Storecupboard saviours and how to reduce the weight of your luggage
I’m very excited. I leave for two months in the UK on Friday – yikes! that’s tomorrow. Dubai is a lovely place to live but our ‘green and pleasant land’ is bursting with exciting events, shops, countryside etc. that it just can’t rival. I got into the habit of deserting (the desert) from the start of my Middle East adventure as an expat. Nobody who had the option stayed for the summer months in the sunny kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It was 50 C with nothing to do (believe me). This lovely tranche of time, which goes so quickly, means that my children have the chance to get to know their relatives and feel closer to the country that is named on their passports. A few things on our ‘to do’ list this year are:
- Wearing out our National Trust cards especially in Devon and Cornwall. Cothele is a favourite.
- Doing even more things in Cornwall – including cycling the Camel Trail, visiting the workshop of Linda Styles, surfing in Polzeath, shopping at the Barefoot Kitchen, eating a crab sandwich in Cadgwith Cove made by Sarah Legge in the crab sheds and visiting my lovely Uncle and Aunt at Trevissome House.
- Going to Giffords Circus on the village green in Frampton-on-Severn. We’ve been every year since it started.
- Camping and doing a bit of grooving at Chagstock.
- Visiting the Cotswold Farm Park…again (my teens insist we go every year, as I did when small).
..and enjoying the light evenings, rain, open gardens, parks, deciduous trees, Cornish pasties, tea shops, museums, high streets (not malls), pebble beaches and all the other things I miss.
As well as striding over the Cotswolds and Dartmoor (followed by some real ale in a pub) I love the abundance of great food shopping that is available from farmer’s markets to fabulous delis (The Fine Cheese Co in Bath for instance). My travelling souvenirs are most likely to be edible these days. Dubai is really well served with the variety of food on offer – although I miss having a range of really fresh, seasonal and organic produce – but there are a few ingredients I can’t obtain. This year I won’t have so many packages smuggled and snuggled in my suitcase as I’ve made these ingredients from scratch (inspired by some wonderful food bloggers).
Real vanilla essence. A huge bundle of divine vanilla pods can be bought really cheaply at the spice souk in Dubai but every year I bought back an expensive little brown bottle of liquid. Use Real Butter gave me that Eureka moment. The pictures are of my own bottle of pods which are quietly leaching their delicious caramel coloured flavour and scent into their alcoholic host as we speak.
Red wine vinegar. When a friend recently left Dubai, I inherited the food contents of her cupboards including a very impressive collection of wine vinegars – the result of some serious smuggling. This is one of those items that falls into the dodgy category in Dubai. It gets left off the shelves as you can only buy alcohol with a license in a special shop – which is full of spirits and wine rather than useful cooking ingredients. The genius Ms Marmite lover revealed that you can indeed turn those gone-off dregs of wine into a delicious ingredient for salad dressings, sauces etc. My unattractive jar is sitting in the shade on my patio completing it’s transformation so I suggest you look at MML’s lovely pics of her stone jar warming by the Aga instead. I may lug a small bottle of vinegar with ‘mother’ in it home – but it’s a small burden to yield such abundant treasure.
Vegetable bouillon. We have a vegetarian in our family and the only vegetable stock I really rate in Swiss Marigold but even when you can get it in Dubai it’s a shocking price so in the past it came with me on a little plane journey to the Middle East. Third culinary star step forward – Heidi from 101 Cookbooks shared a recipe inspired by River Cottage (are you keeping up?). Again, mine is sitting rather unattractively in the freezer so feast your eyes on her gorgeous images which are always inspiring. It’s so easy and adds such a depth of flavour.
I hope you like these ideas. They’ll certainly provide more space in my bag when I return to the heat in September. I have a feeling that it might be taken up with extra cheese from the Tavistock Cheese Festival. Which edible delights do you bring home when you travel abroad?