On the third day of our Come Dine With Me competition, I headed out to a villa in a fairly new community of Dubai known as Jumeirah Village Triangle at the intersection of Al Khail and Emirates Road. Home to my friend RM and also Wee Scotch’s girlfriend, Annie.
Hostess RM had enlisted the assistance of another handsome-husband-helper a la the Debonair Scotsman from Day One. Upon stepping foot into their spacious two-story villa, I was already presented with the choice of a fizzy or of a non-alcoholic Elderflower mocktail plus the most welcoming sight of irresistible salmon with cream cheese and dill blinis. I may have
scarfed down daintily eaten five before putting down my camera bag and saying a proper “Hello!”
Resisting the urge to eat more of the delicious blinis (failed – I ate a few more on the couch), I sat down in the living room to chit chat with the other guests as we waited for dinner to be served.
Starter – Smoked Haddock, Leek and Spinach Risotto
We started off with a creamy risotto made with smoked haddock, speckled with leeks and spinach. Undyed smoked haddock can be quite difficult to find in Dubai – it’s stocked sporadically in stores and tends to sell out quickly. At least that is my experience as I have been trying to find it to no avail for the past few months.
One day though, I managed to find a small packet of smoked haddock (undyed) at Al Maya and quickly threw it into my shopping basket. Arriving home, I announced to Scotch that I was going to attempt my first Cullen Skink, a traditional Scottish soup much like a chowder, and promptly whipped up a batch for lunch.
It wasn’t until the very end of the cooking, as I turned off the burner, that I realized that the fish I had brought home was not smoked haddock, but smoked halibut. There it was, “HALIBUT,” in big orange letters the size of a Hummer limo clearly printed on the front of the packaging. Only I could miss something so blatantly obvious.
So it was to great relief that our hostess was able to sucessfully find undyed smoked haddock*, in Waitrose, after only visiting a couple other grocery stores. This lovely smoked haddock risotto was just the beginning of a beautiful evening of indulgence that RM had planned for us.
To cleanse our palate as we moved from a smoky fish course to a lamb course, we were presented with homemade strawberry sorbet which was a sweet and cheerful treat. I didn’t know you could make your own sorbet!
While we waited for the lamb to cook up, RM doled out
bribes small gifts to all of us from Crate and Barrel, which is my favorite home and kitchen store, how could she not get brownie points now?? Kidding, kidding. As we opened the signature white Crate and Barrel boxes, we oohed and ahhed over each others gifts and there might have been a swap or two. We were gifted mini spatulas, cookie cutters, collapsible funnels, cake testers, and for me – mini cupcake liners.
Main Course – Rack of Lamb with Gruyere Dauphinoise Potatoes, Asparagus and Port Sauce
Our first meat course of the competition were two gorgeous racks of lamb that RM had hoped to plate up like the one in the opening sequence of the Come Dine With Me TV show. However, the dauphinoise just didn’t hold up, pun intended. No matter, because they looked amazing anyway. More importantly, they tasted amazing.
Tender lamb with juicy fatty bits and naughty potatoes sandwiched in heavy cream with gruyere were accompanied by stalks of green asparagus and a red currant port sauce. I have to say it, “Mmm, yum!”
Desserts – Choice of Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce or Fresh Mixed Berry Meringue
Not one but two desserts! Although there was an “or” in the dessert option, all of us opted for “and.” Beyond the two choices, we were also given two ice creams to choose from to accompany our puddings as well as cream for the sticky date. For some, it was dessert heaven and such decadence is the stuff sweet dreams are made of.
And when we were all stuffed like happy little piggies, out came more food in the form of homemade fudge to go with our tea and coffee (which we all declined to continue other imbibitions). They were ultra-sweet – too much for me but I did take a few pieces home for Scotch.
Big kudos to RM for all the effort she put into the extra bits like the sorbet and the fudge. Oh, and the
bribes gifts ;).
We are now halfway through the competition, three amateur chefs down, three more to go. The bar continues to be set higher and higher with each dinner. Next up, a Swedish Soiree (not to worry – no Ikea style meatballs on that menu).
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Recipe for Strawberry Sorbet
250 grams caster sugar
500 grams strawberries hulled, plus a few to garnish
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, good quality
1 egg white
Makes 750 ml.
Put the sugar in a saucepan with 250 ml water, bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Cool completely.
Whizz the strawberries in a food processor and push the mix through a fine sieve. Stir in the sugar syrup and vinegar.
If using an ice-cream machine, lightly whisk the egg white and add it to the strawberry mixture before churning the whole lot. Then put into a freezer box and freeze until ready to serve.
If using your freezer, tip the strawberry mix into a freezer box and freeze until it is almost set (check after 3 hours). Then break it up with a fork and tip it into a food processor, along with the egg white, and whizz it into an icy slush. Tip the mix back into a freezer box and refreeze.
Serve scoops garnished with a few fresh strawberries.
Recipe from bbcgoodfood.com
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More Come Dine With Me Dubai:
The Culinary Battleground is Set!
Come Dine With Me – Day 1 – A Risotto Disaster?
Come Dine with Me – Day 2 – Ceviche, Ceviche!
Come Dine With Me – Day 3 – A Grand Feast
Come Dine With Me – Day 4 – A Taste of Sweden with No Meatballs
Come Dine With Me – Day 5 – Kilawin, Kilawin!
Come Dine With Me – Day 6 – The Winner is Announced
*Correction (05/26/2011): RM informed me that she was actually not successful in finding undyed smoked haddock and ended up using the dyed stuff from Waitrose.
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