Eat, travel, drink, shop, dine and read 2014
At the annual summer fête in my village there was always a bran tub. You plunged your hand into a barrel full of sawdust and pulled out a lucky dip prize and found out what it was when you tore off the coloured tissue paper. My house is still full of visitors; good friends, my Mother-in-law, elder teen back from University after her first term. There is work, food, fun, eating out and general merriment. The usual way I look back through the year, inspecting each month, looking at my site visits and combing my images for the best ones – well that’s in the bin. I’m glancing back at 2014 rather like my childhood visits to the bran tub – a bit random but with a few nice surprises. It’s good for me to suppress my inner perfectionist too – part of my resolutions for 2015. So here are some moments from My Custard Pie from 2014 with a few reminiscences in between.
Talking of my Mother-in-law, she is the Queen of stuffed veg and I’m trying hard to steal her crown. The most popular recipe posted in 2014 was about this incredibly moreish way of stuffing courgettes. So moreish that I never get to photograph them cooked. My favourite easy appetiser is a kind of stuffed veg too. From December until April our menus are dictated by the local, organic produce at the Farmers’ Market in Dubai and this vegetable soup crops up a lot. When I was in the UK we cooked with produce from the Stroud Farmers Market and made this fettuce with butternut squash, sage and smoked garlic. And when the fennel is fresh and local, this salad is divine. Everyone loved these Iranian sweet and sour olives, veggie teen approved of this tomato, lentil and spinach vegetarian lasagne and I combined some of my favourite flavours to make Dante chips for a fantastic event with Silver Screen Suppers. Only one solitary recipe for bread (bad Sally) but this no-knead loaf is a good when time is at a premium. And I promise to keep my word about preserved lemon recipes in 2015! Fruit and veg bakes were a theme: Pear, ginger and raw honey flapjacks, cranberry and courgette loaf, cherry almond spelt muffins and I celebrated four years of blogging with the easiest custard recipe. Writing this while eating the last of the chocolate truffles – blowing my own trumpet about how good these were.
My visit to Georgia has actually changed my life – in the sights, sounds, experiences, food, wine and people I met there. Returning for sure in 2015 and can’t recommend a visit highly enough. And who knew that I’d marvel at my first impressions of India in Jaipur and then return to Rajasthan with four organic farmers. Laying on a marble slap being massaged with bubbles is my idea of heaven; a wonderful weekend in Istanbul included a first visit to a hammam. Maybe living with continuous sunshine makes me see beauty in inclement English weather. This fish course in Devon was fantastic. As always, I had a blissful few weeks in my home country of the UK, especially the bits I spent in hiking boots pottering about the countryside. Rather than going away, sometimes you need to see your own home through the eyes of a traveller; What a visit to the Creek revealed about Dubai
People are often confused about buying booze in the UAE so I put them straight! I leap at every occasion to try new wines to further my knowledge and wine tasting experience (ahem). 2014 brought so many amazing opportunities to taste fine wines (thank you Le Clos) including this one. I also met some serious whisky nuts this year via Glenmorangie and Kilchoman tastings. And I enjoyed some stellar cocktails including these festive ones. Raising a glass to The Good Spirited Women of Dubai… There seem to be new wine days cropping up every year, which is another good excuse to keep learning and tasting. I joined in with Merlot, Beaujolais and Grenache. This has to be the most inspiring wine story of 2014 and I’ve started my New Year resolution to taste unusual grape varieties and new wines early thanks to this. These wine tweets are still making me chuckle….
My kind of shopping is at the local, organic farmers’ market in Dubai. There are more options for buying local, organic veg in Dubai, outside the main growing season too. It’s wonderful how this community is evolving.
When I’m in the UK, food is still a focus and I really enjoyed Flavour Fest Plymouth despite the rain. On dining in the UK capital I’m no expert, but I know plenty of people who are and asked them “Where to eat and drink in London“. But I do know Where to eat British food in Dubai. With a month to go until the next Dubai Food Festival, it’ll be interesting to see what they’ve learned from the first one; I certainly enjoyed a few courses. And it was definitely an action packed autumn!
My shelves are even more laden after 2014 and I was lucky enough to review some beautiful cookery titles. Here’s my recommendation for cook books and food writing to read in bed. I visited Azerbaijan, Iran and Egypt through the pages of cook books via the Pomegranate connection. Bread, a juicing bible and the best book ever for getting ahead at Christmas are keepers. I felt the fear and did it anyway … and interviewed Prue Leith. Off to put on my disco heels for a night with The Jacksons, Jocelyn Brown, Incognito, Chaka Khan, Chic and others (yes – live and all on one bill). So all that’s left is to wish you a Happy New Year, thank you for sticking with me in 2014 and sharing my journey through food, wine and everything else. See you on the other side in 2015….