Highs and lows, hopes and dreams
Looking back on the year and then making resolutions is such a cliché isn’t it? Then I started to look through everyone else’s and enjoyed them so much. Would you like to see mine?
2011 was extraordinarily special because of the new friends and connections that came into my life, on and off-line. There are too many lovely food bloggers to mention – but you know who you are. Highlights of my foodie year in a nutshell:
May was blissful as every Saturday lunchtime brought a new host and a new menu when five of us held Come Dine With Me Dubai.
The summer months were spent in the UK away from the searing heat of Dubai. Not much cooking went on but there was a lot of eating including food at festivals, Tavistock Real Cheese Fair, Sharpham Vineyard and the pursuit of the perfect cream tea. Food Blogger Connect was in August – a really fantastic experience – bringing learning, new friends and a massive boost of inspiration.
The return to steamy Dubai was welcomed by the pomegranate season in September. My pulse was racing in October as Giorgio Locatelli returned to Atlantis for the truffle season and I savoured every last mouthful of his egg raviolo and perfectly cooked risotto laced with white truffles. Chef Sam Leong taught me some secrets of Asian cooking including how to eat crab and I spent two hours in the Jones the Grocer cheese room (heaven). World Food Day and Blog Action Day brought contemplation about food sources and famine.
Having lived in the United Arab Emirates for almost twelve years and never having tasted its cuisine, December brought a thrilling experience when a group of Fooderati Arabia were treated like royalty and welcomed into the kitchen of La Mere Culinaire for an Emirati cooking class. Visiting the Burj Al Arab was pretty special too and my festive wreath post received the most ever visits to my blog; a lovely end to the year.
Away from the page, Fooderati Arabia has grown to over 90 UAE-based food bloggers and they are an inspiring, supportive, generous, diverse and talented bunch (which you can like here). In July I was surprised and delighted to be included in The Independent’s 50 Best Food Websites and I contributed to The Foodie Bugle and the first issue of Ahlan Gourmet among other things. I’ve met many food heroes like Anissa Helou and Tim Hayward, in person, and online (Tweeting with Dan Lepard and Sheila Dillon). What a wonderful year it’s been.
It’s the first time that I looked back on my resolutions for 2011 in months but did I achieve them?
- Make a custard tart – I’ve had some disasters and triumphs and the best is yet to come!
- Take better pictures – Still on a massive learning curve but my photography course paid off (plus using a tripod and lots of practise) and Foodgawker, Tastespotting, Tasteologie and Pinterest all put a spring in my step.
- Not miss a single Fresh From the Oven post – Only July eluded me, I hosted in August with courgette cluster bread and have become a much better bread baker because of this monthly challenge.
- Share my recipe for preserved lemons – I made them often, and gave them away as gifts. I promise to share this in 2012.
- To find the perfect Cornish pasty recipe for my pasty-obsessed husband – Still on the hunt. Does the perfect pasty actually exist?!
- To cook as much as I can using simple, fresh ingredients – The new Ripe market and the Souk al Bahar organic farmers market have made this more achievable. It’s top of my list in again in 2012 aided by the expanding and exciting fresh, local and organic scene in Dubai.
- Cook and eat more fish – Visits to the fish market and the purchase of a gas barbecue made this a reality. Bravo to everything that Hugh’s Fish Fight has achieved this year in Europe too. I hope the ‘Choose wisely‘ campaign has such an impact here.
- Sharing some of my husband’s family recipes, passed down by his Grandmother – Must try harder with this one. I have so many delicious secrets to share.
- Attempt to make macarons – If 2011 taught me one thing it’s to be true to myself. I don’t really like macarons – they are too sweet and fiddly for me. My 13-year-old daughter made them and did a good job. 2012 is the year I master sour dough!
- To explore other cuisines – My journey with Foodalogue started the year, an Emirati feast ended it. The Fooderati Arabia crew provided so much in between (thank you especially to Abigail for introducing me to wonders of ube!)
Many of these resolutions are ongoing and will be carried over into 2012. Inspired by Jaden Hair this summer, I’ve decided on a life motto:
Explore every minute, enjoy every moment
I do take delight in the little things and have an enquiring mind but sometimes I get a bit gloomy so this is a reminder to enjoy the sunrise, my teens smiles (yes, teenage girls do smile), my husband’s jokes, the wind on my face, the dogs curled in my lap…to not get too bogged down with the trials of life. And I’m going to add one more resolution – be true to yourself and your interests; it’s really easy to become distracted by event, fads and other people’s agendas.
I’m going to keep and break that rule simultaneously right now. I was delighted to be tagged in Tripbase project by Jeanne from Cook sister! who asked me to look back on some of my pages. I’ve decided to decline as I had already done this in a fashion in February but urge you to read hers and also this one from Eggs on the Roof.
Chef Jae was championed by my teens in the Great British Bake Off this year and they boycotted the programme when he was excluded from the final. His great blog Preheat the Oven demonstrates that this didn’t stop his passion for baking and he tagged me in a Food Blogger’s Unplugged Q and A. This is, categorically, the last one I’ll answer in line with my new resolution (and in case I bore you all to death!)
What or who inspired you to start your blog?
Who is your foodie inspiration?
My Mum – although she’d fall off her chair if she read this! She brought us up with fresh vegetables from the garden and economical, tasty home cooking.
Your greasiest most batter splattered cook book is?
I have so many…Tamasin Day Lewis’s Art of the Tart has the most grease marks.
The best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it and what was it?
It started with pears with a Roquefort sauce, cooked by an ex-monk, in Santa Thomas Menorca on my first trip abroad as a wayward teenager.
Another Food Blogger’s table you would like to eat at?
What one kitchen gadget would you like Santa to bring you? (money no object)
I have all the gadgets I need but an Aga and a country kitchen one day please!
Who taught you how to cook?
Leith’s Cookery School book – I read it from cover to cover and thought I’d cracked it! Then the real journey began…and still continues.
I’m coming to you for dinner, what is your signature dish?
Simple, comfort food – Spaghetti Carbonara and a glass of whatever white wine I used in it.
What is your guilty food pleasure?
Crisps – especially Kettle sea salt and vinegar.
Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?
I don’t know…since I started blogging, my soul has been laid bare! What would surprise you dear readers? My ambivalence to cats, fear of injections, that I used to dance on tables now and again…? My sister reads my blog…maybe she’ll have a better idea.
Tag five other food bloggers to answer these questions
No obligation, but I’d love to hear what you five reveal:
Celia – Fig Jam and Lime Cordial
Stephanie – The Triangle Plate
Farwin – Love and other spices
Dima – Dima’s Kitchen
Nick – Lost in the Larder
Wishing you all a fabulous 2012 and, really, thanks for visiting. Is there anything you’d like to see more of on this page (or less of)? What did 2011 bring and what are you looking forward to in 2012?