Out and About: Sharjah

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'Walk-in's easy when the road is flat
Them danged 'ole hills will get you every time.
Yeah, the good Lord gave us mountains so we could learn how to climb
'

Lonestar

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As mentally promised, a short photojournalistic approach to my recent trip to Sharjah, the third largest emirate of the United Arab Emirates. Brunch at a local fast food cafeteria followed by a swift two prong attack (in two vehicles) of the linear settlement of container manufacturers alongst the road leading from Sharjah to Fujariah. Kids in tow together with a seemingly supportive husband as a cheerleader, Deena (our business partner) appeared undeterred in the heat of the scorching sun; exhibiting her bargaining propensities with the local businessmen. With a flick of her wrist and a cognitive exclaimation "It's too much.", she takes the cake EVERYTIME. Kudos to that lady.

Riding all the way from Sharjah to Al Dhaid, the landscape gradually took a change for the better. Evolving from the harsh dessert with random outplots of green patches to rocky outcrops rising to terrific heights in the distance. I was enthralled... finally... I felt at home. Not that I live near a mountain of sorts back home, but somehow, seeing the gentle undulation of the horizon sent a surge of endorphins thru my body. For once, I felt like I belonged.

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We paid a visit to the infamous Friday Market boosting a strange assortment of merchandise. From fruits to plants to carpets of shapes and sizes, it certainly was sight to behold. Especially since its location; nestled between the hilly regions between rocky outcrops, seemed almost inconvenient to both shoppers and dealers. Still, the mini-town was a bustle of activity.

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that's it for now. A short day trip to Sharjah and back. Below is a photo of Mohd ( deena's oldest), I wonder whether I'll get slaughtered for publishing this without her consent. *shrugs*.


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Kitchen mess-ups: Yogurt Mousse w/ Strawberry Jelly Cups

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Even the unfaltering get stung sometimes.

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Yogurt Mousse with Strawberry jelly. Quite a light summer treat success albeit for its' absurdly short shelf life.

Random note to myself: Korean over Egyptian.. ALL THE TIME!

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Strawberry jelly


50g Frozen strawberry

20g Sugar

1g Gelatin


Yogurt mousse


150g Plain yogurt

50g Sugar

100ml Milk

4g Gelatin

1tsp Vanilla extract



For decoration

Fresh strawberry

For the Strawberry Jelly
Bloom the gelatin in the water (if using gelatin powder, mix the gelatin with 2 tbsp of water).
Put the strawberry in the food processor and process until smooth, pour the sugar into the strawberry and process again.
Pour the mixture into small sauce pan, set over low heat. Heat the mixture until the sugar dissolve but not boil.
Take the pan out of the heat, then add the gelatin, stir until smooth. Let the jelly cool to room temperature.

For the Yogurt Mousse
Bloom the gelatin in the water (if using gelatin powder, mix the gelatin with 2 tbsp of water).
Put the milk in the microwave safe measuring cup, then heat in the microwave about 1-1.30 minutes until heat through.
Put the gelatin into the milk and stir to dissolve, then add the vanilla extract.
Let the milk cool completely.
When the milk cool, pour the yogurt into the bowl.
Pour the milk bit by bit into the yogurt, until mix through.

Pour 1 tbsp of the yogurt mousse into the glass, cool in the refrigerator until set then decorate with the strawberry. Put more mousse over the strawberry, and refrigerate until lightly set (15-20 minutes)then pour the strawberry jelly over. Refrigerate again and top with the mousse.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Note: if you make double quantity of the strawberry jelly pour the rest of the jelly over the mousse.

Dettol, Mopheads and a Birthday.

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I never knew that moving house could be so much work.

Lets be frank... the last time I was 'involved' in such an toilsome task was at the tender age of 12. And I don't recall even the slightest bit of manual labor that was entrusted into my clumsy hands. Thank goodness for that. So that was it, the end of my shifting resume. So when the apartment that Ben and Gwen were residing in, reached its seams, chock full of goodies and gizmos galore, it was evidently time for an upgrade. And a grand one at that too.

So pardon my rather random and short entries as we enter a cleaning phase. At this point, you can hear my arms whine just a little.

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a sneak-peak into the rather barren villa. Don't worry, I'm pretty sure it will fill up at an alarming rate soon. Cheers.

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On a more joyous note, I would like to wish my dearest babe a Happy Birthday! From halfway across the world, I wish you could feel my warmest embrace.

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I love you.

Electric Apricots

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You could either interpret this as a ghastly reminder of the eccentric, no, just plain atrocious band I saw on cable tv discussing the whereabouts of their 'wonderful' band name OR the fact that the homely bake below filled with brown-sugared apricot puree and a veil of cinammon sugar nut mixture *nudges*.. was truly electrifying.

I would like to think it is the latter, for obvious reasons.

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and if you're wondering what it is, yes, it's a woven apricot and almond strip (as stated.); a yeasted cake by nature. Note my trepidation when i drop the 'y' word. Despite my many years of stirring the deep realms of baking, yeast still remains as one of biggest obstacle. Wanting a taste of the forbidden fruit, I treaded on thin ice and made a pass at this recipe I spotted in Carole Walter 'Great Coffee Cakes'. Then, beginning with a sweet dough that was churned out a day before to allow it to rest in the fridge, I traced the rest of the steps with fearful precision until... disaster struck.

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ah, yes, life has a way of doing a belly flop every time you smile in contention at your successful efforts. Just God's way of humbling us. But, as willed, I assembled the entire strip complete with puree and folding on the counter top, only to find out that it was nearly impossible to lift the long strip onto the cookie sheet without rupturing the structured bridges of dough over the top. I grimaced, whined, sulked and pull a hot-dog long face as I pried the dough from the countertop (that thankfully was well-floured enough) and plopped it onto the buttered cookie tray. But darn it... some of the overlapping had come undone releasing a torrent of syrupy juices from the apricot puree to flow around the base of the sweet dough. I was slumped. That was it, making a tiny mistake and having an entire days' worth of work go to waste. Ever felt like that before?

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At the very least, the coffee cake emerged looking like a glorious fan of sunshine from the oven. I was elated... more so from the taste too. But be very sure that the sweet yeasted doughs deserves a revisit from me very soon!

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Simple Sweet Dough
from Carole Walter's 'Great Coffee Cakes'

makes 2 pounds of dough, enough for 1 large or 2 medium coffee cake

Ingredients:
4 tbsp sugar
1/4 cups warm water (110 to 115 F)
1 package active dry yeast
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup milk
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

Rinse a small bowl in hot water to warm it. Add 1 tbsp of the sugar and the warm water to the bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water. Do not stir. Cover the bowl with a saucer and let the mixture stand for 5 minutes. Stir it briefly with a fork, cover again, and let it stand for 2 to 3 minutes more, or until bubbly.

In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix on low speed the 3 cups of flour, remaining 3 tbsp of sugar, and the salt. Add the slightly firm cubed butter and continue to mix until meal-size crumbs form, 2 to 4 minutes depending on the temp of the butter. Stop the mixer.

Using a fork, in a separate bowl, mix the milk, egg yolks and vanilla. Add the milk mixture to the flour, along with the dissolved yeast, and mix on low speed for about 15 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Mix on low speed for another 30 seconds, or until smooth dough is formed. NOTE: this is a soft dough.

Lightly butter a medium bowl for storing the dough. Empty the dough into the prepared bowl, smoothing the top with lightly floured hands. Spread a thin layer of softened butter over the top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The dough may be kept in the fridge, tightly covered, for up to 3 days.


For the Filling and assembly:

Ingredients:

Apricot Puree
4 ounces dried apricots (not organic)
1/2 cup (lightly packed) light brown sugar
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp almond extract

Sugar Cinnamon Sprinkle
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp chopped almonds, toasted

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1/2 recipe (about 1 pound) Simple Sweet Dough

2 tbsp unsalted butter, very soft
1 large egg white lightly beaten with 1 tbsp of water for egg wash
2 tbsp slivered almonds
2 tbsp granulated sugar

TO make the apricot puree: In a heavy 1-quart saucepan, combine the apricots and 1/2 cup water. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the apricots are very soft. If too much of the water evaporates, add 1 to 2 tbsp, or more as needed to prevent the apricots from burning. Stir in the brown sugar, then simmer for another minute or two. Remove the pan from the heat. Using a fork, whip in the butter and almond extract, mixing until the consistency is fairly smooth. Let cool. (You should have about 3/4 of a cup.)

Make the sprinkle: In a small bowl, combine the granulated and brown sugars, cinnamon, and almonds. Set aside.

Shape the dough: Butter a large cookie sheet and set aside. Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured work surface. Knead five or six times, then let rest for 5 minutes. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, shape the dough into an 8 x 12 inch rectangle. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin and place it on the prepared cookie sheet, stretching it back into shape.

Using an offset spatula, spread a 3-inch strip of soft butter down the length of the dough. Sprinkle the sugar/cinnamon mixture over the butter. Spoon the apricot puree over the sugar mixture. With the back of the spoon, smooth the puree over the sugar/cinnamon as best you can. Brush both sides of the dough with a 1-inch strip of egg wash.

With a dough scraper or a sharp knife, cut nine slashes, about 1 1/4 inches apart on both sides of the dough, being careful not to cut into the strip of filling. Starting from the top, overlap the strips from left to right, pulling down slightly to cover the filling. Pinch the seams on the top and bottom so the filling will not seep out. Cover the strip with a tea towel and set in a warm place to rise for 45 yo 60 minutes, or until puffy and almost doubled.

Bake the strip: Fifteen minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350. Brush the top of the strip with the egg wash and sprinkle with the almonds and sugar. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Do not overbake.

Remove from the oven and let stand on the cookie sheet for about 10 minutes, then loosen with a large spatula. When firm enough to handle, transfer to a cooling rack.

Breakfast at Lime Tree

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Life in Dubai is never short of brunch moments. With many restaurants providing the all-day breakfast option, one can never suffer from a breakfast craving despite shameless wakeup call timings.

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Despite the odd popularity for all day breakfasts, Lime tree cafe only serves theirs till 11am. Meaning a mad dash to the cafe situated along the bustling Jumeirah road straight after jumping out of our pjs.

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the big breakfast in its full glory. the beef sausage was good apparently. Which makes me broach the topic, why is it that beef substitute produce like beef sausages and beef bacon served in muslim countries are so much better than I could have imagined? Guess its a case of abstinence makes the heart fonder and in actuality more desperate... haha.

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Another eye catching beauty, the smoked salmon scrambled eggs looked amazing. No comments about its taste whereabouts though.

Still, a little jealousy flag is raised.

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I poked and starred with daggered eyes at my less than colorful dish when it approached the table. Poached eggs on toast? What was I to expect?

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Funny how things can change with one poke. Fluid yellow streams of happy liquids oozing out from it's white membranous sacs. Nom...

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Lime Tree Cafe
Jumeirah Beach Rd - Dubai
United Arab Emirates
04 349 8498
www.thelimetreecafe.com

wordless wednesdays: Opening of the Burj Khalifa

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Isaiah 4:5 And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence. 6 And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.

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pyrotechnic displays for the opening of the Burj Dubai Khalifa. All the way from our balcony at Somerset residences.

only in Dubai.

exploring the unknown: Abu Dhabi

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The question Gwen posted me after yesterdays' visit, 'would you have wanted to stay on if the first place you saw was somewhat like Abu Dhabi?'.

Hell Yeh!

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Bearing close resemblence to the of the robust streets of Malaysia, tied in with dessert palm trees lining the road dividers, I felt strangely at ease.

A quick lunch at the glitzy emirates palace hotel then it was back to the streets. Roaming around the city via foot had its benefits in knowledge, including discovering the immensity of the city center and second, that you probably needed new shoes after the 6 hours of trudging across concrete pavements.

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Well, nonetheless, here are some inspiring shots of the exhibition showcasing the upcoming architectural projects taking place in Abu Dhabi that would house several world renowned museums and art centres. Frank Gehry, yes, some kind of beautiful mess.

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Corniche beach, an absolute favourite amongst the locals who love a bit of landscape and greenery, was like a little dessert oasis for me. Emerald colored waters licked the breakwaters and the setting sun, shone a path of glorious gold across the choppy waters. The wind blew a little harder, cold and tense against my goose-bumped skin. I was alone, and somehow, just missing you a little.

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You've got the best of both worlds
You're the kind of girl who can take down a man,
And lift him back up again
You are strong but you're needy,
Humble but you're greedy
And based on your body language,
And shotty cursive I've been reading
Your style is quite selective,
Though your mind is rather reckless
Well I guess it just suggests
That this is just what happiness is

And what a beautiful mess this is
It's like we're picking up trash in dresses

Well it kind of hurts when the kind of words you write
Kind of turn themselves into knives
And don't mind my nerve you could call it fiction
But I like being submerged in your contradictions dear
'Cause here we are, here we are

NYE @ Part I cafe

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To think that we actually debated having popiah for NYE's dinner before heading down to this humble hole in the wall of a cafe. Located along the picturesque Jasmine road, one can only relate a scene of unadulterated peace of mind with a name like that. And so, it was. Not just so because, I was close to you.

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little's crabbe crepe ($13.90)

Note to caution: though this was spectacular in all its rights with a good bite thru the crabmeat shreds and mozzarella cheese. However it all got a little overwhelming towards the middle. My advice would be to do a good deed and share.

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Appropriately named, the cafe assumes a casual yet surreal role. And with decor like that to boot, I was mesmerized. We're talking a whole wall spread full of photo frames, potraits filled with happy faces, of all shapes, shades and sizes sprawled across the blank wall. Memorabilia from all walks of life filled every nook and cranny, shelf and vintage cabinets. Ancient weighing scales, dial telephones.. it was like being in a house that required serious decluttering yet held its grounds and its insane charm just by being the way it is.

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To start us off, we had Little's homemade Onion Rings ($6.90). Perhaps it had been our drugged sleep before, strangely enough, we were muttering about the calamari being excellent as we chewed through our first few munchies. I reckoned it must have been the misleading wasabi mayo (that had quite a kick to it) served alongside that lead to the disillusion. Sorted out, we chomped down on the remaining rings, mostly pleased with its notorious crunch.

Mains was the crabbe crepe for me and the little's chicken schnitzel ($18.90) for him. Both were delish, mediocre but still good to eat albeit for the dish washing drenched salad on the side. Go easy on the lemon dressing the next time, the thought of masticating a bunch of soapy tasting leaves isn't that appealing. Credits goes out to the homemade mash for the innovative addition of pulverised corn to the mix that contributed quite a bit of texture.

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Sweet endings to our meal comprised of warm apple crumble with ice cream ($7.50). This one made me giggle, laugh and gobble like a turkey through its crispy sides to its warm apple-y core then back up to the luxuriously thawing vanilla ice cream. Just like the makeup of the cafe, this dessert was a perfect spokesperson. Humble yet overflowing with generosity. I knew I would return for this someday.

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And with this meal, marked the end of the year 2009, and my short trip back to Spore. In just a few hours, I was shot off to the airport, ushering in the new year with a quiet message from the airport manager to all passengers and visitors, followed by a relentless hug of desolation at the gates. Here, I would like to thank babe for spending time with me the last few days. They had been been in all ways, wonderful and crazy sweet. Blessed new year babe. May we hold fast to our resolutions...

To everyone else, Happy New Year!



This is the closest thing to crazy I have ever been
Feeling twenty-two, acting seventeen,
This is the nearest thing to crazy I have ever known,
I was never crazy on my own...
And now I know that there's a link between the two,
Being close to craziness and being close to you.