When blended together, Mediterranean ingredients can create an explosion of tastes in your mouth and produce the most vibrant of colours on your plate. Here, Mattias Roock, executive chef at Sawa – a new restaurant serving up European and Mediterranean flavours at the recently opened Marsa Malaz Kempinski hotel at The Pearl, Doha – explains more about the essential ingredients that are the lifeblood of the region’s cuisine.
‘We have to start with olive oil. In Mediterranean cuisine, this is the main cooking ingredient. Extra virgin is mostly used as a simple yet delicious salad dressing and is also used with foods to be eaten cold. If uncompromised by heat, the flavour is much stronger. It also can be used for sautéing.’
Fresh herbs are essential to create authentic Mediterranean dishes. Easy to grow in your own home, herbs such as mint, turmeric, saffron, basil and thyme add an essential depth of flavour to any dish. As a cautionary note, don’t go overboard. You want to start with a small amount and slowly add more, if needed.’
This ingredient is a fundamental component in Mediterranean cuisine. It’s a versatile seasoning that complements most savoury dishes and can be found in sauces, stews, soups, salad dressings, casseroles, breads and grain dishes across
When talking about Italian cuisine in particular, fresh pasta is at the forefront of the mind. Boasting an array of different shapes, sizes and methods of cooking, fresh pasta offers any chef a plethora of delicious options. It is also perfect served as either a starter or a main course, hot or cold.
Olives and sundried tomatoes
‘Both of these are staples in Mediterranean cuisine – either enjoyed on their own or incorporated in pasta dishes, salads, meats and tagines. They are easy to marinate with herbs and olive oil, and both offer rich flavours that add an extra layer of taste to any dish.’
Mozzarella, feta and burrata
Mozzarella and burrata, made of cow’s milk, are predominately used in pastas, salads and cold cut plates. The saltier feta cheese, which is made of goat’s milk, is also popular in both salads and quiches or couscous dishes. These cheeses are rich in flavour, easy to use and can be combined with numerous ingredients for added taste and texture.
Or zucchinis as they are also known, are usually cooked and presented as a savoury dish or as an accompaniment to a dish in Mediterranean cuisine. Mild in taste, they make an ideal ingredient in cold and warm dishes. Depending on the season, the courgette flowers can
also be used by stuffing and deep-frying them.
Pecorino and Parmesan
Hard cheeses are another delicacy used widely within Italian cuisine in particular. Grated to give pasta dishes and salads more depth
of flavour, both Pecorino and Parmesan can be found in different strengths, allowing chefs flexibility in their use.’
Meat is also a staple across the Mediterranean. Traditionally, lamb is very popular in the eastern and southern parts of the region – used in tagines and stews. Cured meats are more popular in the western and northern Mediterranean, along with ingredients such as steaks.
Seafood is of paramount importance in Mediterranean cuisines. Numerous countries surrounding the sea for which the region is name, have been utilising the Mediterranean for millennia. The variety of fish and shellfish found within it (tuna, swordfish, mussels, oysters etc.), remain popular across the region.
Sawa, Marsa Malaz Kempinski The Pearl Doha, Costa Malaz, Marsa Malaz Island, The Pearl, Doha (+974 4035 5555).
Three Mediterranean restaurants to try in Dubai
101 Dining Lounge and Bar
This year’s winner of the Time Out Dubai award for Best European restaurant, the look, feel and flavours of 101 Dining Lounge
and Bar feel like a lesson in Mediterranean elegance. The menu boasts a sophisticated selection of plates. Try excellent pasta dishes or seafood and steaks prepared on a Spanish josper grill.
One&Only The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 440 1010).
La Petite Maison
Not only is La Petite Maison the 2015 winner of our Best French restaurant category, this venue also walked away with the award for Restaurant of the Year. While La Petite Maison looks like a classic Parisian brasserie, the menu features a very Mediterranean selection that focuses on the Southern French region of Provence (the concept first started in Nice).
DIFC (04 439 0505).
Head to the furthest stretches of the European side of the Mediterranean Sea where you’ll find the cuisine of Greece. Entirely unique in Dubai, this restaurant offers both classic and contemporary Greek recipes, in a thoroughly Mediterranean setting within whitewashed and lemon yellow walls.
Majestic Hotel Tower, Bur Dubai (04 501 2690).