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Highs and lows, hopes and dreams

January 5, 2012

Images from 2011

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:

January – I dived into the year by taking a virtual culinary tour around the world with the dynamic Joan from Foodalogue.  We visited Panama, Alaska, Turkey, Japan, Thailand, Egypt and Nigeria.

Foodalogue Culinary tour around the world

In February I celebrated the first birthday of My Custard Pie and made a stand for a food blogger in Kuwait who was being prosecuted.

March brought food heroes and I was lucky enough to meet Madhur Jaffrey at a very amusing cookery demo and Gary Rhodes at Taste of Dubai.

Madhur Jaffrey

The highlight in April was a huge picnic in the park with our rapidly expanding UAE food blogger group Fooderati Arabia.

Food from the picnic

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.

In June I faced several fears…eating okra (a hated slimy vegetable) and sitting my Wines and Spirits Education Trust exam (I passed with distinction – phew!).

I will not ever eat an okra

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.

Making and serving raviolo

The world turned yellow in November in the form of the Custard Mingle which I was honoured to host for Meeta from What’s For Lunch Honey?

Custard Tart

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.

chami - Emirati breakfast

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?

  1. Make a custard tart – I’ve had some disasters and triumphs and the best is yet to come!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Share my recipe for preserved lemons – I made them often, and gave them away as gifts.  I promise to share this in 2012.
  5. To find the perfect Cornish pasty recipe for my pasty-obsessed husband – Still on the hunt.  Does the perfect pasty actually exist?!Cornish pasties
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Attempt to make macaronsIf 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!
  5. 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!)Baking from Fresh From the Oven 2011

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!)

Top of loaf

What or who inspired you to start your blog?

Lost in the Larder, 101 Cookbooks and Ms Marmite Lover were the main catalysts (and continue to inspire).

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?

Apart from Ms Marmite Lover’s Underground Restaurant, I’d love to eat some Polish food cooked by Ren Behan.

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.

Spiced apple cake

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

Food bloggers unplugged - the person behind the blog

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?

  1. January 5, 2012 8:38 am

    What an interesting year you have had! Nice round-up.

    Happy 2012!

  2. January 5, 2012 9:04 am

    Sally what an inspiring and simply lovely post. You have once again inspired me! Thank you for being so generous with your words and your talents. I wish you even more success in 2012!

  3. Tricia Evans permalink
    January 5, 2012 9:15 am

    FAB post again Sally, & a lovely round up of 2011 – I really enjoy your writing. Happy 2012. Tricia x

  4. January 5, 2012 9:49 am

    What a lovely post Sally ! Wishing you many more awesome moments in 2012 🙂

    • January 5, 2012 12:25 pm

      @raji @tricia @mymezzaluna @victoria – Your comments and support give me a huge boost to start 2012. Really appreciated.

  5. January 5, 2012 9:56 am

    What a wonderful year end round-up! You and all our fellow FIA have inspired me in many ways (one of my 2012 wish is to write a post even just as half as good as yours and be a good photographer as well). Thank you for the special mention on the Ube, can’t wait for you to come up with something that make use of Ube.

    Happy New Year Sally!

  6. January 5, 2012 9:59 am

    Wow Sally- haven’t you had an amazing year my dear. And you stuck to most of your resolutions of 2011. Well done. I now look forward to your lemon pickle recipe.

  7. January 5, 2012 10:00 am

    Not sure why but your post made me want to cry, good tears about the richness of life, and love and food! Thanks for sharing Sally – you’re a marvel with words, images and inspiration. Here’s to a delicious 2012.

  8. January 5, 2012 10:02 am

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed spending the year with you, Sally, and how wonderful to review it all again in this post! Thanks for the constant inspiration! 🙂

    • January 5, 2012 12:24 pm

      The sentiment is mutual Celia. 🙂

  9. January 5, 2012 10:15 am

    Lovely post! I enjoyed coming to your space and reading up all that you had to say. I wish you and your blog many years of food adventures and writing.
    Happy new Year

    • January 5, 2012 12:23 pm

      @anita @sukaina @nappytales @tara
      I can’t tell you how well appreciated these messages are. I nearly didn’t publish this as I thought the images looked rather jumbled and I went on too long. I have resolved to get more done this year by trying to use the ‘good enough’ rule rather than procrastinating, self-doubting perfectionism. Your feedback is so overwhelmingly lovely.

  10. January 5, 2012 10:33 am

    …and she starts 2012 with a BANG! Great post Sally, that picture of your peach melba tart had me hunting back through your blog for the recipe. Love your light, homey, warm and comforting style…congrats on everything you’ve achieved through this blog in 2011, you’re a blogging inspiration to us all!

    • January 5, 2012 12:19 pm

      Whatever I try to be, it always comes back to that – homey, warm and comforting – given up trying to be sophisticated!

  11. January 5, 2012 10:45 am

    What a amrvelous retrospective! If find macarons ok, but I’m not extremely impressed by that finicky treat.

    Best wishes for 2012!



    • January 5, 2012 11:14 am

      I thought I might be struck down by the macarons police for saying this Rosa! Glad to know I’m not the only one! Happy 2012.

  12. January 5, 2012 10:52 am

    Fantastic year-in-review, Sally! It was fun reliving it all again and made me realize how VERY fast 2011 went by. Beautiful collection of photos to illustrate it all… As for for Q and A– I would be honored share all the juicy details from The Triangle Plate. Coming soon… In the meantime, out with the preserved lemon recipe PLEASE. I have always wanted to do that, and I have an obscene amount of Meyer lemons stored away in my fridg as we speak!

    • January 5, 2012 11:13 am

      I’ve never had a Meyer lemon – in fact it’s only through food blogs that I even know what one is! Look forward to reading your answers and Happy New Year. PS It whizzed by didn’t it!

      • January 6, 2012 11:01 am

        Yes, it used to be that you could only get Meyer lemons if you lived in California. Thankfully, they move them a bit further east than they used to. They are still never in abundance, so when I see them I buy as many as I can carry… Eventually, when you find yourself in the “wild West” in the dead of winter someday, you’ll get your Meyer lemons.

  13. January 5, 2012 11:16 am

    what an awesome year! May this one be only better 🙂

  14. January 5, 2012 11:52 am

    I wish you a brillant and effeverscent 2012 in the Kichen with also Italian Food!!!

    • January 5, 2012 12:18 pm

      That’s worthy of an extra resolution!

  15. January 5, 2012 12:03 pm

    You’re a wonder woman, Sally. A post that’s full of insights and inspiring new ideas for us all. Congratulations on a terrific year – you deserve all your success. And here’s to an even better 2012.

    • January 5, 2012 12:17 pm

      Hardly wonder woman but your words are really appreciated as an expert wordsmith. Here’s to a great 2012 for us all.

  16. January 5, 2012 12:53 pm

    Happy New Year Sally! SUCH an awesome post. PROOF that round-up posts, looking back at resolutions, making new ones and generally being reflective as well as optimistic can be done with great style. I love it. Thank you so much for including me 🙂 One of my resolutions is to coook more Polish food and imagine how amazing a foodie trip to Poland would be…! You are always welcome too at my home, virtually and in reality! I would absolutely love to meet up with you again this year and I have so enjoyed sharing your food journey with you this year. Thank you for being such a huge inspiration. xxx

  17. January 5, 2012 2:50 pm

    Have a lovely year, Sally! And enjoy every moment!

  18. January 5, 2012 3:22 pm

    Happy New Year Sally! I am so inspired by everything you’ve acjieved. Good luck in 2012!

  19. January 5, 2012 3:59 pm

    Happy New Year Sally.

    it was lovely to meet you in the summer. And I love the life motto. I still need to create one for me!


  20. January 5, 2012 4:58 pm

    I *love* your life motto!!!!

  21. January 5, 2012 5:34 pm

    What a fantastic look back on a super-busy year! Nice that I remember so many of the posts/events you included 🙂 Envious of your truffle meal at Ronda Locatelli and sorry I missed you in London in Aug – next time! Thanks also for the mention of the 7 LInks Tripbase project – I also loved Charlie’s! All the very best to you and yours in 2012 🙂

  22. January 5, 2012 5:41 pm

    Wow what a fabulous year! And you have met and watched cook some of my favorite cookbook authors! And you have achieved so much by being honest, hardworking and creative! Keep it up! A very Happy, Healthy & Prosperous New Year to you and yours! xo

  23. January 5, 2012 7:58 pm

    An amazing post with gorgeous photos. What a wonderful way to look back upon a year!

  24. Farwin permalink
    January 5, 2012 9:27 pm

    An awesome post on looking back,Sally ! Congrats on all the achievements you made on 2011 and wishing you many more this year ! Love your style of writing and wish mine would improve half as much as yours this year.Thanks for the tag will try to answer the question pretty soon.

  25. January 5, 2012 10:47 pm

    Wonderful round-up, Sally! I, too, intend to master dough this year. Kitchen scale and new baking book in the mail!

  26. January 6, 2012 2:58 am

    what a great year you have had. food wise!

  27. January 6, 2012 3:29 am

    I enjoyed getting to know you in January and following your blog through the year. I love what you add to the community.

    Best wishes for 2012.

  28. January 6, 2012 9:28 am

    enjoyed reading your journey through 2011 – lovely post sally – thank u for introducing me to FIA……happy new year sally!

  29. January 6, 2012 1:40 pm

    A great and worthy foodie year!! Thanks for sharing Sally – you are truely an inspiration and my favorite link to my beloved Dubai ;-)) oh and Georgio… you actually were near him..sigh

  30. January 8, 2012 1:05 am

    I am new to your blog:) I really enjoyed your year overview and am so impressed with the amount of food exploration and learning you’ve done! I think that camera class must have been great because I love your photos as well:)

  31. January 8, 2012 4:28 pm

    hey sally,
    I just stumbled upon your blog and let me tell you,its WOW!Its warm,lively and happy.I’m just beginner blogger {based in dubai too)and i find you so inspiring!!WOW WOW WOW!!

  32. January 8, 2012 8:53 pm

    Thank you for a most inspiring and forward looking post. It is wonderful how far you have gone with your blog and connections in such a relatively short time. An inspiration. I am looking forward to reading you for many years to come. Here’s to 2012, and all the fantastic food adventures that await.

    • January 8, 2012 10:46 pm

      kellie, ramya, just a smidgen – I’m quite overwhelmed by the warmth and generosity of your comments. They mean a lot. Thank you.

  33. January 10, 2012 5:51 pm

    Lovely roundup of your year, and hope you have a great 2012.

    I’ve been meaning to tell you for a while…your photography course was soooo worth it. I’ve now found there are many food blogs where, while the photos are absolutely breath-taking, they become so repetitive that I can predict what it’s going to look like even before the photo loads. Perfect in every way, but so boring. There are some food blogs where I’ve stopped looking at the pics, no matter how awesome they are because they look exactly the same as the last post.

    But you…you Sally have mastered the art of taking photographs that make me want to look, because they look different every time. I’ve been secretly lusting/envying your camera skills for some time and this post seems like the perfect time and place to tell you so. Please please don’t change and become like other food bloggers where the photos become sterile and repetitive. I hope I can get to your level soon 🙂

    • January 11, 2012 7:39 am

      Dee – what can I say except that I’m really touched by this. As you know I’ve been frustrated at times and have often looked at your pics and thought ‘why can’t mine be like that?’ so it’s a matter of perspective really! I think it’s a cop out if I just try and replicate what everyone else does so you get my view – warts and all!

  34. January 10, 2012 8:17 pm

    Happy new year, I am so glad I found you when I did 🙂

    • January 11, 2012 7:37 am

      …and to you Cindy. Your blog is like a firework…lighting up the blogosphere.

  35. January 12, 2012 5:11 pm

    Just wanted to say also how wonderful and interesting your Blog is. I have only just recently found it and was struck by your lovely warm style of writing and those fab photos. A real pleasure to read. Can’t wait for further instalments!!

  36. January 12, 2012 10:24 pm

    wow, great roundup and overview of 2011! Happy New Year to you! Waiting for your custard tart.

  37. January 23, 2012 2:38 pm

    Lovely to read Sally 🙂
    Great round up, can’t wait for FBC12!!

  38. September 11, 2013 12:26 pm

    Hi! This post could not be written any better!
    Reading through this post reminds me of my previous room mate!
    He always kept talking about this. I will forward this write-up to him.
    Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!


  1. Food Bloggers Unplugged Q & A | The Triangle Plate

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