Tag Archives: New Year

Dineout Bahrain: Changing the ‘eating out’ scene in Bahrain

4 Jan

I always approach the new year with new ideas and great optimism. The new year for me is about new beginnings and about discovering new things around me. If you have lived in Bahrain, you would know that, no matter if you are a local or an expat, the options of discovery and entertainment lie between going to movies and eating out. Movie choices are relatively easy to figure out but it is the eating out options that can baffle you. Bahrain has a HUGE ‘eating out’ culture and by that I don’t just limit it to the posh restaurants, I also include the tiny specks of eateries that are just as popular and throbbing with patrons day in and day out.

Weekends and some weekday lunches are my ‘eating out’ days. This gives me an opportunity to try out new restaurants as well as go to my old favorites. But sometimes it becomes extremely difficult to reserve places over weekends because practically everybody is out and about in Bahrain filling up all the seats in my favourite restaurants. It is then I feel like kicking myself for not reserving my table  earlier. Funnily, it never strikes me until I reach the place to find out that it is fully booked. Also sometimes, it happens that I go to a restaurant expecting good stuff and return feeling cheated because of the awful food and service.  I always wished in those moments that I had some kind of a restaurant guide and preferably something that I quickly use on my phone that would help me pick out a restaurant, make reservations and give me tips about how my experience might turn out. Incidentally, a colleague and I discussed this over some Chinese food and decided that we should try and build a website that was easily accessible on phone and would give the user all the desired experiences regarding the dining scene in Bahrain.

But before our fledgling plan could see the light of the day, I came across Dine out Bahrain. It happens to be a one stop shop for all things related to restaurants and eating joints in Bahrain. I personally scrolled through their website and was quite impressed. Dine Out Bahrain is the island’s first independent online service that unifies the islands favorite restaurants with their hungry diners. Encompassing a state – of – the art website and mobile application it has simplified eating out like never before.

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This is how it works:

  • Bahrain’s top restaurants manage their own pages within the DineOut site providing customers access to the most up-to-date menus, promotions and events all in one place.
  • It allows for easy browsing and booking at the click of a button, with the users receiving a booking confirmation instantly.
  • The go-to service for all moods, DineOut’s quick search feature filters options precisely by type, cuisine and location. You can download food menus and see photographs of restaurants
  • Whether diners wish to glam up and dine out in style or casually hang out with friends at a shisha cafe close to home, all the possibilities are at their fingertips.
  • It provides stress-free directions of Google Map’s to guide the Users to their intended destination
  • DineOut Bahrain is constantly adding brand new eateries everyday
  • The customer review feature even makes it easy to find out what friends thought of the experience giving useful feedback to diners and the restaurant management
  •  Download the DineOut Bahrain app, compatible with both Iphone and Android systems
  • No hassle, no extra cost and no login pages

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With Dineout’s services at my disposal, I feel mighty relieved that my weekend restaurant hunting is no longer going to be a stressful activity. So if you are  someone who  loves eating out just like me, I recommend you install Dine Out Bahrain’s app on your mobile right away. In case, any of you has any queries, feel free to contact Dine Out Bahrain at the following email address: info@dineoutbahrain.com and don’t forget to check their website at http://www.dineoutbahrain.com

To download Dineout Bahrain on your mobile:

A healthy start to the New Year – Baked Eggs with Spinach, Mushrooms and Tomatoes

18 Jan

How is the New Year treating you guys? Mine doesn’t seem very different from the last year. It is just as hectic at work and I am yet to figure out how to strike a balance between my personal and professional life.

But I am a firm believer that when life hands you bitter lemons,  its wise make a pickle out of it. So I have tweaked my strategy a bit and instead of continuously cribbing about how my work life is eating into my personal time, I have decided to make the most of whatever time I do get outside of my work life. As a part of this strategy, I decided I would definitely try and do things /activities which I may have not done before. One of which is this blog has rarely seen healthy recipes written about and discussed. One primary change that I would try and usher in would be to showcase as many healthy recipes as possible. Since my battle with the bulge is legendary and all I do is use this space to crib about how all my diet and exercise strategies have been nothing but colossal flops. Also inspired by this, I would like to have a culinary bucket list for this year to sort out. I have plenty planned for my blog and I can’t wait to unveil it little by little.

So to mark the beginning of the New year, I have something that is not only delectable but is also very healthy. Its baked eggs with mushroom, spinach and tomatoes. I wanted to try baking in a mud vessel to see if there is any difference in the taste. But I was disappointed to observe that there was none at all. But mud vessels made great props for photography. Also, it  took ages to bake.

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Hope you try this interesting way to baking eggs with vegetables. It is sumptuous to say the least.

Wishing everyone a beautiful year ahead with lots of happiness, health and prosperity.

Ushering the New Year with a Cranberry Upside down cake

31 Dec

How can I leave my blog untended on the last day of the year? It would very insensitive of me to do so. The very space that gave me an outlet to all my creative pursuits and my random meandering thoughts needs an acknowledgement on the last day of the year.  If you refer to my last post, it was bit pessimistic in its tone and pessimism isn’t the essence of my blog. I created this space to celebrate all the beautiful things and relationships in my life; my beautiful family, food that I love, my beautiful memories and in midst of that just to balance the mood, a few not-so savoury memories as well. When I think of the New Year, I want to feel optimistic and hopeful and happy. And so it was important that I write this note as the last one for this year and celebrate it with something absolutely spectacular like a Cranberry Upside Down Cake.

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Before I get into the recipe and beautiful thing that this Cranberry upside down cake is, I need to mention something. My previous post got plenty of mixed reviews both online and offline. The post was about what the things I could have done differently in 2012.  One person in particular whom I admire a lot pointed out that I needed to also look at what wonderful things have happened in 2012. There are plenty of wonderful things that happened in 2012.  I shall list out each and every milestone of 2012 with every intention of celebrating it in this post.

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1. I GOT A JOB!!!! – After searching for more than a  year, I was growing despondent with each passing day. I couldn’t see a single ray of light when each interview or job opportunity fizzled out. Nearly 3 years of being out of work can do a lot to damage one’s confidence. I didn’t feel up to it and doubted my abilities. I must also add I am extremely self-critical and for that reason I beat myself down more than anybody in my place would normally do. I had taken a break to raise Mimi and when it was time to pack her off to school, it felt like a great time to get back on the job front. Finally my prayers were answered and I found a job with a very reputed firm. This I would be the biggest milestone in 2012.

2. My baby started school – It was with great trepidation that I let Mimi go and attend school. To most with whom I shared the news told me that she was too young to go to school and to this date she is one of the younger kids in her class. But something told me that she was ready. Mimi has always been extremely independent, eager to explore and not scared of the dark or dinosaurs( I am letting you out on a lil secret here; the only thing she is scared of is ‘silly gilly gambo’ and I haven’t the faintest clue who or what that is. It is her own invention but the very mention of it leaves me in splits). She adjusted quickly and loves going to school every single day.

3. My brother’s wedding – My little brother ( not so little anymore), got hitched!!  His wedding was just a fantastic affair, that the entire family shall treasure the beautiful memories forever. It was a joyous occasion and everybody who was near and dear was able to participate in it. I wish him and his beautiful wife a wonderful and a prosperous New Year.

4. The launch of My beautiful Bahrain – A mesh mash of stories of, from and about Bahrain came together in a single book. Another awesome milestone of my life and not just this year. I can proudly tell my grandchildren some day that I wrote or atleast I was one of the co-contributors in a book. I have harped about it so many times on this blog already and I can’t have enough it.

5. We celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary – Unbelievable!! Seven years of being together and it feels so effortless. My hubby and I celebrated our wedding anniversary on Christmas day ( there is no excuse to forget this date). It was a working day in Bahrain. We managed a lunch together midst our busy schedule and planned to stay in for dinner. It was a quiet sort of day but it meant so much just knowing that he is around and he hasn’t changed ( not much atleast) over these 7 years. It was a warm, fuzzy feeling to know that we celebrate our precious daughter every single day.

6. My parents built a beautiful home – My wonderful parents displayed such fantastic project management skills when they spent day and night planning their new home. The end result was nothing less than spectacular. We had the opportunity to spend about a week in their beautiful home and I observed how the smallest details were taken care of. I am immensely proud of my parents who carried out this mammoth project with enormous patience.

7. Mimi is the cutest kid in Bahrain –  Mimi won  a Facebook contest called the cutest kid in Bahrain. This contest was hosted by Summer Weeks who is  a professional photographer in Bahrain. I had to send Mimi’s picture to her and Summer uploaded that on her page. And all that was needed was to get maximum number of people to ‘like’ Mimi’s photograph. My family and friends (grandparents, nieces, nephews, cousins, uncles and aunts, friends and their friends) gathered forces and helped Mimi win this contest. The prize as a part of winning the contest was a professional portfolio by Summer Weeks herself. We went to Summer’s studio on the 22nd of December and Mimi was photographed for her portfolio. It was exciting to win a contest and the competition was tough. It was more thrilling for the parents than the children themselves and Mimi hadn’t the slightest clue what was going on. But it feels great to be the mum to the cutest kid in Bahrain.

There have many such beauteous occasions throughout the year that brought such joy and happiness. I am thankful to God for everything that I have in my life right now and wouldn’t change a thing about it.

To mark the end of 2012 which has been wonderful to us and our family, I made a lovely cake from Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. I love Nigella because she never ever lets me down. Her recipes are simple to follow and her no fuss attitude infuses confidence. A little crack here or a slip up there in following instructions doesn’t disappoint. Au contraire, the result is very delicious and extraordinary.

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I made the cake in my new food processor that my hubby gifted me for our anniversary. It was such a non fussy recipe to follow that I know it by heart now. My recent trip to the market had me buy a big bag of extremely bitter and sour cranberries. Since I had never tasted cranberries before, I got tempted and bought an entire bag for an enormous price. I soon realized that I couldn’t ever finish those cranberries and popping each bitter berry felt like a punishment. Finally I flipped open my favourite cook book – Nigella’s “How to be a Domestic Goddess” and fell into the preparation of this magnifique cake.When I flipped the cake upside down, that sight that greeted me filled me with great joy.

The crimson cranberries laced with syrup looked like melting rubies on a crown. 

Food makes me very happy, and beautiful food, even more so. My day was made when it got an exciting response from my family and friends. I hope you try this recipe as its extremely easy to pull it off. It requires just about moderate effort and the outcome is fabulous. I love such recipes and that is why Nigella is my guru.

I did not have a tarte-tatin pan so I used a spring-form pan and it didn’t affect the outcome at all.

I wish each and everyone of you a fantastic New Year. Hoping that all your dreams come true in 2013 and let the New year  fill you with the passion  to follow your long cherished dreams.

See you in the next year!

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Muffin Mondays : Oreo Muffins

2 Jan

Happy New Year, you guys!!

How did your New Year celebrations go?  Mine was absolutely super. My daughter danced and tottered around the dance floor until 2 am and I watched her all the time. It was the best feeling ever.

It’s the morning after, you know… well not the kind you all want to hear about but the morning after where I am still reeling from the after effects of partying too hard. My legs ache from those heels, my head feels a little heavy and all I want to do is pull a comforter over my head and sleep the entire day. But I cannot,  because I believe that whatever I do on the 1st of New Year, I would be doing it all through out the year.  So I did all the wonderful things that mean so much to me because I want to do them all around the year and much more.

1. Video chatted on Skype with my parents and listened to my father’s New Year advice in perfect silence.

2. Lot of cuddling with hubby and Mimi.

3. Spoke to all my best friends.

4. Had my favourite Teriyaki noodle soup ( love that stuff)

5. Lazed around and read Ruth Reichl’s memoir about being a Restaurant Critic called ” Garlic and Sapphires” . Hilarious stuff.

6. Wrote a bit

7. Took photographs with my wonderfully talented  friend, Namit.

8. Made Oreo Muffins!!!!

Shucks!! I should have gone shopping too!

How awesome can a list get? I mean it has drama, action, and so much romance in it. Perfect! Just the way I wanted it to be without planning too much.

Now here we are back with the last of the Holiday Muffin series and I am so excited to usher in the New Year with some scrumptious Oreo Muffins. When you think oreos and then Muffins, whats not to like!

Only change I made was I halved the recipe since I already had some candied rose petal and chocolate cake I had made on New Year’s eve. Though I understand that there cannot be anything like too much cake, halving it ensured I had more Oreos left to dunk  into my milk  at breakfast. *laughs her evil laugh*. I am jotting down the recipe here with its original proportions.

Recipe for Oreo Muffins

Source: Food.com

Ingredients

1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup milk

1/3 cup sour cream

1 egg

1/4 cup margarine

20 Oreo cookies

Preparation

1. In medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, set aside

2. In small bowl, combine milk, sour cream, and egg

3. Stir the egg mixture in to the flour mixture with margarine until just blended

4. Gently stir in the cookies

5. Spoon batter greased  muffin pan cups.

6. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

7. Remove from pan, cool on wire rack.

8. Serve warm or cold.

These muffins looked wonderful with little specks of Oreo cookies that I crushed into the batter. I used a few to chop them into quarters to embellish the muffins. They looked quite royal, methinks. I had some chocolate ganache in my refrigerator from my Black Forest Cake preparation which I used to frost the Oreo Muffins. They were simply decadent and the best possible muffins to sign off such a wonderful series of Holiday Muffins.

I have to thank Anuradha for letting me participate as it has helped me gain a good number of gorgeous muffin recipes and make acquaintance with such splendidly talented fellow bakers.

My friend Namit, whom I have been urging for ages to start his photography blog, has helped me click these muffin pictures. Thanks so much, Namit.

In other news, my Black forest cake photo was accepted by Tastespotting and that makes me so happy that I had to share the news here.

Here’s wishing each one of you a wonderful, sweet start to this New Year.

Muffin Monday is an initiative by Baker Street. A culinary journey of sharing a wickedly delicious muffin recipe every week. Drop in a quick line to join her on her journey to make the world smile and beat glum Monday mornings week after week.

Thoughts on the Year End, a Wedding Anniversary & a Black Forest Cake

31 Dec

Wow! We are nearing the end now, only to begin something new. This cycle never felt this surreal before.

May be it is an age thing.

I haven’t yet settled into my 30’s . It worries me to see the little changes that are happening every single day that mark a little deterioration. A grey hair, that slowing down of pace, that need to sit down a second after a 30 minute run, that dejection at the discovery that my favourite stores do not have my current dress size, the increasing responsibilities and the inability to relax. 2 years ago I did not feel this way. As 2012 approaches at a neck-break speed, I want to hold on to 2011 a little longer only to realize how futile it is.  Until 2 years ago, I embraced each year with the such furor and excitement that it would have felt a little short of  being annoying.

Yes it is definitely an age thing. 

2012 makes me jittery as there are many things that worry me. I do my best to push them back since I know everything will settle itself the way it does, on its own. I hope it does. Even pray.

2011 was a blessed year for me. It was a year that let me settle in this new country as I found new friends and interests. It offered me the luxury of time to engage with my creative side through writing, blogging, cooking, baking, photography and so much more. I know for a fact that this investment will not go in waste. While I worry about how 2012 is going to treat me, I also feel content in many ways that eluded me for so long. For long, I tried to find my calling but got no answers inspite of much contemplation. But life, in its funny little way, showed me my calling, silently, slowly and without warning. That I understand what my calling is now, is also may be because I am certain age now. I am settling down, my thoughts are settling down, my life is settling down.

So it is an age thing after all. 

Who knew there would be such grace in deterioration!

But as I age, other things in my life only improve; my marriage and my understanding of how to balance everything in life. My hubby and I celebrated our 6th Wedding Anniversary and it was a quiet affair. No party, no excess of any sort was required. Just us.

We felt thankful about how our life had shaped, that we have each other and we have Mimi. We realized that inspite of  the incredible comfort that we share, we will never take each other for granted. We also reminded ourselves that despite the little ups and downs, we shared a friendship that is true and rare – and that we are safe in this marriage we have built and are building every day.

So now the age thing isn’t so bad. 

The Wedding Anniversary celebration was marked by the cutting of our favourite – The Black Forest Cake. A few hours of toil in the kitchen paid off when it was well received and savored.

Recipe for the Black Forest Cake

Adapted from here

Ingredients

For the chocolate sponge

7 eggs

250g caster sugar

200g plain flour

50g cocoa powder

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

 For the cherry compote

1/3 cup caster sugar

600g pitted fresh cherries, halved

1 tbs rum

For the cherry sugar syrup

90g caster sugar

¼ cup cherry juice

For the chocolate hazelnut praline mousse

½ cup caster sugar

½ cup hazelnuts, toasted lightly and skinned

300g chopped dark chocolate

3 egg yolks

300ml thickened cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the mascarpone cream

500g mascarpone

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

2 tbs icing sugar

For the dark chocolate ganache

150ml cream

200g chopped dark chocolate

shaved chocolate – to decorate

fresh cherries- to decorate

Preparation

1. For the chocolate sponge, preheat oven to 160°C . Grease and line 2 x 20cm springform cake pans.

2. Add eggs and sugar to a heatproof bowl of an electric mixer, and set over a saucepan of simmering water over very low heat. Whisk the mixture until 37°C. Remove the bowl from the heat and beat with an electric mixer on a medium-low speed for 5-8 minutes or until the mixture has cooled and thickened to a mousse-like consistency. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together twice. Using a large metal spoon, fold the dry mixture into the egg mixture in 3 batches until combined, adding the vanilla extract with the first dry batch.

3. Pour the mixture into the lined cake pans and smooth surface. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until sponge springs back when lightly touched. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then turn out onto wire racks until cake has cooled completely.

4. For the cherry compote, add the sugar to a non-stick saucepan and place over medium heat. Once the sugar begins to dissolve add the cherries and cook until they start to release their juices. Add the rum and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and thickened. Strain, reserving liquor.

5.  For the cherry syrup, heat 170ml water and the sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the reserved cherry juice and compote liquor. Allow to cool.

6. For the chocolate hazelnut praline mousse, line a baking sheet. In a dry heavy-based saucepan, cook sugar over medium heat, stirring, until melted. Once melted, cook without stirring, swirling pan, until lightly golden. Add hazelnuts, stirring until well coated. Immediately pour mixture onto the baking sheet and cool completely. Break praline into pieces. Place into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Set aside.

7. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk the egg yolks in a small heatproof bowl. Heat 250ml of the cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir through half of the hot cream into the egg yolks. Return the mixture to the saucepan over low heat and stir until thickened. Strain into a clean bowl. Stir the melted chocolate into the hot custard. Add the vanilla and allow to cool. Whisk the remaining cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into the chocolate mixture with the praline, until just combined. Set aside.

9. For the mascarpone cream, beat the mascarpone, vanilla and sugar in a bowl until smooth and slightly thicker in volume.

10. For the chocolate ganache, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside. Bring the cream to just below boiling point in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat, then add the melted chocolate and stir until smooth. Allow to cool until thick but still pouring consistency.

11. To assemble the cake, slice both cakes into thirds. Place the base of 1 cake onto a serving plate and brush with some of the cherry syrup. Spread over half of the chocolate praline mousse.

12. Place the next layer of cake onto a board, and brush with cherry syrup. Spread over half of the mascarpone cream. Divide the cherries into two parts for two separate layers. Place cherries around the border of the cake, 5mm from its edge and scatter remaining in the middle. Carefully remove layer from the board and place on top of the first layer. Repeat each layering process on the board (you will have 1 spare slice of cake), starting with the praline mousse and ending with the cherries on the mascarpone cream.

13. Place the final layer of the cake on a wire rack sitting over a baking tray. Evenly pour the ganache over the cake, ensuring it is completely coated. When the ganache has set, place on top of the layered cake. Decorate with shaved chocolate and  fresh cherries.

This is a perfect special occasion cake and the flavours are simply fantastic. All the layers blend beautifully and each mouthful is like  Christmas in your mouth. So that was how we toasted our marriage and celebrated being together.

But this post wouldn’t quite be complete if I were not to mention that the Black Forest assembling was a tough task since I haven’t yet perfected the art of slicing the cake in threes or twos. As I assembled one layer over the other, it started to tilt on one side because of the irregularity in the slices. I was angry and disappointed about how I ruined so many hours of work by my careless slicing. I went ahead with the final pruning and kept it in the refrigerator for chilling, checking it time and again to see if the layers hadn’t slid down. All of sudden, I just felt I should just let it be. Nobody was judging me and I knew what a sincere effort I had put into making this fabulous cake.  An hour in the chiller and the cake looked perfect ( atleast in my eyes) inspite of its imperfection because it was a labor of love. That was the moment when I had an important insight.

Based on that insight, for the first time in years, I have decided not to make any resolutions for the New Year. This comes from a realization that in order to grow, improve and learn, I will have to let go. I know how difficult it is for me to relinquish control and just let things be.

So 2012 will be the year of ‘Just Being’.

Wishing each one of you a Sparkling New Year, full of joy, luck and prosperity. God Bless!!

‘Mixed Bag’ Week

5 Dec

This is my last post  for my weekly updates until the New Year. Wow! How quickly the year passed. My head starts to spin when I even try to recount my experiences. How my life has done a 360 degree flip in  an another dimension. On the whole, I would like to give myself a pat on my back for having survived it all and come out of it graciously. I have always felt that I keep beating myself up where I should have given enough credit. But by adopting the philosophy of “Taking one day, at a time” has made me realize that I have indeed grown as  a person, metamorphosed into something ( beautiful or not, I am still unsure) and I am plodding ahead with a lot of enthusiasm. Taking account of what I do, did or will do and writing it down, like I am doing right now has definitely helped. So here’s wishing my lovely blog and its wonderful readers a wonderful NEW YEAR in advance.  I do have a restaurant review pending  which shall be up and about by Wednesday. Continue reading

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