In the second of our three-part Christmas eats series, a look at the best places to procure luxury fare in the UAE.
Fine festive treats for Christmas
Like it or not, Christmas Day is almost here. If you're the one faced with the gargantuan task of providing all the festive fodder, panic is probably setting in right about now. In an effort to alleviate the stress, we've scoured the shops and discovered the very best places to find everyone's favourite indulgent Christmas eats: from melt-in-the-mouth mince pies, to cheese and chutney. If you're following the healthy Christmas recipes provided yesterday, look away now.
Bûche de Noël (yule log)
The Bûche de Noël, available to order at Chocolat Chic in Dubai Marina, is far from the standard roulade roll or chocolate log. Rather fittingly, given the name of the patisserie supplying it, this is a truly stylish version of the classic French dessert. It is a handmade, handsome affair, generously decorated with crisp ribbons of Valhrona chocolate. The vanilla sponge is nice and light and the filling of whipped chocolate buttercream adds to the sense of decadence; it is the visual effect of this dessert that makes it a must for the classiest of Christmas tables, though.
To order, call Chocolat Chic on 04 399 0433 or 050 553 3518 or e-mail email@example.com. Bûches de Noël cost Dh240 (20cm), Dh265 (25cm) and Dh290 (30cm).
Step into the temporary Atlantis Christmas Shop at Dubai’s Atlantis Palm Jumeirah and the air smacks of all things festive. What could be more welcoming than the aroma of cinnamon, ginger and clove, with just the faintest hint of lemon? There’s a variety of holiday treats on sale here, but it is the fantastic gingerbread houses with their old-fashioned charm that really capture the imagination. These houses are intricately decorated creations, complete with miniature Christmas trees, snowmen and Father Christmas figurines dancing in icing-sugar snow. Fit for any childhood fairy tale.
To order, visit www.atlantisthepalm.com to download an order form, or call 04 426 2626. Gingerbread houses cost Dh85 (1kg), Dh160 (2.3kg) and Dh250 (4.3kg).
Also on sale at the Atlantis Christmas Shop, stöllen is the perfect choice if you enjoy the taste of traditional Christmas cake, but find it a bit too rich and heavy. This yeasty fruit bread is moist, with a pleasant jumble of flavours all wrapped up in the yielding dough: sweet almondy marzipan, a bit of spice and lots of dried fruit.
Should you decide to treat yourself, there are few more delicious ways to kick-off a festive morning than with a slice of stöllen. Toast the bread to the point that the sugar and fruit begin to caramelise, spread with butter and enjoy with a cup of strong coffee.
To order, visit www.atlantisthepalm.com to download an order form, or call 04 426 2626. Stöllen cost Dh40 (small, 250g) and Dh80 (large, 500g).
A chutney or two will perk up the inevitable leftover turkey sandwiches immeasurably. While making your own chutney does take rather a lot of effort (sterilising jars, etc), shop-bought versions can often taste disappointingly synthetic. Step for- ward Bekky Britton, who runs LilyBakes, a company that sells entirely homemade goods - cakes, jams, biscuits, and, you guessed it, chutneys. The company makes all its edible products by hand, using natural ingredients that are sourced as locally as possible.
The very best chutneys have a bit of texture, a piquant punchy flavour, hints of sticky sweetness and a slight tang in the aftertaste, making them the perfect foil for rich food. Briton's chutneys encompass all of the above and the apricot and ginger variety has a particularly festive flavour. While we don't advise that you pair it with cheese, her much-admired lemon curd is also worth seeking out.
Carluccio’s Deli, found in Dubai Mall, Mirdif City Centre and Marina Mall, has been selling panettone made by the same producer for the past 15 years and you can see why. This much-loved Italian Christmas treat is light, airy and flecked generously with candied peel and succulent dried fruit. A sweet hazelnut glaze finishes things off nicely.
Bedecked in ribbon and trussed up like a Christmas present itself, this makes a great edible gift. And if you find yourself with a large panettone, don’t worry about it going to waste; panettone bread-and-butter pudding is a simple, delicious dessert to make. Simply slice the panettone into pieces and dip into custard (infused with some orange zest if you like). Arrange the panettone slices in a baking dish greased with butter, pour over the remaining custard and bake at 160¿C for 45 minutes.
Panettone tradizionale costs Dh120 (1kg); panettone al cioccolato costs Dh120 (1kg); and mini panettone is Dh30 (60g).
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a hot mince pie or two, and Baker & Spice at Dukkan al Manzil and Souk al Bahar in Dubai is an excellent source. While the perfect pie can be a tricky thing to master (there’s nothing worse than a mouthful of thick, undercooked pastry, after all), Baker & Spice has got its version just right. The pastry is thin and buttery rich, and the ratio of juicy, spicy (organic) mincemeat filling is just right. These mince pies are just bigger than bite-size, so they make an excellent mid-afternoon treat. The homemade pastry doesn’t contain any sugar, which surely means that you can tuck into more than one...
Baker & Spice mince pies cost Dh9 each.
Turkey, cranberry sauce, chestnuts
You could do far worse than order your turkey from Waitrose or Spinneys this year. Both supermarkets are selling fresh, oven-ready birds, priced at 62.50 per kilo and 71.75 per kilo respectively. Fresh turkeys from France go on sale at Spinneys from today.
It’s worth stocking up on Christmas staples while picking up your turkey. Waitrose essential cranberry sauce is often praised for its pithy, fruity, ever so slightly sweet flavour, and will prove popular if you’re not making your own this year. Also on sale are Merchant Gourmet whole chestnuts – these are a real find. Ready peeled and roasted, these whole chestnuts taste great in stuffing or sautéed with Brussels sprouts.
Waitrose essential cranberry sauce costs Dh12.95; Merchant Gourmet whole roasted chesnuts are Dh17.50.
Smoked salmon platter
The smoked salmon platter available at Lafayette Gourmet in Galeries Lafayette in Dubai Mall is a lesson in luxury. Mounds of delicate fish have a pinky hue and a fresh, subtly smoky taste; sprigs of firm caperberries, meanwhile, provide a welcome nip of salty bitterness, which cuts right through the fattiness of the fish. The horseradish cream is lovely and smooth, with a hint of the hot, bitter punch that the vegetable is renowned for. A smear of this on top of a slice of smoked salmon creates something that is at once luxurious and refreshing. Layer these ingredients on warm blinis (also included on the platter), serve with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and anyone disgruntled at not getting an iPad in their stocking will soon forgive you.
To order, visit Lafayette Gourmet or call 043827333. The smoked salmon platter costs Dh120
A cheeseboard from Jones the Grocer, at the base of the Al Mamoura building in Abu Dhabi, could well make someone’s Christmas. When assembling your festive cheese selection, those in the know at Jones recommend first picking out a good wedge of well-aged English stilton. The one pictured above is from Quenby Hall in England and has been matured for 12 weeks to achieve the full, earthy flavour. Quickes goat’s cheddar cheese also makes the list; this is an interesting, hard cheddar cheese made from goat’s milk. A Christmas cheeseboard wouldn’t be complete without a piece of classic Brie de Meaux in all its gooey, buttery glory, while a lesser-known French cheese such as mimolette brings new interest, as well as a mild, nutty flavour to the selection.
It doesn’t end there, though. Jones has everything you need to accessorise your cheeseboard to the hilt. As well as the usual grapes and celery, why not adorn yours with a scattering of walnuts, pitted prunes or sweet-dried figlets? Or you could go all out and drizzle the cheese with some white truffle honey (just make sure that the cheese you select is a strong one, or else the truffle will overwhelm it). If truffle is not your thing, they also have organic honeydew and wild thyme honey on sale, both of which have a bold, sweet flavour. Spread your chosen honey over all-natural wheat crackers and top with a slither of the goat’s cheese.
To purchase, visit the cheese room at Jones the Grocer. Prices for items mentioned: Quenby Hall stilton, Dh14 per 100g; Quickes goat's cheddar cheese, Dh26 per 100g; Brie de Meaux, Dh17 per 100g; mimolette, Dh30 per 100g; natural wheat crackers, Dh27 per 150g; organic beechwood honeydew honey, Dh74 per 160g; organic wild thyme honey, Dh74 per 160g; Tartyflanghe white truffle honey, Dh40 per 50g
It might not be the most unanimously adored part of the festive feast, but surely Christmas dinner wouldn't be the same without a Christmas pudding? Following tradition, the chefs at The Lime Tree Café and Kitchen on Jumeirah Beach road, Jumeirah, and at China Court, Ibn Battuta Mall, in Dubai, began preparing their puddings a few weeks ago, to allow plenty of time for those spiced flavours to develop. Customers are now able to sample the fruits of their labours in this beautifully presented pudding. Wrapped in silky black material and tied with a red bow, a portion of this pud is a surefire way of awakening taste buds that have been subdued by a surfeit of turkey.
The Christmas cakes available at The Lime Tree Café and Kitchen on Jumeirah Beach road come in two forms - one fruity variety is traditionally iced and decorated, and then there's the version we fell for (pictured). This is a moist, lightly spiced fruit-and-date cake, topped with toffee-glazed fruit and nuts and wrapped in layers of cellophane and silver ribbon to give it an individual handcrafted feel. As ever, all the food served at The Lime Tree Café and Kitchen is made using natural ingredients, without the addition of preservatives of artificial flavours.