Cooking Class: It’s all about the food

While the rooms and amenities of a hotel are very important, it is the quality of the meals that keeps guests coming back for more.

By NERIA BARR
August 19, 2012 14:07
Chicken

Chicken Skewers. (photo credit: Dan Lev)

Arecent study held by Unilever Food Solutions revealed that although when choosing a hotel guests rarely ask about the food served in its restaurants, it is the food experience that can make the vacation an enjoyable one or a disappointment.

Unilever, which supplies many restaurants and hotels with ingredients for their kitchens, together with the Isrotel Hotels chain, has launched the Chef’s Special project. It allows each hotel’s head chef to create a dish that he feels represents his culinary vision.

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The new project addresses the need to heighten the guests’ culinary experience, as well as the need to empower the chefs. Hotel chefs prepare hundreds of meals a day, yet they are kept out of the limelight that restaurant chefs enjoy. In this project, Isrotel hopes that the chefs will enjoy being able to express their creative culinary concepts.

As part of the project, each of the 15 hotels in the Isrotel chain will offer its guests the Chef’s Special dish a few times a week in the hotel’s restaurant, introducing the chef to the guests and acquainting the guests with his innovative ideas.

What dishes are the chefs offering? We spoke to a few of them and got some recipes.

One thing was common among almost all of them – the understanding that most guests today prefer food that is more health-oriented but still has the richness of gourmet cooking.

FISH PASTILLES WITH BEAN NOODLES

Makes 6 Isrotel’s recently renovated Sport Club Hotel in Eilat is an all-inclusive family hotel that provides a delightful stay jam packed with sports and children’s activities, swimming pools, a spa, a health club and playrooms. The hotel has a special children’s dinner, where youngsters can eat at a kids’ table without their parents and are served their own menu and treats.

The food offered at the hotel includes many à la minute dishes, made in front of the guests, as well as vegetable and fresh produce and excellent salad bars. The head chef of the restaurant, Jaaber Ahmed, chose to present a dish of pastilles, which is common in many Mediterranean cuisines.

His version is filled with fish and bean noodles, inspired by Asian cuisine.

✔ 1.2 kg. fillet of fish, cubed
✔ 1 basket champignon mushrooms, halved
✔ 1 package bean noodles
✔ 4 sheets of filo pastry
✔ 1 clove garlic, minced
✔ 1⁄2 cup olive oil
✔ 1 tsp. salt
✔ 1⁄2 tsp. black pepper
✔ 1⁄2 tsp. ginger powder
✔ 1 tsp. turmeric
✔ 1 egg, beaten
✔ 1⁄4 tsp. hot shata chili (optional)

Heat oil in a skillet. Add mushrooms and garlic and sauté for a few minutes. Add fish cubes and seasoning and continue cooking for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat.

Soak the noodles in hot water for 2 minutes. Drain, cut in half and add to the fish mixture and mix well.

Brush 4 sheets of filo pastry with olive oil. Place sheets one on top of the other inside a baking ring form. Place the fish mixture on top, and fold the sheets over the filling, covering it completely.

Brush the top with egg and bake in a preheated 180º oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes before cutting. Serve with green salad.

Optional: If serving as a main dish in a dairy meal, serve with yogurt on the side.

SALMON MARINATED IN SHIRO MISO
Makes 6

Chef Boaz Dror of Isrotel’s Royal Beach Hotel in Eilat suggests a light and tasty way to eat Asian-style salmon. The Royal Beach serves gourmet meals; but, like other hotels in the chain, the menu has changed dramatically in recent years, catering to more healthand diet-conscious guests. Dror often turns to Asian cuisine for ideas and inspiration. In this Japanese-inspired dish, he incorporated shiro miso, which is lower in sodium and has a subtle flavor.

✔ 6 fillets of salmon, 160 gr.each
✔ 400 gr. green beans
✔ 500 gr. baby spinach leaves, washed and drained
✔ 1 clove garlic, minced
✔ Olive oil
✔ 300 gr. shiro miso (light colored)
✔ Juice of 1 lemon
✔ 1⁄2 tsp. sugar
✔ 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
✔ 1⁄2 cup sake rice wine or any dry white wine
✔ 4 Tbsp. soy sauce

Marinade: Mix miso, wine, ginger, sugar and lemon juice in a pot placed over another pot with boiling water (double boiler). Make sure that the marinade ingredients dissolve but do not boil. When the marinade is smooth, brush the raw salmon on all sides and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Heat oven to 180º and bake salmon for 7 minutes.

Blanch the beans: Place in salty boiling water for a few minutes. Remove when the color is a vibrant green. Do not overcook. Place immediately in ice water to stop the cooking process, drain and place on a plate, and season with salt and pepper.

In a skillet, put 2-3 Tbsp.

olive oil, add the garlic and steam the spinach leaves until they shrink. Remove from heat. Divide beans between the plates. Top with spinach leaves and finish with 1 fillet of salmon for each plate.

CHICKEN KEBABS ON A BED OF TABOULEH
Makes 6

The Princess Hotel in Eilat is situated on the southern part of the beach, away from the busy promenade and other hotels. The Princess was completely renovated in the style of a Mideastern palace. The hotel’s restaurant offers fresh Mediterranean cuisine, with many grilled meats, salads and a host of dishes prepared in front of the diners.

To create this dish, chef Lutfi Kabat looked close to home and was inspired by the most refined of all Arab cuisines – Lebanese. The recipe calls for 200 grams of lamb fat. In Arabic cooking, lamb fat is used for flavoring.

The recipe is good without it as well, but the meat will not be as juicy.

✔ 200 gr. lamb fat
✔ 1⁄2 kg. ground chicken thigh meat
✔ 1⁄2 kg. ground chicken breast
✔ 3 onions, chopped
✔ 1 bunch parsley, leaves only
✔ 1 bunch mint, leaves only
✔ 1 bunch basil, leaves only
✔ 1 bunch coriander, leaves only
✔ Salt and pepper
✔ 1⁄2 cup olive oil
✔ Wooden skewers

Grind the meats with the lamb fat in a meat grinder or food processor. It is best to ask the butcher to do it for you. Chop all the herbs, mix the meats and herbs, add the oil, salt and pepper and mix well until the mixture is homogeneous. Shape a small kebab on each skewer. When all the skewers are ready, heat the grill or a corrugated skillet and sear the meat until it is browned. Serve over a tabouleh salad with tehina.

LEBANESE TABOULEH SALAD

✔ 1 bunch parsley
✔ Green onions
✔ 1 bunch mint
✔ 4 tomatoes
✔ 5 cucumbers
✔ 1 cup fine bulgur
✔ Juice of 2 lemons
✔ 1⁄2 cup olive oil
✔ Salt to taste
✔ Pepper
✔ 50 ml. tehina, not mixed
✔ 1 cup roasted pumpkin seeds, shelled

Soak bulgur in 3⁄4 cups lukewarm water until tender.

Meanwhile, chop all the herbs together. Cut the tomatoes and cucumbers into small cubes. When bulgur is ready, add the vegetables and herbs.

Add lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix and taste; add more salt if needed.

To serve: Place a few Tbsp. of the salad on each plate. Place chicken skewers over the salad and sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top. Serve with tehina in a small dish on the side.

INDONESIAN STYLE CHICKEN SKEWERS IN CURRY
Makes 8 skewers

The Carmel Forest Spa Resort is renowned for its luxurious and pampering atmosphere, high-quality health spa and superb food. In recent years, in an attempt to address guests’ growing demand, a trained nutritionist works closely with chef Amir Khalfon. Together they design a healthful, calorieconscious gourmet menu that changes often and answers guests’ special dietary requests while maintaining the gourmet approach to cooking and presentation.

“I serve my version of sate – the famous Asian chicken skewers in peanut sauce – on chopsticks instead of regular skewers,” says Khalfon. “I serve it over whole red rice, which is rich in proteins and has a delicious aroma and texture.”

Red rice is said to help reduce cholesterol and has many other health benefits. It is available in some supermarkets and health food stores. This dish can be served over white or brown rice as well.

✔ 8 pieces chicken thighs off the bone (pargiot), cut into 3x3 cm. cubes.

Marinade:
✔ 3 cloves garlic, minced
✔ 1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
✔ 3 Tbsp. olive or canola oil
✔ Handful of coriander leaves, chopped

Sauce:
✔ 2 Tbsp. olive or canola oil
✔ 1 onion, chopped
✔ 1 carrot peeled and cut into small cubes
✔ 1 celery stick cut into small cubes
✔ 1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
✔ 3 garlic cloves, sliced
✔ 1 stick lemongrass, crushed
✔ 6 Tbsp. red curry paste
✔ 1 Tbsp. honey
✔ 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
✔ 1 liter chicken stock or water
✔ 1⁄2 tsp. turmeric
✔ Salt and pepper
✔ 1⁄2 can (200 ml.) coconut milk
✔ Handful coriander leaves

Red rice:
✔ 1 cup red rice, washed and drained
✔ 2 Tbsp. canola or olive oil
✔ 1⁄2 onion, sliced thinly
✔ 1 carrot, julienned
✔ 21⁄2 cups chicken stock or water
✔ 1⁄2 can coconut milk (optional)
✔ Salt and pepper Mix all marinade ingredients.

Marinate chicken covered and refrigerated for 2 hours.

Soak wooden chopsticks or wooden skewers in water.

Prepare sauce: Heat oil in a saucepan. Sauté the onion, carrot and celery for 3 minutes.

Add ginger and garlic and cook 3 more minutes until tender. Add the red curry paste and continue cooking. Add honey, coconut milk and mix well until homogeneous. Add chicken stock, soy sauce, coriander and lemongrass and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook over medium heat for 30 minutes. Using a hand blender, grind the sauce until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Prepare rice: Sauté onion and carrot for 3-5 minutes.

Add rice and stir until rice is heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Add the stock and coconut milk, cover and cook about 40 minutes over low heat.

Prepare skewers: Stick the meat on the skewers and grill 3-4 minutes on each side or until done.

To serve: Pile the rice in the middle of a serving plate and place the chicken on top.

Drizzle some sauce over the chicken and sprinkle a few chopped roasted peanuts.


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