Recipes for success: Chef Alejandro Castro offers advice and a hearty pilau recipe

Recipes for success: Chef Alejandro Castro offers advice and a hearty pilau recipe
Chef Alejandro Castro heads up OSH Restaurant in Dubai’s La Mer development. (Supplied)
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Updated 28 November 2021

Recipes for success: Chef Alejandro Castro offers advice and a hearty pilau recipe

Recipes for success: Chef Alejandro Castro offers advice and a hearty pilau recipe

DUBAI: An Ecuadorian chef might not be the obvious choice to lead a kitchen serving food inspired by the cuisine of former Soviet republics in Asia, but this is Dubai, after all. And if you’d expect to find that weird kind of cultural mix anywhere, it’s here. 

Chef Alejandro Castro — who heads up OSH Restaurant in Dubai’s La Mer development — says it came as something of a surprise to him when he was approached by OSH’s then-head chef to work as a sous-chef at the restaurant, which bills itself as serving “a modern twist of Central Asian and contemporary Uzbek cuisine.”

“Before OSH, I was working in a French restaurant in Dubai,” Castro says. “(The head chef of OSH) saw that I had the basics of French fine-dining, and he told me not to worry that I didn’t know Russian or Uzbek food. He just wanted a person who understood high standards in the kitchen.” 




Chicken shashlik. (Supplied)

A year or so later, Castro was promoted to head chef, and it’s fair to say he’s got a much better understanding of Uzbek food now. Although he admits he’s still not quite perfected the ‘plov’ that is a staple of Uzbek cuisine. 

“It takes a lot of training,” he says of the rice-based dish (which he’s provided a recipe for here). “The thing you have to get exactly right is the rice, but that goes through so many different cooking procedures in the same pot that you’ve got to get your timings perfect. We have some plov masters in the restaurant who’ve nailed it, and they’re training me now.”

It’s clear from our conversation just how passionate Castro is about his work. 

“The cooking world is so beautiful, so challenging, and so full of opportunities every day,” he says. “I hardly know anyone who’s regretted this career, and even those who have have learned so much that has helped them in whatever other career they’ve taken.”

What’s your go-to dish if you have to cook something quickly for yourself? 

It’s a very easy chicken sandwich, done with some grilled pineapple, jalapenos, pickled onions and some spicy mayo. Just mix it up, throw the chicken in the pan, and you’re done. Twenty minutes.

What’s your favorite dish to cook?

Many things. (Laughs.) Probably the one that needs the least preparation and that makes me very happy, and everyone else around me very happy — at least I’ve heard no complaints about it — is a shrimp ceviche. It’s got a lot of vitamin C, so it’s very good after a heavy night. No fats, just some of the natural cholesterol from the shrimps, but a lot of orange and lemon juice. Lots of vitamins from the tomatoes, onions and coriander too. And it’s done in a very short amount of time. 

What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish?

It’s unpopular nowadays because of some bad press in the Nineties, but it’s MSG. When you think something lacks flavor, that often means it lacks umami flavor and MSG is basically umami in powder form. 




Chef Castro says it came as something of a surprise to him when he was approached by OSH’s then-head chef to work as a sous-chef at the restaurant. (Supplied)

What customer behavior most annoys you?

It’s usually the modifiers. Not just for me, but for most cooks. I understand people have their own tastes and want something done a certain way, but the dishes are designed and tested. They work. When I get a complaint about a modified dish, it’s expected. A modified dish won’t be as good, or as thoroughly thought-out, as an original. At the end of the day, though, the guests are our bosses.

What’s the worst mistake you ever made in a kitchen?

Nothing. I’m perfect. (Laughs.) No… One of the biggest ones was when I was a commis-chef and I had a breakfast shift. My head chef always insisted we shouldn’t use the timer on the oven; we had to remember what’s what and how long it’s been there. I remember putting 80 croissants in the oven and forgetting about them. Once I’d remembered, I opened the oven, a lot of smoke came out and I had 80 perfect pieces of charcoal. It was horrible. I was mortified. I thought I’d be fired that day. But after you have a big mess-up like that, then never again. 

What are you like in the kitchen? Are you a shouter? Or are you quite chilled-out?

I’m both. On a normal day I’m quite laidback, I like to have music in the kitchen — my team can also choose the music; something that gets them into the rhythm of working. It’s such a stressful and physically demanding environment, so you need something that pulls you through the day. And I’ve found that, for me, that’s music. And my team know they can approach me with whatever issue they may have. We really get to know each other, and we hang outside of work even. We try to keep a peaceful environment — we joke around a lot — I can probably say I’m the main prankster in the kitchen. I might hide stuff from them, or tell jokes. In terms of discipline, though, they know that when it’s cooking time, it’s cooking time. We’re here for a purpose, and if that purpose isn’t met then we’re not doing our job. So there’s happy time most of the time, but sometimes, when it gets too relaxed, then there’s not-very-happy time. I love my team, but they know that when it’s showtime, it’s showtime.

Chef Alejandro’s Osh Pradznichny with Achichuk salad




Uzbek rice pilau and lamb with tomato salad. (Supplied)

INGREDIENTS
For the main dish

650 gm lazar or basmati rice

50 gm chickpeas

250 ml sunflower oil

750 gm lamb leg, boneless

250 gm white onion, sliced

850 gm yellow or baby carrot, cut into long pieces

1500 ml water

3 gm cumin seeds

12 gm salt

50 gm yellow raisins

5 quail eggs

For the salad:
500 gm tomato

350 gm red onion

25 ml olive oil

5 gm salt

1 gm pepper

1 gm basil

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Wash the rice in cool water and soak the chickpeas the night before.

2. Heat oil in a heavy-bottom pot or kazan (traditional Uzbek iron cast pot), until it begins to smoke, then cook the lamb leg in it until brown. Remove the lamb and add the onion. Repeat the process for the carrot. Finally, add the lamb and onions. After five minutes, add water, cumin and salt. Check the seasoning, then add rice. Add the raisins and the chickpeas. Cover and place on medium heat. 

3. Hard boil the quail eggs, then peel and halve.

4. Once the rice has absorbed all the liquid, give it a quick mix in the same pot, making sure everything is cooked al dente.

5. Serve on a big sharing platter with the halved quail eggs around the rice.
6. For the salad, slice tomato and onion. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped basil. Serve on the side of the rice.


Part-Arab models pay tribute to late fashion designer Virgil Abloh

Part-Arab models pay tribute to late fashion designer Virgil Abloh
Gigi Hadid was among the many people who paid tribute to the late designer on Instagram. File/Instagram
Updated 32 sec ago

Part-Arab models pay tribute to late fashion designer Virgil Abloh

Part-Arab models pay tribute to late fashion designer Virgil Abloh

DUBAI: Tributes from the Arab world, as well as part-Arab models, have poured in after it was announced on Sunday that Virgil Abloh, the US-Ghanaian founder of Off-White and the Men’s Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton, has died at 41.

He was privately battling a rare and aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma.

Despite his private battle with the illness, Abloh continued his creative pursuits. Earlier this month, he attended the opening of his retrospective exhibition “Virgil Abloh: Figures of Speech,” in Doha. He was also due to present a runway show of his Spring 2022 collection in Miami for Art Basel.

Undeniably one of the most influential fashion designers of his era, the multi-hyphenate will also be remembered well beyond fashion, leaving a considerable impact on many people who had the opportunity to work with him or get to know him on a personal level.

Following the news of his death, a huge number of celebrities, fans and industry insiders took to social media to pay tribute to the designer.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

Bella Hadid wrote on Instagram: “I’m at a loss .. He was someone to everyone. That was the magic power he held. He made every person he came across feel special in whatever way he possibly could. Even when the world felt sad, he brought laughter and color and beauty. The way he made a positive impact on anything he touched, and always pushed for his culture/the world is the reason why he was an angel on earth and one to so many. The most beautiful warrior soul. I can’t believe this.”

She added: “You broke boundaries and made everything your own. You shared your love infinitely. The way your brain worked was beyond anything, and the way you did every single thing in life for your family, friends and for the better… We’re going to miss you a lot V. You really saw me and supported me on every level. As you did to so many of us. An ethereal light. You always inspired to keep pushing, work hard and be kind. No matter what. I’m thinking about, sending love and prayers to his beautiful Shannon, their kids, and the rest of the Abloh family. I’m devastated. You will be so missed and cherished V. FOR INFINITY… Fly high my Libra brother. I know you’re watching over the world now. I love you for life.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

Her older sister Gigi also took to the photo-sharing platform to pay homage to the designer, writing that she is “heartbroken by the loss of my dear friend and a friend to the world.”

She said: “He was 1 of 1. His kindness and energetic generosity left a lasting impression on every life he touched— he made everyone feel seen and special. He will be deeply missed, cherished and celebrated by me and all the people and industries that have been lucky enough to work around and know the true supernova behind this man. I picture him now like our Mickey Mouse... forever with us, forever adored, forever magical, forever guiding us with that special Virgil FUN; I’m sure that’s how he wanted to be remembered, but still it will never be the same without him in the room. You will continue to inspire me every day, V. I feel blessed and honored by every moment. Rest Easy, my friend. You are so loved. You were the difference. As we always said… ‘See you somewhere, soon’.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by AMINA MUADDI (@aminamuaddi)

Jordanian-Romanian footwear designer Amina Muaddi, who was in Doha with Abloh for the Fashion Trust Arabia only a couple of weeks ago, revealed that she sat in shock for hours following the news.

“I love you Virg. I sat in shock for the past hours because we spoke yesterday. I simply can’t use the past tense to describe you. Extraordinary spirits like yours rarely bless this Earth. A man with a mission who gave hope, dreams and tools to succeed to an entire new generation,” she wrote on Instagram.

“I told someone recently ‘Virgil is great…at everything.’ Because I don’t know how else to describe someone as multi-hyphenate, kind, talented, hard-working, humble, sweet and inspirational as you are. We were working on giving the world a project, we were having fun. Nobody made me want to dance like you. You’re probably redesigning the gates of Heaven right now. I’m praying for your family. Rest in Power King.”

Also honoring the late designer was part-Saudi model Shanina Shaik who reposted the news of Abloh’s passing on her Instagram Stories and captioned it: “My heart. Rest easy Virgil,” alongside the broken-hearted and dove emojis.

“Shocked and heartbroken,” said Lebanese model and humanitarian Jessica Kahawaty. “We just saw you in Qatar. No one knows the battles people fight behind closed doors. May you Rest In Peace.”

Lebanese fashion influencer and entrepreneur Karen Wazen also took the opportunity to remember Abloh by reposting one of his quotes on her Instagram Stories that read: “Life is so short you can’t even waste a day subscribing to what someone thinks you can do versus knowing what you can do.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by @virgilabloh

“We are devastated to announce the passing of our beloved Virgil Abloh, a fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother, and friend,” said a statement on his Instagram account posted on Sunday. “He is survived by his loving wife Shannon Abloh, his children Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh, his sister Edwina Abloh, his parents Nee and Eunice Abloh, and numerous dear friends and colleagues.

“He chose to endure his battle privately since his diagnosis in 2019, undergoing numerous challenging treatments, all while helming several significant institutions that span fashion, art, and culture,” the statement reads. “Through it all, his work ethic, infinite curiosity, and optimism never wavered. Virgil was driven by his dedication to his craft and to his mission to open doors for others and create pathways for greater equality in art and design. He often said, “Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself,” believing deeply in the power of art to inspire future generations.”


Actress Lindsay Lohan gets engaged to financier Bader Shammas in Dubai

Actress Lindsay Lohan gets engaged to financier Bader Shammas in Dubai
Lindsay Lohan and Bader Shammas are engaged. File/Instagram
Updated 28 November 2021

Actress Lindsay Lohan gets engaged to financier Bader Shammas in Dubai

Actress Lindsay Lohan gets engaged to financier Bader Shammas in Dubai

DUBAI: Congratulations are in order for Lindsay Lohan. The Dubai-based actress has just announced her engagement to her partner Bader Shammas.

The Hollywood star shared the news with her 9.7 million Instagram followers, posting a series of coupled-up snaps that showed off her diamond engagement ring.

Lohan, 35, wrote: “My love. My life. My family. My future.”

The actress and financier were first spotted together at a music festival in Dubai shortly before the pandemic hit in 2020.

In May 2020 The “Mean Girls” star’s mother Dina Lohan spoke of Shammas, saying: “Lindsay is dating a wonderful guy right now, but that’s neither here nor there. When she’s ready to talk about her personal life, she will.”

Lohan was previously engaged to Russian businessman Egor Tarabasov but the pair split in 2016.

In addition to planning a wedding, the actress has plenty to look forward to.

The “Freaky Friday” star, who made a return to acting, is currently filming a new project for Netflix. The movie is untitled at the moment but is a Christmas romantic comedy, in which Lohan stars as a “spoiled hotel heiress” with amnesia. The upcoming film is expected to release in 2022.

She also recently inked a deal for a new podcast which, she told Deadline, will give listeners “a chance to experience a never-before-seen side” of her and will “share her authentic voice.


What We Are Reading Today: The Lessons of Tragedy

What We Are Reading Today: The Lessons of Tragedy
Updated 28 November 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Lessons of Tragedy

What We Are Reading Today: The Lessons of Tragedy

Authors: Hal Brands and Charles Edel

Today, after more than seventy years of great‑power peace and a quarter‑century of unrivaled global leadership, Americans have lost their sense of tragedy. They have forgotten that the descent into violence and war has been all too common throughout human history. This amnesia has become most pronounced just as Americans and the global order they created are coming under graver threat than at any time in decades.
In this book, Hal Brands and Charles Edel argue that a tragic sensibility is necessary if America and its allies are to address the dangers that menace the international order today, according to a review on goodreads.com.


Arab World Institute in Paris launches exhibition on Eastern Jews to ‘fix ignorance’

The show exhibits 280 works of art that bear witness to 15 centuries of Jewish cohabitation in the Arab world in a 1,000-square-meter space. (ANFR Photo/Anne Ilcinkas)
The show exhibits 280 works of art that bear witness to 15 centuries of Jewish cohabitation in the Arab world in a 1,000-square-meter space. (ANFR Photo/Anne Ilcinkas)
Updated 28 November 2021

Arab World Institute in Paris launches exhibition on Eastern Jews to ‘fix ignorance’

The show exhibits 280 works of art that bear witness to 15 centuries of Jewish cohabitation in the Arab world in a 1,000-square-meter space. (ANFR Photo/Anne Ilcinkas)
  • The Parisian institution exhibits 280 works of art that bear witness to 15 centuries of Jewish cohabitation in the Arab world, in an area larger than 1,000 sq. m.
  • ‘This event is a response by reason, by culture, by knowledge, a response by history,’ says Arab World Institute president 

PARIS: After exhibitions titled “Hajj, the pilgrimage in Makkah” in 2014 and the “Christians of the East, 2,000 years of history” in 2017, the Arab World Institute in Paris is continuing its trilogy dedicated to monotheistic religions with “Jews of the East, a multi-millennial history.”

It exhibits 280 works of art that bear witness to 15 centuries of Jewish cohabitation in the Arab world in a 1,000-square-meter space.

“This institute would only truly find its vocation if it were open to all the spiritual and intellectual heritages that have marked the history of the Arab world,” IMA President Jack Lang said in a speech to the press a few days before the exhibition’s inauguration. It is set to take place from Nov. 24 to March 13, 2022.

The Parisian institution exhibits “exceptional and unpublished” work, which were made available by 35 lenders — institutions or individuals — bearing witness to 15 centuries of Jewish cohabitation in the Arab world, from the Atlas plateaus to the banks of the Euphrates.

“Was it normal that the Jews, their culture and the Jewish religion did not have their full place here?” IMA’s president asked.

He began to handle the issue two years ago, “shortly before the appearance of these movements, that are in reality very old but reappear regularly in France, of negationism, of hatred, of racism, of denouncing the truth, of confusion.”

He continued: “This event is a response by reason, by culture, by knowledge, a response by history.”

For French President Emmanuel Macron, this is a “great lesson” about “coexistence, mutual enrichment and exchanges between monotheisms.” 

He said: “Identity is always more complex than we think and rubs against other identities to feed on it,” while also denouncing the “obscurantisms” of recent times.

For the first time, Arab News en Francais has partnered up with the IMA for this exhibition. “We are very happy to work with you,” Lang rejoiced in an interview, evoking his “immense admiration for the work accomplished today in the Kingdom by Saudi authorities in general and by Prince Badr in particular.”

“People around the world have absolutely no idea how far a real cultural revolution is taking place in Saudi Arabia, in all fields such as art, cinema, theater, literature, painting, sculpture, music…,” continued the president, who will fly in a few days to Jeddah on the occasion of the Red Sea Film Festival, which promises to be a “huge event.”

He added: “I told Prince Badr, whom I met with 10 days ago: You are not broadcasting enough the magnitude of the cultural changes taking place in the Kingdom today.”

Among these Saudi sites “which one day will be more known” is the Khaybar oasis, represented by three photographs by Humberto da Silveira at the beginning of the exhibition “Jews of the East,” which retraces in a chronological and thematic journey, 15 centuries of Jewish presence in now Arab countries. The Khaybar oasis, located on a major caravan route in the Hejaz, was indeed occupied by Jewish tribes in ancient times, before the Prophet Muhammad made it the “land of Islam.”

“Today, there is a French team of archaeologists undertaking research on the spot to better understand this complex history of the Jews and the Muslims in this historic place, Khaybar, with the consent of Saudi authorities,” added the IMA president.

One of the pieces of the exhibition that most impressed Lang also comes from the Arabian Peninsula. 

He admitted having great difficulty in choosing just one, given the richness of the works exhibited: “Jewish women of Yemeni origin, who have now become Israeli citizens, have created a fabulous music group that travels the world. This relationship is extraordinary, because these Jewish Yemeni women sing in Arabic.” The three Haim sisters (Tair, Liron, and Tagel) with their group A-WA, have enjoyed phenomenal success on YouTube with their song “Habib Galbi,” which mixes traditional Yemeni songs with hip-hop beats.

The public will rediscover the “Hana Mash Hu Al-Yaman” clip at the conclusion of the exhibition, the last stage in a history spanning more than 2,000 years. It shows the history of Jewish communities in the Arab world, of the first links forged between the Jewish tribes of the Kingdom and Prophet Muhammad up to the final exile, the emergence of great scholars, such as Saadia Gaon, Maimonides or Joseph Caro, during the medieval caliphates in Baghdad, Fez, Cairo and Cordoba, and the rise of Jewish urban centers in the Maghreb and the Ottoman Empire.

“Never before has the history of the Jews been told in these countries which have become Arab countries today. It had never been told on a millennial scale, from ancient times until today,” said Lang, adding: “It is a way of repairing ignorance, of showing that the Arab world is rich in successive religions and cultures, which fashioned its originality.”

Asked about the apprehensions that this exhibition could arouse on the Palestinian side, the Lang explained that “the exhibition absolutely does not address the political questions of today.” 

“There are other occasions for the IMA to bring them up,” he said, referring to the upcoming publishing of a book titled “What Palestinians Bring to the World.”

Just like the general curator of the exhibition, historian Benjamin Stora, who said that “we would miss our target if we only spoke of the end, of the ‘why’ did the Jews depart,” Lang insists on showing that: “Above all, we want to show that the presence of Jews goes back a long way in history.”


The best dressed stars at the 2021 Cairo international Film Festival

The best dressed stars at the 2021 Cairo international Film Festival
Tara Emad posing on the red carpet at the event, running until Dec. 5 at the famed Opera House in Zamalek.AFP
Updated 28 November 2021

The best dressed stars at the 2021 Cairo international Film Festival

The best dressed stars at the 2021 Cairo international Film Festival

DUBAI: The 43rd edition of the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) kicked off in style on Friday evening with a plethora of glamorous A-list Arab celebrities walking the red carpet at the annual opening ceremony in Egypt.

Running until Dec. 5 at the famed Opera House in Zamalek, the Arab world’s longest-running film festival brought together a host of stars, including actors Tara Emad, Dorra Zarrouk and Salma Abudeif in addition to 68-year-old film icon Fifi Abdou, who were all dressed to the nines in up-and-coming as well as established regional designers.

Check out our pick of the best dressed stars at the 2021 Cairo International Film Festival below.

 

Tara Emad in Nicolas Jebran

Youssra in Rami Kadi

Bushra Rozza in Samah Mahran

Dorra Zarrouk in Zuhair Murad

Laila Eloui in Hany Elbehairy

Mona Zaki in Maram Bohran

Nelly Karim in Maison Yeya

Nour in Sandy Nour

Raya Abirached in Zuhair Murad

Salma Abu Deif in Valentino

Fifi Abdou