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’.
The Artichoke grows wild in the Mediterranean region, is a delicacy in the Middle East and is widely eaten throughout the world. The Arabic name for an Artichoke is “al Khurshuf” which means prickle or thorn?
Buying them fresh and preparing them is much more fun.
To clean the Artichokes
- Remove the stalk, scales, flower and hairy choke to expose the heart
- Rub lemon onto the hearts (this prevents the artichoke from discoloring, they go brown very quickly)
- Place the Artichoke hearts into a bowl of cold water; add salt and a dash of lemon juice
- 110 ml Olive oil
- Juice of half a lemon
- 50 ml water
- A Pinch of Turkish red pepper
- ½ tsp of fennel seeds
- A small bunch of chopped dill
- 1 lemon cut into wedges
- Place the hearts in a pan with the water, olive oil, lemon juice, fennel seeds and the Turkish red pepper.
- Cover with a lid and poach on a low heat for 15-20 minutes.
- Add salt to taste and continue to poach for about 10 more minutes, when the Artichokes are tender to the touch, remove them from the heat and leave to cool in the pan.
- Place the Artichokes in a serving dish, spoon some flavored olive oil over them. Sprinkle with the dill and serve with the lemon wedges.
Go out and buy this lovely vegetable, nearly to beautiful to eat. Artichokes are so tasty and you can try out many recipes.
During our recent visit to Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, I fell in love with coconuts and coconut products all over again. Coconuts are widely used in the Sri Lankan diet and forms the main source of dietary fat.
The coconut tree does not just bring a lot of value to Sri Lanka but also forms part of the beautiful landscape. Many different coconut options and products are available from street vendors, vegetable markets food stores located on just about every corner; these include coconuts in the shell, coconuts out of the shell, grated coconuts, coconut water, coconut cream, coconut oil, and the list goes on!
I loved the sambals made from coconut and the Sri Lankan curries are to die for, so this is my take on the Sri Lankan Coconut sambal and Coconut Chilli Chicken Curry Kebabs.
Coconut Sambal – so easy to prepare and very tasty
You will need…
- 100 g grated Coconut (Fresh if available otherwise you can use Coconut flakes)
- Chili powder to taste.
- ½ teaspoon of Salt
- 1 Red Chili sliced
- ½ of the juice of a Lemon
- 2 teaspoons of Tamarind juice (if you cannot find Tamarind juice just add the other half of the lemon)
- ¼ teaspoon of Black pepper
- 1 teaspoon of Lemon zest
- 1 small red Onion (Finely diced)
In a blender mix everything together to a course consistency.
Chill and serve with your Coconut Chilli Chicken Curry Kebabs.
Coconut Chilli Chicken Curry Kebabs
To make these kebabs, you will need the following…
- 1 large Sweet Potato cut into bite size cubes and boiled for 5 minutes. (The orange varieties add great colour.) Sweet potato can be replaced with pineapple or small onions
- 1 kg Chicken cubes. (I used deboned thighs)
- 3 tablespoons of Coconut oil
- 1 thumb of grated Ginger
- 1 Clove of Garlic chopped
- 1 small Red Onion chopped
- 1 teaspoon of Chili flakes (or to taste)
- 1 thumb of fresh Turmeric (optional) chopped
- 1 teaspoon of Mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon of Coriander
- 1 teaspoon of Cumin
- 2 tablespoons of Curry leaves
- 2 teaspoons of Curry powder (Garam masala)
- 1tablespoon of brown Sugar
- ½ teaspoon of Salt
- 1 tin of Coconut milk
STEP 1: The marinade
In a saucepan heat the 2 tablespoons of Coconut oil over a slow heat.
Add the Mustard seeds and wait until they start to pop, now add the Curry leaves, Cumin, Coriander, Turmeric, Chili flakes, Ginger, Onion and Garlic. Fry all the ingredients together and then add the Sugar, the Salt and the Coconut milk. Let the dish simmer over a low heat for about 5 minutes. Allow the marinade sauce to cool to room temperature.
STEP 2 : Coconut Chilli Chicken Curry Kebabs
Place the Chicken and Sweet Potato cubes into a large bowl, mix lightly and then add your marinade sauce. Mix the marinade sauce through the cubes. Leave the Chicken and Sweet Potato cubes to marinade for an hour. Alternating the Chicken and Sweet Potato cubes skewer the cubes.
The Coconut Chilli Chicken Curry Kebabs can be shallow fried in a saucepan using Coconut oil until cooked evenly or barbequed on a grill until golden brown and delicious.
The sweet taste of the Coconut, the spiciness of the Chili and authenticity of the Curry brings the whole world of Sri Lanka to your taste buds. A burst of utmost pleasure.
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.
I love walking through the market and seeing the variety of beautiful, purple coloured aubergines? (French for eggplant.)
I can always imagine the smell of it, when it gets roasted over an open flame and just about taste the smokiness of the eggplant. Aubergines, apparently, originated from India and plays a leading role in the culinary world of the Middle East.
I would have thought that Aubergines were always part of the food scene, but in fact, it was only introduced in the seventh and eighth centuries. The Arabs fell in love with
Aubergines when they conquered Iran in the seventh century. Therefore, the adopted Old Persian name, al badin-gan, pronounced al-badinjan.
Aubergines spread through the Middle East and North Africa and became a staple food, commonly referred to as the “poor man’s meat”. In Iran it is called “poor man’s caviar”.
In Turkey, where it is considered to be the king of vegetables, it is called “patlican”. Turkish cuisine has 200 different dishes containing aubergines.
I would like to share a recipe that I developed and fell in love with –
Aubergines cooked whole over an open flame! It has a sharp, smoky flavour that blends amazingly well with yogurt and olive oil.
My take on this Middle Eastern Aubergine dish…
To make the dish, mix the following ingredients together in a bowl:
1 large chopped smoked aubergine
3 tablespoons full fat Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon flaky smoked salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 glove finely chopped garlic
¼ teaspoon sumac – optional
Sumac is the dark red berry of the shrub “Rhus coriaria” which is dried and then called sumac. The dried berries are brick-red, tinged with purple with a lemony, woody taste. Sumac was used long before lemons arrived in the Middle East and this was used as the souring agent in their food.
Serve your burnt aubergine with a combination of the seeds of half a pomegranate and thinly sliced fresh basil leaves (use extra basil leaves as garnish).
Enjoy with flatbread.
I really do believe that you will love this quick and easy dish, just as much as I do.
Chef’s tip: If you had a barbeque, and you have some aubergines, put them on the dying embers of the charcoal fire and leave to smoke overnight. Ready to be used the next morning.
Don’t you just love the beautiful color of a lemon? The yellow reminds me so much of a new day filled with sunshine. It also takes me back to my childhood, remembering the lemon trees we all had in our backyards.
When the lemons were in season, we did not waste any time to start picking lemons, off course, guarded with a pot of salt! We peeled the lemons, added the salt, and ate it pulling funny faces because of the tartness of the lemon. We would have such a good laugh!
Well, now I have learned how to preserve this beautiful fruit which adds a variety of flavors to a dish – deep citrus, kind floral notes – to just mention a couple. It just piques your curiosity when you taste your dish with the added preserved lemon.
These salt-cured lemons have made a long journey north and west, joining the world of cuisine over the past thousand years. They add a fermented quality to dishes, that a fresh lemon just cannot do.
Now for the recipe…
- Cut the lemons from the stem end into quarters up to the base. Don’t cut right through. Open them up and fill the lemons with sea salt.
- Stack the lemons one by one in a jar. Add more salt as you go along.
- Roast coriander seeds on the side and add this to the jar. (¼ cup of coriander seeds to a 500ml jar.)
- Add 1 tsp of chopped thyme
- When the lemons are squeezed into the jar, fill the jar to the brim, with the lemon, salt, thyme and coriander seeds.
- Squeeze some lemons and fill the jar with fresh lemon juice.
- Seal and store your preserved lemons in a dark cold place for at least 4 weeks.
- Shake the jar once daily for the first week; this will clear the liquid in the jars.
How to use it:
- Thinly sliced into a salad of baby beetroots, roasted red capsicum, red onion, fresh coriander
- Try it with baby tomatoes, red onion, olive oil, crushed garlic, ground cumin and sweet paprika
- Chopped in Couscous with chickpeas, thinly sliced scallions, chopped flat leave parsley and seeded green olives
- With chicken and black pepper for a beautiful lemon and pepper chicken
- With a rack of lamb add coriander, salt pepper and thinly slice preserved lemon slices. Roast in the oven
- Lemon salsa: chopped lemon rind, chopped red chili, chopped garlic, Extra virgin olive oil, chopped parsley, chopped coriander, chopped tomatoes, chopped black olives. Eat this with grilled sardines
Sometimes 4 weeks could be a bit long when you really need to use it in one of your favourite dishes, so here’s a ‘cheat’ recipe that will give you the same flavours in a very short time:
Slice 3 lemons in thin slices
Sprinkle a pinch of turmeric, 1 tsp roasted coriander seeds and 3 tsps salt over the lemon slices.
Then squeeze out all the juice from the lemon slices, by hand, and put the lemon rinds and squeezed juice in a pickling jar. Keep for two to three hours before using it.
There is so much more you can do with these lovely lemons. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Red onions have this lovely red to purple paper skin on the outside. Inside, their sweet, crisp white flesh is edged with a red to purple color.
I use this versatile vegetable in a variety of dishes and would love to share some ideas with you.
Red Onion in a Red Grape Vinegar
½ tsp pink Himalaya salt
Enough red grape vinegar to cover the onion
10 Curry leaves (optional)
1 tsp pink peppercorns
|Slice the onion, sprinkle salt on it, add curry leaves and peppercorns. Cover with Red Grape Vinegar.
Leave it for ten minutes.
The onions will become a lovely pink color.
Kept in a sealed container these onions will last for a week refrigerated
Serve it on oven roasted vegetables, to give the dish just that extra bit of texture and taste. It also works well with meat and gives a plain sandwich a crunchy bite.
Red Onion Pickles in Vinegar and Sugar
A recipe inspired by one of my favourite culinary inspirations, Nina Timm, who developed the basic recipe, I just added a little bit of this and that to give it a different touch.
|½ cup of Vinegar
¼ cup of sugar
½ tsp of fennel Seeds
1 thumb ginger
½ tsp green peppercorns
Salt to taste
1 large red onion
1 clove garlic (optional)
1 green chilli (optional)
|Slice the onion and ginger into thin slices or thin half slices.
Prepare a pickling jar, add the raw onions and ginger into the jar up to the brim.
Combine the vinegar, sugar, fennel seeds, ginger, peppercorns and salt in a pot and bring to a boil.
Once the sugar melted and the syrup is infused with all the spices, pour it onto the raw onions and ginger in the pickling jar.
Seal the jar and leave for a few hours to pickle.
Keep refrigerated. Will last up to a month.
The fennel seeds give the onions a hint of liquorice taste, which combines well with the sweet and sour taste of the onions and ginger. This is the perfect addidtion to a salad, or roasted vegetables, as well as meat dishes, and off course our staple, sandwiches and on smorgasbords with cheeses.
The deep fried red onion recipe
|2 Red onions
¼ tsp turmeric powder
Vegetable oil enough to deep fry
Smoked coarse salt (you can use plain coarse salt)
|In a medium size pot heat the vegetable oil and add the turmeric. Cut the onions into paper thin slices while the oil is heating.
Fry the onions in the turmeric oil until golden brown. Remove from oil, put onions in a colander and drain most of the oil. The onions will be soft when you remove them from the oil but will become crispy when starting to cool down. Add the smokey salt to the onions.
You can keep these onions up to two days in an airtight container and it will stay crispy.
Add onto salads, crunchy with couscous, tasty treat with meat and great on mash potatoes to name a few.
Childhood memories came flooding back, as I nibbled on a piece of fennel. I love the taste of liquorice now, just as much as I did then, when I could not wait to get my hands on a piece of the twisted, black candy. Little did I know then, that I would one day combine this childhood favourite with green apples. I vividly remember how we use to sneak a little salt out of the kitchen to add to our sour, green apples, to turn it into a sweet delight.
‘With the lingering taste of yesterday, I started creating a recipe which combines the flavours of yesterday with a crisp new touch which I hope you would love just as much as I do’
Salmon on a Fennel and Green Apple Salad
Prep time: 15 min Cooking time: 15 min Total time: 30 min Serves: 3
- 1 Fennel bulb
- 1 Green Apple
- 1 tablespoon chopped fennel leaves
- 150 gr full cream Greek yogurt
- Salt and Pepper to taste.
Cut the Fennel bulb and Green apple into thin slices, combine with the chopped fennel leaves and yogurt. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Now for the Salmon:
- 3 x 150 gram pieces of Salmon
- 1 tbs brown butter
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- Roast the fennel seeds and then grind it a little bit with a mortar and pestle.
- Brown the butter and add the grinded fennel seeds to the butter. The butter will be infused with the fennel taste.
- Place the Salmon pieces, skin side at the bottom, in the butter. Fry until the skin is crispy, this will only take a few minutes.
- Put your pan with the salmon into a 180 degree oven and grill for a further 6 minutes. Do not overcook your Salmon.
- Plate your salad and add your salmon on top, crispy skin side up.
- Garnish with micro chives.
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.
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/