Organising a dinner party can be a minefield at the best of times. Add to that an extra complication – a guestlist of people who have never met – and you have a potentially tricky recipe on your hands. So when Time Out decided to throw a dinner party, we thought we’d ease the burden by leaving the cooking to someone else: we invited three prominent Dubaians over for dinner and asked them to prepare one course each. We then asked our guests to pass judgement on one another’s culinary masterpieces, with Eating Out editor Penelope Walsh acting as referee and compiling the scores. How did our celebs get on? Let’s find out…
I arrive at the venue – The Rib Room in Jumeirah Emirates Towers – feeling like an anxious matchmaker and wondering what to expect from my guests: Colombian-born, Dubai-based singer Fatiniza,
Dubai One TV presenter Layne Redman and Dubai 92 DJ Tom Bushell. But for all my fears, it’s only a matter of minutes before the ice is well and truly broken (after all, our guests’ professional lives require a degree of self-confidence).
It soon transpires that I’ve made the ultimate, and inevitable, dinner party faux-pas. Being something of an omnivore myself, I haven’t thought about dietary requirements of my guests, yet it turns out Layne is a vegetarian and Tom is allergic to nuts. While they can eat their own dishes in safety, both face two potentially inedible courses. Luckily for his fellow diners, Layne has a policy of eating meat only when absolutely necessary (ie now).
Tom, who is in charge of the starter, produces slices of prosciutto, pre-sliced mozzarella and tomatoes, and fresh basil leaves. It doesn’t look as though it’ll make a knockout impression. Yet rather cleverly (and insistently), he enlists the help of The Rib Room chef Ganesh Venkiteswaran to arrange these failsafe ingredients into restaurant-standard presentation. ‘He can do the first one, then I’ll copy it,’ Tom announces. To my surprise, Tom does a fairly good job of replicating Ganesh’s efforts – judging by the look on Fatiniza and Layne’s faces when the dish arrives, the extra help on presentation has done Tom some favours.
Tom’s starter is generally well received and, personally, I enjoy it immensely: it’s a light, fresh and summery start to the meal, although it was a mistake to pre-slice the ingredients. It is, however, a classic and reliable combination and it would have taken a lot of energy to ruin this otherwise effortless starter.
Conversely, I’m impressed by the effort that Fatiniza has made. For her dish of chicken breast with home-made honey and mustard sauce and Mediterranean-style potatoes, she has also prepared asparagus (bringing parmesan cheese to sprinkle over it), and a side salad of spinach, mushrooms, sultanas, pine nuts and a home-made orange dressing. Due to Tom’s allergy, the pine nuts don’t make the final cut.
Fatiniza looks much more at home in the kitchen and, aside from chef Ganesh wiping off the odd splash of sauce from the edge of plates (he clearly can’t help himself), she doesn’t need as much professional help with her preparation. What’s more, she’s clearly thought about the presentation, but at the careful and considered (read: slow) pace with which she plates up, I wonder whether Tom and Layne are considering ordering a takeaway instead.
I really want to like Fatiniza’s main course. Admittedly, it’s very good – it looks much like restaurant food, yet tastes like comforting home cooking. The chicken is beautifully tender, but the potatoes are
a little hard and salty. The orange dressing, meanwhile, is an interesting and lively concoction, but unfortunately the raw mushrooms in the salad don’t quite work.
Layne’s dessert is next in the firing line: home-made apple and cinnamon biscuits with coconut, almond and cashew ice cream and fresh strawberries. However, an overwhelming number of the ingredients in Layne’s dish (cashew nuts, almonds, coconut and cinnamon) are in the danger zone for Tom, who makes a few friendly jibes about his inability to eat it. The problem is solved by chef Ganesh, who plates up a dessert for Tom: ice-cream and a forest of fresh strawberries from The Rib Room’s kitchen. It looks as though Tom has done well for himself: not only does he benefit (again) from Ganesh’s powers of presentation, but also from the vast majority of the strawberries, something Fatiniza notes, joking: ‘Tom is obviously Layne’s favourite.’
Layne’s coconut ice cream is particularly interesting, boasting a mellow yet full flavour, and an unusually thick and filling texture. Yet the execution of the apple and cinnamon cookies hasn’t done them justice: they’re a little tough and the flavour is too doughy. As plates are cleared and we digest the meal, our focus turns to the judging. What did our celebs make of their fellow guests’ culinary prowess? Turn the page to find out.
Profession: Time Out sports columnist, DJ on Dubai 92 and TV presenter for SportOn7 on City7, and The Grill on Dubai Eye.
The starter: ‘A salad of tomato, mozzarella, basil and prosciutto. As a simple, easy-to-knock-up starter, you can’t beat the mixture of mozzarella and tomatoes – it’s delicious.’
Profession: Singer-songwriter, and one of the UAE’s top-selling artists of all time, no less.
The main course: ‘Chicken breast with honey and mustard sauce, Mediterranean potatoes and salad. I chose it because it’s quick and easy to prepare, and chicken is always a good option in case any guests don’t eat fish or red meat.’
Profession: TV presenter for Out and About, Dubai One.
The dessert: ‘Apple and cinnamon cookies with coconut ice cream and strawberries. I’m developing a recipe book and I’m still testing the desserts. I have a sweet tooth and have tried to find tasty desserts that aren’t too unhealthy.’
Our guests reveal what they really thought of each other’s efforts.
According to Tom
‘The time spent in the kitchen before Fatiniza served her main course was a sign that fine attention had gone into the dish. Two large plates, and full of good food: a unique blend of chicken and asparagus that combined marvellously well.
‘Sadly Layne had decided to put nuts in his dessert, which I’m allergic to, so I had to have ice cream and strawberries [courtesy of the chef]. Otherwise, it was a great pudding, and presented well. Who can’t present ice cream well? Once my nut allergy clears up, I’ll dig into his delightful-looking pudding. But Fatiniza’s dish deserves to win. It looked the most impressive and tasted the best. ‘Despite the three of us knowing many of the same people, we’ve never met before and it was great to hear each other’s stories. I’m now up to speed with everything happening on Out and About and know the best Colombian singer
there is… other than Shakira!’
According to Fatiniza
‘Tom’s starter was a good choice. The cheese was soft and tomato was juicy. The portion size was perfect – the only reason I didn’t finish it was because I was saving room for the main course. The presentation was also good: I liked the way he arranged the prosciutto in a flower shape.
‘Layne’s coconut ice cream was good too, it tasted nice and looked very pretty with the strawberries in a heart shape. I think both Layne and Tom made an effort to make it look nice, even if their courses didn’t involve as much preparation as mine. But we all had a lovely dinner and a fun chat. I got to meet some beautiful, funny people that I’m looking forward to meeting again in the future, but this time I’ll bring the dessert!
According to Layne
‘Tom’s dish was a nice start to the evening: it was fresh, tasty, healthy and the presentation was good, although it didn’t really show his cooking skills. Fatiniza’s dish was great – I was impressed with the amount of food and the presentation. It was nice that she put the sauce on the side to give you an option, and the side salad and dressing were an absolute winner for me. I don’t usually eat meat, but the combination of chicken with the ratatouille-like veg was good.
‘I hadn’t met either of my companions before, but I had heard of their work. It was very relaxed and the time seemed to fly by – it would be nice to do it all again.
‘I’m happy with the results, but like most people I do like to win! I baked and constructed my dessert all from scratch and even my home-made ice cream made an appearance but I suppose that’s the way the cookie crumbles (pun entirely intended).’
And the winner is… fatiniza!
Eating Out editor Penelope Walsh summarises the night.
‘While I’d originally had Layne pegged as a competitive foodie, Fatiniza and Layne suspected that Tom would be a picky and critical diner. True to expectation, Tom and Layne gave each other purposefully low scores: five out of ten each. In contrast, Fatiniza was quite insistent about not giving scores at all, at first spoiling her ballot paper before finally throwing up her hands and giving Tom and Layne both ten out of ten. Yet it seems the men’s tactical play backfired! I enjoyed Tom’s course the most, although I think Fatiniza definitely deserved to win.’
Emulate our celebs’ dishes at home. All recipes serve four.
Tomato and mozzarella salad
1 packet of mozzarella
6 basil leaves
5 slices of prosciutto
Salt and pepper
1 Slice the mozzarella, tomatoes and prosciutto.
2 Lay artfullly on a plate.
3 Tear up the basil leaves into small pieces and sprinkle over the plate.
4 Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5 Drizzle with olive oil and serve.
Honey-mustard chicken breast with mushroom and orange salad
4 large chicken breasts
500g potatoes (parboiled and chopped)
1 red onion (chopped)
1 red pepper (chopped)
20ml soy sauce
10 champignon mushrooms
(note: all quantities are approximate and depend on personal taste)
1 Marinate the chicken breast in honey and mustard. Lay to rest.
2 Fry the chopped potatoes for about seven minutes, ensuring they don’t lose shape.
3 Fry the red onion and red pepper in a frying pan for a few minutes, before adding the potatoes. Stir for a few more minutes, then keep them warm in the oven while you fry the asparagus. Add the soy sauce.
4 Pour the honey-mustard marinade into a pan and heat, before adding the chicken and frying until golden brown.
5 For the salad, remove the stem and skin of the mushrooms, then chop.
6 Squeeze four oranges and mix the juice with the finely chopped onion and vinegar. Drizzle over the washed spinach.
7 To serve, place the potato and pepper on a plate with the chicken on top. Drizzle over a little honey and mustard sauce, and place the asparagus around the plate. On a separate plate, serve the salad with orange dressing and mushrooms with a dash of soy sauce.
Home-made ice cream with cinnamon cookies
A handful of crushed cashews and almonds
Half a cup coconut oil
One cup shredded coconut
Half a cup Agave syrup
2 cups water
3 green apples
3 cups water
1 teaspoon lime zest
3 tablespoons sesame
2 tablespoons flax seeds
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon tea seed oil
Half a cup shredded coconut
3 tablespoons Agave syrup
3 cups buckwheat flour
1 Put the cashews, almonds, coconut oil, shredded coconut, syrup and water in a bowl and blend for about three minutes.
2 Pour into a freezer-safe container and freeze for three to five hours (depending on how good your freezer is!).
1 Cut the apple into pieces with the skin left on, but take out the seeds.
2 Soak the dates in water for 15 minutes while shaving the lime zest.
3 Place the apples, Agave syrup, shredded coconut and zest into a blender and blend until combined. Deseed the dates, cut them in half, then add to the mix along with the cinnamon and the seed mix.
4 Add the water (in which the dates were bathed) and blend for a minute.
5 Place the mix into a bowl and add the flour one cup at a time while mixing with a fork, and then a spoon, for about three minutes until it’s a nice light brown colour.
6 Shape the dough into ovals, place on a baking sheet greased with tea-seed oil and bake at 180˚C for 15 to 20 minutes. Leave to cool, then serve with the ice cream. •