The sixth and final day of our Come Dine With Me (CDWM) competition has finally arrived and before the night is over we will find out which of the six of us will have won the title of Ultimate Dinner Party Host and take home the 600 dhs prize money. Could it be me?
Each week of the competition has taken us on a culinary journey to different countries far and wide without leaving the comforts of our Dubai dining rooms. We’ve traveled to France via a saffron-infused bouillabaisse reminiscent of Provençal markets and seaside cafes, and then to Italy where each biteful of creamy risotto transported us to a moment in time where life slows down, reminding us that good food need not be rushed.
We’ve learned about new cooking methods with Mexican ceviche and Filipino kilawin – dishes from two countries thousands of miles apart yet both incorporating similar methods of “cooking” fish without heat – one using limes and the other using vinegar. Plus how could we ever forget our culinary trip to Sweden where, thankfully, not a single meatball was found, only stuffed beef roulades and the quintessential Swedish appetizer, the toast skagen.
Our final food journey tonight takes us to India as our hostess, SA, has prepared an array of Indian dishes in a final bid to win over our taste buds and ultimately our Come Dine With Me votes.
A few months ago, these dinners were SA’s brainchild where she thought it would be great fun to put a twist into our usual dinner parties by modeling them in the style of BBC’s CDWM series.
SA had requested that we arrive at her Al Barsha villa in Indian attire and at 8pm sharp for the entertainment. So we all got dressed in saris, sawar kalmeez, bangles and bindis.
For those uninitiated in the complex ways that one can wear a multi-metered strip of cloth, the saris that were bought at Lulu’s hypermarket came with these photocopied instructions:
Racking my brain for what possible entertainment SA could have arranged, my mind wandered to some CDWM episodes where there were hired bands or arranged fireworks and of course there was the “Sushi Surprise” episode. I was hoping her entertainment would be more in line with live music than having to eat sushi off a hairy man’s chest – a youtube video that RM (our competitor from Day 3) sent me when I first confessed that I’d never seen nor heard of CDWM before.
Our entertainment of the evening turned out to be neither musical nor eating off someone’s naked body but there was some skin to skin contact.
SA had hired a henna artist to decorate our bodies. I chose to get my hands done but soon wondered if that was a wise decision as it became quite challenging to operate my camera plus tripod without disturbing the henna. And then, when the henna started to dry and flake off, I was getting pieces of it in my food. Yum. Good thing henna’s all natural.
After the henna session, we were ready to eat! The curtains were drawn and the dining room was revealed for dramatic effect! SA had bought a ton of fabric from Satwa to create the curtains, decorate the pillars, and to wrap around the dining chairs.
I loved that the villa was filled with the scent of fresh jasmine from freshly picked flowers – some of the buds were painstakingly threaded in the style of tiny leis.
Starter – Pakoras
We started the evening with pakoras made with onions, coriander, mint, ginger and garlic, served on banana leaves. They are similar to fritters but instead of a flour-based batter, pakoras are usually made with chick pea flour (also known as gram flour, garbanzo flour, or besan) which SA said can be found at Lulu’s hypermarket (and most likely Carrefour, Geant, and the Co-Op).
SA served the pakoras with a coriander yogurt sauce, which was lovely and lemony and a nice change from the usual mint yogurt sauce. She also provided a basket of papadums along with a variety of Indian chutneys, pickles, coriander and sliced red onions all in silver serving bowls.
The pakoras came out hot and perfectly golden from the deep fryer. They were flavorful, delicious and not oily at all. My only grumble was that there weren’t enough on my plate but SA quickly remedied that and brought out more to pass around.
Main Course – Spicy Red Prawn Curry with Chicken Biryani
I had been looking forward to SA’s spicy prawn curry since I first saw it on her menu many weeks ago because for me, prawns + curry = instant happiness :). I dipped my fork into the bowl of red curry goodness and slowly brought a saucy prawn into my mouth…verdict?…yep, definitely curry prawn happiness. Perfectly spiced to my taste (SA used Indian chilli powder) so that my mouth wasn’t set on fire and I could still taste the flavors of the fresh prawns that had been simmered in tomato and garam masala.
The curry prawns were served alongside chicken biryani, potatoes and raita made with mint, cucumber, and yogurt. We also had a choice of garlic or butter nan. The biryani was excellent but I found more happiness in the prawn curry.
Dessert – Gajar Halwa
Gajar halwa is a very popular Indian dessert made with grated sweetened carrots. You will notice that the recipe SA provided below calls for 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of carrots – she grated all 1 kg of carrots by herself! That’s a lot of grating but the results were so worth it.
The gajar halwa was quite sweet, but not overly, with hints of cardamom and saffron giving it a nice aftertaste. SA served it with vanilla ice cream to balance out the sweetness of the carrots. I was surprised I enjoyed it as sweetened carrots aren’t usually my thing. I will have to delve further into my taste buds to determine why carrot cake makes me gag yet this gajar halwa was enjoyable to eat.
Worried that I wasn’t going to like the dish because of my aversion to desserts, SA also provided a platter of assorted cheeses, crudités, and fresh fruit. Brownie points for sure!
After the dinner, we jotted down the final scores and placed them into the red voting vessel we had been using throughout the dinners. If you recall, I had initially mentioned that we would film each of the dinners in the hopes of making a compilation video with CDWM’s Dave Lamb type commentary. So after all the scores were placed in the voting vessel, we took it outside and videotaped it being smashed open to reveal all the votes.
We had a special independent auditor tally up our scores (aka SA’s older brother) and for dramatic flair for the video, we had him announce the winner over the speaker phone. Haha, just kidding, he announced the winner over mobile because he didn’t want to come out of his bedroom – but it did add drama like on American Idol when contestants announce to their loved ones that they’ve made it to the next round.
In the words of SA’s brother via speaker phone, “There was a draw!”
We had not ONE but TWO winners! To loud cheers of celebration, we toasted and congratulated our winners: RM from Day 3, with her smoked haddock risotto, roast lamb, sticky date pudding and mini pavlovas; and from tonight, SA with her Indian-themed evening! Congratulations on a job well-done, ladies, and to absolutely fantastic dinners – you both thoroughly deserve the title of Ultimate Dinner Hostesses.
So I didn’t win but there were no losers in this competition as we all got to experience incredible food and enjoy each other’s company. Good things all come to an end but if you enjoyed reading this then head over to Sally at My Custard Pie for more Come Dine With Me – Dubai style.
And thanks for reading and joining us in our culinary battleground.
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- 1 kg (2.2 lbs) grated carrots
- 1-2 cups water
- 4 small cans of evaporated milk (SA used rainbow brand)
- 1 tablespoon cardamom
- 3 tablespoons ghee*
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
- 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk (SA used rainbow brand with the cake picture)
- 16 whole almonds (pistachios, pecans, and cashews are also commonly used)
Soak almonds in hot water to remove the skin. Drain almonds from the water and cut into slivers. Fry them in a pan with 1 tablespoon of ghee until they are golden colored. Remove from ghee, drain on paper towels, and set aside.
In a medium-sized pot, heat up just enough water to cover the carrots. Once the water is boiling, add the grated carrots and simmer for 8-10 minutes. Add the evaporated milk, sprinkle in the cardamom and cook, uncovered, over low heat for about 45 minutes while stirring occasionally.
Once all the milk is nearly evaporated, add 2 tablespoons of ghee and stir. Then add the sugar, saffron, and the sweetened condensed milk. Keep cooking the carrots until all the liquid is evaporated (but do not let it completely dry out) and you are left with a moist and mushy carrot mixture.
Garnish with the slivered almonds and serve with vanilla ice cream.
Recipe Notes*Ghee is clarified butter popular in South Asian cuisine (Indian, Bangladeshi, Nepali and Pakistani). You can also substitute unsalted butter.
Recipe courtesy of SA.
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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!