Ramadan recipes: Spinach and feta puff pies

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Updated 02 April 2024
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Ramadan recipes: Spinach and feta puff pies

  • The recipe we are presenting here today is a savory one that is simple to make: spinach and feta puff pies

Originating in France, where it is called pate feuilletee, puff pastry was invented in 1645 by Chef Claudius Gele. Gele wanted to create something new for his sick father, who was on a diet of flour and butter. Using these simple ingredients, which can seem rather bland at first, Gele produced a result that surprised him — kneading the dough, folding it multiple times and baking it, he had created puff pastry.

Hundreds of years later, puff pastry is a time-tested favorite that can be paired with cheese, chocolate, fruits, vegetables and meat.

The recipe we are presenting here today is a savory one that is simple to make: spinach and feta puff pies. For the filling, you will need 250g of spinach, 200g of feta cheese, one small onion, one clove of garlic, the juice of half a lemon, 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley, salt and pepper. The puff pastry can be store-bought.




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Slice the onion and fry it in some oil. Once the onion is soft, add the chopped garlic, followed by the spinach until it is reduced in volume and dries up. Then add salt, pepper and lemon juice to the mix.

Leave the mixture to cool down. Once completely cooled, add the feta cheese and mix thoroughly. Roll out the puff pastry and cut it into large squares. Place a tablespoon or so of the filling in the center of the square and fold the puff pastry over it so it becomes triangular. To seal the puff pies, press the edges with a fork, pinching the puff pastry together.

Beat an egg and brush it over the pies to get the shine on top. Sprinkle the pies with sesame seeds. Place them in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes or until the pies puff up and get a beautiful golden color on top.

 


Where We Are Going Today: Armin restaurant in Riyadh

Updated 17 May 2024
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Where We Are Going Today: Armin restaurant in Riyadh

  • Armenian cuisine is a blend of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Eastern European influences

RIYADH: Riyadh’s popular Armenian restaurant, Armin, takes visitors on a journey of authentic flavors with its heartwarming, aromatic and herby dishes.

Armenian cuisine is a blend of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Eastern European influences with ingredients such as rice, lamb and sumac.

Armin hits the taste nail on the head with a selection of Middle Eastern dishes featuring chicken and lamb kebabs, tabouleh, fattoush, vine leaves, and a popular eggplant dip, muttabal.

The menu provides guests with options aplenty, with vegetarian and omnivorous diners catered for, making it an ideal spot for dining out.

Upon arrival, guests are spoiled with freshly baked pita bread, perfect to plunge into their dipping of choice.

The best appetizer on the menu is the hummus with meat and topped off with crispy pine nuts, making a perfect combination of nutty flavors.

A must-have side dish is the spicy potato, cooked to perfection with a kick of spice and a touch of garlic and coriander.

The star main course is the shish barak, a traditional Armenian dish consisting of dumplings made with a thin dough wrapper and filled with flavorful beef or lamb with onions and a mix of spices.

Shish barak is boiled, unlike Chinese or Japanese dumplings, which are usually pan fried or steamed.

The only downside of the visit is cost — Armin’s prices are on the high side. But given its customer service and delicious food, it is a price worth paying. Although many dishes on Armin’s menu can be found in Middle Eastern restaurants for a fraction of the price, the quality of the ingredients here is unmatched.


 


Recipes for Success: The St. Regis Red Sea Executive Sous Chef Skotarenko Artem on educating guests and experimentation 

Updated 16 May 2024
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Recipes for Success: The St. Regis Red Sea Executive Sous Chef Skotarenko Artem on educating guests and experimentation 

JEDDAH: The newly-opened The St. Regis Red Sea is home to several restaurants, including Middle Eastern restaurant Nesma, Japanese establishment Gishiki 45, and Tilina — a “floating” restaurant that serves a degustation menu. The resort’s executive sous chef, Skotarenko Artem, from Russia, oversees a team of 75. 

“Discipline is one of the most important things in the kitchen. I can say it’s one of the pillars. But relationships in the kitchen should be based on respect. If you shout at your employees, you can make people scared, but they will never respect you for it,” Artem tells Arab News. “Shouting is a thing of the past in the kitchen.” 

The St. Regis Red Sea Resort’s Tilina offers a degustation menu for its visitors. (Supplied)

Tilina, he says, is a “unique concept for Saudi Arabia.” 

“The degustation menu takes two to three hours. Not everyone can sit for this time and wait for the dishes. So, we try to educate the guests,” he explains. 

When you started out what was the most common mistake you made?  

I guess trying to repeat the dishes of celebrity chefs that I found online, from other parts of the world. And I was really upset with the results because they were below my expectations. That was because of products and seasonality, because every country has different produce and you can’t expect to get the same results in another country. 

What’s your top tip for amateurs? 

Don’t be afraid to experiment. If you find a nice recipe and you want to follow it, most likely you won’t have all the ingredients available at home. So use your imagination and, like this, you can achieve a great result. 

What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish?  

Doesn’t matter where you’re cooking — it can be a restaurant or at home — love is the most important. 

What’s the most common mistake that you find in other restaurants? 

I’m actually not very picky when I go out. But, for me, the most common issue is seasoning. It’s very easy to spoil a dish if you have poor seasoning; it becomes flat and, actually, it is dead. 

What’s your favorite cuisine?  

When I go out, I’m always looking for something unusual and interesting that I’m not familiar with. It helps to keep your mind open. 

What’s your go-to dish if you have to cook something quickly at home?  

I don’t actually cook at home very often. But I’ll always have fresh bread in and a piece of good quality cheese. Along with them, I have all these different kinds of preserves and pickled vegetables. So, if I have to do something quick at home, I’d make a nice Cuban-style sandwich. 

What customer behavior most annoys you?  

Actually, there’s a long list. But what really annoys me is when guests leave the table without valid excuses when the dishes are ready to serve. Because then you need to remake the dish. It’s a disservice to all the other guests in the restaurant. 

What’s your favorite dish to cook?   

Where I’m from, it tends to get very cold. So, I love to make rich soups of all kinds. But they tend to take a lot of time and patience. 

What’s the most difficult dish for you to get right?  

Actually, I’m really flexible and adaptable. For me, everything is possible if you’re focused and committed to it. 

RECIPE 
Chef Skotarenko’s cured mackerel, salted laminaria, and dill kefir sauce 

INGREDIENTS 

For the brine: 1L water; 80g sea salt; 30g brown sugar; 1 garlic clove; 10g dill; 30g sunflower oil (or your preferred flavor of oil); 2g black pepper; 2g bay leaves 

INSTRUCTIONS 

1. Place a whole mackerel (300-400g) in the brine and leave overnight. 

2. Place 500g fresh laminaria in a pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Strain the water and repeat the process three times. 

3. Wash the laminaria in cold water, sprinkle with 5g sea salt, and refrigerate overnight. 

4. Slice 500g fresh cucumber. Mix with 50g olive oil, a pinch of salt, and 20g apple cider vinegar. Refrigerate overnight. 

5. Mix 500g kefir (or laban if you prefer) with 30g lemon juice, 5g finely chopped garlic, 5g salt, and 2g white pepper. 

6. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add 500g dill. Remove after 10 seconds and place in ice-cold water. Blend the dill with 500g olive oil until smooth, then strain through a fine sieve. 

7. Plate all the ingredients separately and serve. 


Where We Are Going Today: ‘Madeo Ristorante’ - an Italian cuisine in Jeddah & Riyadh

Updated 14 May 2024
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Where We Are Going Today: ‘Madeo Ristorante’ - an Italian cuisine in Jeddah & Riyadh

West Hollywood’s Madeo Ristorante opened two new branches in Jeddah and Riyadh last summer, and looks determined to take it up a notch this season.

Madeo in Riyadh not only promises to relax you with breezy and smooth jazz music every Tuesday night but also offers a delectable set menu.

Begin your meal with the crispy calamari affogati paired with tomato sauce for delicious seaside flavors, or the carpaccio di manzo. Although often difficult to nail the texture, Madeo executed the carpaccio perfectly, pairing the raw finely sliced filet mignon with a bright palette of rucola, parmigiano and artichoke.

Between starters and mains, we opted for the bianca la tartuf pizza, which packed a memorable punch as it combined a medley of gorgonzola, mascarpone, mozzarella, goat’s cheese and fresh black truffle.

The cotoletta Milanese was a delectable crispy pan-fried breaded veal chop, a truly authentic experience, while the ravioli ricotta e spinaci is a hearty plate, served in a butter and sage sauce with parmigiano reggiano, promising to satisfy any pasta craving.

Seal the meal with their classic dessert offerings, perhaps with a luscious tiramisu with chocolate powder or a creamy millefoglie with layers of puff pastry, custard cream and whipped cream.

Along with the nostalgic ambience and live music, we enjoyed the light and bright summer flavors. The Jeddah branch also invites diners to indulge in an Italian feast with a special set menu at Madeo at the Yacht Club at SR 175-200 ($47-$53) per person well into August.

Launched at the beginning of May, Cool Inc.’s Culinary Festival has brought some curated fine dining experiences to restaurants in Riyadh and Jeddah. From the sultry jazz evenings or 1970s disco, to sunny set menus, the experiences promise to delight as the long summer days approach.

The experiences and deals are available at multiple spots, including at VIA Riyadh and Jeddah Yacht Club through online pre-bookings.

 

 


Where We Are Going Today: ‘Crustacean’ - a Modern Asian cuisine at Jeddah’s Yacht Club

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Updated 13 May 2024
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Where We Are Going Today: ‘Crustacean’ - a Modern Asian cuisine at Jeddah’s Yacht Club

  • The grilled tiger prawns served with Crustacean’s famous garlic noodles showcase the seafood’s quality and the noodles’ perfect texture and flavor

Crustacean, a gem of Modern Asian cuisine with a blend of Asian and European flavors from Beverly Hills, California, has recently graced the shores of Jeddah, opening its first international branch at Jeddah’s Yacht Club by the serene waters of the Red Sea.

The dim lighting sets an ideal ambiance for special occasions and a glass-topped koi pond offers a calming sight for guests who can watch the kohaku koi fish as they dine.

On soft opening day, the mocktail menu was a highlight, featuring the “Desert Rose” — a concoction exclusive to the Saudi Arabia branch. Inspired by popular regional flavors, this exotic blend includes pineapple juice, rose water, homemade lychee juice, caramelized pear tea syrup, and mandarin juice topped with pomegranate seeds.

The An Sum family tree platter, representing the five daughters of the restaurant’s founder, Helene An, includes selections like marinated raw tuna, seafood dumplings, and crunchy fried chicken, each paired with a special sauce.
Salad lovers would appreciate the little gem salad, a refreshing blend of eight-herb green goddess dressing, crispy taro, hydro watercress, cabbage, and roma tomato, showcasing the restaurant’s commitment to fresh and vibrant ingredients.

Tuna cigars, a cold appetizer served in a wooden cigar box with dramatic presentation and a tantalizing smoky aroma upon opening, were particularly exciting. The cigars, with their crispy crust filled with feuillet de brick, avocado silk, onions, and tobiko caviar, are a delightful starter complemented by lime slices for an added zest.
A standout feature of Crustacean is its legendary secret kitchen, accessible only to certain chefs who can preserve the authenticity of family recipes. Dishes prepared here are delivered through a secret window, ensuring that the culinary secrets remain within the family. From this kitchen come the main courses that make up Crustacean’s culinary mastery for over 30 years.

The signature Dungeness crab, prepared with impeccable technique, reflects the seafood tradition of Jeddah by blending local and sourced ingredients, presenting a dish that's both indulgent and beautifully representative of the seaside locale.

The grilled tiger prawns served with Crustacean’s famous garlic noodles showcase the seafood’s quality and the noodles’ perfect texture and flavor.

The menu also caters to diverse palates with options like the salt and pepper calamari and the hearts of palm crispy calamari, which are a delight for both traditional and vegan diners, thanks to the thoughtful inclusion of spicy vegan aioli.

For updates and more information, check @crustacean_sa.

 


Botulism outbreak traced to mayonnaise at Riyadh restaurant

Updated 12 May 2024
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Botulism outbreak traced to mayonnaise at Riyadh restaurant

  • Saudi food authority discovers clostridium botulinum in Bon Tum brand product; ministry implements strict measures

RIYADH: The Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing announced on Saturday that a Saudi Food and Drug Authority laboratory test had found clostridium botulinum in a Bon Tum mayonnaise brand used by the Hamburgini food chain.

Since the bacterium was discovered in a Bon Tum factory, the ministry has collaborated with the SFDA and other authorities to enforce additional measures beyond those previously implemented.

These measures include suspending the distribution of the mayonnaise product and withdrawing it from markets and food facilities across all cities in the Kingdom. They also include halting operations at the factory in preparation for implementing statutory procedures.

The bacteria that caused a Botulism outbreak was discovered in a Bon tum factory.  (Supplied)

Any remaining quantities of the product at the factory across all batches and expiration dates have also been withdrawn, and all factory clients, including restaurants and food establishments, have been notified to dispose of any quantities they own.

The ministry has also issued instructions to continue the monitoring, investigation, and inspection campaigns across all cities of the Kingdom by municipalities and relevant authorities, ensuring the safety of food products provided to consumers.

Authorities have emphasized the importance of obtaining information from official sources and not being swayed by rumors and misinformation.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The botulism outbreak was first brought to light on April 27 when Riyadh municipality received a report of food poisoning cases linked to the Hamburgini restaurant chain.

• New measures undertaken by authorities include suspending the distribution of the Bon Tum mayonnaise product and withdrawal from markets and food facilities in the Kingdom.

• Any remaining quantities of the product at the factory across all batches and expiration dates have also been withdrawn.

• Authorities have emphasized the importance of obtaining information from official sources and not being swayed by rumors and misinformation.

Dr. Nezar Bahabri, infectious diseases consultant at the International Medical Center in Jeddah and the director of the Saudi Society of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Jeddah, told Arab News that contracting illness through clostridium botulinum is very rare as it thrives in non-oxygenated (anaerobic) environments and is typically found in improperly preserved foods.

Dr. Nezar Bahabri, Infectious diseases consultant, International Medical Center

The bacterium produces a toxin that attacks the body’s nervous system, resulting in muscle weakness, blurred vision, difficulty speaking and swallowing, and eventually paralysis. Typically, the likelihood of exposure to this bacterium is low with modern food safety practices in place.

Bahabri said: “When this bacterium is ingested, and the toxin is released, symptoms will manifest within a few hours up to around two days.”

Mohammed Al-Awamy, a gastroenterologist, told Arab News: “Symptoms start in the face and then descend to involve the limbs and trunk. Respiratory failure ensues due to involvement of the respiratory system leading to cardiopulmonary collapse.”

The best measure to be taken is eating fresh and cooked food as the heat of cooking will kill the bacteria, and the toxin will become ineffective.

Dr. Nezar Bahabri, Infectious diseases consultant, International Medical Center

The symptoms of botulism, the illness caused by clostridium botulinum, are quite distinct and can be quickly recognized and treated with an antitoxin.

Bahabri explained: “If it was an injury, we will clean the wound and the infected tissue. If it is due to ingestion, we administer antitoxin, IV (intravenous) fluid, and painkillers as needed.”

Botulism is a life-threatening neurological disorder resulting in paralysis and death if not treated promptly.

Bahabri said that a patient must be admitted to hospital for observation, adding: “If the patient develops symptoms or weakness in the respiratory or lung muscles, we will transfer them to the ICU (intensive care unit) to put them in mechanical ventilation until the antitoxin works.”

Bahabri said that with proper treatment, the chance of a patient dying was less than 7 percent, adding: “The best measure to be taken is eating fresh and cooked food as the heat of cooking will kill the bacteria, and the toxin will become ineffective.”

The occurrence of clostridium botulinum infections is extremely uncommon due to the precautions taken in food preparation and handling. Therefore, it is important to stay informed about food safety guidelines and to be cautious when consuming canned or preserved foods.

The botulism outbreak was first brought to light on April 27 when Riyadh Municipality received a report of food poisoning cases linked to the Hamburgini restaurant chain.

The Ministry of Health said 75 people were affected in the outbreak, which included one death, and that no new cases had been recorded.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly, the Kingdom’s Health Ministry spokesperson, said on social media platform X: “The total number of recorded cases stands at 75, including 69 Saudi nationals and six non-Saudis.”

He also confirmed at the time that the only source of the contaminated food was from the local Hamburgini fast-food restaurant chain.

In response, health oversight teams promptly initiated an investigation and began monitoring the situation. By 10 p.m. on Thursday, all locations, branches, and the main catering factory of the restaurant chain in Riyadh were ordered to close.

Delivery services through the facility or via applications were suspended, and coordination efforts were initiated with key bodies, including the Ministry of Health, the Food and Drug Authority, and the Public Health Authority.

People reacted on social media platforms after the announcement of the lab results.

McDonald’s Saudi Arabia wrote on X: “We, at McDonald’s Saudi Arabia, assure everyone that we do not use, nor have we ever used, Bon Tum mayonnaise … No case of poisoning was detected in any of our restaurants, thank God, and none of our branches were closed during this entire period.

“We wish and pray for all those injured to recover quickly. May God protect our country and our honorable people from all harm.”

@MohammedLegandry wrote on X: “This mayonnaise is officially the cause of the poisoning cases that occurred. I think it is positive news for the sector as long as the problem is identified, and it limits the messages of weak-minded people, the writing and spreading of circulating rumors, frightening people, and causing panic.”

“We are reassured that government agencies are keen on the public health of individuals,” posted @Nnalshriii.

@Abusayel54 commented on X: “I hope that the factory will be defamed, closed, and fined.”

@iiuxr8 said: “Is the mayonnaise the main cause of poisoning, or poor storage? (by Hamburgini).”

Another user @Hamoooo11 wrote: “Food quality and safety is the role of the restaurant itself to ensure its products, even if they are sourced externally. Otherwise, what is the point of a specialist and quality controller in their facilities?”