In celebration of Ramadan the Four Seasons Hotel Doha arranged a special Ramadan cooking lesson for Qatar Eating with Chef Adnan Ahmed Almasri, their Arabic Sous Chef.
We met Chef Adnan Almasri at Elements restaurant, where he was going to teach us how to prepare and cook the famous Shish Barak. It is a yoghurt-based dish, with small intricately folded dumplings that have been stuffed with mincemeat and onions.
Keep reading for all the details, including a step-by-step recipe that you dear readers can cook this dish in your own kitchens.
Meet Sous Chef Adnan Ahmed Almasri, Four Seasons Hotel Doha
Warm, humble and passionate about food – these are the traits that stand out when you first meet Chef Adnan.
His commitment to his career, and his good-natured personality, have provided him with well-deserved opportunities including a previous job as the personal chef to the Qatar Royal Family.
He attributes his keen interest in exploring Middle Eastern flavours to his upbringing in the mountainous region of Damascus, Syria. As a child he was surrounded by local and organic produce from fruits and vegetables to herbs and olives which encouraged his love for cooking.
Before our lesson at Elements restaurant, we took the opportunity to quiz him about about Ramadan Menus and his culinary journey.
What is your culinary background?
I studied at a hotel high school in Damascus, and went to work in various restaurants and hotels until 2007 when I joined the Four Seasons Hotel. Later, my culinary journey took me to Saudi Arabia where I joined the Fairmont Hotel. I came back to the Four Seasons family in 2013 when I joined the Doha location.
Why did you become a chef?
Actually I love this career – I had always planned to go to hotel school. I liked how professional chefs looked in their appearance, but I also loved learning to cook with the variety of fresh produce being grown in the Damascus countryside. The biggest influence has to be my mother’s cooking – she is cooking like a dream!
What is your earliest memory in the kitchen?
The first thing that will come to my memory is when my mother was making kibbeh. I loved the noise of the machine, and all the mess when she is making kibbeh. The smell of the bulgur when she mixed it with the meat…the vegetables…I loved this.
How do you decide on the theme of the Ramadan Tent menu?
The ramadan dishes in all the countries that I’ve worked in are very similar because they are all in the Middle East. We are looking at our guests, their nationalities, and what they prefer. Most of our guests are Qatari and Arab nationals who prefer to eat their own cuisine, so we prepare a variety of Middle Eastern dishes from across the MENA region.
For the Gulf region we also prepare something special for the Ramadan Tent because the preferences here are different. Usually at sunset the people just break their fast with three dates and some milk. It is later in the evening, after Isha and Tarawee prayers, that they will eat their main meal, so it is important that our Ramadan Tent menu reflects this. The healthier and lighter menu options will be on the Iftar menu, whilst the Suhour menu has the heavier dishes and calorie-rich items to provide energy for the next day of fasting.
What dishes can guests expect from the Ramadan Tent at the Four Seasons?
We are giving a lot of options for our guests, but we are also bringing some healthier dishes because after fasting for so many hours you need to eat something light for your stomach. It’s very important in Ramadan that you take in liquids, such as soup, as it will help you in the next day when you need to fast again.
The main items that our guests will find at the Ramadan Tent are the Lamb Ouzi, the mixed grill, and several soup dishes including Lentil soup. However, 90% of our menu is rotated every four days, so there will always be something new to explore, taste and enjoy.
With so many menu options how do you prepare for the Ramadan Tent?
We start preparing the new menu after the previous Ramadan, because then we can take in all our notes which includes feedback from guests. It’s very important for us to provide an enriching experience for our guests so we start early every year!
About a month in advance of this Ramadan we started preparing the basics, such as stock which we freeze ahead of time. I’m not talking about cooking, I’m talking about something that we can freeze to use in Ramadan. This is something that home cooks can also do to prepare ahead so that they can reduce their cooking preparation during Ramadan.
When the month of Ramadan begins we prepare the fresh food every day, from morning until sunset, for that day’s menu at our Ramadan Tent. We don’t make anything in advance, nor do we keep anything for the next day or next week. We are also careful not to waste food as it is important to treat food with respect.
What advice do you have for aspiring chefs?
You have to love this career – only then will you succeed. If you love something then you will do it the best way, make it in the best way. So always try, try, and try.
It’s okay if you fail on the first try, the second try, because on the third try you will succeed. Keep trying…don’t give up!
Recipe for Shish Barak
You can easily prepare Shish Barak at home following the recipe below. If you would like to taste more of Chef Adnan’s Middle Eastern dishes then you need to check out the Four Seasons Ramadan Tent.
For the dough:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup water
20 grams salt
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
For the Yoghurt Sauce:
1 kg yoghurt
20 grams corn flour
salt and pepper to taste
For the Shish Barak:
500 grams mince meat
50 grams butter
50 grams chopped onions
20 grams chopped coriander
For the coriander sauce:
20 grams chopped garlic
40 grams chopped coriander
30 grams roasted pine nuts
1. Making the dough:
To make the Shish Barak dough you need to mix the flour, the water, the salt, and the oil together in a food processor. Leave it to rest for half an hour before you use the dough.
2. Preparing the mincemeat:
While the dough is resting you can prepare the mincemeat mixture. Cook onions with butter, and once it is translucent you can add the mince meat and chopped coriander. Cook the mixture on a medium heat until the meat is completely cooked – about 25 minutes. Add salt and pepper to your taste preferences.
When the dough has rested for half an hour you can prepare the dumplings. Roll out the dough, and cut out small circles.
TIP: You can use anything that is circular such as a cookie cutter or a small plate to cut out the circles.
3. Stuffing the dough:
Take half a tablespoon of mixture and add it to your dough circle. It is then important that you shape the dumplings. Fold the circle in half and press down the edges. Then take the sides of the dumpling and press them together. You have to then turn the dumpling in on itself so it stand up (see the picture below or watch the video above for this folding technique). Continue making dumplings until your mixture runs out.
TIP: You can freeze extra dumplings to use another day.
4. Preparing the Yoghurt Sauce:
You will need to prepare the cornflour mixture by adding some water to the cornflour and whisking until smooth.
Add the yogurt to a heavy-bottomed pan and cook for a few minutes – make sure to keep stirring the yoghurt. Then add the cornflour paste to the yoghurt, and keep mixing. The corn flour will thicken the yoghurt. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Boil the Shish Barak:
Take the Shish Barak dumplings and add them to a pot of boiling meat stock. Boil them for a maximum of 3 -4 minutes and then take them out of the pot. Leave to strain so that the excess liquid is removed.
TIP: You can use the leftover meat stock for soups. If your yoghurt sauce is too thick then you can also add meat stick to it to loosen it up.
6. Finishing the dish:
Prepare the coriander garnish by cooking the coriander and garlic with olive oil. TIP: This can be prepared in advance and kept for a few days in the fridge.
Take the Shish Barak and add to the yoghurt sauce and cook for 2 minutes.
7. Now you are ready to plate up!
Top the dish with the coriander sauce and the fried pine nuts. Serve with vermicelli rice on the side.
How To Book the Four Seasons Hotel Doha Ramadan Tent:
Iftar buffet is served daily from 6:00pm to 8:30 pm. Priced at QAR 235 per person.
Sohour Buffet is available from 10:00pm until 1:30am. Priced at QAR 270 per person.
*Children ages 5-12 years receive 50 percent discount.