Roast chicken with sumac and za'atar


While planning my trip to Dubai, my sister in law asked me if there was any particular food I wanted to try. I told her anything but rice and curry. Actually, I wanted to try out Lebanese and where better than where it's made best- after Lebanon, of course!

Fortunately, there was Al-Shami restaurant at Sharjah, a hop, skip and jump away from home. Quite popular with the locals, the place was crowded even late at night. There were just too many things on the menu to try out so the family decided we would try out the must haves over 2 visits.

On the first visit, we ordered sharwarma, tabbouleh and falafel. In a couple of minutes, the hostess plonked down a plateful of olives, pickled vegetables, hummus and another plate of salad vegetables with a bundle of leaves in the middle. There was a whole tomato, lemon halves, halved Lebanese cucumbers, whole chillies, lettuce and carrot sticks. The bunch of leaves turned out to be rocket- my favourite. The shawarma was outstanding- nothing like what I've ever had. We stuffed the pita pockets with hummus, tabbouleh, falafel and the salad and munched on it. Delicious.

Salads are complimentary

Another day, my nephew took us to Damascus, which he said was the best restaurant in Dubai for Lebanese food.
The mandatory salad plate, pita and hummus made their appearances, along with pickled olives and radish sticks. Man, I could just live here and eat nothing but these salads for the rest of my life! The family was most amused at my scarfing down the rocket leaves. Seems they don't even give it a second look.

Salad, hummus, olives, sliced gherkins and pita

The mixed grill platter we ordered had a bit of everything. The shawarma at Damascus had French fries in it. I think I prefer mine without. If you're wondering what arayees is, it's like a stuffed pita, cut in triangles, crisp and delicious.

Mixed grill platter - lamb arayees, 4 kinds of grilled meat; chicken arayees & the whole served on a flatbread

Lamb arayees

The staff was quite amused at my clicking pictures but by the end of the meal, they posed for snaps and assured me I could go into their kitchen and photograph the chef making shawarmas. So even cameras can open doors??!!

The making of chicken and lamb shawarma

On my last day in Dubai, we went back to Al Shami for lunch. This time, we ordered a plate of grilled chicken mandi- rice with grilled chicken, a light stock, chilli sauce and yoghurt. Really really yummy!

Grilled chicken mandi and the accompaniments 

And kibbeh-  a bulgar croquette enclosing  a filling of cooked beef and pine nuts.


I just couldn't leave without trying one dessert so we chose mahalabia, made of milk, evaporated milk and cornstarch, garnished with raisins and almond slivers. Nice.


I came back with lots of sumac and za'atar. I love sprinkling za'atar over breads- what a fabulous taste. That inspired me to try out M'sakhan, a Palestine inspired roast chicken.

Roast chicken with sumac and za'atar

1.5 kg dressed chicken, cut into 4 portions
8 cloves garlic, bruised
2 teaspoons sumac
2 teaspoons za'atar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon allspice powder
Juice from 1 lime
1 lime, quartered
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced

Clean and dry the chicken with kitchen towels.
In a glass dish, combine garlic, 1 teaspoon each sumac and za'atar, cinnamon powder, allspice powder, lime juice, salt, pepper and the quartered lime.
Marinate the chicken in this for about 4 hours.
Arrange the chicken in a roasting pan, spread the sliced onion over along with the  remaining sumac and za'atar.
Place in a preheated 200°C oven for about 30 minutes. Baste with pan juices.
Turn over the pieces and roast for another 30 minutes.
Serve with pita and hummus.
And tender cucumbers, olives and rocket leaves.

Delicious sumac and za'atar roast chicken

Served with hummus and pita bread

Happy Easter; baked Alaska coffee cupcakes for a birthday


About a week ago, I got a mail from Google congratulating my blog for turning 2 years old. Caught up in the midst of a humongous project, I ignored this missive, thinking someone somewhere had got their dates wrong. Yeah, it was me alright!!

It was only last night when I realised I had missed the date. In all seriousness I told a dear friend about my misery in forgetting my blog's birthday and the tongue-firmly-in-cheek reply I got was not to worry about it as these things happen. As if!!

In any case, the hunt for a suitable recipe had been at the back of my mind. I wanted to do something cool, suitable for Chennai's weather. And then stumbled on a picture of a baked Alaska cupcake ringed with flames. Forget the flames, it's hot enough as it is. A trip to the ice cream store revealed a flavour called "vanilla blossom chocolate"- bits of chocolate in vanilla ice cream. So my baked Alaska cupcake would be coffee flavoured, with vanilla and chocolate flecked ice cream and a meringue topping. And a blow torch would give the finishing touches.

Sounds good, right?

Opening the ice cream container, I found that it was more of a vanilla ice cream with chocolate streaks. With a small scoop, I managed to make little balls of the ice cream. I hadn't taken the humidity into account and after a couple of minutes, found the ice cream melting. Got around this hiccup by working beside the fridge and as soon as a scoop was make, it would go directly into the freezer. The coffee flavoured cupcakes were simple enough to bake and very soon, six of them were sitting on my countertop.

Thank goodness for those cupcake corers. Making holes in cupcakes was never so easy, a brush of Kahlua flavoured stock syrup, 2 scoops of ice cream and then bunged back into the freezer.

A couple of hours later, they were ready for showtime. The meringue was a bit of a pain to spread as by then, the ice cream had started to melt.

And finally, my meringue'd beauties waited patiently for the toast of a lifetime- Voila--

Good job I decided to use a blowtorch- I don't think these ladies would have survived a grilling in the oven, not in this weather, anyway.

Cool inside, hot, hot outside

Thank you, dear Baketales readers, for having stuck around with me for another year. I've been blessed to have met some of you, corresponded with some others and have been humbled by your words of appreciation and encouragement.  Please do keep coming back.

And of course, Happy Easter!!

Baked Alaska coffee cupcakes

1 tablespoon coffee powder
60 ml hot water
30 ml milk

115 gm flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of baking soda
A pinch of salt

60 gm butter
110 gm sugar
1 egg

1/2 cup light syrup mixed with 2 tablespoons Kahlua(optional)
250 ml ice cream

Ingredients for meringue
2 egg whites
A pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar

Method for cupcakes
Mix coffee powder and hot water, mix in milk and leave to cool.
Sieve together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl, keep aside.
Cream butter and sugar, beat in the egg.
Mix flour and coffee into the batter.
Divide the batter among 6 lined cupcake moulds and bake in a preheated 175°C oven for about 20 minutes.
When done, remove from moulds and cool on a wire rack.
Use a cupcake corer or a sharp knife to remove the centres of the cakes. 
Brush with Kahlua flavoured syrup and freeze in a lidded container for about 2 hours.
In the meantime, scoop out blobs of ice cream. (I used a melon baller, 2 scoops for each cupcake.)
Fill the cupcake holes with ice cream, remove paper liners and return to the freezer.

Make the meringue by placing the egg whites into a clean and dry bowl. 
Whip until frothy, add in the cream of tartar and keep whipping till foamy. 
Add in the sugar in 2 lots, beating well each time till fluffy.
Drop a large star nozzle into a piping bag, fill with 2/3 of the meringue.
Working quickly, spread the remaining meringue around the sides of the cupcakes and place them all on a baking sheet.
Pipe the top of the cupcakes with more meringue. 
Blow torch the meringue. Be careful, it can be quite addictive and you will end up with charred cake if you do. 
(No blow torch? Just turn up your oven grill to max well before you start spreading the meringue and pop them in for about a minute.)
Eat immediately.

At the Cakes & Desserts with Fruit workshop


The one fruit that was so difficult to source this time around was lychees. None of my usual suppliers could get a can for me though I was told there were cans available at a premium store- the brand was not one I liked. I finally pushed myself into going to Parry's and luckily, was able to get hold of a couple of cans. I'm told in a month or so, the fruit will be available more readily.

Besides this lychee ginger gateau, the other desserts were

Pear and almond flan

Upside down apple pie
Date cake with butterscotch sauce
Awesome brownies

Love desserts with fruit? Part 2 will be coming soon.

Gingery Eve's pudding


With a name like Eve's pudding, there has to be a couple of apples around, right? The recipe is a traditional British one with apples and a cake "hat". It's a fuss free dessert that gets done quite fast and tastes even better served with ice cream or custard. My recipe has a couple of non standard additions, nothing like a bit of spice to shake up things. So I've flavoured the sponge with a little ginger.

Here goes my recipe for Eve's pudding.

Gingery Eve's pudding

600 gm apples(I used Gala)
120 gm brown sugar
Rind and juice of 1 lime

75 gm flour
15 gm cornflour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ginger powder

120 gm butter
60 gm brown sugar
60 gm white sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp finely diced candied ginger
50 gm almond flour
A handful of almond flakes

Peel, core and chop apples.
Mix with the brown sugar and lemon juice, tip into an 8" glass baking dish.
Spread evenly over the base of the dish.
Sift together flour, cornflour, baking powder, salt and ginger powder, keep aside.
Cream the butter and both sugars, add in 1 egg at a time and beat till light and fluffy.
Fold in the flour mixture, diced ginger and almond flour.
Scrape the batter carefully over the apples, and spread to cover the apples completely.
Scatter the almond flakes over the top of the batter.
Bake in a preheated 175°C oven for about 40-45 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow it to rest for about 15 minutes.
Serve with cream, ice cream or custard.

Cakes and desserts with fruit- a workshop


Summer's here. And that's also when there's lots of fruit available in the markets. After a while, watermelons turn into watermelon juice, watermelon prawn cocktail, watermelon punch, mangoes turn into mango shakes, mango ice cream, mango know where I'm going with this...

So what better time than now to make fruit based cakes and desserts. Hence, a workshop on "Cakes and Desserts with Fruit".

And from the basket, guess what gets pulled out...

Awesome brownies-- what? chocolate is not a fruit???!!
Date cake with butterscotch sauce,
Upside down apple pie,
Lychee ginger gateau,
Pear and almond flan.

The mangoes come later.

The workshop will be at Kottivakkam on April 11, 10.30 am-2.30 pm.

It will be a sweet summer, I'm sure.

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