herb water with rosemary, lemongrass, mint, and lemon basil
When I arrive for the cooking class, the door is locked. The courtyard is littered with lounge-seating, high tables, bar stools, and other stylish remnants of what must have been a spectacular looking party. I call chef Gabi, and she comes to take me inside through the kitchen. The front door key had gone missing. Inside the villa, a similar after-the-party scene awaits us. Not a mess, don't get me wrong. Anything edible or drinkable is long gone, it is just a jumble of tables and chairs. Except for one in the middle of the room: set in white linen and glassware, it is waiting for the six of us joining chef Gabi Kurz for her Wellbeing Cooking Class.
As the class is quickly set up, chef Gabi introduces us to her herb water. She talks about the health benefits of various herbs, and explains how she makes herb water. She infuses cold water with a variety of fresh herbs for a minimum of 6 hours. It is perfect for drinking after 12 hours, and should be discarded after 48 hours. She has a daytime herb water using energising herbs such as rosemary or sage, mint to refreh, thyme. The night time herb water has herbs with relaxing and rejuvenating properties, such as lavender, geranium, lemongrass. The water we try in the cooking class is made with what she can get her hands on in Dubai. She does have a herb garden but this time of year the increasing temperatures in Dubai do not help abundance. She serves us a herb water that is fragrant with mint, basil, lime leaf, raspberry, thyme. Stunning really, how such crystal clear water can pack so much herbal flavor!
We still marvel over the aromatic taste of the herb water as chef Gabi starts to cook. She dissolves fresh yeast for a spelt baguette, explaining she prefers spelt over wheat because it is an ancient, unmodified grain. She grinds oats through a wooden hand-held mill, and tells us she wants oats rolled last minute to keep the oxygen out, and all the nutrients in as long as possible. As she chats away about her way of cooking in her wellbeing cuisine, beautiful food starts to emerge.
A summer tomato terrine with blanched carrot tagliatelle and herbed yogurt quenelle. Sweet pea gazpacho that appears thin and runny, yet is bursting with refreshing flavors and a hint of spiciness. Warm rosemary spelt baguettes that drive us nuts with their seductive fresh-baked bread smell. Fresh topfen (quark cheese) balls rolled in vibrant green mixed herbs. Pan-grilled purple potato and cherry tomato kebabs topped with a parsley pesto made the way the word dictates: from pestare which means to crush or pound. And a dessert that truly hits my wellbeing spot: a lush trifle of moist chocolate cake layered with whipped cream and a black currant & lavender compote.
Sipping on a pineapple-based detoxing drink, we talk about her next class. It will be raw food. She has tried it, and admits there is only so much "raw" she can handle until the craving for something cooked takes over. Raw foodism is wellness cuisine to the extreme. I had a look at the website of Raw Foodist Urs Hochstrasser (chef Gabi referred to him talking about raw foodism). Strictly vegan and raw, there is not a single item cooked or even heated, nor one ingredient non-vegan. Raw Foodism is a whole new ballgame, and for a gourmet foodie perhaps a bridge to far. Having said that, as an introduction - and by a wellbeing chef who showcases that wellbeing and delicious do go hand in hand - it will be worthwhile and eye-opening for sure.
Click here for more detailed information on chef Gabi's next cooking classes.