Macarons fit for a Queen

In Al Mawaleh, not far from where I live, you will find the cute pink “La Petite Paris” bakery. The name says it all! “The Little Paris”, a truly French experience in Oman.  Who doesn’t love the French and their patisseries, or more specifically Macarons fit for a Queen!

The bakers at this bakery learned their trade from the greatest pastry chefs, chocolatiers, bakers and ice cream makers. You can get your freshly baked bread, pastries, all to die for I might add, and don’t forget the delectable ice cream, in this shop every day freshly made.

But the one thing that stole my heart, the pièce de résistance, is their Macarons. 

Let’s not confuse Macarons with Macaroons, which so often happens.  Macaroons are the sticky little coconut mountains which is sometimes dipped in Chocolate.  Macarons, on the other hand, are beautiful little round pillows (made from meringue and almond flour), sandwiched together with the most delicate fillings.  La Petite Paris’ creative macarons include dark chocolate passion, raspberry  fruit, lemon, latté chocomilk Jivara and chocolate milk Arabic coffee with cardamom, to name just a few.

a Royal Macaron experience…

The best way to experience this delight is to put one of these Macarons in your mouth, wait for a couple of seconds,  the first thing that comes to mind is ‘this surely is candy floss’.  No it is not, yet it melts in your mouth and then comes that gooey sticky goodness! What a taste sensation, oh my word!

a little bit of Macaron history…

Macarons appeared in Europe in the middle Ages and at the time it was a sweet made of egg white, sugar and ground almonds which was baked to be crunchy on the outside and soft centered.  Although the French takes credit for this humble delicate sweet, the macaron was likely brought in from Italy in the 16th century by Catherine de’ Medici (daughter of Lorenxe II de’ Medici and of Madeleine de La Tour d’Auvergne, an Italian Noblewoman who was queen of France from 1547 to 1559, the wife of King Henry II).  We are told that macarons have been in production since the 8th century in Venetian monasteries and were also called “priest’s bellybuttons”.  Ok I leave it up to you to decide if the shape reminds you of a bellybutton?

To survive the French revolution two Carmelite nuns baked and sold macarons, this was way back in 1792. The spot where they produced the macarons was named after them in 1952 and France adopted their recipe as a local specialty!

the Macaron Parisien…

However, the macaron, as we know it today, made up of two meringue cookies sandwiched together with a smooth flavored filling originated in the French capital. Apparently the “Macaron Parisien” was popularized by Ladurée. The company was created by Louis-Ernest Ladurée in 1862, a baker who definitely knew his trade. The 2006 movie “Marie Antoinette” had an influence on the macaron industry because Ladurée macarons were used in the film and macarons became more popular and well known all over the world.

Mark your calendar Macaron fans, because the macaron has a dedicated day each year, March 20th, introduced in 2005 by Pierre Hermé, a famous French confectionary house.  I am told that this day is celebrated throughout the world and participating macaron shops offer free samples to their customers!

Well, enough said about the Macaron. It is most certainly fit for a Queen!

Do visit La Petite Paris in Al Mawaleh, Muscat (Oman), located close to the Holiday Inn.

Spoil yourself to their steaming hot and flavorsome coffees and try some of their breads or pastries but whatever you do, DON’T MISS THE MACARONS.  It is well worth the visit.

And if you are truly brave enough, do try Pierre Hermé’s recipe, click here for a ‘do it yourself Macaron experience’.

Tasting Turkish cuisine on a food tour from Europe to Asia

I know it sounds unreal but yes, we did taste Turkish food across two continents, from European side Turkey, Karaköy, to Asian side Kadiköy – all in one day!

While walking over the Galata bridge in Istanbul early on a Saturday morning to meet with our foodie guide for a day long walking food tour, we saw fisherman around everywhere.  Some were fishing, others were selling fishing tackle, others were selling bait but all were interacting with one another, bragging about the catch of the day or lamenting about the one that got away.

We began our walking food tour in the back streets of Karaköy.  A truly international group set out on a much anticipated experience, there were, Americans, Filipinos, Germans, South Africans and Turks all eager to taste the food and walk the streets of Istanbul. We started off in the historic Perșembe Pazari.  My first impressions of the area were a bit doubtful. It looked like a hardware district with tools, appliances, ship anchors, paint supplies etc, not like the starting point of a food tour.

Met by our very friendly, enthusiastic and food loving guide, Esin, we were on our way.

We started by strolling through the fish market of Karaköy, where the fresh fish had just arrived and was being unpacked into very impressive displays.

The excitement and friendly attitude of the fish mongers gave us a feeling of belonging. 

They were washing fish, singing, haggling and proudly exhibiting their fish of the day.  One of the fish species that was being displayed had rose like flowers on the sides of their heads.  This turned out to be the gills that are turned out to show potential clients how fresh the fish is. If the gills are bright red the fish is fresh if not … Well you know!

 

  

 

 

 

On our way to the historic Perșembe Pazari of Karaköy, we had breakfast at the lovely little Esnaf Lokantasi and tea at an Ottoman-era caravanserai.

This caravanserai (which used to be an inn for travelers), known as Kurșunluhan, is probably the best hidden work by the Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. It was built in 1544, and this beautiful piece of architecture is hidden behind an anonymous door in the un-touristy side of Karaköy.

We had our tea in an open sky courtyard. The courtyard has a beautiful grape vine that dates back to Ottoman times when the place was full of life and many caravaners passing through.

Our guide set the table with newspaper and out came the simit, (sesame-encrusted bread rings), Pastırma (a highly seasoned, air-dried cured beef), cheeses and olives and of course the traditional Turkish tea.  We had a feast and our Turkish foodie tour started with lots of laughter, history and the guides love for her country.

simit

Chai

Pastirma

olives

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next stop was Hasan fehmi özsüt, a restaurant that opened its doors in 1915 and is currently run by the 3rd and 4th generation of the original family.  We had water buffalo cream known in Turkey as Bahl Kaymak and honey with fresh bread at this family run business.  It was very busy and despite the fact that the guys were running around to serve everybody the smiles never left their faces and they greeted everyone coming into their restaurant.

The water buffalo cream and honey was to die for. 

Sweets…

…and preserve shops to die for!

 

After this indulging treat we hopped onto a ferry to Kadiköy on the Asian side.

During the ferry crossing Esin shared information about three Mosques and their history before we hit the streets of Kadikoy and ate our way through the neighborhood markets and food outlets.

This area has the highest number of food shops and eateries in the City so we were in for a real challenge.

 

 

Walking through the market in Kadiköy we saw dried eggplants; colorfully displayed at food stores and hanging in almost every stall.

What a lovely conversation piece.

Have you ever tried stuffed dried eggplants or peppers in Turkey? (kuru patlican ve biber dolmasi) 

 

 

This is a real treat if you can get hold of them. For a filled dried eggplant recipe please click here

Dried eggplants on display

Eggplant at Misir Carsi – Spice Bazaar

On through the market we went.  We stopped at a fruit vendor and Esin showed us Turkish figs.  Something we did not know, that is, if you rub two fig halves together you bring out the sugars and then you have a beautiful sweet fig.

    

We moved on to taste the Aegean-style meze with sardines. This was a personal favorite.   

I loved all the little mezes and then of course the deep fried sardines. Sardines are very popular in local Turkish cuisine, especially during the early autumn when they’re in high season.

 

Some of the best Turkish sardines are harvested near Gallipoli, where the Aegean and Marmara Seas meet.

 

 

 

And the tour continues, next up the famous Tantuni. 

Tantuni is a Turkish Style beef wrap which is actually a street food that originated on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.  It is extremely good with Turkish pickles and Ayran. (Ayran is mainly a mixture of yogurt, cold water and salt, but there are some variations.)  The white frothy drink was indeed a treat.

 

 

 

This was not the end yet!

We were heading for flatbread heaven, Lahmacun

(Turkish ‘Lahmacun‘ Authentic ‘lahmacun‘ is very thin and crispy bread dough with minced meat, its eaten piping hot with a squeeze of lemon juice and sprigs of Italian parsley.)

 

 

For those staying out partying and drinking there is a street food that does wanders for hangover blues.

It is called Ceyrek Kokorec (basically lamb intestines, wrapped around lamb sweetbreads and placed on skewers. These are then grilled horizontally over a charcoal fire and served diced on crispy bread.)

It’s tasty, crispy and the spices are incredible.  While they may not look great, they are a real awakening taste sensation on your tongue.

 

 

Walking on through the lesser-explored culinary hotspots, we passed a record store selling vinyl long playing records from days gone by. Queen’s ‘A Night at The Opera’ was prominently displayed near the door and caught my husband’s eye immediately.  The atmosphere of the neighborhood is vibrant with people enjoying life and having fun – eating and drinking and making memories similar to ours.

We then made our way to our last stop of the day to indulge in a sweet desert called Künefe

Künefe’ is a crispy, cheese-filled dessert made with ‘kadayıf’ (kah-dah-YUF a pre baked dough shredded’). It’s served hot out of the oven making the cheese soft and stringy.

‘Künefe’ is cooked and served in a very shallow, round metal pan that is specially designed for making this special dessert. It’s so delicious that Turkish people and tourists alike are hooked and will continue to enjoy this delectable dish.

Our wonderful two day trip to Istanbul came to an end on a high note with this fabulous food tour!  We were off to Hamburg the next day.  More about our Germany and Netherlands experiences next time.

If you would like to experience this culinary tour and explore the streets of Istanbul, contact Esin, click here.

Coffee, the Turkish way

On our recent trip to Europe, flying with Turkish Airlines, we decided to stop in Instanbul to experience coffee, the Turkish way with Turkish Delight.  We flew through the night and arrived in Istanbul at 6 am.  We went straight to the hotel, hopeful that they would have a room ready for us.  We were in luck!  The hotel could accommodate our very early check in.  And so our coffee expedition started.

What a view, no coffee yet

When I opened the curtains in the room, we received a wonderful surprise; we were directly below the famed Blue Mosque! What a sighton an amazingly overcast autumn morning.  Awesome does not even begin to describe it.

The grey of the sky and the blues of the mosque were such a magnificent match.

After a quick shower and a change of clothes, we hit the streets of the Sultanahmet area. The streets were covered in autumn leaves. What a blessing for us who have not experienced an autumn in approximately 12 to 13 years of living in the GCC.

blue mosque

For the love of shopping…just before coffee, the Turkish way

We walked through the Arasta Bazaar which was built in the 17th Century under the Ottoman dynasty. The wooden façade shops were filled with carpets, jewelry and souvenirs.  From here we made our way through the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. 

We were headed for the two things you absolutely have to experience when visiting Istanbul.  Turkish coffee and Turkish Delight!

At last, coffee –  the Turkish way

We found the “PASHAZADE Türk Kahvesi” coffee shop close to the entrance of the Grand Bazaar and decided that this was the ideal place to get started.  We learnt that the English word coffee first came into use in the 1600’s.  The word coffee comes from Ottoman Turkish word “Kahveh”.  It is hard to believe but Kahves was banned in Ottoman Turkey during the 17th century for political reasons. Luckily, this changed and we can enjoy the taste of this beautiful Kahvesi.

The method that is used at “Pashazade” was new to us, but is well known to the Turkish people.

Turkish Sand coffee consists of pure water, finely ground high quality coffee beans, sugar according to taste and spices to create the foam. After a specific quantity of water is poured into a small coffee brewing pot, which has a wide base, narrow mouth, long handle and a spout for pouring, the right amount of coffee and spices are added to the water and the pot is placed onto hot sand.  As the water heats the brew is gently stirred using a metal spoon so that the coffee and spices are evenly distributed through the brew.

   

Wait for it!  The coffee is done; a sprinkle of spice is dusted on top of the coffee for an extra spicy flavor.  The coffee is now served in the most beautiful cups with, of course, the famous Turkish Delight (Lokum).

turkish delight

After taking a sip of the smooth coffee and tasting the spices, I knew I was in the heart of Istanbul.

A sweet delight with coffee, the Turkish way

Well there are a few stories surrounding Turkish delight.  I like to share this one. Turkish Delight was the handiwork of a confectioner called Bekir Effendi.  He came to Istanbul in 1776 to set up a sweet shop. He was an artist in confectionary.

The kitchen was his canvas where he could let his imagination run wild.  Bekir became the love of the Turkish people because of his art and their sweet tooth. Turkish Delight was originally wrapped in lace handkerchiefs and was a chic gift shared amongst the socialites, it was even very popular with the Royal Courtesans.  Bekir’s shop still exists today, on Hamidiye Caddesi at the corner of Seyhülislam Hayri Effendi Caddesi, two blocks east of the Yeni Cami (New Mosque).

This 250-year old confectionary is a Turkish institution, which still dishes out the most sumptuous and choicest Turkish Delights in the whole of Turkey.

Oh the Turkish Delight is to die for and pairs perfectly with the slow sand brewed coffee.  Just writing this makes me taste every bit of it all over again.

Next on the list…after coffee

Our next stop was the Grand Bazaar and Spice bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı).  ‘Well, what does one say about it?’  I simply loved the atmosphere, the smells, the price haggling, the happiness of the Turks drinking tea and interacting with their clients and the tourists walking through the bazaar, but that is a story for another day…

for now I just savour the taste of coffee and Turkish Delight in my mind’s eye.

a bit more than coffee, coming soon!

 

Aroma – the Italian taste

I just have to tell you about the latest addition to the Muscat Restaurant scene.

Yes, Aroma is the name and it is officially open since the beginning of July. When you go into the restaurant it reminds you of the Colosseum, Rome and Italy.

 

 

The Italian owners Ciro, Anna, Maria and co-owner Naif, all work in the restaurant and with their fabulous Italian chef, Fabio Amodeo, from Rome.  Fabio understands the love of food and he goes about it with so much passion.  I had the privilege to spend an early morning with him. Showing me a few of the sweeter Italian delights they prepare in this well organized open kitchen.  The hustle and bustle of early morning preparation and the smell of yeast hanging in the air was just amazing.

I am sharing just a sneak peak of a few of the decadent menu items that you absolutely have to experience.

Double chocolate cake…

prepared with so much attention to detail…

    

 

Then there is the Symphony!

 

You can also indulge in…

  

 

…a Frappe with a cup of Aroma coffee.  

Believe me, I am a coffee snob and this is one of the best coffees I have ever tasted.

And just as I thought it can’t get any better,  Fabio started making this beautiful coloured plate of fruit with “Crèma”.

 

 

Well,  need I say more?  Go and visit Aroma, the Italian taste at Al Muzn Mall, Street no.72, Mawalih North.

I haven’t even got to the starters, the pastas, the salads, the pizzas or the main courses, yet!

I promise to keep you posted, in the mean time, treat yourself to this Italian experience, it is well worth it.

a Greek gem in our neighbourhood

In my search for authentic food in Muscat I came across a little gem in Al Khuwair. This new addition to the restaurant world in Muscat is a small, interesting, Greek restaurant off the beaten track.

Owner and chef, Elana, opened the restaurant a few months ago, originally from Greece; she is excited to share her passion for Greek cuisine with everyone in Muscat.

‘Greek Way “kouzina” (cuisine) is about sharing our passion for traditional culinary recipes from Greece.’ – Elana

Connect with Elana on facebook 

Beautiful artwork painted lovingly by the well known Mata Kamp, adorns the walls and contributes to the modern, yet authentic Greek atmosphere.

Upon entering the restaurant you a choice of being seated inside the restaurant or at an outside terrace while enjoying a meal or, having a cup of illy coffee.

I arrived at lunch time and was welcomed by Mata and her friendly staff. After being seated I was given a beautifully designed menu and decided to start off with a traditional Greek Salad.

 

Greek Salad

Spanakopita

Slouvaki

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh from the market tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper and onion, topped with calamata olives and creamy feta cheese, dressed in olive oil and oregano.

What a Greek treat.Next up was “Spanakopita”, a Greek spinach pie. Dill and spinach created the perfect marriage of flavours and the feta cheese gave it just enough richness. The homemade filo pastry was perfectly flaky and tasty. The Muscat community recently had the opportunity to attend a fun filo dough pastry course hosted by Chef Elana’s mother and aunt.

The “Slouvaki” was definitely one of my favorites. Soft, thick flat bread stuffed to the brim with Greek spiced chicken, fried potatoes, fresh onion and tomatoes and a tasty sauce. This is comfort food at its best.

Also worth trying, is their breakfast bread “Koulouri”. Incredibly crunchy on the outside with an amazingly soft and slightly chewy centre. “Koulouri” is bread rings covered with toasted sesame seeds and toppped with fresh tomatoes. Delicious!

Why don’t you visit Elana at Greek Way and experience truly authentic Greek “kouzina”. You will not be disappointed.

You can find more about their location, menu and daily specials on Facebook and Instagram
https://www.facebook.com/greek way kouzina/

Mani’s – sharing the taste, loving the experience!

Now, this is the place in Muscat where I go for my early morning coffee, followed by a scrumptious, “liberally checked” by its owners, breakfast.  Mani’s Café, was created by three Omani mothers, who shared the same desire: healthy eating!  They joined their creative culinary forces to form the perfect stop for my friends and I after our morning exercise.

 ‘Oh, the joy of sitting outside at the harbor area, sipping  freshly brewed coffee and devouring a healthy, fresh produce breakfast’.

One cannot help but feel and taste the owners’ goal of creating a homegrown concept, born out of their shared love of fresh, healthy and wholesome food.

Upon entering Mani’s, you are welcomed by the friendly staff and eye catching décor.  Don’t be surprised if you get this overwheling feeling to grab a basket and start filling it up with all their home-made products.  I had a hard time choosing between listening to my hunger pains or immediately selecting all the products I wanted to buy.  It is a delicatessen paradise with all the flavored olive oils, pestos, granola, bread and cookies.

   

Taking inspiration from the their worldwide travels, and their love of gourmet cooking, the ladies  compiled a menu that reflects their vast tasting experiences.

There is a selection of the most delectable smoothies, green juices, iced juices and chia, to name just a few.  A real treat for your tastesbuds and it is healthy too!

I highly recommend selecting a delicious option from the “All day Breakfast “menu, with all that fresh produce it certainly is the most appetizing breakfast around.

 

 

I am sharing just a few dishes with you, even the photos will get your mouths watering, so head to Mani’s Café for a tastebud explosion you won’t forget!

“Spicy Turkish poached eggs” with Mani’s home-made spicy sour cream sauce and a green salad.

“Mani’s Veggie Breakfast” avocados, chopped parsley on a slice of toasted sourdough bread drizzled with Mani’s home-made sriracha sauce.

“Eggs Benedict” two poached eggs on freshly baked English muffins with a choice of smoked salmon, beef bacon or spinach.

”Avocado and Smoked Salmon” topped with a soft boiled egg and side of English muffin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are so many more dishes to try and to taste!  Not only for breakfast but also lunch, dinner and last but not least, coffee with their cake of the day.

 

Mani’s is a place where you can feel the love that shares life’s treats with their customers.  Good food & good coffee. 

 

What are you waiting for?  Go and treat yourself as soon as you can!

 

Visit their website for more information.