ARAB NEWS: Salt Bae’s Nusr et restaurant in Riyadh

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ARAB NEWS: Recipes to Success: Chef Alejandro Castro shares his tips and a hearty pilau recipe

DUBAI: Although a Mexican chef may not be the best choice for a kitchen that serves food from the former Soviet republics in Asia like Dubai, it is Dubai. It’s the only place you would expect to find this strange cultural mix. Chef Alejandro Castro, who runs OSH Restaurant in Dubai’s La Mer Development, says it was a surprise when he was approached to become a sous-chef by OSH’s former head chef. The restaurant claims to offer “a modern twist on Central Asian and contemporary Uzbek food .” Castro stated that he worked in a French restaurant in Dubai before OSH. “(The OSH head chef) noticed that I knew the basics of French fine dining and told me not to worry about my lack of knowledge of Uzbek or Russian cuisine. He was looking for someone who could cook to high standards.”

Chicken shashlik. (Supplied)Castro was promoted to the position of head chef a year later. It’s safe to say that he has a better understanding of Uzbek cuisine now. He admits that he is still learning the Uzbek staple ‘plov’. He says that rice-based dishes require a lot of practice. (He has a recipe here). You have to get the rice right. It goes through so many cooking processes in one pot, so you need to be precise about timing. There are plov masters at the restaurant, and they are training me.”. Our conversation reveals how passionate Castro is about his work. He says, “The world of cooking is so beautiful, challenging and so full with opportunities every day.” “I don’t know of anyone who regrets this career. Even those who have learned so much that it has helped them in any other career they have taken.” What’s your favorite dish to make when you need something quick for yourself? This is a simple chicken sandwich that’s easy to make. It includes pickled onions, jalapenos and spicy mayo. Mix it all up and put the chicken in the skillet. It takes twenty minutes. What’s your favorite recipe? Many things. (Laughs.) A shrimp ceviche is probably the easiest to prepare and makes me and my family very happy. It has a lot vitamin C so it’s great after a long night. There are no fats. Some natural cholesterol is from the shrimps. However, there is a lot of orange juice and lemon juice. There are lots of vitamins in the tomatoes, onions, and coriander. It takes very little time. What one ingredient can instantly enhance any dish? MSG isn’t very popular nowadays due to bad press from the Nineties. MSG, which is umami powder, is often referred to as flavorless.

What customer behavior is the most annoying to you? It’s often the modifiers. It’s not just for me but for all cooks. While I know that people may have different tastes and prefer certain things, the dishes were designed and tested. They work. It’s normal to get complaints about modified dishes. A modified dish will not be as delicious or as well-thought-out as the original. The guests will be our bosses at the end of it all. What’s your worst kitchen mistake? Nothing. I’m perfect. (Laughs.) No. One of my most memorable was when I was a commiss-chef and had to work a breakfast shift. My head chef insisted that we should not use the timer on our ovens. We had to be able to recall what was inside and how long they’ve been there. I remember putting 80 croissants in the oven and forgetting about them. Once I’d remembered, I opened the oven, a lot of smoke came out and I had 80 perfect pieces of charcoal. It was terrible. It was horrible. I was certain I would be fired. You will never make the same mistake again after a huge mess-up. What are your favorite things about the kitchen? Do you shout? Are you a shouter? I’m both. While I am laid-back on a typical day, music is a big part of my life. My team has the option to choose the music. It helps me get into the groove of work. You need to be able to get through the day in such a stressful and physically demanding job. Music is what I have found to be the best. My team knows they can reach me with any issue. We get to know one another well and have fun outside of work. We strive to maintain a calm environment. We joke around a lot. I think I’m the main prankster at the kitchen. They might find things hidden from me or make jokes about it. They know when it’s time to cook, it’s time to cook. We are here to fulfill a purpose. If that purpose isn’t met, then we’re not doing our job. There’s always happy times, but there are also times when it becomes too relaxed. My team is my best friend, and they know when it’s time to show it, it’s showtime. Chef Alejandro’s Osh Pradznichny with Achichuk salad
Uzbek rice pilau, lamb with tomato salad. (Supplied)

is the main dish.650 gm lazar or basmati rice50 gm chickpeas250 ml sunflower oil750 gm lamb leg, boneless250 gm white onion, sliced850 gm yellow or baby carrot, cut into long pieces1500 ml water3 gm cumin seed 12 gm salt50 gm yellow raisins5 quail eggsFor the salad:
500 gm tomato 350 gm red onion25 ml olive oil5 gm salt 1 gm pepper


1. Cool water should be used to wash the rice. The chickpeas should be soaked the night before. 2. The oil should be heated in a heavy-bottomed pot or kazan (traditional Uzbek iron pot), until it smokes. Once it has smoked, add the lamb leg and cook in it until golden brown. Add the onion to the pan. The same process is repeated for the carrot. Add the lamb and onion. Add water, cumin, and salt after five minutes. After checking the seasoning, add rice. Add the raisins and chickpeas. Place on medium heat. 3. The quail eggs should be hard boiled, then halved. 4. After the rice has absorbed the liquid, mix it in the same pan. Make sure that everything is cooked al dente. 5. Serve the rice on a large sharing platter with the halved eggs of quail. 6. Slice tomato and onion for the salad. Mix olive oil, salt and pepper with chopped basil. Serve with the rice.

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