x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Ready, steady, Goa - the Fairmont Dubai gives regional amateurs the run of its kitchen

Spectrum on One is handing the culinary reins to a series of enthusiasts, with the first guest bringing a taste of Goa.

Fish curry is a staple of Goan cuisine. Credit: istockphoto
Fish curry is a staple of Goan cuisine. Credit: istockphoto

As part of a new "Taste of Home" promotion, the Fairmont Dubai will be inviting a series of keen cooks - not professional chefs - from all over the world to take the reigns at Spectrum on One and introduce guests to authentic dishes and family favourites from their own kitchens. First on the list is the mother-of-two Audrey De Souza from Mapusa, Goa. She gives us a quick introduction to Goan food.

A cuisine with many influences

About 450 years of Portuguese occupation made an indelible mark on this cuisine - and fusion dishes such as prawn balchao and pork vindaloo are not the only result.

"Ingredients such as tamarind from Africa, potatoes and pineapples from Ecuador, tomatoes from Peru, peppers from Sri Lanka and cashew nuts from Brazil were brought over by Portuguese missionaries," De Souza says.

Goan food today is a "fusion of cultures throughout the centuries", she says, with Arab, Brazilian, French, African, Malaysian, British and Indian (particularly Konkan) influences.

It's all about the seafood

Thanks to its coastal position, Goa is blessed with an abundance of seafood including kingfish, prawns, shrimps, lobster, crabs, mackerel and pomfret.

De Souza warns that a Goan meal can be considered incomplete if fish, rice and curry cooked with coconut fail to make an appearance.

Important ingredients

As well as the ubiquitous coconut - freshly grated and in cream, milk and oil form - De Souza says that it is kokum (a blackish-red fruit with a salty-sour flavour) that "gives Goan cuisine its particular appeal". Jaggery, black cardamom, Xacuti masala powder, kanji rice and piri-piri are also widely used.

If you want your dishes to taste absolutely authentic, you'll need to grind the spices on a stone and cook them in a clay pot over a fire, to impart a deliciously smoky flavour.

Must-try dishes

Goan fish curry. "It's a staple in the Goan diet. You prepare it as you would a normal Indian curry, but the spice mix is a bit different with the addition of coconut milk and kokum," says De Souza. (See the Bites blog for her recipe for Goan prawn curry.)

Popular street food includes potato chops (potato patties stuffed with minced beef and shallow fried), ras omelette (a plain omelette dipped in spicy coconut-based gravy and garnished with lime and onions) and chamucus (Goan samosas, filled with chicken or beef). Another favourite is stuffed pomfret, which De Souza describes as "a combination of aromatic spices stuffed in pomfret, which is then shallow fried.

"This makes the skin very crisp and easy to tear off and the inside very soft and moist".

From tomorrow until June 15, Audrey De Souza will be cooking traditional Goan food every evening at Spectrum on One. A four-course family-style dinner costs Dh150 per person. For more information or to make a reservation, call 04 332 5555 or email dbi.fdconcierge@fairmont.com

Stuff a pomfret yourself

- In a small pan, heat a little oil and add chopped onion, garlic and ginger. Fry until the onions are translucent.

- Add dry grated coconut and cook until golden. Add turmeric, red chilli powder and a little tamarind and mix well.

- Cool this mixture and grind to a smooth paste.

- Add chopped coriander and stuff the cavity of the pomfret with the paste. You can use mackerel if you prefer.

- Marinate for an hour or overnight.

- Dust the outside with rice flour and shallow fry on both sides until crispy.