Formula 1 Fever 2013

When it comes to restaurants, socialising and style, I sit firmly on the side of fuss-free, authentic quality. Fluff, glitz and bling aren’t my thing. One would assume then, that a UAE Grand Prix Paddock Club wouldn’t be on my bucket list. Not so. I doubt even an Isle of Skye Presbyterian minister could resist F1 Fever. Allow me to demonstrate:

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Yas-Marina-Circuit,-Abu-Dhabi

Grand-Prix-VIP

I’m blessed with handy friends who take it upon themselves to equip me with VIP passes and uber luxe hotel stays that could bankrupt a Sheik. Lucky girl.

The Pit Lane

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Force-India,-Tire-Change-2

Force-India-

Red-Bull-tire-change-pit-stop

Relentless pit stop tire change sessions of Force India and Red Bull. 13+ men, 4 tires, 2 seconds.

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Manish-Pandrey,-SENNA-

Ferrari, McLaren and the super talented and magnanimous, Manish Pandey, writer and producer of the heartbreaking and critically acclaimed docu-film, Senna. I was so moved by this masterpiece (and a tiny bit in love with F1 demi-God, Senna) I blogged it in 2011. Manish is my new best friend, I may have followed him around all weekend. *Hangs head in shame*

F1-team-villas-&-Yas-Hotel

F1 team villas. Apparently Lewis Hamilton walked within a hair’s breath of us here. I of course, was oblivious. #fail. And Yas hotel, so well located it straddles Yas Marina Circuit.

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Where we cheered Man City against Norwich. Yup, we watched football at the Grand Prix. From the club owner’s boat no less, which thankfully, was much more civilised than the neighbouring party buses. And we had oysters. I like oysters.

Where to stay

Rosewood-Hotel,-Abu-Dhabi

Originally destined for Yas Hotel, my (ADORED) friend was forced to move me to Rosewood at the last second. And glad am I. Due to it’s perfect location, Viceroy status and hosting of celebrities and drivers, Yas lobby, and the yachts, are the heart of party F1. With that unfortunately comes Dubai on steroids: Formaldehyde faces, bling, Pick ‘n Mix perfume and pneumatic breasts the size of Timberland’s head – one of the weekend acts with Jay Z.

Abu Dhabi’s latest luxe hotel, Rosewood is the epitome of style, tranquillity, comfort and quality. I’m ashamed to admit, this may have been the highlight of my trip. That and seeing my ADORED friend.

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Rosewood-Hotel

Rosewood-Hotel-Bath

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Rosewood even hosts Michelin starred restaurant, Catalan and the prohibitively pricey Galleria Mall. L’occitane is as ‘high street’ as the planners have stooped to; Zara doesn’t even get a look in. From an architectural and design standpoint, however, these are undoubtedly some of the most impressive shop fits I’ve set eyes on.

What to do (other than F1)

My VIP sports whore brother used to live in Abu Dhabi and given my frequent trips to see him, I have lots of friends in the area, being awarded the title of honorary ex-pat. Free time revolves around water sports, brunches, ladies nights (yuck!) and pedicures (yay!).

Abu-Dhabi-beaches-&-boatsAbu-Dhabi-boats

Abu-Dhabi-weekends

Being on the water is is essential in summer: 45C+ and 90%+ humidity. It’s therefore virtually unheard of not to know someone with a boat.

Jones the Grocer

Jones-The-Grocer,-Abu-DhabiAbu-Dhabi-life,-Jones

Five years ago I ranted relentlessly on the need for Root (my cafe from a former life) out here – call me crazy, but sometimes I’d rather a Kiwi barista coffee over a champagne chaser. When Jones appeared a couple of years later, ex-pats and Emiratis heaved a sigh of relief. And my brother called to incredulously announce someone had opened Root and re-named it. Any attempts to resist the Wagyu burger are futile.

Officially, there are five Jones’ in Abu Dhabi. In fact, there’s a sixth in the Crown Prince’s palace. If it’s good enough for royalty…

For more Grand Prix pictures, go to my 2011 Formula 1 Fever post.

Aubergine, chilli & coriander salsa

Posted in: DF, LF, S, V, WF

I dreamt up this salsa after 4 months of craving raw, crunchy salads in India. There’s nothing I like more than fish and spice but there comes a point when even the most dedicated curry fans need to macerate. So, said recipe materialised on a Middle East stopover at my bother’s, where aubergines are as integral to the local diet as tatties are to the Irish. Once charred or roasted, few ingredients compare to the flavour and ‘meatiness’ of this super berry . For me, this salad’s at it’s best with steak or at a BBQ. You can also pair with chicken, fish or even toasted sourdough for a light lunch or supper.

Aubergine-&-tomato-salsa2

Feeds 6

 

Ingredients

3 aubergines
2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt
Black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 red onion
150g tomatoes
1 bch / tbsp coriander, chopped
1 lime, juice of

Method

Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Slice aubergine into 1 inch rounds, mix with oil, salt & pepper. Lay flat on baking tray and place in oven for 45 mins, or until browned. Turn each slice every 15 mins – you want a mix of soft, charred and crispy slices for flavour and texture.

Dice tomatoes and red onion and mix with chopped coriander and lime juice.

Chop cooled aubergine into approx. 2cm pieces, mix with salsa and serve.

To salt or not to salt? Originally done to remove bitterness, today’s auberignes rarely suffer from the affliction of their ancestors. Salting can help to reduce the amount of oil absorbed during cooking, however. Once cut, sprinkle with sea salt and place in a colander for ½ hr.

Seasonal Seducer: Aubergine

Posted in: DF, LF, S, SF, Uncategorized, V, WF

Most attractive features

This berry (yup) is a great source of fibre, B1 and B6. It’s an impressive antioxidant and, it’s purple. I quite like purple.

Aubergine-Seasonal-Seducer

Why I fell in love

First off, there’s the way it looks on our dishes. A splash of purple in a sea of green. But it has more to offer – dietary fibre, B1, B6, potassium, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, folic acid… and nasunin. Nasunin is one of the most potent antioxidants and free-radical scavengers out there. So we’re talking cancer fighting, cholesterol lowering and diabetes managing. And it’s purple. I really do like purple.

Curb-side Cuisine, my EP Magazine feature article

Posted in: Featured, Reviews

Street food has gone way beyond lukewarm chips and cardiac arrest kebabs. In fact, our global love affair with bin top dining appears only set to blossom. American Slider bars, churros huts and oyster shacks worthy of a Michelin star now grace everything from luxury festivals to car parks. The less salubrious the back street, the more kudos, it would seem; anything to be considered vaguely underground, guerrilla or pop-up.

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Instead of pouring gargantuan wads of cash into premiums, rents and rates, street concepts can be set up relatively speaking, with little capital outlay and reasonable pitch fees. Consequently, the mobile dining craze is increasingly a labour of love, not to mention bambinos. Passionate cooks armed with inspiration from their Gap Year, fresh faced Michelin trained chefs and multi-cultural Britain at its best: recipes as Amma made them.

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No doubt in part due to our globe-trotting nature, we Brits are more discerning than ever when it comes to our fuel, shunning sugar strand sculptures and biblically proportioned menus in favour of simple, fuss free food done well. A shift that is evident beyond the tarmac: Burger & Lobster, Byron and Mooli’s are profiting from the pared down trend. Mark Hix recently opened Tramshed, serving nothing but chicken or steak, and Shoreditch’s Chicken Shop is the brainchild of Nick Jones. Think Soho House meets KFC.

In the same ‘Too Kool for Skool’ vein, websites and glossy marketing are being shunned in favour of less static and more interactive blogs and Twitter. And the resulting word of mouth can spread like wild fire. Lucky Chip, Pitt Cue Co. and Meat Liquor started out as two-man vans, only to be propelled into The Fashionista Restaurants To Do List as a result of their Twitter fame. Oh, and the Hereford Steer beef and Dalston Tommy K, of course.

FROM THE US OF A, TO OZ, TO US.
KOGI BBQ VAN @kogibbq
Where it all began. Roy Choi launched his Mexican and Korean BBQ genius in the US. Fans, more vans and social media followed. There was no going back.

BEATBOX KITCHEN @beatboxkitchen
Rashid brought the US food truck craze to Oz.

MEAT WAGON to MEAT LIQUOR @themeatwagonuk
Yianni would pitch up his Peckham Meat Wagon and only then tweet his location. Brave? The Twitter love and consequent word of mouth proved so strong, queues were guaranteed around each South East London block. Chicken Cottage must have been up in arms. Two years on and the queues have moved to the back of Bond Street. Yianni may have taken on an exorbitant W1 lease, but he’s remained firmly on the no-booking policy bandwagon. Sorry.

Patty&Bun.WholesomeSeduction

PATTY & BUN @pattyandbunjoe
Yup, another burger van – with triple cooked chips. Patty & Bun link with Street Kitchen to create gourmet pop-up clusters.

STREET KITCHEN @streetkitchen
Jun Tanaka and Mark Jankel of Pearl and Notting Hill Brasserie led the way with their British Bistro airstream and remain at the forefront, fuelling the City and London 2012. #CelebrityChefVan #100%BritishProduce #MichelinGourmet #AirstreamStyle #FoodToGo

CHURROS GARCIA @churrosgarcia1
Spanish doughnuts and chocolate dipping heaven. No relation, but just as Abuela made them all the same.

HORN OK PLEASE @Horn_Please
The genuine article. Pani puri and samosa chaat, just as you find them in India. Minus the Imodium.

GREEN GOAT FOOD @greengoatfood Sustainable fish worthy of starched white table cloths and a hefty price tag. In a box for a fiver.

So what does this mean for retailers and food service? Take inspiration from the one or two-man operations discussed and have some fun. We live in the cultural melting pot that is Britain, do we not? Some of my favourite and simplest recipes have been passed on by families from my travels, by colleagues, by grannies or through my own Hispano-Celtic heritage. Some of the most coin-worthy café menus I’ve created have come from said list. I guarantee there’s a wealth of portable dining on your payroll.

Don’t get hung up on costumes or theme days. Most street concepts are little more than a sheltered table, two giant pots, even bigger personalities and a stack of eco-friendly take-away boxes. With smearing, wrapping and packing at lightening speed – sellers, take note!

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To be clear however, life is a beauty pageant – gastronorms of slop won’t fly. Street vendors and retailers increasingly showcase offers worthy of an art gallery. If the food is the real deal, it will speak (and smell) for itself. When all is said and done, you’re bringing nourishment and relief to the working day, enjoy it. If you feel a burning desire to promote your pop-ups via Twitter, so much the better.

This article first appeared in the October issue of EP Business in Hospitality. View the online version here: www.epmagazine.co.uk/curb-side-cuisine/

Formula 1 Fever

Posted in: Travel, Uncategorized

With the Brazilian Grand Prix final only days away and the release of the much raved about film Senna (Brazilian F1 demigod), I thought it fitting to bring you a Brazilian recipe to nibble on this Sunday.

Vo Ima’s Pao de Queijo Cheese bread (sounds so much better in Portuguese), courtesy of Granny Ima. Foodie friend and colleague, Roberta saved the day with her family recipe.

Senna-Film-Banner

Senna

If F1 isn’t your thing, tuck in over Senna (the film…). The archive footage of the late, great Ayrton Senna is astounding. And whether you’re into fast cars or not, it’s fascinating viewing. Either way, I guarantee you’ll fall in love with at least one Brazilian specimen.

As luck would have it, I was fortunate enough to spend 3 days at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. ‘It’s not what you know…’ as they say. Here are some of the best bits to rev you up for the final. Sorry.

Probably the best branding in the world…

There’s a reason we watch F1 on TV, this took four shots!

Poolside buddy F1 legend Sir Jackie Stewart, who notched up a record breaking 27 Grand Prix wins by 1973. And Mascarpone tart with espresso parfait. Paddock life sucks. But I’ll take a hit for the team.

Rule Britannia!

So, on recovering from the Post Paddock Blues, I’ve been struck by Post Party Flu. Cristal has been entirely replaced with honey, lemon and copious amounts of ginger. Just desserts?

 

Labneh (a kind of yoghurt cheese)

Posted in: LF, S, SF, V, WF

This Middle Eastern strained yoghurt calls for a little patience; loading the piece of muslin first time can be a faff. But that’s pretty much the extent of this recipe, and once you’ve tried it on curries, salads or even toasted rye bread you’ll see exactly why I always have some in the fridge. And why it’s good enough for Mr Ottolenghi and Baker & Spice.

MakingLabnehWholesomeSeduction

Ingredients

250g natural full fat bio yoghurt
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp za’atar – optional. You can also swap for black pepper or dried chillies (½ tsp max).

Method

Mix all ingredients together and transfer to bowl lined with muslin. Tie the muslin into a sack and suspend over the bowl (I use a chopstick as a bracket).

The idea is to strain all the excess liquids from the yoghurt, so it’s best to keep the sack from touching the bottom of the bowl if possible. Alternatively, you can strain more recently.

Leave in the fridge for 24 hrs (or longer, depending on how thick you want the labneh to be). Drain the bowl daily.

Store in a jar in the fridge and keep as per the use by date on the yoghurt.

Tip: Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice mix of thyme, sesame, sumac, cumin, coriander, fennel and salt.