Category Archives: Food

Italian Cooking Class at The Ritz Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa

Fresh Pasta-Tagliatelle-4924A place I have yet to visit is Italy, it’s high on my bucket list of places to see, hopefully Tuscany and Florence. But in the mean time, delighted with an invite from the Culinary Arts Team to experience some of Italy, at the Ritz Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa and attend a cooking class at their Italian restaurant, Primavera. My pasta-making skills are somewhat rusty and was thrilled to see a pasta machine on arrival. I remember thinking about my poor pasta machine, sitting neglected at the back of a kitchen cupboard. Following is a peek into a morning of kneading, rolling, cooking and of course enjoying good food.

Making Focaccia DoughItalian Chef Mauro Giordano and his team (Jovan and Linto) eased us into the cooking class, demonstrating the steps and techniques involved in making a classic Focaccia, a leavened Italian flatbread. Although few ingredients are needed, the quality of the yeast, flour and water used, affects the overall flavour of the bread. Kneading and proving the dough correctly are important steps and should never be rushed. Before baking the focaccia you have the option of adding different flavourings on top, such as herbs, tomatoes, olives and onions. Focaccia is a very versatile bread and easy to make at home. And who can resist a wonderful chunk of warm home-made bread… I know I cant. If you have made your own home-made bread before you will know, there is a certain joy that comes with bread making. Fresh Pasta-3To say you have made your own fresh pasta (and of course bread) is impressive and once you see the process of pasta-making from start to finish, it sure fires up your enthusiasm. Of course getting stuck in is even better and with the help of Chef Mauro, he made it all seem so easy. Egg yolks (the hotel uses pasteurized egg yolks) and flour were the only ingredients used to make up a lovely yellow coloured pasta dough. Rolling and cutting the dough is made easier using a pasta machine, but of course the whole process can be done by hand… if you like lots more work! There’s me up there with a wobble start cutting some tagliatelle… Chef Mauro “I promise to hold the pasta sheets straighter when feeding through the machine next time”. And I’m certainly going to love perfecting the technique at home. You could tell everyone enjoyed the different stages of rolling and cutting fresh pasta dough.
Fresh Pasta-TagliatelleCooking Fresh Pasta-Tagliatelle with a Smoked Salmon Cream SauceEach of us went to our own cooking station to make a simple cream based sauce with smoked salmon for our tagliatelle. Although I absolutely love smoked salmon I am not a fan of using it in sauces for pasta, the taste for me is somewhat overpowering. The hotel cures and smokes their own salmon and the flavour when added to the cream sauce was much more pleasing… which I did enjoy. At this point it was bubbling water, steam and sizzling hot pans and I needed to put my camera down, fresh pasta cooks very quickly and I did not want to pass the “Al Dente” stage.

We were also guided through pan frying fillets of sea bream and making another delicious sauce with tomato, fish stock , capers, olives and anchovies. Chef Mauro reminded us that cooking need not be complicated, using quality ingredients, simple flavours and paying attention to the cooking process, everyone is capable of achieving great home cooking.
Ritz Carlton Bahrain Primavera Dessert SlectionWe also enjoyed a tasting from the Primavera Business Lunch Menu, a refreshing mixed salad and penne pasta with a tomato based sauce, with fresh mozzarella. As my tummy was on food overload I could only look longingly at the beautifully presented display of desserts and cheeses on offer,  which certainly looked very inviting.

Whether it’s for leisure, brushing up on some cooking skills or a fun activity with friends, cooking classes are an inspiring way to spend time with good food. On leaving the cooking class I knew one think for sure, I am inspired and my pasta machine will no longer sit neglected in a dark cupboard. Looking forward to posting some fresh pasta and focaccia recipes soon.

Chewy Rice Krispie Buns

Rice Krispie Bun ImageWhen growing up the ever popular rice krispie bun adorned the table at just about every kids birthday celebration and we all loved them. Calling this sweet treat “buns” may sound a little odd as the dictionary version of a bun is… “a bread roll of various shapes and flavouring, typically sweetened and often containing dried fruit”. But in Ireland they were called, “Rice Krispie Buns”… and I’m sticking to that. There is also the two ingredient version (also called rice krispie buns), made with melted chocolate and rice krispies, but we like the chewy crunchy texture when made with mars bars and marshmallows.

Rice Krispie Buns in a Tin Image Making them on countless occasions they never fail to please and we’re not just talking about kids here… adults love them too. The minute my grown-up kids came into the kitchen, each commented “ooh yummy, your making rice krispie buns, when can we have one”? With plenty to go around there was no waiting this time until photographs were taken.
Rice Krispie Bun ImageAs this is a no-bake recipe they are quick and easy to make and perfect for Easter, birthday parties and other celebrations. Decorate the rice krispie buns with sugarpaste blossoms and butterflies for a springtime theme or use colorful sweets and sprinkles. Of course you don’t have to decorate them, they are just as good left plain and I think the best way to enjoy them is straight from the fridge. Now I am off to make myself and hubby a coffee… guess what sweet treat we’re having on the side?

Rice Krispie Buns

Ingredients:

  • 75g un-salted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 200g mars bars, chopped
  • 4 large marshmallows, quartered (use scissors)
  • 110g Rice Krispies
  • 20 to 22 colourful cupcake cases
  • to decorate, butterfly and flower blossoms or other colourful sweets and sprinkles (optional)

How to make:

  1. Before you start have the cupcake cases and decorations (if using) in place. Next, place the butter and mars bar into a medium heavy-based saucepan. Over low heat, melt the ingredients together while stirring continually until the mixture is smooth. Add the marshmallows, keep stirring until softened and beginning to melt. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the rice krispies.
  2. With the help of two dessert spoons, spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases. If you plan on adding decorations do so while they are still sticky. Place the rice krispies buns on a tray and chill in the refrigerator (uncovered) until set, for about 20 minutes or until needed. For longer storage keep refrigerated in a suitable storage container with a lid.

Note: You do not have to wait until the marshmallows are completely melted, once they are soft enough mixing in the rice krispies breaks them up.

Seasoning your Sea Salt with Pink Peppercorn and Wasabi

 

Different types of Sea Salt

Fleur De Sel, Himalayan Rock, Maldon, Black Lava and Murray River Salt

Salt, our bodies can’t do without it, it’s an essential nutrient, a taste enhancer, modifier and a food preservative. Whenever salt touches food it livens and elevates flavours and taste and I can’t imagine cooking without salt. However, in terms of health, salt is salt and I try to pay attention to how much I use with cooking. Maybe you already know, our daily recommended salt requirement should not exceed 6g for adults (children 4g), whether it’s table or gourmet salt. Unlike gourmet salts, regular table salt is highly processed, denser, has anti caking agents (prevents clumping) and sometimes iodine is added.

Gourmet salts are more expensive as they go through different processing techniques and this gives rise to the salt crystal’s characteristic shape, color, texture and size. The shape and size of different salt crystals also impact how salt tastes… try a little (a flake vs a few granules) on your tongue… it’s salty, but the intensity and texture varies… you might want to have a glass of water near by. This can influence how you use these salts as seasonings in your preparation and presentation of different foods. I am not bought on the antioxidant effects and health benefits touted by gourmet salts sellers (pun intended)… how much would you need to consume to make that difference? Maybe you disagree!

seasoned salt

Sea Salt with Pink Peppercorns and Wasabi

Sea Salt with Chilli, Pink Pepper, Saffron, Wasabi and Dried Mushroon

Maldon Sea Salt, Wasabi Powder, Pink Peppercorns, Chilli Flakes, Saffron and Dried Mushrooms

Certain sea salts can look very glamorous and appealing when sprinkled over finished dishes and I love the color and texture of both the black lava and peachy Murray river sea flakes.
Seasoning salts (for use as finishing salts) are easy to make and there are endless possibilities when it comes to flavoring them, use a single or a combination of flavorful ingredients like spices, herbs, truffles and citrus peels. Sea salt with vanilla and fresh rosemary and lemon peel are other favorites of mine. We are all pretty familiar with celery, garlic and onion salt. My grandmother used to keep a little jar of garlic salt which she loved to sprinkle over a boiled egg and that was probably the fanciest salt I ever grew up with.

The pink peppercorn and wasabi seasoned salt is delicious when sprinkled over a juicy steak just off the barbecue, but can also be use on grilled chicken and fish. Our taste for saltiness and flavor differs so have fun and enjoy experimenting. If you are looking for some gourmet salt, the Plaza Food Hall (Seef area) and Crescendo (Seef mall) in Bahrain stock various gourmet salts.

 Pink Peppercorn and Wasabi Sea Salt

  • 1 teaspoon of pink peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon of wasabi powder
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt flakes (use Maldon or Murray River flakes)

Try: Use the other ingredients (pictured above but not included in recipe), dried mushrooms, saffron, smoked paprika or chill flakes to make different seasonings. Use a spice grinder to powder the dried mushrooms. Pound the saffron in a pestle and mortar with a small pinch of sea salt. You can leave the chili flakes whole if liked.

How to make: Gently pound the pink peppercorns together with a small pinch of the measured sea salt flakes. Tip the pink peppercorns into a small dish and mix in the wasabi powder. Add the salt and mix ingredients together. Place in a small serving dish and let everyone season their own food.