Dubai. An Arabian marvel. The Middle East’s premier tourist hotspot. It has the biggest, best, most expensive, over-extravagant versions of approximately everything you could possibly think of. But behind its golden exterior hides a multitude of culinary hurdles.
Hurdle 1. It was evident from my last post that a change in weather can determine what I cook, and my serving suggestion for fish pie was seasonal green veg. But what exactly is seasonal green veg in a place where everything is imported and available all year? Let me elaborate..
In the UK, strawberries are associated with summer. You eat them with cream, Pimms, meringue, summer pudding or on their own. The summer months are when strawberries are available. They are succulent, large, shiny, red mouthfuls of deliciousness and are something to look forward to when you’re struggling through the cold, dark, winter months. In Dubai strawberries are available all year round, so they sort of lose their novelty. They’re not as flavoursome in the winter, but the point that I am trying to make is that unless you enforce your own seasonality, cooking somewhere like here can become rather season-less. If you don’t think about it, you almost lose touch. You end up cooking the same recipes all year, leaving little anticipation for what’s to come. I try to stick to the UK seasons. So root vegetables in the winter, and lighter, crunchy veg in the summer.
Moving on to Hurdle 2. The food here is imported from all over the world. So in some cases, you have a wider selection than you might get back home. The problem is that you cannot rely on a particular ingredient being available forever. My mum was attempting a lemon meringue pie the other day. In order for this to be a structured pie rather than a gooey mess, one must use gelatine. The filling didn’t set with vegetable gelatine, so after pouring it out of the pie crust to prevent what Paul Hollywood refers to as a “soggy bottom”, we decided pork gelatine was the way forward. Pork gelatine has actually been available in the past, but it was, of course, nowhere to be seen this time round. We searched everywhere, but ended up settling for seaweed-based red agar-agar. The pie set, and was delicious, but was coral pink in colour!
Another peeve – the crumpet situation! It’s completely hit or miss. On the off-chance that they have any at all, I’ll buy their whole stock (it’s never more than 3 packs), regardless of whether or not they are Spongebob Squarepants themed. I’d make my own if I could find crumpet rings!
Don’t get me wrong, I love living in permanent sunshine. And these food hurdles are really only minor annoyances. First world problems, if you will. Like a chameleon, you adapt to your surroundings. I try to, unless a herd of clouds move in unexpectedly, stick to seasonal cooking and have learnt full well to never ever rely on what I want being in stock! Eid Mubarak y’all.