Thanks to Gourmet Abu Dhabi, food lovers in the capital were well fed in February. Now Taste of Dubai, the three-day festival that begins tomorrow, promises to sate appetites further.
Over the past few years, Dubai's restaurant scene has expanded at an exponential rate. This is no bad thing, but unless you're ardently dedicated to eating out, it can be rather difficult to keep tabs on where to go for your next meal. Wander through the amphitheatre at Media City over the next few days, though, and you'll be able to sample food from all over the city; handily condensed and there for the tasting.
With 22 restaurants setting up food stalls - each serving signature dishes carefully selected to lure you back to sample the full monty in the future - choice is not something visitors will be short of. So, what better (and more wallet-friendly way) to decide whether the white tomato soup at Rhodes Mezzanine really justifies the hype, if Mango Tree's fish and chips are a patch on Rivington Grill's or to enjoy the lamb, morel and corn korma cooked up by the chefs at Indego by Vineet Bhatia. All this can be done while milling around in the sunshine, listening to live music. There are worse ways to spend a weekend, it has to be said.
As with previous years, the Chef's Theatre promises to draw a crowd. From locally based head chefs to international visitors, every 30 minutes someone different will take to the stage and demonstrate how to prepare a favourite dish or two. Gary Rhodes and Bhatia are crowd favourites in this department and have, in the past, proved themselves capable of simultaneously providing a stream of entertaining chat while whipping up delicious food.
Tim Hughes might be new to Taste of Dubai, but the chef director of Caprice Holdings, the Birley Group and Urban Caprice has the kind of culinary credentials that demand attention. Hughes did a stint at Marco Pierre White's legendary three Michelin-star restaurant Harveys, has worked closely with Mark Hix and was responsible for opening London's J Sheekey's. When he takes to the stage, the audience will be given a taste of what to look forward to when The Ivy opens at Jumeirah Emirates Towers later this year.
Also new to the festival is Jun Tanaka, a man who trained under two of the greatest chefs ever to have cooked in the UK: Albert Roux and Nico Ladenis. In 2004, Tanaka opened Pearl, a London restaurant known for its modern French style of cooking, and nowadays he is firmly established as a TV favourite, often appearing on BBC 1's Saturday Kitchen and UKTV's Market Kitchen.
For a more intimate and certainly more involved experience, audience members can pull on aprons and feel the heat of the stove for themselves. The Miele Cookery School is open from 1pm-11pm on all three days and various chefs (both local and visiting) will be offering guidance, as the crowd cooks along with them. A daunting task if there ever was one and I don't mean just for the volunteers. This is a great opportunity to pick up tips and hone skills; learn how to put together a starter like they do at Verre by Gordon Ramsay or treat ingredients simply but stylishly à la Rivington Grill.
If you fancy learning how to make Jun Tanaka's herb-crusted lamb with peas, broad beans and girolles, Indego by Vineet's saffron chicken korma or the Rib Room's cocktail tower, among many other dishes, then the classes are free and operate on a first come, first served basis. Pay close attention there and you could have your next dinner party sorted.
If that sounds like too intimidating a prospect, then there are plenty of less-taxing options; go for a wander and try the wares at the various exhibitor stands (among them Waitrose, the Raw Coffee company, Carluccio's and Marks & Spencer), or take a trip to the Piper Unwind Lounge to sample a new fruit juice drink which, rather ambitiously, aims to promote social interaction and inspire creativity. Or you could just bask in the sunshine with a bowl of churros coffee ice cream from Al Hambra. Either way, there's plenty going on over the next few days and if you need further convincing, then the recipes for a couple of the dishes on offer are on the right.
Opening times: tomorrow until Saturday March 5, noon-midnight (food served until 11.30pm). Tickets can be purchased from the Taste of Dubai website, standard ticket: Dh60 in advance or Dh75 on the door. Children under 12 are free. Visit www.tasteofdubaifestival.com. For more information about the Miele Cookery School e-mail culinarymasterclasses.
Rhodes Mezzanine: prawn and caviar hollandaise cocktail
For the hollandaise: 450g unsalted butter 4 tsp white vinegar 2 tsp cracked white peppercorns 8 egg yolks lemon juice, to taste
200g prawns, shells removed 10g butter 10g caviar
100g iceberg lettuce, shredded 50g cucumber, diced 25g shallot, peeled and finely sliced
salt and black pepper
Prepare the hollandaise. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat until it starts to foam. Skim off the foam, remove the pan from the heat and leave the butter to settle. Spoon the clarified butter into a small container, discarding the milky white solids remaining in the pan.
Pour the white vinegar, peppercorns and a pinch of salt into another small pan, bring to the boil and reduce by half. Pour into a bowl and add the egg yolks and 4 tbsp of water.
Place the bowl over a pan of boiling water, reduce the heat and whisk for 8-10 minutes, until the yolks are light and creamy.
Remove from the heat and, whisking continuously, slowly add the clarified butter. Pass through a fine sieve and season with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Dice the prawns into small pieces. Put the remaining butter and a tablespoon of water into a saucepan and melt gently on the edge of the stove. Add the prawns and cover with a cartouche (a circle of greaseproof paper, which acts as the lid). Steam gently, until the prawns are just cooked through. Remove from the heat, tip into a bowl and use the hollandaise to bind the prawns together. Season with salt and black pepper, stir in the caviar and a squeeze of lemon.
Mix the shredded lettuce, diced cucumber and sliced shallot together with a squeeze of lemon juice. To serve, divide the lettuce mixture between four cocktail glasses and top with the prawns and caviar.
Rivington Grill: Eton Mess
For the meringue: 4 egg whites 175g caster sugar
For the strawberry sauce: 200g fresh or frozen strawberries, roughly chopped caster sugar, to taste 400g whipping cream icing sugar, to taste 1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthways 160g strawberries, quartered
Line a baking tray with silicone paper. Whisk the egg whites to form soft peaks, then gradually add the sugar until the mixture is white, stiff and glossy. Transfer to a piping bag and pipe lines of meringue on to the prepared tray. Bake at 100°C for 1 hour, turn the oven off and leave the meringue to dry out. Once dry, break into pieces and store in an airtight container.
For the strawberry sauce, place the frozen or fresh strawberries in a pan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and add sugar to taste; because the meringue and cream are sweet, it's best not to add too much. Blend to a purée and store in the fridge until needed.
Stir the seeds from the vanilla pod into the whipping cream and whisk to form soft peaks. Carefully fold in the icing sugar, to taste.
To serve, put the majority of the meringue pieces in a bowl. Add the whipped cream and three quarters of the fresh strawberries, then fold in the strawberry sauce, to create a rippled effect. Transfer to serving plates and garnish with the remaining strawberries and the rest of the meringue.