Ahead of Valentine's Day, acclaimed Egyptian chef Suzanne Sabah, a certified pastry chef specialising in French pastries in addition to delights from Arab, Indian and American cuisines told Ahram Online that the love fest's activities are celebrated everywhere almost the same way. The main difference, however, is the choice of foods.
“Valentine’s Day is celebrated the same way almost everywhere. People exchange gifts and go out for romantic dinners. Maybe friends gather if they are single and have a nice outing,” she said.
Sabah recalled, “In the beginning, I baked and created my own recipes as a hobby. I started from scratch. I taught myself everything. Then, cooking turned into a profession.”
Last summer, Sabah earned the City and Guilds professional diploma from the International Centre for Culinary Arts (ICCA) in Dubai.
The ICCA is among the top 10 culinary institutes and schools of its kind in the Middle East. “I was trained by awe-inspiring chefs from different countries. My perception changed.”
Sabah makes frequent appearances on television.
She gave Ahram Online tips to cook a romantic dinner at home.
"First, organise the table. Use elegant tablecloth and matching napkins for the setting to look chic and cosy. Second, arrange the candles on the table. Use soft light candles and flowers to decorate the table. Third, the table must have a theme, such as a steak with salad and hot soup. Lastly, for dessert, British chocolate is the perfect choice."
Truffles (courtesy of Suzanne Sabah)
240 g dark chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp butter (cut into cubes)
For coating: Cocoa powder and melted chocolate
In a pan, heat the cream and butter until boiling. Add cream onto chopped chocolate. Leave it to rest for a couple of minutes. Then, mix the chocolate using a spatula until it is completely melted. Cover and chill in the fridge for one hour.
Make the chocolate dough into small balls. Dip balls into cocoa powder or melt some chocolate on a bain-marie. Then, cover the truffles. Use red coloured fondant. Cut it into heart shapes and stick right on the truffle.
Red velvet cupcakes:
Cupcakes (courtesy of Suzanne Sabah)
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk (rayeb milk)
1 tbsp liquid red food colouring
1/2 tsp vinegar
1/2 tsp baking soda
Cream cheese frosting:
227 g cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2/3 cup cold whipping cream
Preheat oven to 180°C and line up 12 muffin tins with red paper cupcakes. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. In the bowl of your electric mixer beat the butter until softened for about 1-2 minutes. Put the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Then, add egg and vanilla. Beat them until combined.
In a measuring cup, whisk the buttermilk with the red food colouring. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter mixture, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.
Mix the vinegar and baking soda together in a small cup. Allow the mixture to fizz. Then, quickly fold into the cake batter. Work very quickly; divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups. Bake them in the oven for approximately 20 minutes.
Cream cheese frosting:
In the bowl of the electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and sugar and mix them well. Using the whisk attachment, gradually add the heavy cream and whip until the frosting is thick enough to pipe. Use a pastry bag and tip to make a rose design on top of the 12 cupcakes.