Friday, 29 May 2015

Chocaholic? If so, this blog post is for you.

The original recipe comes from Deliah - so head on over to her site to check out the ingredients list, which should look a little something like this:
Doha really isn't the easiest city to source baking ingredients, so I had to make a couple of variations to Deliah's ingredients list - for example, Elmlea instead of double cream, Cantuccini almond biscuits instead of Amaretti biscuits, and Cointreau instead of rum a) because my mum uses it to make hers b) I had this in the apartment c) I love the subtle orange kick that it gives to this dessert.

The one ingredient you really will need is liquid glucose. My mum brought out two tubes of this for me as I can't find it anywhere in Doha (if anyone finds it, please do share!) I tried to make this dessert once before without it, by using sugar mixed with water as I had read online that this works as a substitute. It still tasted really good but the whole dessert fell apart because it didn't bind together properly.

My final alternative to Deliahs recipe is swapping out half of the dark chocolate for half milk. This dessert is super rich, so this just tones it down a little. Credit to my mum for that tip!

You'll want to kick off by lining your baking tin with baking parchment. I didn't have any so I lined it with cling-film. I was a little worried about this but the only damage it did was creasing the top of the torte a little bit, so no harm done.

You'll want 75g of your Amaretti/Almond biscuits, finely crushed. Sprinkle these all over the base of your lined baking tin.
Next, break up your chocolate (450g), trying not to eat any of it (although buying 5 x 100g bars leaves you 50g left over to nibble on as you go. The one and only time I have ever been any good at maths)

I used Lindt as it's such good quality, and one of my favourite brands of chocolate. Isn't it beautiful?!
Mix up your chocolate, liquid glucose (5 tablespoons), and Rum/Cointreau (5 tablespoons) in a heat proof bowl, and sit on top of a saucepan of simmering water on the hob. Leave to melt. Deliah doesn't say anything about stirring, but I gave mine the occasional prod with a wooden spoon to let the heat get to all of the chocolate.
Whilst the chocolate is doing its thing on the hob, measure out your cream/Elmlea (570ml...although 573ml didn't do any harm!) and pour into a bowl. Beat until thickened. I used my electric whisk for this until it reached the desired consistency.
Once your chocolate has melted, you'll want to give it a stir, and take it off the heat to cool for 5 minutes or so until it is warm. Deliah reckons it should be smooth, although once stirred mine went a little bobbly.
Fold half of your cream into the melted chocolate, then fold the chocolate/cream mixture into the remaining cream. At this point all becomes smooth again. Grab another spoon and help yourself to a bit of the mixture - it's amazing. Now put the spoon down, no more until you're finished.

Pour the mixture into your baking tin, on top of your crushed biscuits. Smooth over with the back of a spoon or tap the tin until the mixture is laying flat.
Cover with clingfilm and pop in the fridge to set over night.

Now you may lick the bowl/spoons/whisk. Go on, you've earned it!

The next day, take out from the fridge and run a knife around the edge of the torte to loosen it up. I used a springform baking tin which made this whole affair a lot easier, but basically you need to turn your torte upside down so that you end up with the biscuit base at the top. Thanks to the liquid glucose, your torte should be solid and won't collapse during this process.

Ta da!
Dust the top of your torte with cocoa powder to pretty it up, and top with strawberries for a pop of colour to serve. Amazingly, I couldn't get hold of any strawbs (unless I was prepared to buy an entire crate - I wasn't) so mine was served up with just the cocoa powder, and a jug of chilled pouring cream on the side.
Deliciously smooth, rich, creamy and chocolately - this is the perfect dessert to serve up at a dinner party, and once you get the hang of it and have the right ingredients to hand, it is actually super easy to make :)


Thursday, 28 May 2015

Todays post is all about a must-try brunch in Dubai.

My mum got a taste for brunch when she last came to Doha - we did the Oktoberfest brunch at the Grand Hyatt hotel and before the end of the day she was involved in a conga line weaving its way around the restaurant, and dancing on the table along with the rest of the brunch goers to the rhythm of the German band. Needless to say, she enjoyed her first Middle Eastern brunch experience!

Knowing I was due to join her and her friend Jenny in Dubai, I was tasked with booking a brunch for the three of us. Originally we were going to book into the Atlantis hotel brunch at Saffron, but having remembered how rowdy it was, with a real 18-30s vibe (ideal for my 26th birthday last year, but not the atmosphere we were after this time around) and hearing that Matt didn't really rate the food when he went, we opted instead for his recommendation of the Al Qasr brunch. Situated at Madinat Jumeriah, the Al Qasr hotel is stunning even from the approach.
Super friendly staff greet you upon arrival. I also want to point out just how helpful the hotel were - I had emailed them in advance to ask if they would mind us storing our luggage whilst we attended the brunch, despite us not being guests at the hotel, as we were due to head to the airport later that day. Viktoria at the Concierge sent me a speedy reply and couldn't be happier to assist with our request. Unfortunately, the cases were stored in their outdoor luggage area (under shade) and the Cadburys Creme Eggs that my mum had searched high and low for in England after Easter and brought all the way over for me sadly melted in my suitcase! A small price to pay for a fabulous brunch, however.

The brunch goers gather early - even when we arrived at midday, 30 minutes early, there was already a big crowd emerging in the lobby, peering over the balcony to catch a glimpse of what awaited us downstairs.
Finally, we were taken to our table, situated on the shaded terrace of MJ's Steakhouse. The shade from the roof and the light breeze from the fans did little to cool us down - the Middle East is HOT in May!! - but we didn't let this get to us, as being outside was the prime location. We took a little wander, drinking in the amazing view of the hotel grounds, and out to the striking Burj Al Arab hotel.
Below, boats meander along a beautiful river that weaves amongst the palm trees. By this point, you kiiiinda want to be down there, sailing along in the sunshine...
...but up top, brunch awaits! I thought I had seen it all at the Saffron brunch, but the Al Qasr brunch far outshines it. 

Grab a Malibu-filled coconut from the boat, and sip it as you browse the amazing food on display. 
There is every type of food you could possibly fancy - sushi, pasta, Indian, Chinese, kebabs, roast dinner, salads, paella, fish and chips, and a whole room dedicated to pork products! For me, the very best part was the dessert - there was so much of it! Pancakes, macarons, doughnuts, cheesecake, torte, a chocolate fountain, and even a machine dispensing hot chocolate...a paradise for those with a sweet tooth. I must confess to having more than one plate of dessert. Okay, more than two plates of dessert...

Moet Brunch - 695 AED / Bubbly&Cocktail Brunch - 575 AED /Non Alcoholic Brunch - 495 AED

The Al Qasr brunch is definitely the priciest brunch I have been to at over 100GBP per person to include bubbles and cocktails, but the selection and quality of food plus the stunning location and buzzing atmosphere completely justifies this price.

If you are ever in Dubai, definitely book yourselves in to Al Qasr. It is a fantastic brunch and I highly recommend it. 

I can't wait to get back to Dubai to do it all over again!


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

I'm not even going to apologise for the fact that it is now Tuesday and this should have been posted on Sunday...to heck with blogging rules!

Last week was a fairly busy one, kicking off with...

At work on Sunday I looked down at my sad, sorry nails and decided that they needed a treat, so I called up B/ATTITUDE spa and booked myself in after work for a Shellac manicure. My nail tech, Olha, did a fantastic job of shaping my nails just how I like them, and perfectly applying my French Shellac. Over a week later and they are still completely intact with the exception of two minor casualties to the corners of two nails, but nothing that a dash of white polish hasn't been able to touch up! I always feel very 'put together' with a French manicure - it always looks so clean and elegant.

Hard to believe we have lived in our apartment for over a year and a half and not yet hosted a dinner party! Our friends and colleagues Ade and Naz have hosted us twice at their villa, so it was high time we returned the favour. Jemma cooked up a delicious main course of pasta, chicken and salad, and I put together a chocolate torte for dessert (recipe coming soon to the blog!), whilst Marion did a super job of making the place look hospitable for our guests! It was a really lovely evening with lovely people, including Ade's girlfriend Jessica who will be moving to Doha in September.

We were due at date night and both of us fancied steak, so Matt and I chose the Astor Grill at the St Regis as our venue. We had been once before together and the steak was phenomenal, so we were hoping for more of the same. We weren't disappointed, and the Astor Grill is fast becoming one of my favourite restaurants. Our waitress was the very lovely Roselle for a second time, and we set about ordering half of the menu - wagyu steaks for us both, a side of roasted vegetables, wedges, and truffle mac'n' cheese (which I didn't even have room for and ended up taking for lunch the next day!) The Entertainer voucher makes restaurants like this so much more accessible, hence we both went for the Wagyu steaks, something we wouldn't normally do. The chef very kindly sent over a complimentary portion of the most amazing steak tartar and never ending freshly baked bread. All washed down with a bottle of red wine. A perfect date night.

When it came to deciding where we should go for our girls dinner, Jemma's suggestion of Nobu was the perfect choice. This would be our last dinner all three of us until after Summer, as Marion is now away on a business trip for 3 weeks, then I go home for 3 weeks, and this also crosses over with Jemma and Marion going home for 3-4 weeks for their Summer holidays. Such a special restaurant was definitely fitting for this special dinner. After eagerly awaiting the opening of this restaurant for so long, it was exciting to see what all the hype has been about. The restaurant itself is stunning and atmospheric - huge high ceilings with gorgeous light installations (i'm a sucker for those), a busy open kitchen, and staff that shout 'welcome' in Japanese every time the hostess brings new guests to their table. The staff are incredibly knowledgeable about the menu, and more than eager to assist in making recommendations. We found the attentiveness of the staff a little overbearing, but that is all down to personal preference - they certainly give 100% to their customer service which is something that can't be knocked. As to be expected from the name of the restaurant, the prices are very steep, but the food was delicious and beautifully presented - even the vegetables! We ordered sushi to start, followed by cod for Jemma and I, and sea bass for Marion.
As a guide, for 3 mocktails, 3 portions of sushi rolls, 3 main dishes, 3 vegetable dishes, and a pot of tea to share, our meal came to 1,300 QR.

After our meal, we decided to explore. The entire restaurant is stunning - a waterfall flows from the top of the restaurant, right down through the middle, and the views from each level are fantastic. There is a stunning bar on the first floor, where of course we stopped for some photos. Outside on the first floor are tables with a fabulous view, ideal for a date night when the weather is cooler. On the roof, there is a fantastic lounge area that curves up to the highest point of the restaurant, where it meets an observation deck for photographing the Doha city skyline. The lounge area would be perfect for drinks and dinner with a big group of friends - but only if you can afford the incredibly steep 5,000 QR minimum spend, something that would unfortunately put us off spending an evening here.
A lovely evening to end a lovely week in the desert.

As always, I hope you've had a great week, wherever in the world you are reading from :)