Friday, 26 September 2014

Finest Homemade Baked Beans

Homemade Baked Beans

If you are looking for a simple, healthy and delicious 15 minute meal read on.
You will need to:
Chop, then sweat in a dollop of olive oil: 1 Carrot, 1 onion & 2 stalks of celery.
Next, add 1 can of chopped tomatoes in puree, half a teaspoon of crushed chilli paste (optional) & 2 tablespoons tomatoe paste. Cook until mixture is nice and concentrated.
Finally, add 1 can of mixed beans and heat through. I used Ceres Organics, which has a mix of chickpeas, pinto beans, red kidney beans and white cannellini beans.Once the mixture has bubbled turn off, add a grind or two of black pepper and some fresh parsley and serve.

I often eat this dish, by itself, on Sunday evenings feeling very virtuous. Feel free to add a shave of parmesan, a dollop of sour cream, serve on rice or with that posh ciabatta bread drizzled with olive oil and grilled gently.
Can freeze and reheat for lunch later in the week.

note: You can add a half teaspoon each of - ground cumin and ground coriander, at the veg sweating stage for a more mexicano flavour. Bon appetito!

For loads more reasons why you'll feel extra bouncy after eating beans read this article.

Tasty Tuesdays on

Thursday, 18 September 2014

At a Mosque Near You - Abu Dhabi

(writer digitally, not surgically enhanced by loving daughter, 14)

Sheikh Zayed's Grand Mosque boasted  the LARGEST carpet in the world and space for 40,000 worshippers facing Mecca and praying at the same time.

On the relatively pedestrian Abu Dhabi cityscape, this Macedonian marble masterpiece loomed large and dazzlingly white. Its orb-like opulence jutted out at us from many angles on our taxi-rides about this strange city. Strange because their is nary a sign of life. No washing on the line, no Granddad having a shisha pipe on the balcony in his stripy boxers, not a window box of petunias nor a tea towel on a windowsill.

Everything and everyone is locked up, shut away from the heat and the desert dust. Surviving, cocooned in cool air conditioning, behind closed doors during the hottest months of the year July, August and September. Motorists leave their cars running when they pop into the souk (market) for supplies. Either that or return to a vehicle reaching temperatures of 46+ degrees. There is movement from car to building and back. And that's about all.

The date palms, some still with fruit, that line the roads are as beige as the buildings. Despite being on the coast you feel like you’re in a desert. On sand. Surrounded by extra salty sea thanks to the outflow of the city's desalination plant being pumped back into the ocean.

Abu Dhabi has the largest oil production of all the emirates, 2.9 million barrels per day (on quick search). So naturally it costs only $USD30 to fill a large car. $USD100 for a bottle of whiskey on the other hand. Large fast cars are a plenty. Don't be surprised if your taxi is a brand spanker BMW 740. Maseratis and souped-up Mercedes are everywhere and sometimes go on holiday with their owners. Pop them in the aircraft hold. No worries.

Sheikh Zayed’s mosque is the largest in the United Arab Emirates and the eighth largest mosque in the world. It cost a cool $USD45 million. The guidebook cautioned, head, neck, arms, legs must be covered. I wore my only full-body-coverage outfit, cardigan over long dress. And into a bag went my full length red silk nightie. Not to layer-up later all boho-chic-like, but to be my head scarf. The H put on jeans and a long sleeved shirt and shoes. Covered.

The mosque operators are one step ahead of those not used to hiding flesh and issued free-of-charge synthetic black abayas to all inappropriately clad women. Kandooras for men. You just had to leave your security details. Pesky tourists have been pinching them.

‘You must put this on,’ said the assistant to me, holding out an abaya.

I’d just fashioned my nightie into a headscarf a la Princess Anne and dropped my (halter-neck) dress (under my cardy) so low it kissed the floor.

‘Can you see my bum?’ I asked.

‘Your dress is transparent,’ she giggled, in an amused not offended way.

I pulled the garment over my head and was instantly contained in an airtight tent perfumed by the previous wearers sweat.

‘It’s so those naughty men can’t look at us. Isn’t it?’ said my companion, pulling up her hood.

‘Yes,’ said our assistant, giggling again.

I yanked off my cardigan and stuffed it in my bag. When I got outside I realised I should’ve gone commando, it was 40 degrees combined with a mirage inducing glare from tonnes of WHITE; that on top of 3 hours sleep and jet lag, was enough to make any wannabe Bedouin hail a camel and run for a goat hair tent.

We wandered the great gilt pillared walkways beside rectangular blue tiled ponds. I stopped at the corner water fountains over large scalloped basins and slurped the icy cool evian. Beside the underground ladies loos was a circular green marbled room with a modest fountain in the centre. For feet washing before praying. When in Rome…I can testify it’s the best foot spa my sweaty trotters have ever enjoyed. I could have stayed there for yonks de-swelling my airplane-cankles. Instead, I patted my feet dry with the paper towels provided and on we walked across a sahara of marble into the main mosque. Barefoot. And twinkle toed. Ready…

We saw that behemoth of a carpet - the work of 1,200 Iranian weavers. And the marble inlaid with semi precious stone. The German designed, 49 feet tall and 33 feet wide chandeliers of 24 karat gold and Swarovski crystals. A feat of size and workmanship but not my cup of Cardamom coffee. Almost gloriously tacky in colour and ostentatiousness in fact.

Still it was hard not to be in awe of the magnitude and the sheer audacity of this massive spiritual and architectural achievement, even sweating and swooning under my abaya. Islam is a religion of tolerance and love and in its vastness this place drenched in light, inside and out, is more than welcoming.

No one was praying in the main mosque, although they were in private side prayer rooms. I expected I might witness people prone in prayer. I’d slip in amongst them like I've slipped into pews in gloomy European cathedrals and stared at the frieze of saints on the ceiling and thought of lost loved ones. Reflected. Aside from the feet washing there was no hands on.

All I could do was gawp at the audaciousness of this legacy lovingly left by the late Sheikh Zayed. The good looking guy in the kandoora, whose photo is still on every calendar (he died in 2004). He cut a dashing figure, an Arabian knight with gold Rayban aviators in his pocket and his pet hunting falcon in leather hood on his arm. His mausoleum is located beside the mosque on the north side. You could almost feel his presence.

If you ever find yourself on a 24 hour stopover in Abu Dhabi, this mosque is definitely worth a visit.

(reflection in pics above was a work of magic thanks to the shoe cupboards I rested my camera on)

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Adventures in Abu Dhabi

We cab to the Fish Souk (market). It looks close on the map. And flash, marked with a big swordfish. Twenty-five minutes later we arrive in a wasteland of heat and Dhow port.

It’s forty degrees of hot in Abu Dhabi in September. Early Bedouin settled in here in the 1700s to fish and dive for pearls, they only had small wooden huts and goat hair tents to protect themselves from this rebellious heat. But this is not a history trip and I do not find the Arabian piscine bazaar I expected, with nearby bobbing boats, only an enclosed, air-conditioned warehouse.

We enter the markets uninspiring doors. It’s a massive hall of men, in blue overalls and hairnets, standing in front of 2 meter by 2 meter stainless steel display cabinets. It’s uniform and dull. Industrial. A sprawling intricate grid like pattern of fish, metal and tiles. And men.

The H wanders ahead and suddenly I’m a blond. WOMAN. Sweltering in my long silk dress with black cardigan over the top. The only thing I could fashion that covered a maximum amount of skin. I’m taking photos. Single. White. Female. I could be naked for all the disapproving stares I receive. 

One blue man tried to scares me with a small shark from his assortment of fish.  I only want him for his picture. It's a friendly scare. Mind.

‘Can you eat at the market? We’d asked the hotel concierge before we set off.

‘Yes you can. You have to buy your fish, then take it to a grilling shop.’

After much wandering, looking no doubt dazed and confused, we select a stall of cheery chaps now touting for our business. We purchase a dozen large shrimps and a small sea bass, then take them to Al Sayad for grilling in his large charcoal oven. 

He writes our name in arabic. From right to left. ‘Come back in thirty minutes,’ he says. He had a backlog.

‘Where are you from?’ asked another man with grey teeth, cleaning fish over a sink?

‘New Zealand,’ I say. He smiles. I could have said anywhere.

We wait for our meal. Men in kandooras (cotton robes) bring large fish to prepare. One stall holder hams it up for the camera. A woman in a black abaya wears a gold face plate, similar to a scold’s bridle, brings her fish for grilling. We women make up about 2% of the people in this place. Obviously buying fish for lunch is a man’s job.

Our meal is delivered in tin dishes. Al Sayed gives us paper towels and a sheet of plastic. We straddle a wooden stool beside another café, the plastic our table cloth, our hands our forks. The fish is succulent and doused in a spicy mix of chilli, garlic and oil and something red. The shrimps are sweet if a little over cooked. We suck them dry.

The men who’ve been watching me avert their curious gazes and let us eat in peace. The locals obviously take their cooked lunch home to a set table with cool drinks. The only sit down places here are narrow shops with plastic tables accommodating the blue and red workers eating lunches of rice and fish and vegetables by hand.

It's sweaty and sticky but one of the best lunches I’ve ever eaten. 

There are no rubbish bins so we give Al Sayad back our containers and well used paper towels.

‘It was lovely,’ I tell him. He blows me a kiss.

We step out from the relative cool into the exfoliating heat to hail a cab. I expect to see a mirage over the car park, such is the shimmer of heat on concrete and metal at midday.

Two men in lime green overalls walk past their fingers entwined. A lovers lunch. Perhaps. We slip into a taxi and depart to find a more beaten track at the Abu Dhabi Mall. And a little water and soap.

 Would you buy fish from this man?
 Then let this dude grill it?
Or girill it?
 These were two of the three women I saw in the whole place.
 Looking for some Ladyfish maybe?
 The choice is endless

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