Monday, April 09, 2007

Blogger Tasting Session @ Slider Station

Monday, February 12, 2007

My New Place

I have been away for a while now since I am focusing full time on the new upcoming Slider Station . Those of you that are willing to try my culinary creations, can have the opportunity very soon, and I will be more than glad to receive your comments. You will also get to experience my graphic & interior design experiments. Further information will be posted on Slider Station's website.

UPDATE: Slider Station has an new interactive BLOG.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Winter Soul Warmers

A selection of wonter soul warmers. photo by Equalizer.

The new year has arrived and after the rubble has settled, we are still in need of something warm and soothing. With temperatures dropping to uncomfortable levels, staying at home and enjoying comfort foods along with good company and prefferebly a classic movie can't be any better.

I have noticed that many bloggers have been thinking about soups these days, so I thought why not do one? I needed something starchy as well as something that adds a nice crunch, so i created the following wonderful recipes.

Cinnamon & Clove Spiced Butternut Squash & Lentil Soup. Photo by Equalizer


2 Large Butternut Squash peeled and chopped
1 cup red lentil
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tbs cumin seeds
1 chicken bouillon
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbs Olive Oil
5 cups boiling water
salt to taste
fresh cracked black pepper


Heat olive oil and sautee garlic. Add butternut squash, spices and stir well. Add lentils, chicken bouillon and boiling water. Cook for 1 hour until lentils and squash are soft. Blend soup in blender until you reach desired consistency. Return to pot, add cream, pepper and salt and simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve with cripsy fried leeks and spring onion (below)

Crispy Fried Leeks. Photo by Equalizer.

Chipotle & Maple Caramelized Onion Potato Mash. Photo by Equalizer.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Mug Fondant

Mug Fondant filled with four kinds of chocolate. Photo by Equalizer

As winter becomes colder by the day, we tend to consume everything that is warm and soothing. I usually prefer warm liquids, may it be soups, coffee or hot chocolate. What if I create something that gives me that feel of warm liquids along with dessert texture? I thought, why not have a fondant baked in a mug? so that it gives me the feel of holding hot chocolate but with the added benefit of having it as a dessert. Usually fondants are very similar with a single kind of chocolate center, so I decided to have 4 different kinds to make it more appealing. The mixture of Dark, Milk and White chocolate along with a dollop of nutella chocolate makes this fondant out of this world.

Cake Ingredients

  • 1 package chocolate cake mix
  • 1 cup chocolate sauce (below)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped mixed chocolates
Sauce Ingredients
  • 2 package large galaxy bars
  • 2 package white chocolate (lindt or cadbury's)
  • 2 package dark chocolate
  • 2 tbs Nutella
  • 1 tbs maple syrup
  • 250ml thick cream

Mix all together and melt over low fire until sauce is mixed well and consistent.

Method for Fondant:

Preheat oven to 170 degrees celcius. Mix the cake mixture well. Add 1 tbs of cake mixture in the bottom of the mug. Add 2 tbs of the chocolate sauce. Top with another 2 tbs of the cake mixture. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Spice Art

Spice Cresent by Equalizer

Spices are very interesting for many reasons. Old empires were built on spice trade in the past. New empires are being built through its use. It provides markets with the most vibrant colors and most aromatic smells. It blows life into food that is otherwise dull and bland. In many cases spices have strong medicinal properties as well.

To celebrate these rich precious spices, I decided to make a peice of art using spices. To be honest, it wasn't a decision that I made. I realized that the mess I left behind after working with spices in the kitchen had some artisitic beauty to it, and it all made sense. What I saw was something that Jackson Pollock would have done if he hadn't tragically die. Its a chaotic mess with meaning and purpose.

In order to make a little bit sense out of this, lets disect this by the kinds of spices used:

  • Ancho Chili: A mild dried Poblano chili from Mexico.
  • Pasilla Negro: A Mexican purple black chili with an herby berry tones.
  • Aji Amarillo: A yellowish mild chili from Peru.
  • New Mexico Chili: A mild chile from New Mexico, USA
  • Black Pepper: The best quality comes from Tellicherry, India.
  • White Pepper: Similar to the black pepper, but is left to ripen fully before its picked.
  • Dark Brown Sugar: This is my favorite as the heavy amounts of mollasses gives it a deep toffee flavor.
  • Garlic Powder: Its white as flour, but gives a mild garlic flavor without all the peeling.
  • Onion Powder: Very difficult to find as the variety of onion used gives it its unique flavor.
  • Hickory Powder: Hickory is a type of wood used to give a BBQ an amazing smoky kick.
  • Maple Powder: Gives that amazing maple syrup flavor without the mess of a syrup. This is a highly concentrated formula that requires 300 trees to produce a cup of this powder.
  • Saffron: The stigma of a crocus flower. 120,000 flowers are needed to produce one kilogram of saffron. The word is derived from the Latin word of Saffranum, from Arabic Asfar (yellow).

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Post Dinner Bedside Reading

Books on Headboard. Photo by Equalizer.

I had invited over a couple of my friends for dinner at what I call "the lab". I think my friends are the happiest lab subjects on the planet, because fortunately enough for them, and myself, the experiment turns out very well. Don't get me wrong, but all those experiments involve edible food products, no chemicals there.
The weather was shouting BBQ, even my friends heard it! What better than a good juicy and tender steak for dinner? I called up my friends and asked them to get the best ribeye cuts they could get in the market (as if there is anywhere other than TSC). I went to the nearest supermarket and got random ingredients for the sauce where all of a sudden a vision struck in my head. I just love it when I build ideas as I browse for products. I paid and shortly left to my "lab", still thinking about a plan of attack. I had also taken with me a Dean & Deluca BBQ Rub which had hints of mesquite smoke and brown sugar. Perfect for any steak.

The recipe has already been set in my mind by the time I arrived to the "lab". Ribeye Steaks massaged with D&D BBQ Rub and served with an Half Caramelized Onion & Dried Fig Cream Sauce with a touch of balsamic and rosemary. I usually never inform my subjects of what is actually cooking, especially if it is a bit adventurous. I usually tend to photograph my inventions, but in the case when there is competition and an atmosphere of chaos caused by semi-animalisic subjects, the camera has to be dropped. I though I went a bit overboard when I realised I had two full steaks, but felt releived when I found out that one of the subjects had four! Now who was supposed to cleanup?!

One thing I knew, its time for me to retreat to my bed and do a bit of mind numbing reading to put me down. I though I might share with you what I consider my natural sleep aid.

The Fall of Carthage: A historical investigation through various ancient texts and history books about what really happened to the ill-fated Carthage. Why is it interesting to me? No one really knows for sure what happened to Carthage, as the whole civilization was wiped out by the Romans, calling this small colony Africa.

Persian Fire: A time Persia was the most powerful empire in the world, fighting what appears to be terrorist states, Athens and Sparta. This books explores parralels in history that ironically is the opposite of what we are witnessing today.

Empire: Explores the history of the rise and fall of the empire where literally the sun never set down; the British Empire. From the beggining of the Americas and the East India Company to the the fall post WWII.

The Zahir by Paolo Coelho: The Zahir or "Althaher" in Arabic is a complex story of lost love, betrayal and the rediscovery of self. Too complex to put in a paragraph so you may have to read it.

The Shadow of the Wind: Another complex plot about a boys obsession with finding the truth behind the an obscure and rare novel "The Shadow of the Wind" that led to the writers murder. A novel that has information that it is rumored that the culprit burns every copy of it he finds.

The Hitler Book: Stalin's obsession with Hitler post his death, lead to an investigation through several dossiers outlining how Hitler used to think and behave. Information that is partially voluntarily extracted from SS officers demonstrate the dark dim thinking of Hitler.

Failed States by Noam Chomsky: Chomsky explores and argues how the United States is the most failed of all countries in the world for many reason including ignoring public opinion regarding war, environment and social spending all the way to jeopordizing homeland security through underfunding of critical areas due to tax cuts in favor of the rich and promotion of hatred elsewhere.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Packaging Design

Kshocolat Packaging, Edinburgh. Photo by Equalizer.

The Pot by Chocolat Factory, Madrid. Photo by Equalizer

Kitschy Arabic Packaging. Photo by Equalizer

How important is packaging to any product? Infact the concept of packaging is trivial compared to the quality of product. However over the years, packaging has evolved from a functional element with a clear message to an aesthetical element with a luring message. As the world becomes more and more competitive in quality and marketing takes on a bigger role, forms of differentiation begins to take shape.

How do you quantify an intangible vague concept such as aesthetics? and how does that manipulate the perception people have to a certain product? Can you enhance peoples perception of your product? How much should you spend on packaging?

  1. An aesthetic element is purely seen from a cultural perspective. What you see as beautiful in one culture, might be ugly or less beautiful in another. However cultural interactions over time tend to mold aesthetical perceptions together. Also what is too common becomes normalized in peoples minds. People examining other peoples texts, like Arabs examining Chinese text, might find it amusing and probably beautiful, because they are not used to it. A good understanding of cultural perceptions and their receptiveness to ideas can be used to create an efficient aesthetical image.
  2. By creating an good aesthetical packaging solution you can manipulate how people perceive the product in two main aspects; quality and target audience. A lot of the confusion of packaging, occurs at the design level, where designers have the slightest idea of what the target market really appreciates on an artistic and aesthetical level. Also the lack of differentiation means that they would follow a line similar to others. In order to make the product stand out in a jungle of other products, the design has to have unique elements to it. Enhancing the image of a product has to be closely followed by product quality enhancement, because continued sales is not reliant completely on packaging design, however it would assist in reminding buyers to make a purchase again.
  3. Packaging design is usually considered a cost attached to the product, therefore would be given certain constraints to keep production costs down. However, if you assume the added cost of better packaging design as a marketing cost, then it would be part of your marketing budget. In an evolving consumer world, marketing channels are evolving with it. This means that traditional forms of advertisments are shifting into new techniques and methods, such as web and email advertising, indirect product buzz agents and instore marketing. A more direct focused approach rather than blanket advertising would lead to cost savings in one respect and alowing you to focus on other channels such as packaging.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Create Your Own Concept

Concept by Equalizer

In a country where the general beleif is, if its foreign, it must ridiculously hard to recreate; we get a flood of tasteless monotonous franchises, most of which are relatively unheard of. What makes big cosmopolitan cities like London & New York different, is exactly the opposite. Competition means that businesses must differentiate on all levels to set themselves apart from each other. This means that new ideas are naturally created to set new standards. Ideas that not only driven by business sense, but also passion, which is the most important recipe for success. Numbers are good to have, but how do you quantify the potential of a relatively untested idea?

Most people in Kuwait venturing in the food industry suffer from two main problems, first they want to hit it big with no effort thus buying a franchise, or two copy an existing successful idea and try to carve your way through. Unfortunately, in both cases it adds nothing to the market worth mentioning. The solution is to create local concepts that are driven by passionate restaurateurs and entrepreneurs.

I will try to breifly outline for all you folks out there how to go about and create a successful concept, that along with your passion will make your dreams come true. This is especially usefull if you dont have an idea to begin with.

  • Market Study: This study is the most important, as it acts as a map which gives you a birds eye view of everything around in the market. You will be able to identify underserved areas and quantify the size of that market. For example the biggest age group is 10 to 18 year olds. The highest consumption of that group is ice cream. The number of ice cream parlours in the city is not more than 1% of total food service operations. You then immediately realize that there is something worth investigating. You do a quick survey of all the ice cream parlours and find out why they haven't grown to meet demand, or why their demand is not high as it should be. You might realize that those parlours are positioned for a completely different older market. There you know you found a gap in which you can position your self and find a nice warm home you call your business.
  • Concept Development: This stage requires you to pin down all the neccessary elements of the idea from a macro level. Once you have identified your market, you must analyse their needs. For the case of the ice cream parlour, you realize that a young crowd requires that flavours are adventurous, yet familiar, not alien. You realize that the brand identity, must reflect colors, typfaces, illustrations and graphics that appeal to such young crowd. A very important aspect is the pricing. The target price to volume, or in our case price per scoop of ice cream must be affordable, as the young crowd are usually on a budget. A comparison to the market is essential in this case. Now you have a general guidline for you concept.
  • Product Development: Working backwards form a target pricing level, you can then develop the recipes for the product, offcourse using your own talent and creativity. Before you become wildly creative, you must know how much that scoop should cost you. Generally in high volume operations a food cost of 40% is acceptable. For example of the scoop of ice cream sells at 500 fils, then the scoop should not cost more that 200 fils. Using that 200 fils as a benchmark, you can start creating your recipes given that you know the cost of every ingredient you use. This usually is the most time intensive stage as you must test and retest over and over again until you have perfected your idea.
  • Branding: Branding is not just about the logo, it is about all the graphic medium that not only represents your products, but accentuates it. This means a consistent strong message from the logo, packaging, uniforms, store graphics, design, and all collateral. Never go cheap or do it quick. Try to be very creative and make sure you are involved, because end of the day no one understands the concept better than you.
  • Feasibility Study: This where all of the above along with important data regarding the setup costs and running costs such as rent, salaries, equipment, constrcution etc. is measure against the potential expected sales. This will tell you whether your idea actually makes business sense or not.
  • Business Plan: This should encompass all of the above and include an actual action plan that outlines all the dates and neccessary procedures for the whole project to be executed.
  • Marketing Plan: A proper marketing plan should guide you as to which is the most cost effective way to promote your business and make sure that you attract your market. It will identify channels such as print media, radio, internet, word of mouth, sponsorships etc.
Now that you have a general idea of how to create a concept, I would expect someone to take this seriously and does a more thourough investigation of the above mentioned steps and does us all a favor by improving the food scene in Kuwait.

I think I can give you a free head start. Milkshake Laboratory. The name is different, catchy and appeals to a sophisticated high end market. The possible products could be the following:

  • Strawberry & Shortcake Shake
  • Rapberry, White Chocolate & Dulce de Leche Shake
  • Brownie and Chocolate Fudge Shake
  • Green Tea Malt
  • Dark Valrohna Chocolate and Mint Shake
  • Chocolate Cheesecake Shake
  • Banana Honey & Coffee
  • Espresso Shake
  • Lavender & Vanilla Shake
I think you get the point, and I need not go further. The design should be clean and crisp and modern, emphasizing on the quality of the shakes and using the colors of the shakes as indicators of variety.

Good Luck !

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Sassy Madrid

Plaza Mayor. Photo & Graphics by Equalizer

Madrid has been for years a forgotten city, atleast from the point of view of visitors. Other cities like Barcelona and Bilbao have captivated most of the seasoned jettsetters for anything from the famous Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and Gaudi's Sagrada Familia to everything from up and rising Basque cuisine and the ever developing Catalan cuisine of Ferran Adria. Madrid however, is trying to carve out its own niche smacked between two cultural polars of Bilbao and Barcelona, and is succeeding at every attemp.

Madrid has no geographical significance other than it used to be the permanent garrison at which King Phillip and Queen Isabella lauched their destructive campaign against the last remaining bastion of the Arabs in Granada in 1492. The year Christopher Columbus "discovered" America. The key event that ultimately made Spain an empire, savagely cutting their way through the American continents. The wealth that subsequently built the Madrid, could still be seen through the lavishly built edifices of golden spires and large metal gates.

The infamous terror struck Atocha train station. Photo & Graphics by Equalizer

Most people probably remember Madrid by the bloody train bombing of 7/7 which took more than a 100 innocent souls. That is as far as most people would know, but the city is trying to change all that. Heavy investments are made to restore the city to its original glamour and new areas are being developed as well.

Brushstroke by Roy Lichtenstein at Reina Sofia Art Center. Photo by Equalizer.

The first thing any world class city emphasizes is usually the artistic treasure it holds and therefore build huge museums to house such treasures. The Prado museum is where all the classic arts are housed and the largest collection of the famous Spanish artist Goya. The Reina Sophia Art Center however is the one that I greatly enjoyed. It has the largest collection of Picassos as well as the eccentric Salvador Dali. Other wonderful peices by Kandinsky and Miro were also on show. What is also fascinating about this museum is the new annex designed by world famous Jean Nouvelle that houses a library, an extension and a restaurant as well as a cover for the courtyard.

Jean Nouvelle designed Library @ Reina Sofia. Photo by Equalizer.
KIO Towers. Photo by Equalizer.

One of the most surprising aspect of this trip, was the fact that one of the local architectural icons, KIO towers, is named after Kuwait Investment Office, the independent investment arm of Kuwait Investment Authority. Like most of you would have suspected, it is a result of a large embezzelment scandal by the real estate company that developed the tower. What is sad is that such developments could not be seen anywhere on Kuwaits turf.

Madrid is infamous for its nightlife that goes all the way into the morning. It is normal to have employees go straight to work from nightclubs and late night bars. Tapas on the other hand are scattered all over the place. The most memorable tapas joint was Cisne Azul in the boho-chic quarter of Chueca, which specializes in seasonal wild mushrooms, with a list of more than 15 varieties. The preparation is simple and is the same, all you have to do is pick the type of mushroom. All mushrooms are quickly sauteed in olive oil with a bit of onions and topped with fried egg, its simply incredible. The best variety that we tried was chanterelle and black trumpet. Served with a side of fresh baguette to soak up all the juices left behind, and return the plates sparkling clean. However the best tapa dishs that you can easily find in every bar and joint are the whole goat cheese topped with onion marmalade and raspberry, the second is duck liver with pedro ximenez sauce, and the third is crispy fried asparagus with sea salt.
I also had the chance to try Ferran Adria's Fast Good concept which is like a cross between Pret a Manger and a burger joint with lots of healthy stuff. I really loved their burgers, a bit salty though, and the salad was nothing amazing, just fresh. The fries are supposed to be cooked in olive oil, I think I felt some. To be honest, I had expected better from a Ferran Adria concept. Maybe it was because my expectation were too high that I didn't enjoy it as much as I should, or my taste buds are better than Ferran Adria.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Pumpkin Risotto with red onion, rosemary & white truffle butter. Photo by Equalizer.

Autumn, a season in which most people associate it with blue. the end of the summer and the end of good times. In fact, such blues are mostly common in areas of the world where sunshine days begins to dwindle down to grayish gloomy days. Scientifically, good mood is accentuated with sunshine, so it is logical to assume that the reduction of such sunshine can only lead to withdrawal.

I rarely got to experience Autumn or Fall as they call it in North America, because I live in a warm sunny country like Kuwait. Autumn is a metamorphosis between summer and winter, and could only be experienced over a prolonged period of time. In colder climates of the deep north and south, you would witness the changing colors of a variety of trees to deep and light tones of orange, red, yellow and brown. Then the leaves begin to fall, leaving it bare and cold. In warm countries you can only feel the weather cooling down, but cannot witness it as nothing else changes.

I felt like reliving those days when I witnessed the whole autumn season with all its changes and festivities like Halloween. Halloween is an ancient pagan harvest festival mostly associated with pumpkins. I though of having a simple hearty autumn dish with pumpkins. Pumpkin Risotto.

Unlike other rice dishes, risottos are pretty tricky. The key to a perfect risotto is to prefry the rice with butter and oil prior to cooking. This will allow the rice to holds its shape while cooking in the broth. Another key is to add the broth ladle by ladle as you need to constantly stir while it absorbs the water. What happens is that while stirring with just enough water, there would be increased friction that forces the rice to release starch that would in turn make the risotto creamy.

Pumpkin Risotto

2 cups arborio rice (never use any other variety like basmati)
1 cup finely chopped pumpkins
1/2 chopped red onion
1 sprig rosemary
3 cups chicken broth (extra if needed)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs white truffle butter
1 tsp truffle oil
Fresh cracked black pepper


Heat butter on medium high heat. Add onion and fry until translucent. Add pumpkin and rice and fry until rice is semi translucent. Add chicken broth and constantly stir. Keep adding and stirring. Add more broth once the broth is absorbed by the rice. Keep adding broth in a timely fashion until the risotto is nice and creamy, preferably "al dente" which means its hard from the inside. Once you reach the consistency you want add the Parmesan, salt to taste, black pepper, truffle butter and oil. Mix well and serve immediately to ensure that the risotto remains creamy.