Arabic food intrigues me. It always amazes me that so much flavour can be coaxed out of such a small number of ingredients. (You have to bear in mind I come from India where almost every main dish contains no less than 10 ingredients - onions as a base, numerous spices, fresh herbs, yogurt, meat... the list goes on).
So I was quite excited to have got the chance to join in an Arabic master class at Treat - the food festival that's currently running at BurJuman until September 22nd.
The invite promised a dish that simultaneously sounded exotic yet simple - Za'atar marinated lamb with lemon crushed potatoes. I'd definitely be having some of that if I saw it on the menu so of course I signed myself right up.
Chef Ron Pietruszka, Executive Chef at The Ritz-Carlton DIFC was the man in the big white hat (well, as was I and the rest of the bloggers at the afternoon's class) and we started off - poised behind our compact little Teka kitchen islands, neatly laid out with stoves, pans, knives, chopping boards and the mise en place for the dish.
First step, brown off the lamb cutlet that was pre-marinated in za'atar, onions, a little olive oil and then seasoned with salt and pepper. When the lamb was nicely caramelised, it was spread with watered-down tahina and coated in a mixture of za'atar and breadcrumbs before being popped into the oven to be finished off. That took all of 10 minutes...
Next step, heat some butter in a pan and add pre-boiled baby potatoes that were roughly chopped up.
In a separate pan we heated up a little olive oil, to which was added a little chopped garlic and freshly grated lemon zest. The fragrant oil was poured over the potatoes and everything was crushed up in the pan. A touch of salt and pepper, a dash of lemon juice and that was done too! Easy.
Finally, it was on to the sauce and that was the only disaster (thankfully) I experienced this afternoon, having added the demi glace to a pan that was a little too hot, so it instantly caramelised (um... ok, burnt). So I had to steal some of my fellow blogger's demi glace... not really cheating as the sauce was prepared in advance :)
The final touch... a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds and that was it! Have rarely cooked anything that looked and tasted this good in such a short span of time. (Ok, so in real life I'd have to do my own mise en place, marinate my lamb, boil my potatoes and make a demi glace or red wine sauce myself... but thankfully, even those steps wouldn't really have complicated the dish.)
The class was kept light and friendly by Chef Ron, who shared his tips with the audience and at one point was even joined by his 11-year-old daughter who helped out in crushing the potatoes. All in all a really fun afternoon out :)
And there's lots more in store at Treat until next weekend in the form of daily free masterclasses and cooking demos, 'Guess the Ingredient' competitions, table setting and dining etiquette workshops, hot and cold canape classes and the BurJuman Junior Chef 2012 competition... as well as the chance to walk away with a AED25,000 hamper of goodies and dining vouchers.
I think I might be making my way back to BurJuman a few more times over the next few days...
For more information on Treat - The BurJuman World Food Fest 2012, visit www.burjuman.com
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