Monday, June 18, 2012

Tumeshiba At Ashibe :)

First of all, apologies for the very very long hiatus! I had lost my appetite both for food and writing and was waiting for my taste buds to get tantalized again. And tantalized in Tanzania they were at the new Japanese restaurant 'Ashibe'!

A friend and I went there for dinner last week and were pleasantly surprised. A very non assuming entrance led into warm cozy interiors with the cutest dividers you ever saw! The mouth watering aromas that smacked our senses as soon as we entered promised a delightfully delicious evening, and I'm pleased to say, we weren't disappointed. 

 We were seated in one the enclosures by a very attentive waiter and given the menu. There were many strange and unusual dishes tempting us and some, adventurous though I be, were a bit too much out of my comfort range to even attempt! :)

 We gave our order of a cold chicken roll appetizer, braised pork belly, and chicken wing skewers and sushi as our mains. Over drinks we discussed life, work and love in Dar and found ourselves thoroughly relaxed. The meal came in good time and our ever attentive and we found very knowledgable waiter was extremely efficient.

 The cold chicken roll was delicious! Chicken wrapped in spring onion served with the most gorgeous sweet sauce and various accompaniments. The side salad was extremely refreshing and the braised pork belly an unexpected delight of flavours and textures. The pork melted in the mouth and was accompanied by a delightful sauce! The chicken wings were also cooked to perfection, with the crispy skin crackling in the mouth and offering a wonderful contrast to the rest of the meal. I found that the sushi was not as good as our previous sushi experience at Kempinski (another post to follow later), but perfectly passable. The egg roll sushi was an interesting experience.

 The sauce accompanying the chicken roll was soooo scrumptious that I have no hesitation is admitting that I licked my fingers as I thoroughly cleaned the last drops off the plate and asked for more. Unluckily my request was turned down as they only had enough sauce for mains. :( All in all, a delicious evening and definately a place I shall be visiting more often.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Easy Peasy Something Like Cheesecake Recipe!

We all know there are thousands of cheesecake recipes out there. So I figured one more wouldn't hurt. :) In particular when it's something like cheesecake and not cheesecake! But as I say a rose by any other name would smell as sweet... And boy does this taste sweet!!!

So here goes: I had a nearly full tub of mascarpone cream in the fridge, (missing just one extremely large tablespoon from a naughty night of sneakily eating a large bowl of strawberries & cream). 

I also found the most gorgeous fresh in season strawberries at my neighborhood farmers shop and I bought a packet of vanilla sugar which I had no idea what I was going to do with. I made the usual biscuit base by crushing digestive biscuits and mixinng in melted butter to form a crumbly mixture. I layered this at the bottom of these adorable little glass jars that I picked up from Milimani a few weeks ago. I let the base chill in the fridge as I set about making the filling. 

 I chopped the strawberries into large pieces (I like the chunky texture of strawberry pieces, if you prefer a smoother feel, chop the strawberries very fine or you can even blend them later to create a sauce). I added the vanilla sugar to the strawberries in a pan and set it on low heat, stirring all the time. I added some caster sugar for added sweetness. Keep doing taste checks. 

 I cooked the berry mixture for about 10-15 minutes keeping an eye on the consistency all the time. When I felt that the strawberries were soft but not completely pulpy, I turned off the heat and let the mixture cool. When it was cool, I slowly added the liquid from the mixture & some strawberry pieces to the mascarpone cream and beat very gently. Be careful not to overbeat as the cream will split. I kept adding the liquid and stirring. The cream turned a lovely crimson blush colour. I also added some lemon juice as I like the tang of lemon against the sweetness of the cream. Keep tasting to make sure you have enough flavor and a good balance of sweet and sour. The worst thing I find with cheesecakes is a really bland center! 

 I proceeded to gently layer the cream filling on the biscuit base, topped with the rest of the strawberries. I then poured on the remaining liquid and set to chill in the fridge. The result was a creamy, tangy berry delight! Easy to make and sure to impress. Like my guest kept repeating 'are you sure you didn't buy this at the shops???'. I assured him that you cannot get these in Dar and anyhow there's just something a little more special to home made desserts. N'est pas? :D

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Reborn Pastafarian! :)

Being a follower of the much loved 'Church Of The Flying Spaghetti Monster', I figured it was time to make a beautiful pasta dish to honour 'His Noodliness'. :P... (Thanks A!)

I had a dish in mind that I had seen on the Food Network which won the first prize in the Ultimate Recipe Showdown; The 'French Onion "Soup" Mac & Cheese'. Being a lover of both these classics, I figured a combination of the two could only be the next step to culinary heaven.

Having gone through all the ingredients (a must!), I confidently set off to the Oysterbay deli with my shopping list, only to find that they were closed for the holidays! Drat and double drat! I asked a tourist for alternatives (lol) and headed off to Seacliff supermarket, which though expensively priced should stock everything required.

I had to make a few modifications with the ingredients as some were not available; instead of Gruyere, I bough mature cheddar and double gloucestershire cheese to add texture and depth of flavour to the dish.

(NB: For cheese nerds, here's some extra info: There are two types of Gloucester cheese: Single and Double; Single Gloucester is made from milk from Gloucestershire breed cows farmed within the English county of Gloucestershire.

Both types have a natural rind and a hard texture, but Single Gloucester is more crumbly, lighter in texture and lower in fat. Double Gloucester is allowed to age for longer periods than Single, and it has a stronger and more savoury flavour.

It is also slightly firmer. Both types are produced in round shapes, but Double Gloucester rounds are larger. Traditionally whereas the Double Gloucester was a prized cheese comparable in quality to the best Cheddar or Cheshire, and was exported out of the County, Single Gloucester tended to be consumed within the County.)

So back to the important stuff: 

Have any of you ever noticed that no matter how much cheese you add to a bechamel sauce, it will not get that lovely deep flavour you find in great pasta dishes in great restaurants? Yes? Well, let me share the secret with you here. You need a strong cheese with a more complex flavour than your basic mellow cheddar. Gruyere is traditionally used in French Onion Soup, but I found that a mature cheddar worked well too. Combining two cheeses also adds to the depth and complexity of the sauce. I will be trying an aged gouda or a smoked cheese next time. Let me know if another cheese works for you!

The second secret to making a great bechamel sauce is that you must whisk the milk gradually into the flour and butter mix (see recipe for instructions). You must continue whisking until the sauce gradually thickens, and then add in the cheese(s), whilst continuing to gently whisk/stir the mixture until all the cheese is melted in. Trust me, you will get the most scrumptious sauce this way!

This recipe is really delicious and the addition of the caramelized onions takes it to another level altogether! Try it and see if you decide to become a reborn Pastafarian too! :)

For more information about the many many different types of pasta available, check out this link:

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Visit To Alexander's

Tucked away at the end of a long lonely road and almost impossible to locate, we finally found ourselves on the doorstep of the well hidden Alexander's. There was no one at the entrance and we cautiously made our way upstairs to the rooftop restaurant, appreciating the beautiful room decors on the way. Having heard that this place had great food, my friend and I were looking forward to a delicious finger licking, lip smacking evening.

We were greeted at the restaurant entrance by a very polite waiter who first asked if we had reservations. I had reservations about the needed reservations when I looked around at the many empty tables, but understood that as a hotel, they possibly cater mainly to their guests. Luckily though, this did not prevent us from being comfortably seated and politely reminded that we would need to make reservations for the future. :) Upon looking around, I quickly realized that there would be no (literal) lip smacking or finger licking taking place that evening! The restaurant is beautifully appointed but has a bit of a froufrou feeling to it.

After being served drinks and settled in, we looked at the menus. The menu itself was not very extensive but had a good selection of dishes. Personally I prefer quality to quantity any day. I could not resist ordering the starter of crab pate, since that is a favourite and hardly found in Dar! I followed that with a main course of Thai prawn curry served with fragrant jasmine rice. My friend opted for the chicken breast stuffed with cheese and spinach.

The starter arrived in good time and we tucked into the most delicious crab pate spread onto thin bread slices. The pate had a good texture, was not mushy or slimy and the seasonings were subtle allowing the crab to be the star of the show! A little lemon on the side would have been a good addition, but overall a great start to the meal!

We didn't have long to wait for the mains after completing our 
starter. With as little intrusion as possible, our excellent waiter (Victor) cleared the plates, brought in new cutlery and served up the main course.

My Thai prawn curry had a good numbers of prawns nestled within a thick aromatic sauce. The side of rice and vegetables was also substantial and well presented. I turned to see my friend’s course which was also a good portion, consisting of a big chicken breast and a large side of thick cut seasoned chips.

The prawn curry was delicately seasoned and the flavours played around delightfully in the mouth at each bite. The prawns themselves were not overcooked and the thickness of the sauce was well balanced. The rice could have done with some more jasmine flavour since I did not catch that lovely aroma at all. But it was well cooked and complemented the prawns perfectly. In my opinion, the vegetables were a waste of space!

I tried a bite of my friend’s meal. The cheese had melted into the tender chicken flesh and the spinach was well seasoned. Unlike many other places, the chicken had not been overcooked leaving it dry and tasteless. We were two well filled, well satisfied diners at the end of a delightful evening and have no reservations about making reservations here in the future!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Close Saves

You know one of the things I like best is when a dish you have completely given up on takes a turn for the better and transforms into an awesome surprise! I usually cook by instinct and this has been a saving grace many a times.......See the last two episodes in 'Close Saves!'

I was pretty confident about baking a delicious chocolate cake for my staff on the last day of work and got to work nice and early in the morning. It all started out perfectly using a new recipe which was chock a block full with scrumptious ingredients!

Everything was going well and I started getting a little cocky about how good this cake was going to be.... when I suddenly smelt something burning! No, it wasn't anyone turning green with jealousy over my cake, it was the cake itself!

I rushed to take it out from the oven and though the damage was minimal, it left the cake pretty dry. Hmmm..... now what? I thought to myself that chocolate and coffee make a great combination, so how about a coffee glaze? I found a great quick recipe on the net.....

Mmmmm.... this smelt gorgeous and I liberally poured the glaze over the cake, catching the access in a plate and pouring it on again and again and again..... I really let the syrup soak into the cake before serving and it turned into a soft moist delight for the senses! I highly recommend this simple glaze recipe whether you've dried out your cake or not! 

The second incident took place today.....

I am one of those people who can cook Italian, Mexican, Thai... you name it and I can make it. But ask me to make a good basic omelette or make the perfect fluffy rice, and I fall to pieces! Today was no exception. 

I had a gorgeous vegetable concoction simmering on the stove ready to be layered with the rice and baked for lunch... when I realised that my rice had overcooked and was now a soft mushy mess! Too little water and it was too hard, too much water and it's too soft! See what I mean???

Having decided there was nothing for it but to layer it and pray for the best, I suddenly had a brainwave! How about adding that mushy rice to the vegetables and creating a sort of risotto? Mmmm... I mixed the rice and vegetables together and it looked lovely... but something was missing..... aha! It was the cheese! I added a healthy handful of cheddar, some fresh herbs, stirred it all well, put it in a tray and baked it.... voila! Risotto Ala Close Save! :P

I got plenty of compliments on my 'risotto' so..... all's well that ends well. On a last note, it is important to remember that wonderful Julia Child's words if things don't go as planned..... 'NEVER APOLOGIZE'! :)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Salad Soulmate :P

After a wonderful soul nourishing morning at the Africafe Coffee shop at Seacliff Village, I turned my attention to their lunch menu. Being a food lover (and critic), I am always on the lookout for new exciting cuisine offerings and naturally also something to blog about!

I had already enjoyed a delicately flavoured mocha and was debating whether the food offerings would be just as good. My eye was caught by the tempting spicy beef /or chicken salad. Now those of you who have been following my blog know that I haven't had much luck with salads in Dar. It may be the Haven Of Peace, but it is far from being the Haven Of Health!

Trying to stay gluten free and fill up the hollow in my stomach has been a consistent disappointing challenge. I decided to tempt fate, trust the Universe and try the salad! Having confirmed with the waiter that the salad was filling enough to be a meal and did not consist of just lettuce, I took a deep breathe and ordered it. As always, this was accompanied by that jittery 'will it, won't it meet the high standards of my discerning tastebuds' concern.

I was engrossed in my Kindle and was surprised to find that my meal was before me within 20 minutes. My first impression was 'yummmmm...'. I could see a lovely substantial masterpiece of colours, freshness and textures before me! More importantly, the lettuce was definitely a side actor (as it is meant to be) and not the star of the show!

I dove right into that salad and ...... hold your breathe........ was not disappointed! Far from it, my whole mind, body and soul were singing in delight! The dish consisted of an exquisite mix of tender stir fried juicy chicken pieces, fresh crunchy vegetables like cucumbers, onions & tomatoes and the whole creation was beautifully served up on crisp lettuce leaves. The salad was perfectly clothed (refer to my 'never serve a salad naked!' post with a well seasoned dressing offering the right balance of spice, sweet, salty and tanginess. What I truly loved was the tiny pieces of bird's eye chilli (pilipili mbuzi) which were playing hide & seek in the salad and suddenly filled your mouth with an unexpected hot bite! 

Many a times, chefs add fresh herbs & spices without considering the balance of a dish... not so here! The fresh herbs kept each mouthful interesting and fully engaged the tastebuds in a cheeky game of 'guess who I am?'. The parsley brought in a slight bitterness, the mint a breathe of freshness and the cilantro that lovely earthiness that reminds us why good food is music for the body and soul. I have found my new salad soul mate! Kudos to the Africafe chef!!!

Love your pilipili mbuzi? Want to be a fan? Then join this hot facebook community of mbuzi lovers! J

Here are some general chilli facts:

Want to make your own spicy chicken salad? Try this link, though I make no promises that it will be as good as the one I just had! :P

A Minestrone Miss & Mess!

Do you all remember my extremely disappointing, inadequate third rate food experience at Coral Rock Hotel in Jambiani a few weeks back? Well during my food review here, one of the things that I had promised then was a post on the humble minestrone soup. Someone just reminded me that I had yet to write about that, so here goes.....

The word 'Minestrone' means 'big soup' to Italians ... this translates to a large hearty portion of delicious soup with lots of goodies in it such as beans, fresh vegetables and naturally.... pasta! Unluckily the minestrone that we sent back uneaten at Coral Rock Hotel appeared to be on a low fat, low nutrition, low taste & low self-esteem diet and consisted of a bowl of bland boiled spaghetti sadly floating about in a tablespoon of water with some bits of boiled carrots and peppers, with the trademark 'no seasoning!'. The so called 'soup' masquerading as a minestrone must have put the entire rich history of Italian food to shame!

We can trace back the origin of the word 'minestrone' in the Latin word 'minus' (minor or less) which referred to servants as they were considered  inferior from the masters of the house. Therefore, one can see that the word 'minestrone' originates from the word 'minestrare' ie. 'that which is served'.

For more information on this, please visit the link below:

Luckily this rich and hearty soup (a real minestrone, not the fake Coral Rock Hotel version!) is not that hard to make as it does not have a fixed recipe and you can use a range of different vegetables (and even meats) and herbs that you may have lying around the house needing to be used up. The various soup versions span the entire range from thick and dense with a heavy vegetable base to a more broth like mix of lightly cooked vegetables that may include meats.

Whichever version you decide to make, remember to pay homage to the long and lush history of this humble soup! Enjoy :)

Here are a few different versions for you to try... Please come back and share your favorite!