Friday, March 20, 2009

The Saturday Afternoon Soundtrack

Photos courtesy of Antonie Robertson

I’ve lived in Dubai for almost two years and it’s taken me a long time to sort out the soundtrack to my Saturdays. At home in London it would have run a little like this:

Wake up Boo – Getting up full of beans for the weekend ahead. If I’m hungover from a bit of an excessive Friday night, this could be modified to Get Off by the Dandy Warhols.

This World – Zero 7 – Relaxed Saturday morning things – reading a book, watching the TV, whipping up a tasty breakfast rather than the cereal mush I eat every other day.

Lively Up Yourself – Bob Marley – On the go – whatever takes my afternoon fancy – new art gallery preview, Portobello Road market, p’raps an afternoon bevvy in a nice pub.

This Room – Fat Freddy’s Drop – Going to see some live music or gossip time with the girls in a nice cocktail bar early in the evening.

Divine – Sebastien Teller – The bar gets a little busier and we get a little more gossipy. Or we go off on a mini adventure.

But when I moved to Dubai it was all very muddled. My Saturday soundtrack died, and if it had of existed, it would have been full of terrible squawky and discordant music that wouldn’t have made sense to anyone, not even me.

Fridays were great – brunches, parties, art gallery hopping, camping, trips to little-heard of destinations across the UAE but Saturdays were terrible. Saturdays were spent nursing gargantuan hangovers of the kind you shouldn’t encounter after university or lying in bed watching one of the mega-blockbuster films I’d buy from my local dvd peddler. I’d waste away the day, pretending I was resting in anticipation of another working week (Muslim week Sunday to Thursdays). In even desperate times I’d run out of books to read.

Over the last couple of months I began to hear strains of the music again – whether it was hanging out on the beach at Desert Islands or sitting by the pool and reading Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy, or planning the shopping list for the week ahead in the brand new Waitrose (only those in Dubai can understand how exciting that is).

All of a sudden, last Saturday, it was back. In full force. I won’t reveal what it was, but I’ll give you a hint of what brought it about:

Last Saturday I woke up and instead of wanting to curl up and die I realised that I felt great. In fact, I felt like doing stuff – namely cooking and chatting and lounging on the terrace in the sun.

So I rounded up the motley crew above and we sat down for a civilized Saturday afternoon that was the most fun I’ve had in ages. Tonie kindly volunteered to bring his gear and take some pics and we were off.

The menu was simple – although I was feeling adventurous, the weather was perfect for some lighter salads and then a wickedly delicious dessert. Once I’d had a brief flick through the cookbooks and conjured a few ideas of my own, it read: starter – spinach and goat’s cheese salad with caramelized onion, sushi, stir-fried marinated tofu with broccoli, sugar snap peas and baby sweetcorn and fudge cheesecake with a blackberry sauce.

I was most excited about the fudge cheesecake – the day before I’d wanted to try something completely diffefrent so I’d made some fudge and put it in the fridge to set. Now was the perfect chance to put it into play…

Because I hadn’t quite been organised enough to do the cheesecake first thing in the morning, I decided that it was going to be what some people call a cheat’s cheescake I.e. one that uses mascarpone or mascarporn-y as we named it at uni because it tastes so damned good.

While the cheescake was going, I got started on caramelizing the onions for the salad. Thus done I tossed it into the salad leaves with the goats cheese and pine nuts and put it out to play…

Next up was the tofu stir fry. I’m a big fan of tofu even though I’m a dedicated meat muncher - no it doesn’t taste like chicken, but if you want it to taste like tofu, well then, it’s not going to disappoint you. Make sure you buy the firm rather than the silken type for a dish like this. I’d marinated mine overnight with teriyaki, soy and oyster sauce, then it was a simple matter of tossing it in the pan with the broccoli, baby sweet corn, sugar snap peas and more teriyaki sauce on a very high heat for less than 5 mins.

Sushi quickly followed - I’m not the most dextrous of people so it’s always a proud achievement when my sushi doesn’t disintegrate… The wasabi was incredibly potent - all of us at one point sprung up holding our nose with tears running down our faces - we must have looked a rather odd sight.

By this time rumours of the fudge cheesecake had rippled to the table outside and people were popping in to help I.e try and steal bits of fudge, some of which I’d rippled through the mascarpone cream cheese topping, and the rest of which was smeared in a thick layer over the biscuit base. Blackberries make a great sauce for this - they can be quite sharp which contrasts nicely with the dense sweetness of the cheesecake itself. Passion fruit would be great too. I know it sounds odd, but it’s much better than a chocolate sauce which would just be too much.

So there we were, munching away on the cheesecake, so engrossed in what we were eating that silence had descended on all of us - no mean feat - in general we’re talkers not haters. One lone slice had been saved for my housemate and I had a hard job ensuring it made it to the fridge unsullied by spoon or finger. Even Gaby, who until 2 months ago hadn’t eaten any dairy for several years and who hadn’t been overly enthused about the idea of cheesecake had to admit she’d been won over as she finished the last bite. And then we sat, contented - quiet murmurings of our stomachs matched by trivial observations and dozy chatter.

By the way, after all that the soundtrack to the afternoon wasn’t really that important. Off the top of my head I’d pick The Eagles, Take it Easy. Or even I am the Black Gold of the Sun by NuYorican Soul. I was just happy to get back into the groove again.

Fudge Cheesecake with blackberry sauce
300g fudge
200g low fat cream cheese (or full fat, with all that mascarpone it doesn’t matter much)
200 g Mascarpone
250g Hobnobs
80g butter
100g blackberries
30g sugar
¼ cup water

Melt the butter, bash the biscuits into small crumbs and add melted butter. Add to the base of your pre-greased cheesecake dish. Pat until you have an even layer of biscuit base, put into the fridge for two hours or more.
Mix the cream cheese and mascarpone. Cut 100g of the fudge into small pieces, put in a pan to melt a little and stir into the cream cheese mascarpone mix.
Remove the dish with the biscuit base from the fridge. Take the rest of the fudge and spread into an even layer over the biscuit base.
Spoon the mascarpone, fudge, cream cheese mixture over the top, spread evenly and put in the fridge for one hour.
When almost ready to serve the cheesecake. Take the sugar, water and blackberries and add to a pan on a medium heat. Crush a few of the blackberries to colour and flavour the sauce. The others I prefer to stew whole. When the sauce starts to thicken take off the heat and leave to cool. Transfer to a small jug for pouring and serve along with the cheesecake.


jc4pm said...

Seeing excellent food combined with excellent photography makes me go all squigly inside!

Jess x

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