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!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mango Magic

So you all know that moment when you suddenly have guests arriving and have no idea what to do for dessert? I faced that tonight and found the perfect solution! Make my version of a scrumptious mango and banana pudding which can be prepared in just 20 minutes.

The only ingredients you need are:

Fresh mango
Sweet condensed milk
Ricotta cheese 
Bananas and milk (my addition)

Peel and slice the mangoes, add sliced bananas, ricotta cheese, lemon (lots of it!) and sweet condensed milk. I found that the mixture was difficult to blend in my Vitamix, so I added some milk. This helped the consistency and made it easier to blend the mixture.

For exact measurements, you can use the recipe below. I don't use measurements but just keep tasting the mixture until it seems to have the right balance of flavors. I added a lot more lemon than in the recipe as I felt the tang of the lemon balanced out the sweetness of the mango beautifully.

The bananas helped to reduce the strong taste of ricotta. I guess this would probably depend on the kind of ricotta cheese available to you and whether you personally like a more cheesy taste.

Just blend the mixture for about 3-4 minutes until it is smooth and has no lumps. Spoon it into pretty glasses and decorate with a sprig of mint!

That's it. All you need to do now is chill it for about 2 hours and you're all set! :)

The original recipe is here:

This was my first time using ricotta cheese in a recipe and I am amazed at how easy it is to make yummy desserts! I guess one could try several variations using ricotta such as coffee and chocolate pudding, other fruit puddings (I'm thinking strawberry?) ..... Let me know if any of you try variations and how they turned out!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Menu Moans At The Movenpick

Dilly Tartar Sauce
My famous food forays found me at Movenpick for lunch today. I ordered the grilled tuna with spicy pineapple and tomato salsa with a side of steamed rice and veggies.

As I waited I looked upon the beautiful green expanse of grass and found myself relaxing and unwinding after all the stress and head aches caused by the crazy management of Coral Rock Hotel in Zanzibar recently. A light rain accompanied the general feeling of well being and I looked forward to a delicious meal to round off the perfect afternoon.

My meal arrived in good time and the tuna looked inviting and tempting. It had been grilled to perfection and there was a generous portion on the plate. It was one of the better plates of grilled fish I have had in Tanzania. I looked around for the pineapple and tomato salsa.... Was it playing hide and seek under the tuna? Or had it been misplaced under the slices of dry grilled eggplant?

Nope, the pineapple and tomato salsa was nowhere to be found. There was a small portion of a tomato, onion and green pepper mix on the tuna, which I had taken for additional topping. The ball now dropped! This was the promised spicy salsa! Hmmm.... A small portion of a bland mix of vegetables with salt and lemon?

Well naturally this would never do! I asked for the menu and invited the very kind food and beverage manager to come over and read the description of my promised meal in the menu. I explained that I had been looking forward to the salsa as the sweetness of the pineapple and the spiciness of the chilli would have balanced out the grilled fish beautifully and given it the freshness and oomph it was clearly lacking. The addition of fresh herbs such as cilantro and mint would also have been greatly welcomed!

Furthermore, the plate was accompanied by a side of tartar sauce which added nothing whatsoever to the overall completeness of the meal. Food lovers are normally aware that tartar sauce is an accompaniment to fried sea food dishes certainly not grilled ones.

What is not that well known is that the tartar sauce was originally developed by the French as a sauce for 'steak tartare', a famous French dish with thinly chopped raw steak, and at some point the name was changed to 'tartar'. In any case, tartar sauce appears to date to the 1800s, although similar sauces have been made as far back as the 1600s. A sauce with such a proud history would certainly not appreciate being treated in this manner!

As I mentioned before, the tuna was very good, but the balance of the dish was sadly missing. The veggies consisted of two slices of grilled courgette and two slices of dried out eggplant. The rice which is a popular accompaniment to grilled fish was also too bland and dry. It is interesting to see how one missing component of a dish throws the rest of the plate out of balance.

To give my afternoon a sweet ending, I decided to order a dessert and after some thought settled on the warm apple tart tatin with homemade vanilla icecream. It was not to be so! The restaurant was out of that dessert and nothing else really caught my fancy. Just out of curiosity, I asked whether the ice cream was really home made of whether it was the store bought kind.

Little surprise when I was informed that it was good ole Azam ice cream! The manager explained that the shipment of the famous trademark Movenpick ice cream had not yet arrived from Switzerland. I clearly recall that the last time I had that delicious chocolate belgian Movenpick ice cream was about two years ago. Every visit following that memorable one, I have been informed that the hotel only has Azam ice cream (though at the same exorbitant prices!). Those shipments take pretty long to get to Tanzania........

Try and make your own tartar sauce (only for fried seafood!):

If you want to make your own sweet ending, here is a recipe for apple tart tatin: