Recently, a well-known concept was introduced to the Muscat culinary scene, the first privately owned culinary school opened in Muscat – MasterChef Institute of Culinary Arts. I had the good fortune to join them for my very own MasterChef experience in Oman.
I have been following the MasterChef series avidly on television so I was very excited to join a Master Class at the MasterChef Institute in Muscat.
The theme of the day was Pistachio Infusion with several dishes all containing pistachio nuts.
Pistachio Cake, Pistachio Kunafa, Pistachio Milk Cake and Pistachio Basbousa Cupcakes were on the menu while I have heard of all the dishes before prepearing it was unfamiliar to me so I was very eager to learn all about the preparation of each of them.
When I arrived the kitchen was all prepped up and ready for MasterChef action.
Chef Ali Abusbeih and his team were very helpful and soon had me kitted out in an apron and chef’s hat, ready to start the morning’s Master Class.
First of all, was the Pistachio Milk Cake. This amazing cake contains ingredients like Pistachio paste, Condensed Milk, Whipped Cream and Rose water. With ovens pre-heated, lined baking pans, sifted flour, blended eggs and sugar and finally mixing the cake batter, the MasterChefs were on a roll.
All the sweet tooths out there will eat this and think they have gone to heaven.
It is just sooo….. good!
Just to wet your appetite, take a peek at the final products below filled with pistachio, coconut, rose water, pistachio paste with a hint of marzipan and dried rose petals.
We completed these four beautiful, tasty Pistachio Infusion treats in four hours. The time flew by and I was sad to leave the MasterChef experience behind. We had such a good morning and I am looking forward to the next MasterClass. I left with all the recipes in hand and I am ready to treat my friends to an Arabic cake morning.
Check out the MasterChef schedule and attend the MasterChef classes, it is truely worth the visit.
Al Jabal al Akhdar (The Green Mountain) in Oman is the place known for hundreds of rose bushes grown on terraces that are cut into the steep mountain slopes.
Every year in April, this rugged landscape turns into the most beautiful pink environment as these roses bloom and the rich fragrance of roses fills the air.
The rose petals are collected by hand at dawn each day. The harvest is collected in colorful cloth sheets, bundled together and taken to one of the many traditional extraction units set up by villagers.
Omani rose essence outshines all other brands in the quality and flavor departments.
The Omani people add rose water (rose essence becomes rose water after the distillation process) to hot and cold beverages, halva, and as flavoring in homemade sweets and food dishes.
Each rose bush produces between 15 to 20 kg of petals during the harvest season. It takes about 2 kg of petals to produce 750 ml of rose essence which can fetch as much as $ 13.00 in the market place.
When the rose season ends, many of the farmers on Jabal Al Akhdar turn to their pomegranate and other farming activities to support their families.
Being on Jebel Akhdar (the Green Mountain) with the fragrance of roses all around, rose water production in full swing; the beautiful pink roses with the morning dew shining on them; I just had to come up with something sweet and delicious. I decided to try a Panna Cotta with a twist.
STEP 1: Panna Cotta recipe
(Makes 6 to 8 servings)
- 6 to 8 Espresso paper cups (waxed inside or sprayed ramekins)
- 1½ cups of Coconut milk
- 3 teaspoons of powdered Gelatin
- ¼ cup of Sugar
- 1½ cups of Coconut cream
- 1 teaspoon Rose water
- 1 teaspoon of pure Vanilla extract
- Pinch of smoked sea salt
- Bloom the gelatin. Pour the Coconut milk into a saucepan and sprinkle the powdered Gelatin evenly over the top. Let the Gelatin soften for 5 minutes until the surface of the milk is wrinkled and the Gelatin looks wet and somewhat dissolved.
- Over low heat dissolve the Gelatin.
- Set your saucepan over low heat and warm the Coconut milk ever so gently, stirring often.
The Coconut milk should never boil or simmer. When you see steam, remove the saucepan from the stove and let it cool down. The Coconut milk should not become too hot; you should be able to keep your finger in the warm Coconut milk a few seconds. The Gelatin will dissolve quickly as the Coconut milk warms. Gelatin melts at body temperature so the process goes quickly. To ensure that the Gelatin has completely dissolved; dip a teaspoon into the Coconut milk and check the back of the teaspoon for grains of Gelatin.
- Stir the sugar into the Coconut milk and continue warming until the sugar dissolves. It should take about 5 minutes for the sugar and Gelatin to dissolve. Don’t let your mixture boil.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat. Whisk in the Coconut cream, Rose water, Vanilla and a pinch of Smoked sea salt.
- Pour the mixture into the waxed espresso paper cups or prepared ramekins. Place in a refrigerator to set, about 4 hours should suffice. To unmold cut the paper cups along one the side and carefully remove, you will be left with the perfect panna cotta. Panna cotta can also be served in a glass without unmolding it.
STEP 2: Rose water and lime syrup recipe
- 1 Cup of water
- ¼ cup of sugar
- Juice of half a lime
- 1 teaspoon of Lime zest
- 1teaspoon of Rose water
- 1 table spoon of dried Rose petals
Cook all the ingredients together to form a reduction. Pour the mixture it through a sieve and let it cool down in the refrigerator. Poor the cold Rose water syrup over the Panna Cotta.
STEP 3: Pralines recipe
- ½ cup of Caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons of cold water
- ¼ cup of Pistachios
- ¼ cup of dried Rose petals
- ¼ cup of Cashew nuts
Line a baking tray with baking paper. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat. Cook, while continuously stirring until the sugar has dissolved. This could take about 5 minutes.
Increase heat to high. Bring to the boil without stirring for another 5 minutes or until the mixture turns golden. Remove from the heat. Set aside for two minutes to allow the bubbles to settle and subside. Add the Pistachios, Rose petals and Cashew nuts.
Now serve the Panna cotta with Rose water syrup and Rose petal Pralines.