 9×13 inch pan. Mash bananas mixed with lemon juice and set aside. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla extract. With the mixer speed on low, add the flour mixture alternating with the buttermilk. Stir in the mashed bananas.

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 1 hour or so or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. Place the cake into the freezer as soon as it comes out of the oven for 45 minutes. Frost when completely cool.

To make the frosting, mix all the ingredients together and beat on high speed until light and airy.

Banana Cake Recipe minimally adapted from

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