Sweet, Savory and Sunny

This Victoria Street Sponge Cake is the centerpiece of my dream picnic at the Rose Garden. A simple cheese board, with some nuts and fruit, and a cold glass of local rosé to accompany this sweet treat makes for an intimate and unforgettable afternoon gathering with family and friends. My obsession with this elegant cake began when I lived in London and worked in a small bakery in Primrose Hill. Kids and their parents would come in for tea after school and order a slice of this delicious layered confection, called Victoria Sponge. I loved everything about it and insisted the head baker teach me the recipe. I made it my own by adding ricotta in the cake batter and mascarpone to the icing. 



3/4 cup softened butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 large eggs, separated
1 cup full-fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Dash of salt
Fruit jam for the filling

• Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease and flour a 7 or 8-inch springform pan.
• Beat the butter and sugar with a hand mixer until light and fluffy.
• Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolks and ricotta cheese and beat until smooth.
• Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together and then beat into the butter mixture until combined.
• Wash the beaters thoroughly and then beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff.
• Gently fold the egg whites into the batter and spoon it into the prepared springform pan.
• Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a cake tester stuck into the center comes out clean.
• Once fully cooled to room temperature, cut into two layers. Spread ¼ cup of your favorite jam on each side of the
  cake, followed by a generous dollop of mascarpone cream on one half. Sandwich the two sides together, dust the top
  with powdered sugar, and serve.


1 cup heavy cream
8 oz. of mascarpone cheese at room temperature
½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

• Use an electric mixer to whisk the heavy cream on medium speed until stiff peaks and set aside.
• In a separate bowl, whisk the mascarpone and confectioners’ sugar together until smooth, then gently fold into the heavy cream.

About Ayda Robana

I have always loved hosting friends and family around the dinner table, so in 2007 I decided to turn my passion for cooking into a small business. For over a decade, I owned and ran a local luxury catering company called Om Sweet Mama. I recently rebranded to more closely reflect my personality and my food philosophy and now operate as Ayda Robana Catering. I continue to specialize in seasonal local cuisine and focus on sustainably raised and harvested meats and seafood, and plant-based menus. My food is clean and simple, with lots of Mediterranean and international influences. I gain inspiration from adventures abroad and most importantly, from my passion for connecting with people from different cultures. Collecting their family recipes and cooking together is a way to have a heart to heart connection and experience cultures outside of one’s own. 805.837.9009, AydaRobana.com

A Gift from the Sea

Ayda Robana of Om Sweet Mama uses a potpourri of fresh ingredients to put a North African Twist on classic Seafood Bouillabaisse. This savory medley includes clams, mussels, shrimp, chorizo, aromatic herbs, and local vegetables.

Ayda F17.jpg

Seafood Bouillabaisse with a North African Twist
Serves 4-6

For the sofrito
1 small leek
1 medium carrot
1 large shallot
1 piece celery
½ bulb fennel
1 small Thai chili
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
¾ cup diced chorizo seco
or pancetta
5 new potatoes, cut into
small pieces
1 pinch saffron
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tbsp. Tunisian harissa
2 sprigs of thyme
1 handful chopped parsley
2 bay leaves
½ of a preserved lemon,
finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. of salt
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup lobster or clam juice
1 cup dry white wine
1 lb. each of little neck clams,
Manila clams, mussels, shrimp
1 cup heavy cream

Make a sofrito* from the veggies listed in Step One. Fry in 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once softened and translucent (5-10 minutes) take them out of the large stock pot and set them aside.

Add remaining olive oil and fry chorizo and potatoes for another 5-10 minutes until crispy and golden. Add aromatics (saffron, tomato paste, harissa, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, preserved lemon, garlic, salt) and the liquid (stock, lobster or clam juice, wine). Bring to a boil.

Add scrubbed and debearded shellfish. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until all the shells have opened. Add heavy cream and stir. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and lemon wedges.

*Sofrito is a sauce used as a base in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Latin American cooking. Preparations may vary, but it typically consists of aromatic ingredients cut into small pieces and sauteed or braised in cooking oil.

About Om Sweet Mama - Ayda Robana, culinary artist, caterer, and private chef, is passionate about using locally-sourced, organic, farm-fresh ingredients. Highly influenced by her world travels and Tunisian-American upbringing, she founded Om Sweet Mama catering in 2008 and was among the first chefs in Santa Barbara to introduce pop-up meals in locations around town.  805.837.9009, omsweetmama.com


Ceviche - A Summer Soiree

Ayda Robana of Om Sweet Mama delights the senses with her fresh take on a tropical, Mexican Cuisine-inspired menu. The recipes are simple, colorful, and as tasty as some glassy waves on a fine summer day.


Yucatan Ceviche

3 lbs. sushi-grade saltwater fish, skinned, de-boned, bloodline removed (yellowtail tuna, halibut, sea bass, etc.)
1 ½ cups fresh lime juice
1 ½ cups young coconut juice
1 ½ cups young coconut meat (from 2 coconuts)
½ small habanero
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ground ginger
1 tablespoon pink Himalayan salt
1 stalk lemongrass, bruised
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 ripe avocado, sliced
1 small bunch radishes, mandolin sliced
Garnish: radish sprouts, edible flowers

Cut up the fish into small cubes. Add lime juice, coconut water, onion, habanero, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, and salt. Scrape out the flesh of the young coconuts and chop into small diced pieces. Add to the mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.
Add cilantro, avocado, and radishes. Garnish with radish sprouts, edible flowers, and pickled onions.
Serve with beet tostada, plantain chips, or corn chips and salsas.

Mezcal & Hibiscus Cocktail

1 cup grapefruit juice
1 shot mezcal
2 tablespoons St. Germain
1 tablespoon hibiscus simple syrup
Grilled citrus garnish
Hibiscus simple syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
Juice of 2 limes, 1 grapefruit, and 1 lemon
½ cup dried hibiscus flowers

Reduce down sugar and citrus juice on medium heat in a small saucepan for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat, add dried hibiscus flowers, and let steep for 1 hour until cool. Strain off the simple syrup.

For the grilled citrus garnish, slice your choice of citrus (grapefruit, orange, lime, etc.), place on a heated grill, and char on both sides. Allow cooling before adding to drink.

About Om Sweet Mama - Ayda Robana, culinary artist, caterer, and private chef, if passionate about using locally-sourced, organic, farm-fresh ingredients. Highly influenced by her world travels and Tunisian-American upbringing, she founded Om Sweet Mama catering in 2008 and was among the first chefs in Santa Barbara to introduce pop-up meals in locations around town.  805.837.9009, omsweetmama.com


A Feast Noir

Ayda Robana of Om Sweet Mama serves up a menu of comfort food to
warm our waning autumn days and longer winter nights.

Ayda Robana - culinary artist, caterer, and private chef, is passionate about using locally-sourced, organic, farm-fresh ingredients. Highly influenced by her world travels and Tunisian-American upbringing, she founded Om Sweet Mama catering in 2008 and was among the first chefs in Santa Barbara to introduce pop-up meals in locations around town.  805.837.9009, omsweetmama.com

Chicken Pot Pie

Makes 6 individual pot pies or one large pot pie, serves 4-6

2 slices of bacon, chopped • 2 tablespoons olive oil • 2 small leeks
1 medium onion, diced • 1 clove of garlic • 4 small to medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped with the leaves • 8-12 mini red potatoes, halved • ½ cup frozen peas
½ teaspoon roughly chopped thyme • ½ teaspoon roughly chopped rosemary
4 tablespoons butter • 1/3 cup flour • 1/3 cup white wine
1 ½ - 2 lbs chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces • 2 tablespoons butter
1 cup dried porcini mushrooms • 2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil • 1 teaspoon salt • ½ teaspoon pepper
1 or 2 thawed puff pastry sheets, cut to size • 1 egg for egg wash



In a saucepan, heat up 2 cups of chicken broth with the dried porcini mushrooms and let them rehydrate for 20 minutes, simmering over medium-low heat.

In a separate pot, parboil the potatoes for 10 minutes until fork tender.

Meanwhile, cut chicken into bite size pieces and blot with a paper towel. Cut two pieces of bacon and render in 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add in the chicken. Cook until bacon is rendered and chicken is lightly browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same sauté pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Sauté leeks, onion, parboiled potatoes, carrots, celery, garlic. Strain out the porcini from the stock and chop the mushrooms, then add to the sautéing vegetables. Add salt, pepper, and fresh herbs. Add ¼ cup of the chicken-porcini stock. Sauté for 10 minutes, until vegetables soften and onions are translucent and flavors start to meld together. Remove the veggies from the sauté pan and set aside in a bowl with the chicken.

In a saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Add in the 1/3 cup of flour, whisking it until it becomes a paste. Gradually add in all the rest of the stock and the 1/3 cup of white wine, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook down until it coats the back of the spoon, making sure to whisk any clumps vigorously. Add in the chicken and vegetables and the frozen peas.

In oven safe ramekins, baking dishes, or whatever vessel you want to use, put your filling in and lay the sheet of puff pastry over it, crimping the sides. You can fasten the pastry to the perimeter of your container by brushing with egg wash. Pierce a couple of small holes in the top of the puff pastry, and brush the top of the pot pie with egg wash.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden all the way through.

Poached Pears in Wine with Strained Yogurt, Rose and Crushed Walnuts

Serves 4-6

For the pears:

6-8 small pears • 1 bottle red wine • 2 cups of cherry, pomegranate or cranberry juice
1/4 cup brown sugar • 1 orange, stripped into several peels (with vegetable peeler)
2 cinnamon sticks • 1 vanilla bean • 2 star anise • Small pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cloves • 1 teaspoon cardamom pods 1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorn



Toasted and lightly crushed pistachios • Dried rose petals, lightly crushed • Drizzle with honey

Peel the pears and place in a large pot with wine, sugar, peel of orange, juice of the orange, cinnamon stick and vanilla bean (contents scraped into mixture and the exterior of the vanilla bean as well). Place star anise, cloves, cardamom pods, and peppercorns in a tied sachet of cheese cloth and pop into the wine mixture. Add salt and cook on a low heat to dissolve the sugar. Baste pears with liquid and bring to a boil, cover and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, until pear is soft when pricked with a fork.

Slide the pan off heat and allow cooling to room temperature (about 2 hours or overnight for a totally saturated pear). Remove spice bouquet when ready to serve.


For the strained yogurt:

1 1/2 cups whole milk Greek yogurt • Zest of one orange
1 teaspoon cardamom powder • 1 teaspoon rose water

In a cheese-cloth lined strainer, set yogurt over a bowl in the fridge for at least four hours or overnight. Toss out the strained liquid and stir in orange zest, cardamom and rose water with strained yogurt, set aside until ready to serve.


To assemble:

Place a dollop of strained yogurt into the bottom of each individual serving glass, compote or small bowl, split the pears in half and tuck into yogurt. Drizzle a few spoonfuls of mulled wine on top of pear, top with dusting of crushed pistachios, rose petals and a little drizzle of honey. Snuggle in and enjoy this cozy fall favorite.

Salmon Crudo with Burrata

We asked Ayda Robana of Om Sweet Mama to share a few of her favorite recipes for summer entertaining. Here, her bright, fresh dishes make the most of the season’s offerings. “This menu, along with a cold bottle of sparkling rose, is what I would serve for a light summer lunch in my garden, after a day at the beach”, says Ayda. “I believe in being intentional not only about the ingredients I use, but also how I present them - colorfully and beautifully – as a way of showing artistry on a plate.” Expressing her gratitude for the region’s bounty, she says, “We are so lucky to enjoy produce year-round from local farmers markets in the area, almost any day of the week and equally blessed by the bounties of the sea. The seafood in Santa Barbara is among the highest-quality in the United States and is coveted and revered by chefs and diners everywhere.” Ayda Robana, a private chef and caterer in Santa Barbara for the last eight years, was among the first chefs in Santa Barbara to introduce popup meals in locations around town. Her style is highly influenced by her world travels and a bi-cultural (Tunisian /American) upbringing. In celebration of her North African roots, loves to tell stories through food and gather loved ones around a table to enjoy a meal together.


1 1/2 lbs sashimi grade very fresh Scottish salmon or King salmon, thinly sliced
3 Cara Cara oranges, segmented (or any citrus)
1/2 bulb of thinly shaved funnel
3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 burrata balls, quartered
4-5 thinly sliced radishes
1 cup wild arugula
1 tsp white ponzu sauce
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar
2 tsp high-quality olive oil

• In a small bowl, squeeze the juice from 1 orange. Pickle the fennel in the orange juice, rice wine vinegar, salt and sugar. Marinate while you assemble the other ingredients. • Peel and segment the other two oranges and set aside. • Thinly slice the radishes, using a mandolin if you have one, and set aside. • Lay out the thinly sliced salmon in the center of a serving platter. • Decorate the outer edge with arugula that has been lightly dressed with salt, white balsamic vinegar and olive oil. • Top the salmon with the pickled fennel, orange segments, and radishes. • Dress the salmon with the remaining pickling liquid. • Finish with Maldon salt (sea salt), fresh ground black pepper and a little sprinkle of ponzu. It's also nice to sprinkle on Japanese rice seasoning (optional). Serve immediately.



3 Meyer lemons • 1/2 cup sugar + 2 Tbsp sugar • 2 Tbsp water • 2 tsp gelatin
1 cup whole milk • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream • 1 vanilla bean

• With a vegetable peeler, peel the outside of the lemons.
• Carefully squeeze the juice into a saucepan, removing any seeds.
• Make a simple syrup using the juice of the lemons, the peel of the lemons, 1/2 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of water. Cook this down for 10-15 minutes on medium heat, until it is reduced by half and the peel is tender and candied. Allow to cool.
• In a separate mixing bowl, combine 2 teaspoons gelatin and 1/2 cup of whole milk. Stir together and allow to sit for 10 minutes while you make the custard base.
• In a separate sauce pan, simmer 2 1/2 cups of heavy cream and the remaining 1/2 cup of whole milk, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and the seeds and pod of a scraped vanilla bean. Heat to just before boiling and using a sieve, strain in the simple syrup mixture. Save the candied lemon peels to slice and use as a garnish. Bring the mixture back to just before boiling, stirring frequently.
• Remove from heat and strain again into the mixing bowl containing the milk and gelatin mixture. Whisk well, until the gelatin dissolves.
• Ladle into six 2 1/2" ramekins. Allow to cool. Then individually cover each ramekin with cling wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
• Garnish with fresh raspberries, candied lemon peel, mint leaf, lemon curd, or creme fraiche.


1 bag spicy greens or your favorite lettuce mixture • Snap peas • Purple carrots • Watermelon radish • Golden beets
VINAIGRETTE: 1/2 a grapefruit • 1 small shallot • 1 clove garlic • 1 small nub of ginger • 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar • 1 Tbsp white miso • 1/3 cup olive oil • 1 tsp sesame oil
Tamari-roasted pepitas: 1 tsp tamari • 1/4 cup pepitas

• Toast the pepitas in a nonstick pan over low-medium heat, then coat with tamari and allow to cool.
• Finely chop the shallot.
• Grate the garlic and ginger into a bowl.
• Add the juice of 1/2 grapefruit.
• Add the rice wine vinegar, white miso and sesame oil and whisk.
• While whisking, slowly incorporate the 1/3 cup of olive oil.

Tangerine Dream Halibut

Delight your tastebuds with my tangy Tangerine Dream Halibut with Arugula and Heirloom Tomato Salad - perfect for Easter Dinner or a Solstice Soiree. How about trying out a new gadget, the "Spiralizer" to create oodles of veggie "noodles" for my Mediterranean Rainbow Spiral Salad? Visually & texturally appealing, it's the perfect side to bring to any backyard barbeque. Looking for a new libation to quench your thirst? Try my Nancy's Santa Barbara Sunset, a cocktail worthy of all the beauty and flavors our fair city has to offer - believe me, like Goldilocks, we had fun getting this drink just right...we happily sampled our "mistakes"! Enjoy and Happy Spring & Summer to all!

Tangerine Dream Halibut with Heirloom Tomato Salad

4 small tangerines • 10 ounces halibut or sole • 1/4 tsp Himalayan pink sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper • 2tsp coconut oil • 1 tsp butter
1 medium shallot, minced • 2 TB white wine • Red pepper flakes to taste • Sprinkle of tangerine zest
Salad: 4 cups of arugula • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil • 1 TB rice vinegar • 1 heirloom tomato, sliced

• Zest tangerines to have about a ½ tsp of zest - set aside. Peel tangerines, break into individual sections into the bowl, remove any pieces of pith and collect any juice as well.
• Sprinkle both sides of fillets with salt and pepper.
• Coat a large nonstick skillet with 2 tsp coconut oil and place over medium heat.
• Add the fillets and cook about 3 minutes, gently flip and cook until the fish is opaque in the center and just cooked through - 3 to 5 minutes.
• Divide between 2 serving plates; tent with foil to keep warm.
• Add a tsp of butter to pan and melt over medium heat.
• Add shallot and cook, stirring, until soft, about 30 seconds.
• Add white wine and tangerine sections and juice; loosen any browned bits on the bottom of the pan and cook for 30 seconds.
• Spoon the sauce over the fish and sprinkle each portion with red pepper flakes, and tangerine zest. Serve immediately.

Salad: Toss arugula with olive oil and vinegar, place slices of tomatoes on top.
Optional: You may also put salad on the plate and place the fish on a bed of salad.

Mediterranean Rainbow Spiral Salad

4 zucchini “spiralized” • 2 carrots “spiralized” • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
½ cup basil, cut into ribbons (chiffonade method) • 1 tsp fresh oregano
1-2 cloves fresh garlic, minced • 1 cup olives, pitted and broken into pieces
½ cup feta, crumbled • 3 TB extra virgin olive oil • 2 TB red wine vinegar
½ tsp pink Himalayan sea salt • fresh black ground pepper to taste

• Using a Spiralizer gadget, prep zucchini and carrots and place in large bowl.
• Add onion, bell pepper, basil, oregano, garlic, olives, feta, extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, & pepper.
• Fold together with spatula or wooden spoon.
• You may serve immediately, however it tastes even better when you let it marinate for an hour or even overnight.

Nancy's Santa Barbara Sunset

Ice • 1 shot of Campari • 1 shot of vodka • 2 ozfresh tangerine juice
3-4 oz ginger beer • A squeeze of fresh lime juice

• Fill highball glass with ice.
• Pour one shot of Campari in, followed by 1 shot of vodka (we love Tito's Handmade Vodka).
• Gently add tangerine juice, followed by a slow pour of ginger beer, and squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Red Lentil Soup


1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil • 1 medium onion, finely chopped • 2 carrots, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, finely chopped • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced • 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp red chili flakes • 1 tsp turmeric • 1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp pink Himalayan sea salt • 1/2 tsp black pepper • 1 cup chopped tomatoes ­(use canned if not in season)
1 cup red lentils, rinsed and picked through for stones • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (you may sub Italian parsley if you’re not a cilantro fan)
6 cups veggie or chicken stock

• Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened.
• Add carrots, celery, garlic, chili flakes, cumin, turmeric, paprika salt, and pepper.
• Cook for 5 minutes and continue to stir.
• Add tomatoes, lentils, cilantro and stock.
• Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes.
• Garnish with cilantro sprigs & serve.


1 cup dry white rice • 11 cinnamon sticks (1 for horchata recipe, 10 for garnish)
2⁄3 cups blanched & roasted almonds • 8 cups water (split into batches) • 1 Tbsp vanilla
3/4 cup sugar PLUS 1/4 cup boiling water • 1 package of cheesecloth • 8­-10 shots of white rum

• Combine rice and 1 cinnamon stick in a blender or spice grinder and pulverize into a fine powder. The finer the powder the better the horchata. Put in large bowl.
• Put almonds into the blender/spice grinder and do the same thing­­. Make sure not to let the almonds turn into almond butter. Pulverize until they are powdery. Add into bowl with rice/cinnamon combo.
• Add 6 cups of hot water, mix with wire whisk, cover and let stand overnight at room temperature.
• The next day, transfer half of mixture into blender and add 1 additional cup of cold water. Blend well, pour into new large bowl, set aside.
• Add the second half batch into blender and repeat. It’s critical to blend all the lumps out. Add second batch to large bowl.
• Get yet another bowl or pot and pour mixture through a fine sieve lined with cheesecloth, using fresh cheesecloth every time. Repeat this process 4 times for optimal smooth horchata.
• Once horchata is strained, add vanilla and whisk by hand until completely blended.
• In a large measuring cup, dissolve sugar into boiling water to make into simple syrup, let cool and mix into horchata.
• Fill a highball glass with crushed ice, add 1 shot of rum, and pour in 6-­8 oz. of horchata, mix with cinnamon stick, grate fresh cinnamon on top. Serve.