Blog Archives

Camel Cookies – A Treat To Fill Your Empty Quarter

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Variety box of Camel Cookies.

Location in Abu Dhabi: just off 12th Street, next to the Presidential Guard building. (map on the official website)

In life there are some monumental moments. The moment you meet the love of your life.  Seeing your sports team win that big trophy. Watching the last episode of Breaking Bad. Well now you can add another to your list. Eating some of the best cookies ever.

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Bag with Camel Cookies logo.

Camel Cookies is a little store that deliver (metaphorically and physically) one of  the greatest cookies you will ever eat.

As their website (Camel Cookies) states, they have mixed Emirati heritage with a Western staple and produced something brand new.

Camel milk, saffron, cardamom and Arabic coffee fused with traditional cookie fillings mean these are something new and no one can blame you if you have to taste all the flavours, in fact it would be weird if you didn’t.

I bought a variety box which had a pair of each of the six varieties and managed to eat two before my office had the rest between them. Let’s just say when I came home saying how wonderful these cookies I’d eaten that day were, Lau was not too happy. In fact you might say she had the hump…

Camel Cookies are also on instagram if you want to see what you are missing!

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Fanr Restaurant (+ yoga classes)

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Delicious watermelon and feta salad.

Where in Abu Dhabi:
Manarat Al Saadiyat,
Saadiyat Cultural District
Saadiyat Island
Tel: +9712 657 5888

Opening times: Sun-Wed 10AM-11PM; Thur-Sat 10AM to midnight.

I remember it clearly: it was our very first weekend in Abu Dhabi and we wanted to ‘see a museum’ (sic). We decided to visit Saadiyat Island, the future location of the Louvre, Zayed Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, where friends told us there was already a great museum open. “And don’t forget to try the restaurant,” they added.

After arriving at Manarat Al Saadiyat and having enjoyed the interesting exhibition (I particularly love the room made of chairs!) we followed our friends’ advice and tried the in-house restaurant.

Fanr has an airy and spacious setting, with both indoors and outdoors seating, and a very contemporary feel, with floor-to-ceiling windows and several art pieces around – of course.

Restaurants inside museums more often resemble university canteens, as they are busy and somehow push you to eat quickly and move along. Fanr is different, because it makes you feel very relaxed and at ease, with no need to hurry up. It is also quite stylish, even though most of the people in it wear casual clothes and big cameras around their neck.

Since that very first time, we have been back many, many times, enjoying both the a/c in the glass-cladded restaurant and the breeze and sound of the water in the Arabic-inspired courtyard.

Fanr interiors.

Glass windows and art sculptures.

The lovely courtyard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did not take photos every single time we went, but my absolute favourite on the menu is the watermelon and feta salad. I can’t even begin to explain how much these two things are delicious together – and I had never thought about it before!
Here W tried his first camel burger (“It kind-of tastes like beef,” he says) and here we brought family and friends when they came to visit. We really like it!

Camel burger!

Smoothies: lemon and mint and banana and blueberry. So yummy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adding one more reason to visit, they now have weekly Yoga classes (they started them last month).

Every Wednesday the association Yoga Retreats offers two one-hour classes (at 9:30 AM and 5:30 PM), held in the restaurant grounds.
Costs are: 80 AED per session or 700 AED for a series of ten. (To book: Yoga Retreats website).

All the participants in the classes also receive a 20% discount to use at Fanr.

Fanr is really a delightful place. It might be slightly off the beaten track, but its relaxing atmosphere, absolutely delicious food and attentive staff certainly puts it up there, among our favourite eateries in the city.

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Click HERE to read more about RESTAURANTS WE LIKE or HERE to read about SPORTS.
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FWNAB: Durian

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The durian: it looks like a hedgehog!

W knew of a tropical fruit whose smell was so bad that in some hotels they would put a sign in the lobby, forbidding people from eating it in the room. He could not remember, however, which fruit was it.

First we thought it might be the dragon fruit, but once trying it we realised it was delicious, and not smelly at all! After a bit of research, we found it: it is the durian!

Known as the king of tropical fruit (whilst the queen is the mangosteen), this fruit is native to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei, but is mainly exported by Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, and you can easily find it in the supermarkets of Abu Dhabi.

Known for its large size, strong scent, and striking thorn-covered husk, it can grow as large as 30 centimetres long and 15 centimetres in diameter, and it typically weighs one to three kilograms. Its shape ranges from oblong to round, the colour of its husk green to brown, and its flesh pale yellow to red, depending on the species.

It is apparently a cousin of the hibiscus and the okra, and it is rich in minerals like manganese, copper, iron and magnesium, it is free from saturated fats, rich in dietary fiber, a good source of antioxidant vitamin C, and an excellent source of health B-complex groups of vitamins (a rare feature among fruits). (source)

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Apparently we opened it all wrong…

Wikipedia confirms that its strong odour had this fruit banned from certain hotels and even public transport.
It even says that ‘the smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as rotten onions, turpentine and raw sewage.’

Now, this is a bit rough.
To be completely honest, we were expecting something in between zombie’s breath and a pile of rubbish abandoned in the sun, but you know what? It was not so bad.
Yes, it stinks. But not more than some French cheeses that you can easily buy at London’s Borough Market (and I am talking from experience).

The taste reminded me of almonds and apples, and maybe a bit of cheese, but online it has also been described as similar to custard, cream-cheese, onion-sauce and sherry-wine. (source)
It is quite a delicate flavour in any case, and apparently a lot of people brave the smell to be able to taste this tropical delicacy.

Useful links for those who would like to know more include this step-by-step guide (with photos) on how to eat a durian (which shows how we completely did it wrong) and several tasty recipes, such as durian tiramisu, ice cream, crepes, egg tarts, yoghurt cake, cream and custard, and all sort of sweet and savoury dishes inspired by Thai, Filipino and Vietnamese cuisine.

I will have to try and buy another one, to see if this time the smell lives up to the hype, and maybe try one of these inviting recipes!

foodwnab

FWNAB: Granadilla

Packed granadillas.

The granadilla is the fruit of a plant called Passiflora Ligularis and it is a close relative of the passion fruit.

It is native to the Andes mountains between Bolivia, Venezuela and Colombia, but it grows as far South as Argentina and as far North as Mexico. It is also cultivated in Africa, Australia and Papua New Guinea.

How did it find its way to our local supermarket is one of the wonders of the modern world!

This was a surprising fruit to try: as softness goes, just by its appearance we thought it would be like an apple, or an orange at the most, but actually the hard outer shell cracks incredibly easily, to reveal a gooey middle that would be perfect as zombie brain lookalike for the upcoming Halloween festivities.

Halloween-ready!

The seeds, which are hard and black, are surrounded by a gelatinous transparent pulp, which is the edible part of the fruit and contains vitamins A, C, and K, phosphorus, iron, and calcium. (source)

I must be honest: I did not eat much of it, as I was not really sure about the texture, but it tasted very delicate, sweet and aromatic, and I think it would be perfect to flavour ice creams or jelly.

I found a few recipes using it for a yummy sorbet, a fridge tart, lovely curd tarts, a mousse, another mousse, a cake, a sponge cake, yet another cake, or cream cheese icing.
Looks like it’s a real favourite for dessert-lovers, so I must try one of these soon!

foodwnab

FWNAB: Carambola (or Star Fruit)

Such a lovely shape!

The Carambola – also known as ‘star fruit’ because of its almost perfect cross-section shape – is native to South East Asia, and popular all over the Asian continent.

There are two slightly different varieties of this fruit: a sweet one and a sour one.
Indian Carambola is generally a little bit more sour, and bright yellow when ripe.
The sweeter Carambola comes mostly from China and is normally bright green even when ripe. (Source)
I guess the one we bought was from the second group! (At least I hope so!)

This fruit is completely edible, skin included, but it is advised to trim the ribs to remove the darker green edge, which can be quite bitter.
This fruit has many health benefits as it contains Potassium, antioxidants, fibers, and Vitamin C. Despite being a tropical fruit, it is also very low in calories.
People with kidney problems, however, or people taking certain medicines, should avoid eating it, as it contains Oxalic acid, which could be harmful in particular situations. (Source)

The specimens we found at our local supermarket.

Some people seem to think that the qualities of this fruit are mostly decorative, because it does not taste of much.
The one we ate had a very delicate flavour indeed, somehow similar to apples, however the overall taste was lovely.
Thanks to its fresh notes, this fruit is also used in the preparation of many perfumes and beauty products.

There are really plenty of recipes featuring this versatile fruit, and not only for its pretty shape: Carambola Chicken Salad, Carambola sauce for Salmon, Scallops and Steak, an Upside down cake, Crepes, Bread, a Mango-Orange-Star Fruit Sauce, a Thai Rose Petal Salad, a Crab salad, a Shrimp salad, a Caprese, obviously Jam but also chutney, and several Tropical Smoothies.

I can’t wait to prepare my own lovely meal with the help of this beautiful fruit!

foodwnab

FWNAB: Kiwano

I know it is about to attack me!

The Kiwano, (scientific name: Cucumis Metuliferus) is part of the melon and cucumber family, and let’s admit it: it looks pretty amazing! It was even featured on one episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine as an alien “Golana melon”! (source)

Thanks to its spikes, it is also known as ‘horned melon’, ‘blowfish fruit’, ‘hedged gourd’, and half a dozen other names.

Despite being now cultivated in several parts of the world, from Australia to South America, this interesting looking fruit is originally native of Africa: in the Kalahari desert, during the dry season, the Kiwano is actually the only available source of water. (source: Wikipedia).

With good levels of vitamin C, iron, potassium and antioxidants, plus beta-carotene and vitamin A, this fruit is very healthy, helping, amongst other benefits, to give a boost to the immune system. (source)

Kiwano still in one piece.

According to the internet, it should taste like a cucumber, however the one I tried tasted more like a lemon, with a tangy, fresh and citrusy aftertaste.  On other websites, I found people comparing it to kiwis and even bananas, so I guess it all depends from how much you let it ripen before devouring it.

Aside from its decorative qualities, this fruit well adapts to both sweet and savoury recipes, such as the ones I found: tropical sorbet, salsa and frozen mousse, vinaigrette, gazpacho, and flounder with kiwano salsa.

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FWNAB: Mangosteen

Opening a Mangosteen.

The Mangosteen is a tropical fruit native of Indonesia. It now grows all around South East Asia and even South America. According to Wikipedia, its nutritional value does not amount to much, but the lovely flavour more than makes up for it.

I had never seen this fruit before, as apparently is not easily available in Europe.

Its ‘rarity’ on the Western markets fueled a series of folkloric tales about it, my favourite being the one about Queen Victoria offering a large sum of money to anyone who could bring her this fruit. Of course this most probably never happened, but certainly goes to demonstrate how this tropical delicacy always captured the imagination of those who ate it, to the point that this fruit is still known by many as ‘the queen of tropical fruits’.
(Source: this very interesting website).

Packaged mangosteen.

Once opened, the Mangosteen somehow reminded me of a clementine, with its half moon shaped slices, even though the white parts are apparently more similar to giant pomegranate seeds than citrus segments. Some of these sections contain seeds that should not be eaten, so it is always a good idea to read about how to properly clean this fruit.

Its taste is very light and sweet, almost ‘buttery’, and I can easily imagine how it would adapt to a number of recipes, both sweet and savoury.
So far, I found four desserts ideas, a Thai cake, ice lollies, pannacotta, and even a beef and mangosteen soup.

Now that I know how lucky we are to have easy access to this gorgeous fruit, I will make sure to use it in my recipes as much as possible!

foodwnab

FWNAB: Custard Apples

Opening a custard apple: not what I expected!

After a quick search on Wikipedia, I realised that the term “custard apple” can apply to at least six different fruits. So, what exactly did we buy?

Well, I hope not to be mistaken, as I could not find any photos looking quite like the specimen I have, but I think this otherworldly-looking fruit is known as Annona Squamosa, a name that does not do much to dispel its aura of alien predator spawn, just landed on the planet to enslave us all with its deliciousness.

Despite being called custard apples, or sugar apples, these fruits are not really related to apples. Yes, they grow on trees and have seeds, but the similarities pretty much end there.
First of all, unlike apples, they are very soft and almost gooey: you can open them with ease, no need for knifes or anything else.
Second, they taste definitely very tropical, similar to guava, very sweet and sugary.

Custard apples in their container.

This fruit is widely cultivated all over the world, especially in hot and dry climates, and the ones we bought were from India.
As many tropical fruits, custard apples are high in calories and excellent sources of many vitamins (especially vitamin C), potassium, fibers and manganese.

This Australian website has plenty of serving suggestions and information about it, and I also found recipes to make tons of different desserts, such as spiced teacakes, tropical trifle, ice cream, milkshakes and cream.

foodwnab

FWNAB: Pomelo

Pomelo in his net and decorative leaf.

The Pomelo is a citrus fruit native of South East Asia. According to its label, the one that we bought here in our local supermarket was cultivated in China.
Apparently it is the largest citrus fruit in the world, with a diameter of 15–25 cm (5.9–9.8 inches). (Source: Wikipedia).

Sliced.

I had no idea about it when I bought it, and I was expecting a melon-like fruit: imagine my surprise upon slicing it!
It tastes a bit like grapefruit, tangy but pleasant.

It was pretty easy to open, but apparently there is a precise technique to follow to get it out of its skin perfectly intact. Something that everyone seem to agree upon is that the pit and white membrane must be completely removed before eating.

This fruit is very rich in Vitamin C, Potassium and fiber. It is cultivated all over the world, and can be eaten raw, in salads or as part of many different desserts.

Online there are plenty of recipes featuring this versatile fruit, catering for all tastes. From an exotic fruit salad to a savoury salad, from smoothies to marmalade and citrus bars, it is even used to complement scallops and chicken, so I look forward to invent my own recipe soon!

foodwnab

FWNAB: Pitaya (or Dragon Fruit)

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Looks almost like a flower!

It is impossible not to be drawn towards this beautiful fruit. With its striking colours and lovely shape, it looks almost like a fairy-tale plant and it is really an eye-catcher in the fruit section of any supermarket here!

Colloquially known as ‘Dragon Fruit’, the Pitaya is the fruit of a cactus and exists in three different varieties: the one we tried, the most common, is called Pitaya blanca or White-fleshed Pitaya (source: Wikipedia).

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Pitaya opened.

Despite looking a bit like a pineapple, this fruit, once opened, is soft and easy to eat with just a simple spoon.

To me its taste reminded a bit of figs (which I love), but the general opinion is that it tastes sweet with a nutty taste, and many liken it to kiwis or lychees.

The Pitaya is not only delicious but apparently it is also very healthy.
Full of several nutrients, it is also very low in calories despite having a very rich and sweet taste. More in depth nutritional information can be found on this dedicated website.

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A perfect fit!

This fruit is easy to add to many different recipes, mostly for sweet dishes, but I don’t see why it could not be used for a sweet and sour sauce or to make chutney! I will have to try!

So far I just added it to an impromptu fruit salad, together with grapes and strawberries and it just tasted great, but BBC Food has more ideas about yummy desserts where to use it.
I am also planning on trying this granita recipe and smoothie recipe, and of course also this muffins recipe!

The possibilities to turn this gorgeous fruit into awesome treats seem endless, and I can wait to try more of them.

foodwnab

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