Restaurant Review: Alison Nelson’s Chocolate Bar

I am one of those people who get intense food cravings, and cannot be satisfied until my craving is fulfilled. Just yesterday, I needed to have baked brie with green apple slices.  And the day before, it was red velvet cake (specifically the red velvet with cream cheese frosting, not the whipped cream frosting). My food cravings happen pretty often, but the thing I crave for the most is by far: chocolate.

The urge to eat chocolate strikes unexpectedly at any given time, and this time happened as I was at Mall of the Emirates.  Just as my chocolate craving hit, I looked up to see a restaurant called Alison Nelson’s Chocolate Bar. With the word Chocolate in the title, I knew I couldn’t  go wrong.

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I walked inside and noticed their bright interiors, smiling staff, and delicious chocolate displays, and had a good feeling I was in the right place. There was ample seating and we immediately got our menus and started perusing what chocolatey goodness to order.

After flipping through the pages complete with mouth watering pictures, my chocolate craving was on overdrive and we decided to order dessert first.  First to arrive was the molten chocolate cake, a warm moist cake with chocolate syrup and served with vanilla ice cream. I felt pure bliss as my spoon pierced into the cake and released the steam and chocolate syrup inside.

molten lava

The next dessert to arrive was the chocolate fondue, a chocolate dipping sauce served with fresh berries, brownies and bananas. The fondue was not only delicious but also fun to eat!

choc fondue

Dinner time was approaching, so I decided to stay and eat there.  In  addition to the many chocolates and desserts on offer, there is also a selection of savory foods such as salads, pastas, sandwiches and more.  I was a bit hesitant to eat anything but dessert as I always thought of Chocolate Bar as a dessert place only,  but the staff recommended the tagliatelle pasta and I was pleasantly surprised when it arrived. It was creamy and flavorful, with grilled chicken, veggies, and chopped herbs, and although it wasn’t amazing, it was tasty.

In addition to the menu, there is also a range of chocolates and truffles, gift boxes, candy bars, and other fun paraphernalia such as t-shirts available for purchase.

I finished my meal off with a cappucino, content that my chocolate craving was satisfied…until next time!

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Alison Nelson’s Chocolate Bar has several locations in Dubai including Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Mall, Mirdif City Center and Mercato Mall.  For a full list of locations and more information check here

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Disclaimer: I was a guest of Alison Nelson’s Chocolate Bar.

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The Entertainer App Giveaway – Sign up to Win a free 2014 Entertainer Mobile Package!

As the first giveaway I am doing on my food blog, I thought it would be appropriate to do one for The Entertainer, a company that gives great value on so many dining venues across Dubai.  In fact, the Entertainer books currently offer nearly 2,000 buy one get one free vouchers to many restaurants, cafes, water parks, golf courses, hotels and attractions all over the UAE and many new locations across the world.

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As I have lived in Dubai for 8 years now, I am quite familiar with using the Entertainer vouchers.  And as they have packed more deals inside the books, I am also familiar with how heavy the books that hold the vouchers have become.  Fitting a huge book in your tiny clutch bag when you are going out isn’t always convenient, and the worst feeling is if you go out spontaneously and you realize you’ve left your Entertainer books at home.

But now those little inconveniences will disappear, as the Entertainer has found a way to bring both spontaneity and mobility to all their offers. They have launched the Entertainer App which you can download for free and access directly through your smartphone. You can search for a location nearby, redeem your e-voucher instantly, and also see how much you saved.

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First download the Entertainer App on your smartphone.

Show your server your e-voucher from your Entertainer App.  Redeem instantly!

Show your server your e-voucher from your Entertainer App. Redeem instantly!

See how much you have saved! You can even share with your friends.

Available for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry, you can download the Entertainer App for free and after buying an Entertainer mobile app package, can redeem all the buy one get one free offers.

As a December 2013 promotion, the Entertainer app comes preloaded with some great offers valid for this month, so you can download it and try it out now. For more detailed information on how to use the Entertainer App, click here.

And now for the giveaway.

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For a chance to win a FREE Dubai Mobile App 2014  you must:

1. Sign up HERE on the Entertainer facebook page (full name & email required) – Like the page and share the competition with your friends!
(If the link doesn’t work use this: http://bit.ly/1ayt5V4)

2. Like the Pantry Diva Facebook page to get more updates, offers, and of course recipes.

Winners will be chosen on Monday December 9, 2013 so sign up today!

Good Luck to all my Pantry Diva followers! Some great savings in the new year await you!

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Barbecue Delights in Downtown Dubai and Banjan Borani (Afghani Eggplant) Recipe

Being a food blogger definitely has its perks, and one of them is receiving invitations to fabulous foodie events around town. Barbecue Delights, a restaurant specializing in Pakistani, Afghani, and North Indian cuisines, was hosting a lunch at their newest location in Downtown Dubai, and I was one of the lucky food bloggers invited.

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Barbecue Delights downtown location

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Upon walking into the restaurant, I was immediately drawn to the beautiful artwork on the walls, inspired by the colorful way in which trucks are designed in Pakistan. The restaurant had commissioned an artist from Pakistan who makes “Truck Art,” and he flew all the way to Dubai to see the panels fitted together and mounted on the wall. The finished result is striking.

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Beautiful “Truck Art”

On a side note, my husband is Pakistani. When I visited Pakistan, I loved seeing all the colorful busses and trucks driving around, and was constantly pointing out how beautiful they were. I even bought a postcard with the colorful trucks on it, much to the amusement of my local Pakistani family. So seeing the “truck art” on the wall was a fun (and beautiful) reminder of those memories.

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So back to the meal. After being seated we were welcomed with a refreshing beverage of green mango blended with cumin while we perused the menu’s selection of appetizers which were about to arrive. The starters were a Rocca Salad, both Aloo and Keema naan, and an Afghani Mutton Rosh, which is a hearty stew of mutton, vegetables and aromatic spices.

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Afghani Mutton Rosh

After the appetizers, came a selection of naan and barbecue items such as Malai Boti, Gola Kabob, and Hara Fish, boneless cubes of fish marinated in fresh herbs. But the real star of this course was the Mutton Ribs, a fall-off-the bone tender rack of mutton steamed and grilled in a rich and spicy marinade. I was told Barbecue Delights sources all of their mutton from Pakistan from the best high quality suppliers. The ribs were a testament to that quality.

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Malai Boti, Boneless chicken marinated in cream, milk, and herbs and spices

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Although I was stuffed at this point, I realized the main courses still hadn’t been served. Before I knew it, Chicken Karahi, Prawn Masala,  Afghani Pulao, Daal, and Banjan Borani was placed before me. The Banjan Borani seemed to be the blogger favorite of the afternoon. It is an Afghani eggplant dish, with a garlicky yoghurt and tomato sauce. It has simple yet bold flavors and an elegant presentation. I have written the recipe at the end of the post so you can create your own Banjan Borani at home.

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After the mains we finally moved on to dessert of jalebi, kheer and pistachio ice cream. I cannot end any meal without dessert, even a very very large filling one, so I gobbled a few jalebi before leaving, loving the sticky sweetness of every bite. As we left, we received a beautiful parting gift of a colorful little rickshaw so I can showcase a little “truck art” style at home.

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Barbecue Delights Locations:

Downtown Dubai-Clarens Building

Mohd Bin Rashid Boulevard (formerly Emaar Boulevard)

Tel: 04 4343 443

 The Walk in Jumeirah Beach Residence

Adjacent to Sofitel Hotel, Dubai

Tel: 04 4230632

Lamcy Square, Oud Mehta Road

Near Movenpick Hotel, Dubai

Tel: 04 3359868/69

Note: I was a guest at a lunch hosted by Barbecue Delights. Some of the images in this post are from Barbecue Delights

Barbecue Delight’s Banjan Borani – Afghani Eggplant RecipeImage

INGREDIENTS:

500g (About 1 pound) Eggplants, cut into round slices

500g (About 1 pound) Yoghurt

15g (1 tablespoon) Garlic paste

5g (½ teaspoon) Cumin seeds

5-10g (1-2 teaspoons) Olive oil

100g (about ½ cup) Tomato paste

15g (1 tablespoon) vinegar

Salt and Pepper for seasoning

Coriander for garnish

Olive oil/Cooking oil for frying

PREPARATION:

1. Fry OR bake eggplant slices until cooked.

If frying, heat oil in pan and fry on both sides for a couple minutes until cooked.

If baking, brush each side of eggplant slice with olive oil and sprinkle both sides with salt. Bake at 450F for about 10 minutes each side or until done. Remove and cool.

2.  Add garlic paste into yoghurt. Saute cumin seeds in oil and add into yoghurt. Mix well.

3. Mix tomato paste and vinegar in a small bowl.

4. Spread a layer of yoghurt on serving dish. Place cooked eggplant slices on yoghurt. Spread the tomato paste mixture on top of eggplant slices. Add a bit of yoghurt on eggplant. Garnish with chopped coriander.

Watermelon Curry and Pantry Diva Live at Blogger Week

I am one of those people who fantasize about having my own cooking show on TV. Sometimes when I’m in my kitchen, I pretend I’m on the Food Network show “Chopped”, where I have a mystery basket of ingredients and have to make an amazing dish for the harsh judges before time runs out.  Actually now that I think about it, this scenario isn’t too far off from the daily dinner rush at home with my family of angry judges hungry kids.  

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Although winning “Chopped” would be amazing, what I really want is to have my own cooking show where I connect with my fans and share delicious recipes. This Friday I got to do just that, when I took part in the “Meet the Blogger Week” event sponsored by Lootah Premium Foods at Lafayette Gourmet.

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It was an amazing experience to put on the microphone and make my watermelon curry in front of a live audience. The live interaction with the crowd really forms a connection you just cannot get from behind a computer. Blogger week is still going on until September 23rd, with cooking demos at 12 noon and 4pm. You can also win a trip to Mauritius by posting your picture from the event on Instagram; just caption it #LPFbloggerevent and tag @Lootahpremiumfoods.

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My dish for the event was a Rajasthani watermelon curry. Although it is called a curry, I think of it more as a light first course (served chilled or room temperature like a borscht or a spicy soup), or as an additional side dish complementing other sides (like daal or sabzi) in an Indian meal.  The watermelon curry can be eaten hot or cold and is a combination of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors. I find is especially refreshing to enjoy during the scorching summer months in Dubai.

Pantry Diva Tip: This is a great way to use up excess watermelon after a barbecue or party. This is also an easy dish to make if you are short on time and need to quickly dash to the store, as all the ingredients should be in your pantry except the watermelon!

Watermelon Curry

ImageINGREDIENTS:

 2kg (4.4 pounds) watermelon pieces cut into 1.5 inch cubes (seedless watermelon if possible)

1 teaspoon paprika powder

½ teaspoon red chili powder (to taste, leave out if prefer mild flavor)

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 ½  teaspoon coriander powder

1-2 teaspoon garlic puree

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

 Juice of 2 large lemons

Sugar to taste (optional)

Coriander (for garnish optional)

PREPARATION:

1. Cut watermelon into 1.5 inch cubes, and divide 1.5kg (3.3 pounds) for the curry, and 500g (1.1 pound) for the juice.

2. Take 500g (1.1 pound) watermelon cubes and make sure there are no seeds. Puree in food processor to make juice. To the juice add: paprika, turmeric, chili, and coriander powders, garlic puree, and salt. Set aside.

3. Heat vegetable oil in wok and add the cumin seeds, and after 20 seconds add the juice. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until the liquid reduces by a third. If using sugar, add now, and also add the lemon juice. Cook for another minute. (I prefer to leave out the sugar as I feel the watermelon is sweet enough).

4. Add the 1.5kg (3.3 pounds) cubed chopped watermelon and cook over a low heat for 4-5 minutes. Gently toss while cooking so all the pieces are covered in the spice mixture. Turn off heat and garnish with coriander if desired.

Serves 4 as a first course or 6-8 as a side dish

*Recipe inspired by The Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi

Zaatar Marinated Lamb with Crushed Lemon Potatoes at Treat:The BurJuman World Food Fest 2012

I still remember one of my first breakfasts in Dubai. It was an early summer morning,  but still boiling hot outside. Desperately wanting to get into air conditioning, I quickly ducked into a café and ordered my cappuccino and croissant. The staff told me they only had zaatar croissants left. Hmmm… Zaatar I thought. I was intrigued by the name and excited to try something new. I asked what zaatar was, and the the staff just giggled. After realizing I was serious, they finally said, “Arabic spices madam. You try.” I did and it was delicious. I soon found out zaatar is a blend of dried herbs such as thyme and oregano, sesame, sumac and salt. It can be used to flavor vegetables, breads, and meats.

After living in Dubai for almost 7 years and seeing zaatar on nearly every menu in the region, I understand why the café staff thought I was crazy for not knowing what it was. Although I have eaten it countless times, I never imagined I would be cooking with zaatar in the middle of a crowded mall! But there I was in Burjuman, on stage at the Teka Chef’s Theatre. 



I was lucky to be a part of a blogger masterclass, one of the many events put on by Treat, the Burjuman World Food Fest 2012.  Our masterclass was led by Executive Chef Ron Pietruszka of the Ritz Carlton DIFC, and I was among a group of bloggers cooking Zaatar Marinated Lamb with Crushed Lemon Potatoes. 

Chef Ron Pietruszka in action

Initially I was a bit nervous standing in my little Teka cooking station,  but the dish was surprisingly simple, made even easier by the pre-measured ingredients, my own personal kitchen assistant, and Chef Ron’s step-by-step instructions. The final dish was both beautiful and delicious. (Recipe is below).

My final dish. Not as pretty as Chef Ron’s, but delicious nonetheless!
Chef Ron’s beautiful Lamb
Treat – The BurJuman World Food Fest 2012, running from September 11-22 2012 has something for everyone. The events are all free of cost and run by leading food industry experts and chefs from Dubai’s top hotels. Some highlights are: a series of masterclasses, cooking demos, dining etiquette workshops, audience competitions, cupcake decorating for the kids, exciting gift giveaways, and much more. Treat culminates with the BurJuman Junior Chef 2012 Competition and a fantastic gift hamper giveaway worth 25,000 AED. 

For more information on events and timings, 
please visit the BurJuman website and facebook page.  



Zaatar Marinated Lamb with Crushed Lemon Potatoes


INGREDIENTS for Lamb:
6 pcs Lamb Rack
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup Olive Oil
½ cup Tahini Sauce
½ cup Panko Bread Crumbs
2-3 tablespoons Zaatar (if you can’t find zaatar, check Middle Eastern supermarkets)
 Pomegranate Seeds for garnish

PREPARATION for Lamb:
1. Marinate Lamb in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper for at least 1 hour.
2. Sear lamb  in hot pan; use tongs to sear all sides.
3. Brush tahini on all sides of lamb.
4. Combine panko and zaatar. Roll lamb in panko mixture.
5. Bake lamb in a 190C (375F) oven until desired doneness.

INGREDIENTS for Crushed Potatoes:
2 large cooked potatoes, skins on, crushed (can substitute any potatoes of your choice)
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of ½ lemon
1-2 Tablespoon Butter

PREPARATION of Crushed Potatoes:
1. Melt butter in pan. Add garlic and cook until soft and aromatic.
2. Add cooked potato, lemon juice and zest.
3. Mash with fork to desired consistency.
To plate dish, first add a serving of potatoes. Add lamb rack on top. Garnish with few pomegranate seeds if desired.

**Thank you to the organizers of TREAT for the recipe, which I modified a bit based on my experience in the masterclass and also for some of the images on this post. 

Khana Mama at Bakefest DXB 2011 and Mini Cheesecakes with Jam

I never liked eating cheesecakes, but I always liked making them. From traditional New York Cheesecakes to Coffee Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ones, there was something about popping open that springform pan that somehow gave me joy.  But now I found a recipe (adapted from Grace Parisi) that is so  easy and so tasty that I actually like to eat these cheesecakes too. I hope everyone else enjoys these as much as I do since I will be making them for BAKEFEST DXB. Hope to see everyone on November 26!!
 
Mini Cheesecakes with Jam
 
 
 
INGREDIENTS:
 
9  digestive biscuits such as McVities, broken
3 tablespoons unsalted butter,melted
8 oz.Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup sugar
2/3 cup crème fraiche, at room temperature
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ cup raspberry jam (or any you like)
 
PREPARATION:
 
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a standard 12 cup muffin tin with foil baking cups and spray with vegetable oil spray.
 
2. In a food processor,  finely crush all the biscuits. Add butter and keep processing until mixed. Spoon the mixture into the 12 cups and press with the bottom of a glass to compact the crumbs. Bake for 5 minutes or until set. Leave oven on.
 
3. In a medium bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese with the sugar at medium speed until smooth. Beat in the crème fraiche, the eggs, and the vanilla.  Beat until smooth.
 
4. Pour cheesecake batter into prepared muffin cups and fill about ¾ full. Bake 10-15 minutes or until centers are slightly jiggly. Remove from oven and cool. Transfer to fridge and chill.
 
5. When ready to serve, remove foil paper and transfer to plate. Top with raspberry jam.