Award-winning Bahraini chef Tala Bashmi looks to reinvent Gulf cuisine

Award-winning Bahraini chef Tala Bashmi looks to reinvent Gulf cuisine
Tala Bashmi is the chef patronne at Fusions by Tala in the Gulf Hotel, Manama. (Supplied)
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Updated 12 August 2022

Award-winning Bahraini chef Tala Bashmi looks to reinvent Gulf cuisine

Award-winning Bahraini chef Tala Bashmi looks to reinvent Gulf cuisine
  • The chef patronne at Fusions by Tala trained in Switzerland at the Michelin-starred Prisma
  • She was recently named Best Female Chef in the Middle East and North Africa by 50 Best

TORONTO: For 33-year-old Tala Bashmi — chef patronne at Fusions by Tala in the Gulf Hotel, Manama — modernizing Bahraini and Khaleeji cuisine feels like a “responsibility.” 

Bashmi grew up in Bahrain, and actually began her career at the Gulf Hotel, before heading to Switzerland to train at Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois and the Michelin-starred Prisma. 




Fusions by Tala in the Gulf Hotel, Manama. (Supplied)

She returned to Bahrain in 2014 and worked her way up through the ranks at the Gulf Hotel to eventually head Fusions by Tala, where she’s determined to reinvent Gulf cuisine. She was recently named Best Female Chef in the Middle East and North Africa by 50 Best.

“I always saw a gap for a different version of Middle Eastern and Khaleeji cuisine,” Bashmi tells Arab News. “I want to compete on a global scale by elevating our cuisine technically, visually, and flavor-wise,” she says. 

Here, Bashmi offers some advice and a delicious fish recipe to try at home.




Tala Bashmi's Seabream Carpaccio. (Supplied)

What’s your top tip for amateur cooks?
Don’t rush things. For the first two years of my career, I wasn’t even allowed to cook. It was purely preparation. I believe all young chefs should start that way and not jump the gun. When you rush things, you end up burning something. You (eventually) want to combine perfection and speed, but speed alone is not beneficial. 

Also, there’s nothing more dangerous than a dull knife. A dull knife will slip and, most likely, cause injury. So, invest in a good quality knife and keep it sharp. 

What's one ingredient that can instantly improve any dish?
I can think of a few. There’s olive oil. And invest in good salt — not iodized table salt! Whenever I travel, I always get salt that’s local to the region. I’m a firm believer in the fact that the simplest local ingredients can elevate or transform a dish.

What is your favorite cuisine?
Currently, it's Korean. The entire experience of making your own Korean barbeque is fun. With its fermented and pickled elements, it relies heavily on the traditional umami taste, which I enjoy a lot.

What is your favorite dish to cook?
I really enjoy cooking seafood, especially when it's fresh from the market. I love clams. I make a type of curry that has clams and local crabs in it, which you leave to simmer on the stove. When you cook all day, every day, you want to make your meals quick and tasty. 

What’s the most difficult dish you prepare?
Desserts at the restaurant have a lot of elements and are relatively time-consuming. There is the cooking, chilling, setting, assembling, and layering. I’d say my lavender dessert — lavender sponge, blueberry jelly, white-chocolate mousse, and lemon crème brûlée — is the most difficult to prepare.

What are you like in the kitchen? Are you a disciplinary or are you more laid-back?
I was lucky enough to work under a second chef who showed me that you can be kind, gentle, and forgiving in this environment, without being disrespected. So, I follow his example. I don’t like to put people down because everyone learns differently. I want my team to feel happy, comfortable, and confident when they come into the kitchen. Patience and learning to deal with different personalities are important. 

RECIPE: Chef Tala’s pan-seared faskar with vine leaf risotto

Ingredients

90g Faskar fillet; salt; pepper; 30g butter; 3g thyme; turmeric (optional); 150g of Arborio rice; 20g onion (finely chopped); 70g vine leaves; 10g lime juice; 10g parmesan cheese; cooking oil; vegetable stock or water

 

Instructions (fish):

Pat your fillets to dry them. Season with salt, pepper, and turmeric (optional).

Heat a non-stick pan to almost smoking point. Add 2 tbsp of oil per fillet.

Place the fillet (skin side) with a weight on top.

Cook for one minute, until skin is golden-brown. 

Turn the heat to low, add thyme and 10g of butter. 

The residual heat will finish cooking the fish (time depends on thickness of fillets)

 

Instructions (risotto):

On low-medium heat, melt 10g butter in a pan, add onion, sauté until translucent. 

Stir rice into the mix.

And one ladle of veg stock (or water) at a time, making sure broth is fully absorbed.

Meanwhile, blanch the vine leaves in hot water for one minute or until softened. Finely chop.

Cook risotto for 20 minutes, stirring regularly. It should be al dente, but creamy.

Add remaining butter, cheese, vine leaves, salt, and lime juice. 

Serve hot.


Mayyas choreographer Nadim Cherfan addresses historic ‘America’s Got Talent’ win at Lebanon event

Mayyas choreographer Nadim Cherfan addresses historic ‘America’s Got Talent’ win at Lebanon event
Updated 02 October 2022

Mayyas choreographer Nadim Cherfan addresses historic ‘America’s Got Talent’ win at Lebanon event

Mayyas choreographer Nadim Cherfan addresses historic ‘America’s Got Talent’ win at Lebanon event

DUBAI: Celebrating the historic win of Lebanese dance troupe Mayyas on the “America’s Got Talent” stage, founder and choreographer Nadim Cherfan appeared at a special question-and-answer session at the US embassy in Beirut.

“I never thought. I never planned. I never dreamed. I just went for it,” said Cherfan about the group’s meteoric rise over the past year.

The 45-minute Q&A session was broadcast on YouTube as part of the US Embassy’s Meet the Artist series. The broadcast also featured a special performance by the Mayyas — their first since winning the US talent show.

“I promise the girls I will be with them forever, that’s how I say it,” Cherfan said. “The girls will be changing over the years, some of them will be following their own dreams, but the Mayyas should live on, it’s not anymore about any of us — it’s a national pride. So we have to keep on sending this message.”

About being a group from Lebanon and his early inspiration to become a dancer, Cherfan said: “When you live in a country that has some struggles, you have to go deep to the heart to escape reality. I used to travel all around the world and experience a beautiful sensation that I can speak an international language and I can express myself whether I am angry or sad in this way, so I think dancing saved my life in a way.”

“As soon as I opened my eyes to this world and I started realizing that there’s something called theater and dance and music, I was completely taken away from the first second,” he said.

The Lebanese dance company Mayyas won “America’s Got Talent” season 17, taking home the $1 million prize and the chance to headline a Las Vegas show.

In June, the group made their “America’s Got Talent” debut and impressed judges Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and Sofia Vergara so much that they received a golden buzzer and fast track to the live shows.
 


Lebanese designer Elie Saab unveils summer 2023 collection in Paris

Lebanese designer Elie Saab unveils summer 2023 collection in Paris
Elie Saab showed off his latest collection at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. (AFP)
Updated 02 October 2022

Lebanese designer Elie Saab unveils summer 2023 collection in Paris

Lebanese designer Elie Saab unveils summer 2023 collection in Paris

DUBAI: Lebanese designer Elie Saab unveiled his spring/summer 2023 collection at Paris Fashion Week over the weekend.

The line featured stylistic call-backs to the 1960s with its babydoll dresses, miniskirts, crop-tops and jabot collars. However, the designer managed to retain he floaty, contemporary Saab touch he has become famous for.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

The first look from Saab at his Paris fashion show fused a 1960s angelic-white crop top and a maxi skirt with an ethnic look, thanks to a construction of interlocking motifs. This fusion of different eras continued throughout the show, which sent out 68 items, The Associated Press reported.

Elie Saab showed off his latest collection in Paris. (Getty Images)

Lace detailing was a big theme and became the front of a baggy pale tracksuit top. In an anachronism that defined this Saab spring aesthetic, it was worn alongside a sheer 1990s' tulle skirt. It had a great swag and could have very well been seen at a music festival in that decade.

Saab's spring aesthetic featured tributes to nature. (AFP)

Flashes of Barbie pink and citrus contrasted with psychedelic stripes on column silhouettes, sometimes making it feel like Saab was trying to put too much in the mix.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

However, the fresh white broderie anglaise, delicate crochet work and crisp cottons played into the summer theme that Saab sought to pull off, with the designer telling Vogue US that he “was just in the mood for something easy to wear, airy like a summer breeze.”

That sentiment was echoed on the fashion house’s social media accounts.

“The Elie Saab Woman drifts onto the scene in gentle warmth and movement. Her colorful confidence is embodied in the ready-to-wear spring/summer 2023 collection, exuding a timeless chic with a touch of garden freshness. Soft and sumptuous textures overlap into free-flowing expressions that carry her carefree assuredness throughout the day,” the label posted on Instagram alongside a video clip of the show.

The star-studded front row at the show featured the likes of Italian actress Monica Bellucci, US actress Eva Longoria, US influencer Olivia Palermo and Mohammed Al-Turki, the CEO of Jeddah’s Red Sea International Film Festival.

“Congrats to the Saab family for another beautiful show,” Al-Turki, who attended the event in an ensemble from Saab’s Haute Couture Men’s collection, posted on Instagram.


Amal, George Clooney host inaugural Albie Awards

Amal, George Clooney host inaugural Albie Awards
Updated 01 October 2022

Amal, George Clooney host inaugural Albie Awards

Amal, George Clooney host inaugural Albie Awards

DUBAI: Lebanese human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and her actor husband George Clooney this week hosted the first-ever Albie Awards, an event created by the celebrity couple to honor individuals who, at great personal risk, have devoted their lives to justice.

The awards ceremony, which took place in New York City, is named after South African lawyer, activist, writer and former judge Justice Albie Sachs, who spent much of his life “defending people charged under racist statutes and repressive security laws.”

Amal was spotted on the red carpet wearing a silver and gold beaded Atelier Versace column gown and strappy silver Aquazzura sandals, while George wore a black tuxedo. (AFP)

Amal was spotted on the red carpet wearing a silver and gold beaded Atelier Versace column gown and strappy silver Aquazzura sandals, while George wore a black tuxedo.

The event was attended by A-list celebrities including Oscar Isaac, Dua Lipa, John Oliver, Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore, Ethan Hawke and Meryl Streep.


New Lonely Planet guide shines a light on Britain’s hidden Muslim heritage

New Lonely Planet guide shines a light on Britain’s hidden Muslim heritage
Updated 01 October 2022

New Lonely Planet guide shines a light on Britain’s hidden Muslim heritage

New Lonely Planet guide shines a light on Britain’s hidden Muslim heritage
  • ‘Experience Great Britain’ is part of publisher’s range of ‘anti-guidebooks’
  • It offers ‘really diverse experiences for visitors,’ contributor Tharik Hussain says

LONDON: A new Lonely Planet guide to Great Britain features an entire chapter on the country’s little-known Islamic heritage, which stretches back more than 1,200 years.

Published this month, “Experience Great Britain” is part of the publisher’s range of “anti-guidebooks,” so-called because of the unique local perspectives they offer travelers.

The guide to Britain has sections and essays titled “Legacies of Empire,” “Bristol’s Black History,” “An Other London” and “Hidden Muslim Britain,” all of which seek to shine a light on the nation’s marginalized cultures and their stories.

Tharik Hussain, the Muslim author of “Minarets in the Mountains: A Journey Into Muslim Europe,” which explores the continent’s indigenous Muslim cultures, contributed to the new travel guide.

 

 

“I think it is wonderful to see mainstream guidebooks like this finally going out of their way to include such really diverse experiences for visitors,” he said.

“So often, writers like me are brought onto such projects to tick a box and create the impression there are diverse perspectives in it, but actually we’re often asked to just write about the same things covered by the previous writers. What’s diverse about that?

“To achieve truly diverse perspectives commissioning editors must select writers from different backgrounds and then be brave and empower writers to come back with what they find interesting, even if that goes against the editor’s expectations.”

Hussain, who developed one of the UK’s first Muslim heritage trails, wrote the “Hidden Muslim Britain” chapter, which focuses on Woking — home to the UK’s first purpose-built mosque, the Shah Jahan — Liverpool and Brighton, where some of the country’s most visible Islamic legacies can be found.

These include Britain’s first Muslim cemetery — the final resting place of convert lords, ladies and Muslim royalty — and Brighton Pavilion, where injured Muslim (as well as Sikh and Hindu) soldiers fighting for Britain in World War I were treated.

The guide also tells of cultural institutes set up by the Turkish, Palestinian, Bangladeshi and Black communities in London. (Supplied/Tharik Hussain)

“The guide also reveals where to visit spectacular ‘oriental rooms’ modeled on famous Muslim palaces like the Alhambra in Spain and the Topkapi in Turkey,” Hussain said.

“This is supported by an essay called Anglo Islam that reveals how Islam came to the island as early as the 8th century, when an Anglo-Saxon king called Offa minted a gold coin featuring part of the Muslim declaration of faith in Arabic.”

The essay also tells of how Britain’s first real Muslim community “were a group of white, convert Victorians who worshipped at the country’s first mosque in Liverpool, founded by a solicitor called Henry William Quilliam, later Abdullah Quilliam,” he added.

The section on empire tells visitors where they can go to learn about “the horrors of British imperial rule,” and how to experience more positive post-colonial legacies like the stunning Neasden Temple in northwest London, built by immigrants who moved to Britain after the collapse of the empire, Hussain said.

The guide also tells of the cultural institutes set up by the Turkish, Palestinian, Bangladeshi and Black communities in London, like the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, and offers alternatives to the usual tourist attractions, such as the Muslim History Tours and the Open City walking tours that explore London’s forgotten Chinese heritage.


Dance group Mayyas to perform in Beirut after ‘America’s Got Talent’ win

Dance group Mayyas to perform in Beirut after ‘America’s Got Talent’ win
Updated 30 September 2022

Dance group Mayyas to perform in Beirut after ‘America’s Got Talent’ win

Dance group Mayyas to perform in Beirut after ‘America’s Got Talent’ win
  • Crew ecstatic over ‘dream’ prize, says choreographer Nadim Cherfan
  • Artists will showcase their gifts at the US embassy this weekend

DUBAI: Lebanese dance crew Mayyas are set to perform for the first time since winning “America’s Got Talent” at the US embassy in Beirut this weekend.

The embassy will also host a virtual meet-the-artist session which will be released on Oct. 1 on YouTube.

“I am very happy that Mayyas will do a collaboration with the US embassy,” the crew’s choreographer Nadim Cherfan said in a video shared on the embassy’s Twitter page.

Earlier this month, the group took home the $1 million grand prize after winning the show.

“We can’t believe what’s happening,” group member Marcel Assal told Arab News after the show. “We can’t believe what we’ve achieved — giving so much energy, leaving our work and education, dedicating our time to training every day to be here to represent our country, and this is what we were looking for.

“We were very stressed out by the fact that we had to (prepare the dance) in two to three days, but when we went up on stage and heard the cheers, the audience gave us a push and an adrenaline rush that wasn’t there and we did it,” added Assal.

Cherfan said: “This win gave me an opportunity to dream again. When you have a dream and you achieve it, you start to look for another dream. So I’m very happy that there is something to look forward to now — something to dream of, something to fight for.”