Ramadan 2018: ‘Ramadan Brings Out the Best In a Cook’
Chef Mama, Pullman Dubai Creek City Centre’s Moroccan chef, has an amazing array this Holy Month. She explains what foodies can expect at the hotel’s Medley Restaurant this month
What can guests expect at Pullman’s Iftar buffet this season?
Like every year, during the holy month of Ramadan, Pullman Dubai Creek City Centre offers a unique experience when it comes to the atmosphere, the food and the service. We will be offering an Iftar and Suhour buffet in Medley Restaurant as well as special deals for larger corporate groups looking to celebrate for “breaking the fast” together hosted by the property’s Moroccan Chef Mama, who is known for her rich delicious dishes and amazing hospitality. Our buffet will be changing every day and it will be an endless mix and match journey of authentic Arabic cuisine with a Moroccan twist.
Tell us about the new specialities you will be preparing this year?
New dishes will be introduced to the buffet this year with special focus on the Moroccan cuisine which is a melting pot of different cultures, distinctive flavors and exquisite presentations. There will be a large array of Tajines: Lamb Tajine with vegetables, Lamb tajine with Prunes and caramelized onions, Chicken Tajine with green olives and lemon, Fish with Sharmoula tajine which is a staple in the Moroccan tables during Ramadan. I am currently preparing a new specialty, Called Sfouf, it is a unique unbaked Moroccan sweet made from toasted unhulled sesame seeds, fried almonds, and flour that has been browned in the oven. It has a very rich taste and it is packed with nutrients, as it is traditionally served only during the Ramadan period, where there is greater need of restoring energy.
What goes behind creating a dedicated menu for Ramadan? How do you strike a balance between local and international dishes?
I have a simple philosophy when it comes to creating my dishes; and that is always staying true to my origins and to my Arabic/Moroccan culture. Although Ramadan is all about abstaining from food from sunrise to sunset the fact is those who fast, look forward to breaking their fast. This is why Ramadan brings out the best in a cook. I always break my fast with dates and a cup of warm milk. I am used to fasting so it doesn't affect my performance. I don't need to taste the food when I cook. Being the Head chef with Princess Lalla Amina in the late 80’s in Rabat, the youngest sister of the late King Hassan II of Morocco and also having more than 20 years of experience in different top ranked kitchens in Morocco and GCC, I know “how much salt I have to throw in the pot”. I always present a wide variety of dishes with local, Arabic and international flavours to please everybody’s demanding taste buds. As Dubai is a multinational city, we are having guests from all over the world and we want to offer to all nationalities a strong and flavored cuisine.
With so many opulent Iftars on offer throughout Ramadan, many people struggle to stay healthy. How important is the ‘health’ aspect in your menu?
Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection and family gatherings and there is no better place to enjoy good moments with the loved ones under the live tunes of oud playing, Arabic decoration and an impeccable welcoming atmosphere combined with exemplary service and a tastefully-crafted Iftar buffet, provided only in Medley Restaurant. The majority of my dishes are cooked with natural ingredients, no artificial flavors at all, I count on extra virgin olive oil and saffron, ginger powder, curcuma and celery. These are flavors enhancers; I never create a dish without checking the quality of the ingredients.
For those who are dieting, I recommend the Harira soup as a starter, as it is rich in vitamins, fibers and carbohydrates. It is a whole meal by itself as it has onion tomatoes, celery, parsley, Lentil and rice. Once you find yourself in my Iftar, make sure you give it a try. I am sure you will love it.
What inspired you to become a chef? Do you have a personal motto that drives the way you cook food?
When I was a kid, all I remember was watching my mother cooking. The way she was choosing her vegetables and the other ingredients to be fresh, and the love she was putting in every meal. I saw myself in that and I immediately fell in love with cooking as well. When I was 5 years old, I took sand and tried to make bread out of it. And at the age of 8, while my parents were away, I wanted to give them a present. So I decided to cook for them. I made a fish with lemon and spices and I had it ready by the time they came back. My parents were so proud of me and they recognised my talent and my passion so from this day onwards, they pushed me towards my dream. Seeing people enjoying my cooking, makes me happy and there is no better satisfaction than seeing smiling faces over your creations.
What are the three ingredients you cannot live without?
Extra virgin olive oil, Moroccan spices and Thyme.
Would you like to share some cooking tips for Ramadan with our readers?
Marinate, marinate, marinate… at least 3 hours before cooking. It is essential to choose the appropriate marinate for your fish, meat or chicken. It adds flavors to the food and makes it more tender .
Anything else you would like to add…
Ramadan Kareem! May this sacred month bring s happiness and prosperity to all. Looking forward to seeing everyone in Medley Restaurant thought out the holy month!