On a date with dates in Café Bateel

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Updated 21 January 2013

On a date with dates in Café Bateel

Bateel’s consistent care for excellence in quality date products is the key behind its success. These are sold in its specialized outlets all over the Kingdom and abroad. Bateel also serves mouthwatering date pastries, date cookies and date chocolates in its own café situated off Tahlia Street in Riyadh. The menu, however, does not focus solely on date-based food ingredients but on a tempting selection of dishes. Café Bateel’s cuisine fuses the essence of Italian cooking from Umbria “with urban modern sensibilities”. Only the best products, such as extra-virgin olive oil and pasta made from top-quality hard durum wheat are used.
Bateel’s master chefs have attempted to renew Italian cuisine by focusing on healthy ingredients. For example, butter and fresh cream have been replaced by labneh and olive oil.
The a la carte menu includes an exciting choice of gourmet dishes as well as a collection of soups, main courses, desserts and beverages that change with each season.
The season’s specials include a trio of mouthwatering soups: a white onion soup with sautéed mushrooms and red chili pepper oil, an Umbrian winter soup with forest mushrooms, farro (an ancient wheat grain) and garlic and a roasted tomato soup with chickpeas, cumin, rosemary and sour cream.
The list of season’s specials included a risotto. This popular dish does not trace back its origin to the Renaissance, or even Roman times as most Italian dishes. The risotto became popular during the nineteenth century in the northern regions of Italy, Piedmont, Lombardy, and Veneto, where the rice was cultivated and still is.
Café Bateel serves this wonderful seafood risotto with lobster, mussels, scallops, squid and marinated prawns. It is made with arborio, the most popular variety of superfine rice used exclusively to make risottos. Its large, plump grains produce a delicious nutty taste.
The presence of a duck leg confit on the menu is the acknowledgement of yet another great cuisine, that of France.
A confit is a piece of duck, goose or turkey cooked in its own fat and stored in a pot, covered in the same fat to preserve it. The confit is one of the oldest forms of preserving food and is a specialty of southwestern France. At Bateel, you will have your duck leg – the most succulent part of preserved poultry – served “a la sarladaise” that is with fried potatoes. Other garnishes include frisee salad and onion confit.
There is also Bateel Chicken Tagine. The word “tagine” refers to a deep glazed-earthenware dish with a conical lid that fits flush with the rim. It is used in North Africa to prepare and serve a range of dishes that are cooked slowly in a rich and flavorsome sauce. This dish itself is also called tagine and Bateel prepares it with potatoes, fava beans, almonds, apricots, Wanan date. The dish is flavored with Ras El-Hanout, a fragrant mixture of cloves, cinnamon, black pepper and dried rosebuds. Ras El-Hanout literally means: roof of the shop.
The eggs and omelets’ section of the menu includes an interesting version of eggs Benedict. The term “Benedict” refers in fact to a number of dishes using either a puree of salt cod and potato or salt cod mashed with garlic and cream. Café Bateel’s version consists of two poached eggs served on toasted muffins over sliced turkey topped with a Hollandaise sauce and served with a garnish of green asparagus. Indeed, times change and nowadays customers do prefer a lean slice of turkey to salt cod.
I came to Bateel primarily for the date desserts. Most of all, for the wondrous Bateel Sticky Toffee Pudding, served with a regal butterscotch sauce, tangy yoghurt ice cream and caramelized pecan. I can only but agree with my French fellow citizen, a certain Monsieur Misson de Valbourg who, while visiting Britain in 1690, is known to have said: “Blessed be he that invented pudding! For it is manna that hits the palates of all sorts of people, better even than that of the wilderness. Ah! What an excellent thing is an English pudding!”
The pudding is indeed a unique British tradition. From the earliest medieval recipes, through elaborate and brilliant Elizabethan and Stuart confections to the elegant eighteenth- and substantial nineteenth-century puddings, a tradition has evolved which is an integral part of Britain’s culinary heritage. All British puddings originated from two medieval dishes: the early cereal ‘pottage’, which was a kind of porridge with honey, wild fruits and shredded meat or fish added to make it more palatable, and frumenty, a milk pudding made from wheat or barley eaten with milk and honey on festive occasions. There is hardly a town in Britain that does not have a local pudding!
I also loved the Kholas Pecan Pie, a crispy pure butter sugar dough topped with pecan nuts, chewy Kholas dates and date dhibs. This is one of the best date pastries I have ever tasted to this day! I also tasted the Khidri Date Opera, but was unable to recognize the distinctive taste of dates in the layers of date cream.
At that stage, I was unable to order another date cake. I was planning on trying the Barhi Sacher Chocolate cake. The Sachertorte is a famous Viennese gateau, created at the Congress of Vienna by Franz Sacher, a chief pastry cook. Sachertorte, literally means Sacher’s cake. It is a plain chocolate cake filled or topped with apricot jam, then covered with chocolate icing and served traditionally with whipped cream and a cup of coffee. At Bateel the apricot jam is replaced with Barhi date jam.
The dessert menu also offers an amazing selection of cakes and tarts. You might like to try the Hazelnut Rocher Cake, the Dark Pistachio Mousse – a silky dark chocolate mousse with a center of pure pistachio cream on a crispy chocolate praline base. Or try the scrumptious Chocolate Fondant, a warm, 70 percent chocolate cake with a melting center served with vanilla ice cream. Finally, I suggest you try the delicious Bateel sparkling date drink, which is nowhere as sweet as one would imagine.
Bateel is open on Saturday to Thursday from 7.30 a.m. to 1.00 a.m., Friday from 1.00 p.m. to 1.00 a.m.

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Take a healthy approach to the issue of nutritional supplements

Updated 21 April 2018

Take a healthy approach to the issue of nutritional supplements

JEDDAH: There is a growing need for dietary supplements in Saudi Arabia, given the increasing popularity of junk food and the effective role supplements can play in treating diseases caused by mineral and vitamin deficiencies.

A recent study found that 22 percent of Saudi people take nutritional supplements. It is no surprise, then, that many Saudi businesses have forged partnerships with international dietary-supplement companies.

Dr. Rowaidah Idriss, a Saudi dietitian with a Ph.D. in nutrition, said dietary supplements can be defined as substances that provide the human body with a nutrient missing from a person’s regular diet. However, she stressed that they are not intended to replace healthy eating.

She also warned against taking them without first talking to a doctor or dietitian, as some products can have side effects, especially if taken before surgery or with other medicines. 

“They can also cause problems if someone has a history of certain health issues,” she added.

A blood test can determine which nutrients we are not getting enough of in our diet, and therefore which supplements might be beneficial. Nutritional supplements are also used to help treat certain health conditions. 

“Vitamin C, for example, is often used to reduce cold symptoms,” said Idriss. “Fish oil is taken to lower elevated blood triglycerides.”

She suggested four daily essentials that can bridge nutritional gaps in our diet: a multivitamin, vitamin D, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. 

“I routinely recommend a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement to my clients after consulting with their doctors,” she said. 

“For menstruating women, who require 18 milligrams of iron each day, a daily supplement helps boost iron intake.”

She said people over the age of 50 are advised to take a multivitamin to ensure they are getting enough B12, which plays a key role in the functioning of the nervous system and the development of red blood cells. 

“Older adults are more vulnerable to B12 deficiency because they are more likely to have decreased production of stomach acid, which is needed to release B12 from the proteins in food.” said Idriss. 

“It is also a good idea to take a daily multivitamin if one is following a low-calorie diet.”

She also pointed out that a high intake of DHA and EPA, the two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, are linked with a lower risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. A deficiency of DHA might also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. 

“A daily intake of 1,000 milligrams of both DHA and EPA is equivalent to eating 12 ounces of salmon a week,” said Idriss.

The dietitian believes that the Saudis who take food supplements often do so more to benefit their appearance than their health. 

“Saudi women consume more dietary supplements than other people in Saudi Arabia,” she said. 

“They do so either to lose weight or to care for their hair and nails. Bodybuilders also take large amounts of supplements.”

However, both groups, according to Idriss, tend to take supplements on the recommendation of friends and trainers, not doctors. 

She warned that commercials and social-media rumors can persuade people to buy supplements online that may not be approved as safe by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, and advised people to get as much of their daily nutrient needs as possible from healthy eating.

Dr. Rowaidah Idriss

“Along with vitamins and minerals, a healthy diet provides fiber and hundreds of protective phytochemicals, something a supplement cannot do,” she said, adding that the body absorbs natural food more effectively than supplements.

In addition, combining supplements with medications can have dangerous, even life-threatening, effects. 

“Drugs for heart disease and depression, treatments for organ transplants, and birth-control pills are less effective when taken with herbal supplements,” she said.

“Taking an anticoagulant, aspirin, and a vitamin E supplement together may increase the potential for internal bleeding or even stroke.”


Natural sources

With the spread of fast-food restaurants and their alluring ads, the long-term health of the Saudi people is in danger, as children and young people snub natural sources of nutrients, such as fruit and vegetables. 

“This can lead to many deficiency diseases. Moreover, vegetarians can develop similar illnesses due to the absence of meat in their diet,” she said.
Dr. Ashraf Ameer, a family-medicine consultant, said the importance of nutritional supplements lies in treating mineral and vitamin deficiency, especially for pregnant women, growing children, diabetics, people with chronic diseases, and the elderly. 

“However, these products should come from reliable companies and meet Saudi food and drug requirements,”he added.

Mohammed Yaseen, who has a food supplements business, said his company works with a leading British health-care company to provide the Saudi market with high quality products.

“With this we hope we can contribute to the national transformation program by raising private-sector spending in health care from 25 percent to 35 percent, which in turn would lead to the sector’s financial sustainability and boost economic and social development in the Kingdom,” Yaseen said.


Vitamin Terms

DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid. EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acid.  Phytochemical is a biologically active compound found in plants.