Home Grown Heroes

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By now, three quarters of the free world know I have been growing tomatoes on my terrace. No big deal you say? Well, I am not known for my green thumb and also, I LIVE IN THE DESERT!

Fruits of My Labor

Fruits of My Labor

So now, the tomato vines, tended with love during our short and sweet Doha winter, have started to bear fruit.

What to do with this bounty? Today a friend passed by for coffee so I whipped up a quick Middle Eastern style bruschetta.

Tomatoes and cheese, perfect combination

Tomatoes and cheese, perfect combination

I used one of my favorite cheeses, a labneh from Laiterie Jarjoura in Chtoura, Zahlé, Lebanon. It is a famous mountainside stop en route to Baalbeck and the Bekaa Valley. Their labneh is famous in the region and now they are exporting it. I found this in my local Spinneys supermarket.

Summer on a plate

Summer on a plate

The thing about loving in a country that imports 90 percent of its food is that you sometimes forget what fresh food tastes like. These tomatoes, grown without fertilizer or pesticide literally in pots on my balcony reminded me of home. They were bursting with flavor.

I chopped them and tossed the pieces of tomato and cheese with garlic infused oil and sprinkled with sumac before serving on a toasted grain baguette.

the cheese itself it me took me right back to Lebanon on a summer’s afternoon. It was creamy and salty and offset the tomatoes perfectly. The sumac added a touch of citrus.

Home grown heroes

Home grown heroes

I now have an abundance of tomatoes and a rapidly approaching scorching summer. Any suggestions for tomato recipes and jams gratefully accepted!

A Hard Days’ Bite

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In the scheme of things, last week was pretty draining. And I’m not talking about #whitegirlproblems, although I did learn my hairdresser is closing down. But that’s another story.

Come Friday, all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch with a glass of red wine and Netflix. But my friend Alicia had other plans.

She rounded up the homies for some mac and cheese and a viewing of the magnificently awful Sharknado. Margaritas, stretchy pants and a wooden Tara Reid. How can I resist?

Alicia made her mac and cheese using a recipe gleaned from her friend’s blog Kitchen Thymes which involved using odds and ends of cheese loitering in your fridge.

six of the best...

six of the best…

The roll of honor for our creation was mozzarella, garlic cheese, pepperjack, sharp cheddar, Muenster and St Aubin Cheese.

Everybody in

Everybody in

Also known as Saint-Aubin d’Anjou, Saint-Aubin is a cows’ milk cheese from the Pays de la Loire region of France. The rind is smooth and white and the texture is soft and easily melts in the mouth. The flavor is sweet and creamy, pleasantly slightly sour.

Loving Spoonful

Loving Spoonful

The Mac and Cheese, a supportive group of friends and a couple of margaritas was the perfect antidote for a week that was well, hopefully never to be repeated.

As for Sharknado? I shall never look at a chainsaw the same way again.

You KNOW how it ends

You KNOW how it ends

Cheese Release Me

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Listen, I am not talking myself up, but I have always been ahead of the curve on many things.

I just can’t think of most of them now…but here is some recent proof of my sage-like abilities.

Cheese, it seems, is the next big food trend of 2014.

Roquefort doughnuts, Stilton truffles and goat’s cheese ganache: Chocolate and cheese set to be 2014s next big foodie trend

It must be true, it’s in The Daily Mail. And on this blog.

South of the Border…Doha Style

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I admire the people of Mexico and their devotion to all things cheese-related. I mean, what’s a taco without cheese?

But I am stereotyping this great country and its’ food. It’s much more than tacos and enchiladas.

That said, it is hard to find authentic Mexican food in the Middle East, or anywhere outside of Mexico and the US.To make authentic Mexican food, you need a Mexican chef.

Which is why I am hightailing it down to The Sheraton Doha tonight to check out a Mexican chef, Demian, in his unnatural habitat.

For one week only, the Sheraton is hosting this chef for a Mexican Gastronomic Week, with a special menu at the ever popular Latino Restaurant (where they make a mean Pisco Sour by the way).

Chef Demian will be cooking carefully sourced ingredients from around the world creating an authentic South American food in Buffet style for QR 190 per person including a welcome Tequila Sunrise drink and an additional promotional Margarita cocktail selection from just QR50.

Down Mexico Way...

Down Mexico Way…

The promotion is running until 8 March. Watch this space for a review!

Cheesed Off

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According to this piece from the venerable Daily Mail, it seems that the English are opting for more exotic and cheaper foreign varieties.

A strategy that can be adopted in life and love too I guess!

Cheddar cheese sales crumbling

Full Fontina

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We all know the feeling.

Work is a war zone. The car is on the blink. Traffic is at carmageddon levels. A friend isn’t talking to you. Even the neighborhood stray cat hates you.

For me, this is a time when only a grilled cheese sandwich will do.

See, grilled cheese doesn’t judge you. Doesn’t yell at you for doing something wrong. It doesn’t care that you are wearing tracksuit pants where the elastic is broken.

It’s warm, gooey, non-judgemental goodness.

Can't keep a good grill down

Can’t keep a good grill down

This little number, made recently on a cool and wet Doha night, features fontina cheese, walnut bread and some sneaky ham.

Fontina cheese has been made in the Aosta Valley, in the Alps since the 12th century. It has a milk fat content of around 45 percent. Italian Fontina has a natural rind due to aging, which is usually tan to orange-brown.

This Italian version (it can also be made in France and Switzerland) has a slightly pungent smell and melts like a dream. It’s often paired with sage in dishes.

I could barely restrain myself and these photos were taken in a rush.

Girl on Grill action

Girl on Grill action

And you know what, it was the perfect, non-judgmental midweek treat. Perhaps I should start making these as peace offerings.

Bubbling Over – A Fondue Review

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There are three things that come to mind when I think about Belgium – mussels, the mussels from Brussels (aka Van Damme) and beer.

Fondue? Nope, that’s Swiss. Except…in Doha at Belgian Cafe at the Intercontinental Doha

Lured by a special promotion this month of fondue served with beer, I could’t say no. The belgian is perhaps the single most popular bar/restaurant in Doha. On any given night, it’s packed with a mixed crowd having a beer or sharing a pot of mussels. I have to admit I don’t go there often, but this visit changed.

What I didn’t know is that the menu was all about cheese, not just fondue. There was a cheeseburger soup, duck confit with raclette and a veal milanese.

Cheese please!

Cheese please!

But we were there for the fondue.

I am fondue of you

I am fondue of you

Fondue comes from the French fondre, “to melt,” and that’s exactly what it is. It is a blend of cheeses served in a communal pot (caquelon) over a portable stove (réchaud), and eaten by dipping long-stemmed forks with bread into the cheese.

Usually it is made with kirsch but the chef took a different route on this using a Belgian Trappist beer to give it a boozy kick.

It was served the traditional accompaniments of cubed bread, pickled vegetables, potatoes and cured meats, on a chilly Doha evening this was the perfect midweek pick up.

Bit on the side

Bit on the side

For us small town gals, the most popular accompaniment was the sliced pears, the crunchy sweetness counteracted the unctiousness of the cheese.

Peared up

Peared up

As a gal cannot live on fondue alone, we ordered off the main menu the cheese croquettes. Crunch but not as oozy as we had expected, it rounded out the meal but were not necessary at the end of the day.

Cheese croquettes

Cheese croquettes

Each meal comes with hot, fluffy bread rolls and the drinks menu, as would be expected at a pub, is extensive. Not in the mood for beer, we opted for the house red which was robust and smooth.

Booking a table mid week was easy. We wanted an early supper and the staffer who took our booking was friendly and helpful. On arrival the hostess was warm and welcoming,

I have to admit, I had always been a bit of a snob about this place. I had it pigeon-holed as male drinking hole. I was very wrong. There were several tables like ours of women out for a good meal with friends, groups of colleagues and the odd single diner. The vibe was relaxed, friendly and buzzy and the service exceptional.

I came the fondue and left a fan.

Verdict: One of Doha’s most popular watering holes is more than a just a pub. If you want some traditional European food with a Belgian/Doha twist and a great night out, this is the place for you.

NOTE: The Fondue Promotion runs throughout February

Details:
Where: Belgian Cafe, Intercontinental Doha, open daily for lunch and dinner 1230pm til 2am
+974 44844444
http://www.ihg.com/intercontinental/hotels/gb/en/doha/dohha/hoteldetail/about-the-hotel/dining

La Dolce Latte Vita

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I know, it’s been a while between drinks and cheeses.

I can give you many reasons including illness, hysteria and related dramas. But essentially a gal needed a break from the dairy overload. I will admit, I have been cheating on cheese with Asian flavors.

But here I am, I am back with a vengeance. Last week I judged my outfit far too cute for just the office, so I rounded up some usual suspects for a wine and cheesefest at Opal by Gordon Ramsay at St Regis Doha.

Meeting friends for the Thursday download and judgement session at the bar, Chef Elias whipped up this special pizza which featured a new cheese for me – Dolcelatte.

Sweet Life

Sweet Life

Dolcelatte is a blue veined Italian soft cheese. The cheese is made from cow’s milk, and has a sweet taste.

Its name translates from Italian to ‘sweet milk’ in English and it takes about two to three months to produce and age this cheese.

This thin crust pizza was made some mozzarella, parmesan, rocket and tomato. It was the perfect mixture of salty, sweet and crispy.

Am I in Italy?

Am I in Italy?

And, it was delivered to our table personally by the chef. Now that is the sweet life.

Slice of heaven

Slice of heaven