I have never, ever professed to be a cook. From time to time I’ve enjoyed baking the occasional cake, but I think cooking requires a far more greater discipline, patience and finesse that I just don’t have in me. We food critics and reviewers find it easy to criticise food, spot flavours and the like; but some of us (well…me atleast) aren’t exceptional cooks!
Thanks to Monica Kapila of Doin Dubai, I got to experience The Levant and North African cooking class at the Al Maeda Restaurant in the DoubleTree by Hilton JBR first hand at one of her immaculately organised Blogger Managed Events (BMEs). This brought me to the other side of the fence to very unfamiliar grounds of cooking! Levant and North African cuisine has often featured in my childhood growing up in this country and so I wanted to embrace this part of my cultural upbringing by facing it head on. And what better way to do it than cook it?
We started the class around noon, when me and the other wonderful bloggers were given aprons as well as a brief on what we would be making (and eating) that day! We were focusing on Levant cuisine that day. On the 3 course menu, we had to make:
Loubieh Bel Zeit – A vegetarian cold dish in a tangy tomato sauce along with beans.
Vegetable Kawage – A variety of mixed veggies in a tomato paste.
Kousa Mahshi – Meat and rice stuffed baby marrows slathered in a delicious minty yoghurt sauce.
Kunafa A.K.A. Happiness.
We got straight into it after putting on our aprons. My friend and blogger Niggi Phulwani joined me behind the scenes in the kitchen where we were taught to burrow the kousas and then create the mixture of meat,rice and spices that go into it. Trust me, burrowing is hard, but Sous Chef Lawrence Al Najjad makes it look so easy. His chef skills and flair are just a testament to his many years of experience in cooking.
I had an amazing afternoon with fellow #bloggers @doindubai @niggiphulwani @engineer_with_flair @megsblogged and @thevegetariansoul learning 3 courses of #Levant cuisine from @lawrence_alnajjad located @almaeda_restaurant at the @doubletreebyhiltonjumeirah! (This included KUNAFA 😍) They officially start today! Every Tuesday, they hold a 3-course cooking class from the Levant and the North African regions for just AED199! They also offer additional pool access for AED 50 and a free edutainment centre for kids as you take your class. Totally worth checking out as they change the menu every week! If you wanna get some insights, check out my #instastories or stay tuned for my #blogpost! . . . . . #almaedaexperience #unusualarabic #levantspirit #doubletreejbr #zomatouae #delish #eeeeeats #dxbeats #nom #omnomnom #dubaiblogger #uaeblogger #dubaifoodblogger #uaefoodblogger #iphoneography #foodography #huffpostetaste #f52grams #tasty #forkyeah #yum #dubaifoodie #feedfeed
Moving on a rotation basis, we kept moving through the kitchen while volunteering to do different tasks. Both vegetarian dishes were prepared simultaneously and it made me wonder how the chefs manage such chaos in the kitchen! It was definitely an interesting insight.
Here are some of the pics of us in action:
On to the kunafa! While Chef Lawrence was showing us how to melt the Akawi cheese, I realized that my favourite Levant dessert is quite a task to make. 🙁 The Akawi cheese has to be de-salted over 6 whole hours to lose its saltiness. Ahhhh, I think I’m gonna stick to heading over to my favourite Syrian sweets shop near my home. However, it gave me an idea of why kunafa is simply not available everywhere and that getting it right is really complex.
After we were done with cooking, we sat down to savour the fruits of our labour at around 2pm. Levant cuisine cooking may be long and laborious, but so worth it in the end! I must make it a point to visit Al Maeda just for the food as well, the ingredients they use are fresh. (Quite literally, for adding the herbs, Chef Lawrence just pulled them out of the potted plants that we thought were used just for decor.) Also, their sit-out area is a delight.
These summer cooking classes will be held every Tuesday and cost only AED 199 for a whole lot of fun, learning, cooking and eating. If you have kids in tow, they will happily be distracted at the edutainment centre called Kidz Venture Kids Club close by for free. After you’re done with cooking and eating your meal, they offer pool and beach access for an additional AED 50. A pretty great deal. The menu is different every week, which is great if you want to come back for more. Bookings are required 24 hours in advance.
Al Maeda restaurant is located on the 1st floor of the DoubleTree by Hilton JBR. You can call 055 166 8092 for bookings.