Friday, January 10, 2014

Bringing the heat to a winter potluck

We've been having a bit of a chilly spell here in Dubai lately, so I invited a few friends over to help warm things up with a potluck lunch (good thing for ambiance that my Christmas decorations were still up).

Erik brought an addictive homemade olive dip, while Mr & Mrs Sacks brought an experimental coconut water mojito mix, and assembled a creative platter of assorted fresh, dry, sweet and salty hors d'oeuvres.

Gokhan's pan-fried cauliflower with yoghurt and rye bread served as our appetizing appetizer, enhanced by Rosine's extra-tangy family-farmed sumac.

Rosine herself brought a delicious onion thin-crust pie, with a side of fresh greens.

I have waited too long to taste Phil's chili, and I was not disappointed when he volunteered a white chicken chili -- not the kind I am used to, but tasty all the same, with a peppery heat that fit right into the theme.

My own contribution was something I thought of doing for my Russian theme meal a few months ago, but decided against in favor of the more uniquely Russian shchi. I started the borscht by browning about 700g of beef, then boiling it with 10 cups of water for about half an hour, while I prepared the vegetables: 4 quartered beets, 1 shredded small head of cabbage, 1 quartered large onion, and a minced bunch of dill. Along with a few bay leaves, 100ml of chicken consomme mix, and about 400g of tomato sauce, I added these to the pot of meat and let them all simmer for about 2 hours.

About an hour before serving, I added 3 diced large carrots and 2 cups of soaked rice, along with the juice of two lemons. I let this simmer for the remaining hour, and served it with Russian sour cream and minced dill to garnish. The savory sweetness of this dish complemented the chili well, and I will not mind the leftovers at all.

Last, but not least, Zeina and Jesper brought a most divine bread pudding for dessert, topped with chocolate chips and served with orange whipped cream. Second helpings were too hard to resist.

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