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My kind of shopping – organic, local farmers market in Dubai

November 21, 2014

Farmers Market Dubai - mycustardpie.comA week today I’ll be setting my alarm, checking my purse for change, jumping in the car with my jute bags, and driving down the deserted Sheikh Zayed Road. I know this route so well; I’ve followed it for countless Friday mornings only to take a break during the fallow summer season. I’ll turn into the car park which will already be dotted with farmers’ vans. Ibrahim from The Farmhouse will wave as he crushes fresh pomegranates in an old-fashioned press for juice. The aroma of freshly baked bread mingled with the scent of herbs, spices from Down to Earth Organic and Ethiopian coffee beans will welcome me. A flat white will appear without asking from the Coffee Planet stall – they know my order.

The palm trees create dappled shade over the stalls and I’ll scan the tables, greeting each farmer as they proudly display the organic bounty from their fields. My brain is whirring as I visualise what I’ll cook throughout the coming week. At the start of the season they’ll be round squash in vivid yellow and stripy green – perfect for stuffing – green peppers, perfect shiny aubergines, crisp cucumbers, courgettes, sweetcorn wrapped in their husks, okra, radishes, kale, beetroot, green beans, chillies, pumpkin, coriander, mint, fenugreek and more. I try to share my purchases between the farmers and buy my free range eggs from a different one each week.

Shopping in season means that some things are missing but eagerly anticipated. Tomatoes when they ripen will be so much the sweeter for the wait. Bulging bags stacked in the car, I’ll return to sample something from the chef’s demo – the first week will be Chef Gabi Kurtz from Talise Nutrition who will transform produce from the market into healthy dishes. I may join the yoga or Thai Chi that’s starting up too, run by the Talise Wellness people.

A market breakfast from Baker and Spice is essential and I’ll sit at the recycled wooden benches with a runny egg dripping out of my chicken sausage roll – there is no way to eat this delicately.

Reading this back for editing, it sounds too glowing, too gushing. I just can’t help it. The market, where I buy direct from the people who grow my food, has transformed the way I shop and cook (and our household food bill reduces dramatically). The produce is so fresh that it easily lasts the week. Amazing raw Yemeni honey, beautiful olive oil from Astraea, and organic pantry items from Down to Earth means that I only have to shop elsewhere for meat, dairy and a bit of fruit.

I’m sitting here in blissful anticipation with a huge smile on my face. I was lucky enough to meet some of the farmers this week and take home a bag of produce. It’s a taste of things to come.

This is the sixth season of this wonderful market. I was there from the beginning for the first farmers’ market in Dubai and it’s a jewel in any terms that the city should be proud of. It’s sparked a whole movement so we have a range of choices now which back then seem impossible and unfeasible. There is only one farmers’ market though – and that’s where you’ll find me on Friday 28th November at 8am and every Friday until around the end of May.

Stuffed round squash (or courgettes) recipe

To stuff 13 squash I used 800g minced lamb, 340g short grain rice, a large bunch of fresh coriander leaves, a small bunch of fresh mint leaves, 3 cloves of garlic finely minced, 4 tablespoons of tomato puree and about 4 level tablespoons of Emirati B’zar spice mix (a type of local garam masala). The sauce used 4 cloves of whole garlic, 4 tablespoons tomato puree, 2 tins chopped tomatoes and water to come half-way up the sides of the squash. Season well. Cook the stuffed squash in the sauce for 45 minutes.  Full recipe for stuffed courgettes here.

The Farmers’ Market on the Terrace

Where: Bay Avenue, Business Bay (it has moved from Emirates Towers) (parking plentiful, adjacent and free)

When: 7am – 12 noon. New season starts 27th November 2015 and runs until end of May.

About: A market for cooks and food lovers. Ten organic farm stalls (manned by farmers); Baker & Spice;
The Farm house; Slow food Dubai (including a plant swap); Coffee Planet; Balqees Raw Yemeni Honey; Boon Coffee and Sweet Connection (the gluten-free kitchen). Healthy cooking demos by chefs.  Keep in touch by Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Other organic, local market options in Dubai:

Blue Planet, Green People

Where: Jumeirah Lakes Towers (plus one in Al Ain)

When: 10am – 1pm every Friday (JLT Park) and Saturday (Cluster U)

About: A good option for fresh, local organic veg if you especially if you live in JLT. Buy direct from farmers.

Greenheart Pop Up Market

Where: Comptoir 101, Jumeirah Beach Road

When: 11am and 1pm every Saturday (from 22nd November 2014)

About: Organic, local produce from Greenheart’s farm managed by Elena Kinane plus organic Lebanese fruit.

Ripe Food and Craft Markets

Where: Zaabeel Park (plus others in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi)

When: 9am – 2pm every Friday

About: Organic imported and local veg sold (and imported fruit) by Ripe is part of a bigger market with many food and craft stalls.

Let me know if I’ve missed any…

Weekly veg photo

The other thing I’ll be returning to next week is unpacking my haul onto some sacking and photographing it before putting it all away (see examples above). It’s part of my ritual. I usually share on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter but I’m thinking of including it as a short, weekly post on My Custard Pie. What do you think? Would you like to see my purchases and a few thoughts about what I’m going to do with it? Would love your comments…

Disclosure: This has been bothering me so I thought I ought to mention that I now do some (paid) work for Baker and Spice who are the market organisers. However I was a patron of the market long before I knew them, I visit the market and pay for my produce like every other shopper, my blog is an independent space for my thoughts, unconnected with my professional work and in fact they will only know about this post when I publish it. No one but me dictates my editorial calendar and content.  All opinions most definitely my own.
47 Comments
  1. November 21, 2014 10:22 am

    Tomorrow is the day for my fave once a month Slow Food Mkt. Organic and biodynamic fresh spring greens, eggs, olives and beautiful rare breed pork, beef, lamb. My shopping trolley is already in the car for an early start. I’ll be photographing my buys too!

    • November 22, 2014 11:19 am

      I would to be able to buy better quality pork here – and by that I mean better quality of life. I’ll be hopping over to look at your pics – there’s something about looking at other people’s purchases isn’t there!

      • November 23, 2014 2:21 am

        Yes I agree, slightly voyeuristic but interesting nevertheless. The early stone fruits had made an appearance at the market and there was fresh pulled garlic everywhere. The prize for me is always the 6 week dry aged grass fed belted galloway beef. I bought a whole brisket, still deciding how to cook it.

  2. November 21, 2014 10:46 am

    Beautiful veg and tai chi – what a winning combination! Recipe of the week would be like the ‘masterchef’ invention test! Would love to try the raw honey 🙂

    • November 22, 2014 11:20 am

      I’ll bring some next summer – it is DIVINE

  3. November 21, 2014 10:58 am

    How wonderful! All that gorgeous produce 😀😀😀

    • November 22, 2014 11:20 am

      It really is Elaine…:)

  4. November 21, 2014 11:10 am

    This is what we miss in Muscat/Oman:-(

    • November 22, 2014 11:21 am

      What a shame – there is much more arable land in Oman and I’m sure there are some amazing farms.

      • November 23, 2014 11:44 am

        Yes you’re right.Oman is much greener and there’s a potential for growing organic stuff.But I think there’s not much demand for healthy food here.

  5. daver001 permalink
    November 21, 2014 11:31 am

    Looking forward to next Friday! There will also be a plant swop: http://www.facebook.com/events/1558789901023979/

    • November 22, 2014 11:22 am

      Thanks Dave – had mentioned the swap but didn’t have the link. I have tomato seedling in abundance I must remember to bring.

  6. November 21, 2014 11:37 am

    Great images and products!

  7. November 21, 2014 12:09 pm

    Beautiful produces! My kind of food and places….

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    • November 22, 2014 11:22 am

      Thanks Rosa and Shandryss 🙂

  8. November 21, 2014 12:30 pm

    Can’t beat buying fresh from markets. I see you get a yellow version of what we call a gem squash.
    Have a super weekend Sally.
    🙂 Mandy xo

    • November 22, 2014 11:23 am

      That’s interesting – maybe this is a type of gem squash then. The inside is really like a courgette though – is that correct?

      • November 23, 2014 5:36 pm

        Hmm. Ours are more “mushy” so guess they must be similar. 🙂

  9. November 21, 2014 2:04 pm

    Sounds like Baker and Spice is turning this into a bigger event this year. Happy you are doing paid work for them, I noticed a huge difference in what they were putting out.

    Isn’t it interesting how sustainable local and organic marketing is?

    • November 22, 2014 11:27 am

      The market was set up by Baker and Spice but it’s a community initiative to promote local farms. This means it’s never had the big budgets to promote like other profit-making markets. I think that the goodwill has grown, word of mouth has helped and the people who ‘get’ that it’s a no frills market and all about buying good produce are so loyal. Apart from the yoga it’s actually the same – although 10 farmers this time (the most ever). Jumeirah helped spread the word this time so this gave a boost. Local and organic marketing – food for thought 🙂 Thanks for the great comment

  10. November 21, 2014 2:15 pm

    Goodness me, what a haul indeed. What a shame it doesn’t run during summer but then I guess it’s too hot.

    Baker & Spice was the name of Dan Lepard’s bakery wasn’t it? Is there any connection?

    • November 22, 2014 11:31 am

      Temperatures at 50C and high humidity means growing thing during the summer is impossible unless in a greenhouse with air conditioning (yes they exist). Yael set up Baker and Spice in London and both Dan Lepard and Ottolenghi worked there at some point. She set up and consults for the three Dubai branches but has nothing to do with London now.

  11. November 21, 2014 2:56 pm

    You got me so excited- I want to go next weekend make sure I don’t shop close to that date!!!

    • November 22, 2014 11:31 am

      I clear out my fridge on a Thursday as I know it will be bursting by Friday midday 🙂

  12. November 21, 2014 4:58 pm

    Beautiful! Dubai morphs into a completely different place after October, doesn’t it? Enjoy!

    • November 22, 2014 11:32 am

      It sure does – the weather is fantastic right now

  13. November 21, 2014 6:33 pm

    Beautiful stuffed courgettes! Thank you for this little trip to the other side of the world 🙂

    • November 22, 2014 11:33 am

      Thanks for commenting Helene 🙂

  14. November 22, 2014 7:40 am

    I am really looking forward to getting familiar with The Farmer’s Market on the Terrace this year. Also appreciate that you have listed other organic local market options. Thanks for your commitment to local organic produce. Your photos as usual are gorgeous.

    • November 22, 2014 11:40 am

      Thanks Erum – hope to see you there 🙂

  15. November 22, 2014 7:53 am

    Such a pleasure reading through your posts. There is a farmers’ market here I. Bahrain too. But I haven’t got around visiting it yet. This post inspires me.
    My favourite coffee is flat white too!

    • November 22, 2014 11:41 am

      I’ve heard a lot about the Bahrain one – it’s not organic (I think) but it is local which means fresh and tasty.

      • November 22, 2014 12:26 pm

        Yes , we have a central market which I find too tedious to wade through. We also have one in the villages whose location am not too sure about. Hope to change my ways soon

  16. November 22, 2014 11:14 am

    Beautiful. And look forward to another season of Farmers Market on the Terrace.

  17. therealgeordiearmani permalink
    November 22, 2014 4:02 pm

    Fabulous photography, are there two 8’s on the clock? 🙂

  18. November 22, 2014 10:05 pm

    Gush away Sally, I love your writing, especially getting insight to what’s available in Dubai. Having lived there as a child I try and imagine what it might be like now and can see for real through your blog. Love your recipe book reviews too, so balance yet a clear opinion. Thanks for taking all the time to share your thoughts.

  19. November 23, 2014 11:46 am

    You are expert in shopping and I am glad I got connected with you. I will surely learn a lot from your blog posts!

  20. November 24, 2014 3:49 am

    This is just so interesting to me…I love that all this is in Dubai…a place I only know from spending time in it’s amazing airport! Thanks for sharing this bit of local information with all us us. Beautiful vegs by the way!

  21. November 25, 2014 1:47 am

    Goodness, all that pretty and fresh produce looks untainted and perfectly plump. That courgette reicpe looks so neat and inviting too, I want to get my fork right into it x

  22. November 27, 2014 3:39 pm

    I think many of us here in the UK have the impression that there would be little that would grow in your desert country, but your entrancing and beautifully photographed posts over the years have proved this to be false. What an abundance of top quality food to choose from, and so many opportunities to learn from the growers and producers, too.

  23. January 6, 2015 7:15 am

    Love this post. I’m planning a trip to Europe in March via Dubai for a couple of days. I’ll now be making sure that includes a jet-lag-free Friday so I can get to the markets 🙂

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