Traditional Arab cuisine makes entry into Kabul

Traditional Arab cuisine makes entry into Kabul
Al-Arab Mandi’s chefs serve up traditional Middle Eastern dishes and authentic flavors at the first Arab restaurant to open in Kabul. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 08 March 2021

Traditional Arab cuisine makes entry into Kabul

Traditional Arab cuisine makes entry into Kabul
  • Fine dining spots open in Afghan capital despite growing political instability

KABUL: An Afghan entrepreneur has opened Kabul’s first restaurant offering traditional Arab cuisine to high-end diners.

Launched on March 1 on the fourth floor of an upmarket shopping center in Afghanistan’s capital, Al-Arab Mandi offers a variety of dishes famous in the Gulf region and beyond, promising authentic flavors and ambience with Arab music, separate dining rooms for families and a place to smoke shisha.

The restaurant’s speciality is mandi, a traditional meat and rice dish with a distinctive blend of spices that originates from the Arabian Peninsula. The owner, Abdul Mujib Rahmat, who is in his early 30s, has brought over a Yemeni chef and imports the spices from the Gulf to ensure that the original taste is preserved.

Most of the staff are Afghans who, like the owner, have spent many years in the Middle East.

“Indirectly, we are offering a means of livelihood for some 250 people,” Rahmat told Arab News.  

He said he had invested several hundred thousand dollars in the restaurant, which would have been cheaper elsewhere, but he wanted to offer jobs at home.

“I could have built two restaurants with the same amount of money in Turkey ... but thought it would be good to offer an income for people here who are more deserving, regardless of any income for myself, as long as I make ends meet,” he said.

While several Kabul restaurants have Middle Eastern dishes on their menus, Rahmat’s is the first one in the capital focused entirely on Arab cuisine, offering, besides mandi, traditional delicacies such as lamb madfoon, whole lamb, different kebabs and traditional fish dishes.  

The restaurant is the latest of the fine dining spots that continue to open in Kabul despite growing political instability and security concerns, as foreign troops based in the country are expected to leave the war-torn country soon.

“We want our customers to feel comfortable, like a prince, to enjoy their time here and forget about the calamities that have been going on here,” the restaurant’s general manager, Elyas Walizada, told Arab News.

Although dining at Al-Arab Mandi is not a cheap experience, customers say it is worth the price.

“I had heard about Arabic food but had not eaten it before,” said one of the diners, lawyer Jawad Turab. “I personally found it delicious and healthier because they use less oil.”

“I think I may come at least once a month and encourage friends and others who can afford it to come here,” he said. “You really can relax and can enjoy the meal.”


Ramadan recipes: An Arab take on TikTok’s famous baked feta pasta

Baked feta pasta.
Baked feta pasta.
Updated 18 April 2021

Ramadan recipes: An Arab take on TikTok’s famous baked feta pasta

Baked feta pasta.

DUBAI: If you’re on social media, chances are you’ve drooled over one of countless images of baked feta pasta — a dish that went viral this year for that holy grail combination of anyone-can-do-it easiness and blissful deliciousness.

The dish, which consists of feta cheese, cherry tomatoes and pasta, has been blasted all over the For You pages of millennials and Gen Z’ers on TikTok, and as of April 18,  #bakedfetapasta has more than 111.4 million views on the social media platform.

For those looking to whip up the dish for iftar, we asked Iraqi-Canadian chef Faisal Hasoon to share a simple baked feta pasta recipe with an Arab twist. 

The chef incorporates a fresh Middle Eastern flavor by way of roasted red peppers, sliced kalamata olives, a spritz of lemon juice and a sprinkling of zest.  

Baked Feta Pasta

(Serves 2-3)

Ingredients:

Olive oil 3tbsp

6 cloves garlic (minced)

60g kalamata olives (sliced thin)

250g roasted red peppers (diced)

6 fresh basil leaves (chiffonade)

350g pasta (rigatoni) 

200g feta cheese (Greek, sheep or goat)

1 lemon (zest and juice)

Chilli pepper oil 1tbsp

Dried chilli flakes 1tsp

Salt and pepper to taste 

Instructions: 

Step 1: In a medium sized pot bring salted water to a boil and cook pasta as per the instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, drain the remainder and set aside.

Step 2: Starting with a cold pan, cook garlic on low heat in olive oil. Allow it to simmer just before turning golden brown. Be sure not to overcook it as it will become bitter.  Add red chilli flakes and roasted red peppers, let it simmer for a few minutes then add sliced olives. Maintaining low heat and turning with a spatula frequently.

Step 3: Place the whole block of feta into the center of the pan and into the oven at 375 Celsius for 10 minutes or until the cheese melts. 

Step 4: Place the pasta into the pan and mix well until all ingredients are well incorporated, adding reserved pasta water as needed.

Step 5: Finish with the zest and juice of one lemon, fresh cracked black pepper and thinly sliced basil. For an extra kick, drizzle over chilli oil and enjoy!

 

 


What We Are Drinking Today: Gut Revolution

What We Are Drinking Today: Gut Revolution
Photo/Supplied
Updated 17 April 2021

What We Are Drinking Today: Gut Revolution

What We Are Drinking Today: Gut Revolution
  • One of the most popular items is Kefir milk because it contains the largest variety of healthy bacteria

The human gut is more complex than previously thought and has a huge impact on the whole body. A healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system, heart and brain. It also helps improve your mood, sleep and digestion while preventing some cancers and autoimmune diseases.
“Gut Revolution” is a unique Saudi brand that offers everything from sourdough bread to kombucha tea while keeping a healthy digestive system in mind. It aims to help those on their quest for optimal health by offering a wide range of gut-healing products.
Their selection caters to different palates as everything on the menu is made of 100 percent natural ingredients and flavors. If you are sensitive to a certain ingredient in a product, they will find a healthy alternative.
One of the most popular items is Kefir milk because it contains the largest variety of healthy bacteria. And for those who are sensitive to dairy products, try the fermented Kefir, which has been altered to make it gentler and more digestible.
Gut Revolution also offers eight flavors of kombucha tea, which is a perfect substitute for sugary drinks and juices during Ramadan. It is a reasonable swap with great benefits. There are also three types of sourdough bread, three types of sauerkraut, ginger beer, kimchi and broths.
For more information, visit them on Instagram @gut_revolution.


Dubai’s LPM: Great food in a relaxed atmosphere

Dubai’s LPM: Great food in a relaxed atmosphere
Updated 16 April 2021

Dubai’s LPM: Great food in a relaxed atmosphere

Dubai’s LPM: Great food in a relaxed atmosphere
  • Sampling some simple French classics at the award-winning Dubai restaurant

DUBAI: The best way to describe eating at Dubai’s LPM — the restaurant formerly known as La Petite Maison — is to compare it to having a meal inside an exquisite art gallery.

The interiors are washed in light, natural colors, with beige leather seats and white linen tablecloths, giving it an elegant and sophisticated vibe. In fact, it felt as if we had been transported to a café in France.

The interiors are washed in light, natural colors, with beige leather seats and white linen tablecloths. (Supplied)

The white walls are bathed in warm lighting and adorned with original artworks. Wooden boxes and modernist sculptures are dotted throughout the whole area. It truly felt like we were eating at a gallery or an swanky house. But while LPM is definitely high-end and refined, it’s also cozy and welcoming.

As you approach your table, you’ll notice that it’s not empty. A pair of juicy tomatoes and zesty lemons are waiting for you. To be honest, we thought it was part of the decor until one of the waiters explained that guests can cut up the tomatoes, squeeze some lemons on top and season with salt and pepper as an appetizer as they wait for their food. Staff regularly circulate with a large basket of bread, baked in-house, too.

The roast baby chicken is marinated in lemon and cooked to perfection. (Supplied)

Even these little touches are delicious — fresh and of high quality. So it’s no surprise that the venue was recognized as the best French restaurant in Dubai by Time Out in its latest awards.

One of the simplest but most delectable dishes we had was the poivrons marinés à l’huile d’olive. The sweet red peppers marinated in olive oil were seasoned with garlic and paprika, translating all the vegetable’s natural flavors while adding a hint of sourness and smokiness.

This dish is snails with garlic butter and parsley. (Supplied)

The next dish we selected is not for the squeamish — and I speak as one who’s been terrified by bugs and creepy-crawlies since childhood. You might have guessed, it’s the escargots de Bourgogne (snails with garlic butter and parsley), and I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite my misgivings.

The texture of this protein-rich dish is unlike anything else. It could be described as akin to mushrooms, but the snails are meatier and tenderer. There is a hint of saltiness mixed with the creaminess of butter. This dish is definitely a must-try at LPM — a French classic beautifully done.

The gâteau au fromage frais (cheesecake) with berry compote is light and flavorful. (Supplied)

Another highly recommended option is the coquelet au citron confît — one of the best chicken dishes I have ever had in Dubai. The roast baby chicken is marinated in lemon and cooked to perfection; the meat itself is so juicy and tender it feels like you are eating pâté or chicken purée. The delicate flavor of the chicken is perfectly complemented by the smokiness of the roast.

For a perfect finish to your meal, we would definitely recommend the gâteau au fromage frais (cheesecake) with berry compote. It is light and flavorful and the pronounced vanilla flavor of the creamy, silky cheese contrasts with the fruitiness and sour tang of the berry compote.

The sweet red peppers marinated in olive oil were seasoned with garlic and paprika, translating all the vegetable’s natural flavors while adding a hint of sourness and smokiness. (Supplied)

LPM uses simple ingredients including salt, pepper, lemon, parsley, olive oil and butter to elevate its mix of southern French and Italian cuisine — emphasizing their intrinsic flavors. But what really sold us on the place, apart from the great food, is the casual atmosphere. It’s homey, welcoming and artistic, and a real change from many of Dubai’s other high-end restaurants. And while several of the dishes are expensive, there is plenty on offer at a cost that won’t leave your wallet empty.


Forbes recognizes young Pakistani chef focused on empowering women

Forbes recognizes young Pakistani chef focused on empowering women
Zahra Khan was recently listed on the Forbes ‘30 under 30’ list. (Supplied)
Updated 16 April 2021

Forbes recognizes young Pakistani chef focused on empowering women

Forbes recognizes young Pakistani chef focused on empowering women
  • Zahra Khan is a mother of two who runs Feya cafes and shops in London, employs 30 full-time staff and donates 10% of profits to coaching for women
  • Khan launched Feya Cares at start of pandemic in collaboration with Young Women’s Trust, which works to achieve economic justice for young women

RAWALPINDI: A Pakistani chef and entrepreneur who runs her own cafe and shop in London has been recognized for her achievements in retail and e-commerce by Forbes, which put her on its prestigious “30 under 30” list this month.

Zahra Khan, who is 30 years old and the mother of two girls, is the founder of two of London’s culinary hotspots — Feya Cafe and DYCE. She is a graduate of the Tante Marie Culinary Academy and is committed to encouraging female equality in business.

Khan opened Feya Cafe on Bond Street just months after the birth of her first daughter in 2018. The award-winning dessert parlor DYCE opened soon after, followed by the flagship Feya Knightsbridge in December 2019.

Speaking to Arab News, Khan said she was nominated for the Forbes list by her team and did not expect to be recognized.

“I had just woken up and I knew the list was going to be released [on April 9], but they were meant to send an email as well and my inbox was empty, so I was a bit disappointed,” Khan said in a phone interview. “But then I pulled up the list anyway to see. As I started scrolling down, I saw my name. It was an amazing feeling!”
 

Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ honoree Zahra Khan at her office desk in London. (Supplied)

This is how the Forbes listing describes Khan:

“Immigrant Zahra Khan defied Pakistani cultural stereotypes and launched a career in the UK focused on empowering women. The chef and mother of two runs Feya cafes and shops. She employs 30 full-time staff, hires female illustrators to design packaging and donates 10 percent of retail profits toward professional coaching for women.”

Khan said she initially went to university to study medicine but then turned towards the culinary world, graduating from the Tante Marie Culinary Academy in Woking, England, before launching Feya, whose wares include chocolates, specialty spices and jams.

Khan has been nominated for the NatWest Everywomen Awards 2020 (The Artemis Award), London Business Mother of the Year 2020 (Venus Awards), Business Owner of the Year and Businesswoman of the Year (National Women’s Business Awards 2020) and Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 (Federation of Small Businesses UK).

“In Pakistan, we don’t have as many opportunities for women as men. I recognize that and I also realize that I’m lucky that I’ve got the opportunity to actually move and experience living in different countries,” said Khan, who studied at Ryerson University in Toronto before going to culinary school in the UK.

“It was an eye opener, I learned so much and I wanted to bring about change when I was in the position to give back.”

 

Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ honouree Khan tackles a recipe in her kitchen in London. (Supplied)

Khan launched Feya Cares at the start of the pandemic in collaboration with the Young Women’s Trust, a feminist organization in London working to achieve economic justice for young women.

Feya Cares tackles issues faced by women within the professional space, such as racial and gender inequality; 10 percent of the profits from the sale of Feya Retail products are donated to the Young Women’s Trust. Feya Retail is the line she launched around the same time that features various luxury products such as teas, jams and chocolates.

“Every woman can run her own business, even if it is a small-scale, home-based venture,” said Khan. “I want to show that it can be done.”


What We Are Eating Today: Roxy and Lala in Jeddah

What We Are Eating Today: Roxy and Lala in Jeddah
Updated 16 April 2021

What We Are Eating Today: Roxy and Lala in Jeddah

What We Are Eating Today: Roxy and Lala in Jeddah

Roxy and Lala is a mother and daughter business inspired by the family’s grandmother, who has Spanish roots and used to be a very good baker in her hometown in Peru.
The Jeddah brand offers a type of cookie called “Alfajor,” an Andalusian cookie dating back to the 8th century. It is a variant of the popular Castilian sweet known as alaju (a sweet made of almond paste, nuts, breadcrumbs, and honey) and the name derives from the Arabic word Al-Fakher, meaning luxurious.
The recipe for Alfajor, which is made of butter, eggs, sugar, corn starch, flour, was brought to Spain by the Arabs, and the colonizing Spaniards later introduced it to America.
Roxy and Lala offer the classic Alfajor cookies with different fillings, including the original filing of the homemade “dulce de leche,” a caramel mixture that requires a lot of attention, Nutella, Italian meringue, and peanut butter.
If you want a present for your loved ones, the brand offers a Ramadan box with 30 pieces and more, with a small Ramadan lantern and Ramadan wrapping paper.
For more information and order, visit their Instagram @roxyandlalaco.sa or the website roxyandlala.com