“You learn to cook so that you don’t have to be a slave to recipes. You get what’s in season and you know what to do with it.” Julia Child
The lovely team at Le Royal Méridien Hotel here in Abu Dhabi invited me and the other half to join Chef Jordan Annabi at his weekly Market to Kitchen culinary masterclass, a fabulous invitation that I was excited to receive as it’s no secret I’m a big fan of all things Market Kitchen. We gathered with our fellow classmates at whEAT cafe in the hotel’s lobby with Chef Annabi and new Market Kitchen manager Juilette for a pre-class coffee before setting off on our experience.
The masterclass can accommodate up to ten people but we were a perfect sized group of seven. All aboard the hotel’s complimentary shuttle, our first stop was a visit to the Abu Dhabi Fish Market, a bustling hive of activity on a Saturday morning. Not usually a lover of fish, I overcame my distaste of fishy smells and the slimy floor to listen to everything Chef Annabi had to say about recognising and buying fresh fish, all part of this interactive and informative experience. He pointed out the freshest fish and those to avoid that were older with glassy-eyes and gills that were less pink in colour.
With his assistance my classmates selected the freshest non-smelling fish with firm textured flesh and shiny scales, bright eyes and pink/red gills that included some tuna, Omani sherry, sole, prawns, some squid and sea bream for the other half. I was quite amazed by the sheer quantity of fish available and the affordability of what was on offer, half a kilo of squid was a mere ten dirhams (approx £1.77) which was quite unbelievable. It was great to learn about all the fresh catch of the day and discuss the sustainability of the local fish such as hammour (similar to cod) which is endangered due to being overfished in this region. Who, for instance knew there was a fish called Bombay Duck? It’s a long small unattractive Indian fish also known as bummalo or lizard fish. The fish market offers a filleting service for those who don’t have their own chef in tow and even a cafe where you can get your purchases cooked to enjoy there and then if you so desire.
With our fishy purchases packed in ice, we headed off in the bus to the colourful and extremely humid Vegetable and Fruit Market. With Chef Annabi’s expert advice we learned about the seasonality of the produce and under his guidance purchased a range of fruit, vegetable and herbs to compliment the seafood and some extra bits and pieces for the vegetarian dishes. Fresh rocca, aubergines, pumpkin, spring onions, the chinese cabbage bok choy, ginger, mango, peppers and chillies were bought for a few dirhams, again unbelievably good value for money and incredibly fresh produce. We were all glad to back on the air conditioned bus to be chauffeured back to the hotel after the sweaty market trip, excited for the rest of the experience as were our fellow classmates, all newbies to the Market Kitchen concept.
We took our positions at the long bar at the front of Market Kitchen’s show kitchen sipping on refreshing ginger cocktails while the chefs unpacked our many market purchases. Chef Annabi got to work on creating our bespoke menu and began by cleaning, descaling and filleting the tuna while talking us through the process, sharing his knowledge and advice at every step (such as trimming off the darker tuna flesh which is bitter to taste), his sous chef started preparing the vegetables, peeling and chopping for the various dishes.
The fairly small-sized tuna surprisingly provided enough fish to create three different dishes, two of which were Market Kitchen classics, the signature Crispy Tuna Sashimi with crushed avocado base, sushi rice, scallion and chipotle mayonnaise (crispy avocado as an alternative for tuna for the three vegetarians present) and Tuna Tartare with ginger dressing and topped with radish. The third dish was some seared tuna accompanied by a tasty spring onion emulsion, while the diced and roasted pumpkin was paired with goats cheese and presented as a delicious pizza topped with the fresh rocca leaves.
The cooking demo continued with the preparation of the squid and prawns and with the help of Chef Andy, the two chefs filleted the sherry, the sole and the sea bream. The squid was served with Chef Annabi’s secret rich recipe black pepper jam and the prawns were complimented by a cooked mango salsa. The sherry fillets were served on a bed of peperonata, an Italian inspired dish made using the colourful bell peppers that we purchased in the market. The sole was topped with capers, butter and parsley and another Market Kitchen favourite, creamy mashed potato with poached eggs, mixed mushrooms and topped with truffle was served to the non-fish eating vegetarians.
The Sea Bream was prepared in what Chef Annabi called ‘ready meal’ style as all the ingredients were cooked together in a foil parcel. Layers of bok choy, asparagus, garlic, butter accompanied the sea bream and soy sauce was added at the end for extra flavour, all cooked in 3-4 minutes and ready to serve. The final dish was another favourite of mine from the regular Market Kitchen menu, an amazing dessert of salted caramel ice cream sundae with peanut brittle, caramel popcorn and chocolate fudge sauce.
Market Kitchen is inspired by French Michelin starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s farm-to-table concept, the menu uses fresh seasonal market ingredients and local fish. The modern American cuisine has touches of Asian inspiration evolving from its French-fusion beginnings under the influence of Vongerichten, who originally introduced the Market Kitchen concept to the culinary marketplace in Paris, then Boston and now the UAE. The restaurant offers lunch and dinner menus and promotions, a fantastic Friday table brunch which I thoroughly recommend, fabulous signature cocktails at the bar as well as the Saturday culinary masterclass.
The Market to Kitchen culinary masterclass was a fantastic experience that I cannot recommend highly enough. With his dry humour Scottish Chef Annabi is the perfect host, relaxed, friendly and happy to impart his vast knowledge, field the many questions and share (most) of his culinary secrets, cooking tips and recipes. It’s an interactive class that takes you on a gastronomical journey, perfect for foodies and amateur cooks alike as well as those like myself who love to try new experiences. I would also recommend it for visitors as something completely different and interactive to do in the capital. The classes run weekly on Saturday’s only and unlike most Abu Dhabi activities there is no set cost, you simply buy your own produce at the market and pay what you think the four-hour experience is worth, a good and well deserved review on Tripadvisor is always welcome too.
Market to Kitchen Culinary Masterclass
Location: Market Kitchen, Le Royal Meridien Hotel
Every Saturday from 10:00am
Telephone: 02 695 0300 or 800 101 101
I was invited to take part in this masterclass. Thank you to Market Kitchen for the opportunity to participate in this fantastic experience. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved.
Read about Market Kitchen in previous posts Review: From Farm to Table, Market Kitchen, Shaken or Stirred, Review: Devine Dining at Market Kitchen and Celebrating a Year at Market Kitchen
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