“…sprinkles of flour and smudges of oil,” from Zuba’s Kitchen
To kick off our Foodie Series, we interviewed the young aspiring chef, Faisal AlNashmi (known as Zubaneen). Faisal tell us about his journey with food from his love for mandi to the first time he held a whole chicken – he even shares a mouth-watering melanzane recipe with us. But if before you read on, I suggest you watch this video from Zuba’s Kitchen. Try not to drool, ok?
1. What do you do on a day to day basis?
Everything I do and think about is new dishes that I can try out.
I’m currently a freelance cook and my day starts at 9 a.m. going to Sultan Center buying whatever’s on the menu that day to test in the kitchen. I go home and that’s where the fun begins destroying our main kitchen with sprinkles of flour and smudges of oil all over the countertop. My main goal is to plate the dish when lunch is first served upon my Dad’s arrival. I take it to our garden and start shooting to upload on Instagram, then I get comments while my family each get a bite. The rest of the day? Well, going through piles of pictures and editing for next day’s upload.
2. When did you discover that you’re a foodie?
My family and I moved to London in 2005 and it took a while for me to adapt to the new environment, so for 2 years I stayed at home watching BBC Food until I finally stepped in the kitchen and tried my first dish. I still remember holding a whole chicken disgusted by its smell and cold raw loose skin. A little olive oil, orange zest, garlic, rosemary, and chopped veggies then locked in the oven. Success is what I smelt, the aroma filled our whole apartment.
Experimenting with food was something I was proud of, just trying to recreate whatever I see and taste from memory which helped broaden my culinary knowledge. But with this knowledge comes a vast list of close-to-destruction dishes: coming close to burning the kitchen, slicing fingers, and eating uncooked chicken.
3. What is your favorite kitchen tool?
The Ferrari of all standmixers, the tool that weighs a ton, the retro design, the KitchenAid Stand Mixer. My life.
4. When you visit a new city and want to explore their restaurants scenes, do you look for:
The top-notch restaurant that’s on every list of all the city’s guides.
I know this might sound weird coming from a foodie, but whenever I’m visiting a new place I’d like all my restaurant experiences to be successful. Going to a top-notch restaurant is satisfying. However, if all was served on decorative plates with a spoonful placed in the middle, I’d go for the local restaurants later…once the tucked shirt and belt phase is over and done with.
5. Your most memorable meal?
Back in my obese days eating fat chunks of long cooked beef was something I craved for days. We used to drive all the way to Fahaheel just to get handfuls of oily goat mandi for lunch. So, a memorable dish for me has to consist of large fat quantities which my Grandmother was really good at. For example, a 4-hour cooked sheep hooves dish called kara’een in soaked bread tashreeb is something I remember for ages. The flavor still lingers around my tongue and eating it caused all senses to sing in harmony. This would be the dish to solve world peace! Hot soaked bread, fat and meat all in one heaping spoon bite, not thinking about calories shoved in my mouth.
6. If you were given these three ingredients, what would you make? Eggplant, tomatoes and onions
The first thing that comes to mind is melanzane. A true Italian creation with fresh flavors exploding with every bite. Layers of baked tomato and aubergine with sliced fresh mozzarella and caramelized onion on top.
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 Tbs salt
1 Tbs sugar
3 Tbs tomato paste 1/2 cup water
1 Tsp dried oregano 4 basil leaves
1 sprig thyme
Pre-heat your oven to 180 C.
Slice the aubergine and tomatoes (1 cm thick) then place on baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle some fresh crushed black pepper and salt then bake until vegetables start to slightly wrinkle.
Cut the 3 tomatoes into small pieces and cook with a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan. Chop the garlic and mix with tomatoes. Cook until tomatoes turn soft then add salt, pepper, sugar and water. Once the marinara starts to simmer add the paste with the rest of the ingredients and cook on medium/low heat for the sauce to reduce and thicken.
In another pan melt some butter and add the sliced onions then cook on low heat till onions start caramelizing.
To layer: place the baked aubergine at the bottom, marinara sauce on top, baked tomato, then repeat again. Bake in the oven again to melt the cheese. Garnish with caramelized onions and chopped basil. Serve hot.
8. Can you share a food/cooking tip with us?
No matter how long you think about doing something, you wont get it done unless you try. Determination is key!
Thank you so much Faisal for taking the time to answer our questions. Here’s to more successes in the kitchen and many more beautiful videos. All the best!
Follow Faisal on Twitter & Instagram: @Zubaneen.