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Have a great tasting 2011

January 4, 2011

Cooking with simple, fresh ingredients is an annual resolution


I’ve loved reading through the reviews of 2010 by some of my favourite bloggers, from the homely comforts of Things We Make and Butcher, Baker, the collection of beautiful food photographs by Tartelette to the top dishes (and the worst) by Food Stories.  I’ve decided to look ahead instead and share a few foodie resolutions.  2011 is like an open cookery book full of possibilities, recipes to try, skills to learn, tastes to sample.

Custard tart

A sumptuous custard tart made by Hugh F-W

1. Make a custard tart. My love of custard is outdone only by my fear of making it.  I am ashamed every time I see that someone has landed here looking for a recipe through the search term custard pie or tart.  I promise faithfully to take the plunge in making the eponymous yellow delicacy and to document my success or failure right here.

Heart-shaped fried egg

Another Foodgawker and Tastespotting reject!

2. Take better pictures. The new Nikon DSLR I so hankered after has hardly been out of its box.  I need to book a course (more fear of failure…do you see a trend?!) and get on with it!

keflice - cheesy buns

Keflice - Fresh from the oven

3. Not miss a single Fresh From the Oven post. I’ve learned so much since I joined the monthly baking challenge of this very friendly and supportive group.  Kiflice was my most popular post to date and I vow to master croissants (during the Dubai winter to avoid the mega melt that saw me hurling my dough in the bin).  You can see what I baked in 2010 here.

preserved lemons

Preserved lemons (home-made)

4. Share my recipe for preserved lemons and make some gifts for my lovely book club chums at the same time.  They’re an essential ingredient for Moroccan green pepper and preserved lemon salad and fragrant lemon chicken, so easy to make and like a jar of sunshine in the kitchen.

Cornish Pasties

The pursuit of the perfect pasty

5. To find the perfect Cornish pasty recipe for my pasty-obsessed husband. A labour of love ♥

Herb garden

My potted garden in the desert

6. To cook as much as I can using simple, fresh ingredients including more recipes from Plenty by Ottolenghi, if possible using herbs and vegetables from my garden.  Even more ambitious is to convert my vegetarian daughter to like aubergines in some form.

Racing Dhows

Dhow building yard in Dubai where fresh fish is sold every morning

7.  I really want to cook and eat more fish – using the UAE Choose wisely guidelines about which fish to eat sustainably.  This may involve a bit of research and experimentation as I’m not sure what to do with a ‘pink ear emperor’  or a ‘sordid sweetlips’.  With two daughters who start to complain at the merest whiff of fish (even though as toddlers they loved it) it may involve investing in a gas barbecue to make this a reality.

Stuffed vegetables

Irresistable stuffed veg

8. Sharing some of my husband’s family recipes, passed down by his Grandmother who had the best Greek restaurant in Plymouth (and whose brother opened the White Tower on Percy Street, London) via his Mother, domestic science teacher and fab ‘cooker’ (to quote my children when they were small).  Oh her stuffed veg….


Macarons - image from Nerissa's ring

9. Is it too ‘last year’ to attempt to make macarons? The blogosphere is already awash with these elusive-footed, pastel beauties made by far more competent pastry chefs than me (see Mactweets for example). However my youngest daughter may never forgive me if I leave it off the list.

Papaya salad

Thai papaya salad

10. To explore other cuisines.  I’m learning so much already from our group of UAE food bloggers Famished in Arabia and would really like to know more about Emirati cooking in particular.  Sid would you be willing to share some secrets?

And finally to help me on my way I’m keeping this very inspirational pdf open on my desktop. It’s called The Path of a Doer and I love that it quotes Dick Dastardly – “don’t just stand there, do something!”

Happy New Year.  I hope that you get all the things done that you’d like to in 2011 in a joyful, rewarding and satisfying way.

Sally - My Custard Pie

P.S. Have you made any foodie resolutions?

  1. January 4, 2011 3:55 pm

    An inspiring list! Hope you get them all done…or at least have good fun trying!

  2. January 4, 2011 5:12 pm

    I may be able to help you along with a couple:

    2. The Dubai Ladies Club run a great photography course – it’s only 800AED for 8 weeks (2 hours a week), and I am incredibly surprised with the results. I blogged about it on – go back to the earlier posts for the lessons

    6. Try slightly salting chip-sized pieces of aubergine and then deep-frying them until they are deep golden brown, then add to a coconut-based curry – Sri-Lanka or Kerala inspired rather than Thai – with onions and cook until they start to break apart. If you want some more info on the sauce, let me know, but you’re obviously a cook – I’m sure you’ll figure it out!

    7. Pink ear Emperor for the not-so-fishy smell:
    Take one fillet and place on a large square of baking paper. On top sprinkle slivers of spring onion, capsicum, ginger, garlic and carrot. drizzle with sesame oil. Fold the paper into an envelope around the fish, skewer to seal and place in a baking dish. Cook at 220C for about 20 minutes – but will depend on the size and thickness of the fillet. Juices will come out of the fish, so perfect served with rice. Because it’s cooked in the oven in wrapping you get no smell in the kitchen until it’s cooked through. (Alternative recipe: slivers of chili, coriander, lemongrass, garlic and lime peel)

    • January 4, 2011 6:20 pm

      I’ve visited your great blogs – so impressive….fancy joining us over at Famished in Arabia? Thanks for taking the time to write such an informative comment. I will check out the Ladies Club course right now. Aubergines as chips (sort of)…it might just work. I love fish cooked en papillote and have done something similar to the chilli and coriander version with a bit of ginger and coconut milk too in a banana leaf. Happy New Year.

      • sandpitdiaries permalink
        January 4, 2011 7:53 pm

        I’d be honoured to join you, thanks! By the way, Daiso is a fantastic Japanese store in Lamcy Plaza and Oasis Centre. Sells heaps of cheap cookware, especially utensils and South East Asian crockery, but not the place for whitegoods.

      • January 4, 2011 9:17 pm

        Brilliant! The penny’s dropped about Daiso but I didn’t know there was one in Oasis Centre…must check it out soon.

  3. naila naiyyar permalink
    January 4, 2011 6:34 pm

    Hi sally. came across ur blog while surfing for pizza dough. and i must say u have a wondeful blog. I too bake and cook. Right now i want to buy some basic good quality baking ware like baking trays, thermometer,etc that r not heavy on the wallet too. do we have something dat can measure the actual temp of the oven as i feel that the temp markings on my oven do not give the exact heat and usually i increse the temp by a few lines while baking but the results r excellent. i have a simple moulinex hand blender for cakes and hand-knead the pizza dough. but now i want to upgrade and buy an electric appliance too with all the attachments etc that vl take care of my baking needs u know something like the one rose levy might be using. iv seen some people using KITCHEN AID. Is it a brand name? As u too r in dubai i thought ul be able to guide me in this regard. where can i go for all these things. iv heard aout DAISO? Thanx sally. in the mean time go surf the rest of ur lovely blog!!Take Care

    • January 4, 2011 7:38 pm

      Thank you for your very nice comments Naila. I used to head straight for Tavola (Beach Road, MoE or Umm Suqeim) for kitchenware but they are at the pricier end. Prestige bakeware is in places like Park n Shop and Spinneys but my first choice since it opened is Lakeland in Mirdif City Centre. The choice is excellent and not overpriced. You can see what they stock on their uk website (they have quite a lot in their Dubai store).
      I have a KitchenAid which is a big investment and is basically a stand-alone, heavy-duty mixer with a dough hook. If I was just investing in one new appliance I would go for something more versatile. I have a Braun food processor which I bought in Saudi Arabia about 15 years ago. It whisks and kneads as well as grating, chopping, slicing and blending. There is a good overview of Kitchenaid vs a Kenwood food processor on Things We Make. I’ve not heard of Daiso so can’t help there. All I would say is that a few good things in the kitchen – a good knife, sturdy baking trays, good sized, well shaped bowls, a good spatula – will last you for years. Nigella Lawson writes a very funny chapter in her new book Kitchen based on all the things she uses and then a big list of things she’s bought and given away! I would never buy a breadmaker! Have fun cooking.

  4. January 4, 2011 7:51 pm

    Happy New Year, Sally!
    Wish you a great and tasty year! And like we say in Bulgaria, for many many years!

    • January 4, 2011 9:15 pm

      And to you Silvia and Ivan – look forward to doing this month’s challenge.

  5. Sukaina permalink
    January 4, 2011 10:39 pm

    What…you have a DSLR and its gathering dust…woman you need to whip it out of the box and start clicking!!! looking forward to your preserved lemon recipe. i have one from my mum but haven’t attempted it myself yet. have fun at the fish market!

    • January 5, 2011 9:45 am

      I’m not very good at ‘winging it’ Sukaina. I got it out, read a book, took off all the manual settings and now find it totally incomprehensible! I’ve had some great tips about where to learn in Dubai and I’m going to try it at the fish market too (but will take my point and click as a comfort blanket too!). Hope to meet soon.

  6. Tricia Evans permalink
    January 5, 2011 10:55 am

    A very inspiring list Sally. Happy New Year, & may you make all your resolutions happen! x

  7. January 6, 2011 3:07 pm

    Love the heart shaped egg — too cute!

  8. January 6, 2011 11:03 pm

    Happy new year sally:) your blog is truly inspiring…

  9. January 7, 2011 12:32 am

    What a great list and Happy 2011 to you too! I can’t wait for your preserved lemon recipe, I’ve been wanting to learn how to make that! 🙂

  10. naila naiyyar permalink
    January 10, 2011 5:49 pm

    Thaaaaaaaaank you saouw much Sally, really. reading ur reply has given me an idea of the palces i can go scouting for my kitchen needs. and the lakeland website? im feeling so greedy seeing the stuff that they have. will definitley be going to visit this place. and about DAISO . i too havnt visited any of its stores but only seen the ads in the local newspapers and magazines.
    Il let u know the further updates from my side.

    iv gone through some cake recipes that call for buttermilk and cream cheese to be used in the cake batter or the frosting. i would like to know should i use the regular Laban-up buttermilk that unikai, al marai and rawabi make which is easily avaiable here everywhere. this buttermilk is so salty. by cream cheese, does the recipe mean puck and kraft cream cheese we get here?thanx again.

    • January 11, 2011 7:12 am

      Dear Naila, Have fun in Lakeland. I’m going to check DAISO out too.
      I use these instructions to make my own buttermilk substitute:

      Warm the milk slightly for best results. (Microwave on HIGH for short periods of time i.e. 25 seconds, then stir well. Repeat until milk has been
      warmed through.) To each cup of warmed milk add 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
      1 1/3 tablespoons of cider vinegar to above milk amount. Stir well.

      Allow this mixture to set while putting the rest of the ingredients for the recipe together. Allowing the milk to set will give it time to thicken. The soured milk should have the consistency of buttermilk or yogurt. This proportion can be doubled. Use the same amount of soured milk as buttermillk for the recipe although at times the soured milk will be extra thick and a bit more may have to be added to the recipe to get the proper consistency.

      If the recipe only calls for 1/2 cup of buttermilk…it is best to ‘sour’ a whole cup of milk for a more even consistency. Just refrigerate theleftover soured milk and try using it for buttermilk pancakes the next day. Milk that you have soured will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days in a tightly covered container.
      If using skimmed or semi-skimmed milk the consistency might be a little less thick than buttermilk or yogurt. If so, try using just a little less of the soured milk to the recipe to get the right consistency.

      For cream cheese we don’t have much choice here and I usually use Kraft Philadelphia (full fat). For some recipes, especially dips, I have used labna successfully but usually as a substitute for sour cream or creme fraiche.

      Happy baking.

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