Almost eight months in the works and it’s happened. We’ve moved, lock, stock and barrel. We left Doha, Qatar with 207 cardboard boxes stuffed into a 40 foot container. After a two week pause in Scotland, we flew back to the Middle East to unload its contents into a house in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. I’m back home. Before there was even a mattress set on the guest bed, my Abu Dhabi based family came to stay over the Eid holidays. My sister and her wee girl came first and then left a few days later in the car that brought my mother and two brothers. It was a glorious riot of a week, including the mandatory annual, all-out argument between the older of the my brothers and myself. As per tradition, Mother hauled in peace. There is such comfort in knowing some things don’t change!
I am still working myself into a rhythm of cooking in the new kitchen. I often open the cupboard holding the baking dishes when I meant to pull out the flour from the storage below. I have baked but I can’t say they’ve been spectacular successes; the new oven and I are still getting acquainted. Everyday is about settling in that little bit more and it seems to get trickier the older I get. I had a set way of doing things in Doha and I find the change in choreography puts me off balance, but then repetition sorts that out. The children have taken to the place with their characteristic gung-ho attitude, as kids do. They’ve already made themselves comfortable at a neighbour’s home with kids the same age and consequently, we’ve shared a few G&Ts with their parents. Nothing like kids to prompt a social life for their parents!
Between exiting Doha and flying in to Dubai we had a two week visit to Scotland. The kids and I gorged on the visual beauty of the countryside and devoured real, proper strawberries with thinly veiled greed. Those who follow my Instagram account would have seen these snippets from Sunny Ecosse.
I caught up with old friends, made some new ones and, and, did a wee bit of shopping. Just a touch….here’s a peek at them. Let me say clearly right now, that this is not a promo post. All the items below have been either gifted (my birthday’s in June) or I have purchased it during my wanderings through the stores or internet. These are my own honest experiences.
I’ve been salivating like a mutt with a bone looking at the Falcon Enamelware website for years now, years. A good friend, and my primary cookbook benefactor, gifted me the Bake Set - gorgeous, industrial chic beauties. Falcon Enamelware is the British name behind this now iconic, simple, utilitarian design of kitchenware. Their signature deep, cobalt blue rimmed, white dishes, plates and mugs had my heart aflutter for years.Their design aesthetic holds vintage appeal (without the fuss) but sits equally well in a modern context. They’ve recently undergone a bit of rebranding and are looking better for it. There isn’t an excessive amount of difference between the cookware pre and post rebranding. Yet somehow, you can tell. . All their wares are essentially stainless steel coated in enamel. They are oven, stove, fridge and freezer safe and, more importantly, even if they chip, they are still totally safe to use. They also sell the same sets in pillarbox red and dove grey, but my heart was set on the traditional blue rimmed beauties. Although austere almost in their design, I find it good looking enough to serve it, just so, from the oven to the table. One less plate to wash up then.
If one set is good to have, two is just dang brilliant! From day one of cooking in the kitchen, this 7 piece Prep Set has been the go to for food prep. I find their depth, height and size perfectly suited to the job at hand- mixing dough, whisking a dressing, marinating meats, straining my noodles and more. This might sound daft, but because they are so light, I find them pleasing to haul around the kitchen. They certainly make the Pyrex bowls I’ve had for decades feel rather cumbersome by comparison. And this point cannot be stressed enough – they can’t break. My family has long named me Miss Butterfingers. ‘Unbreakable’ is a kitchen necessity in this household.
From the traditional and utilitarian, I now move to acid pop and ultra-modern. I spied these silicone-rubber coated ceramic jars on Howkapow (love that site!) and their unabashed screaming-bright colours won me over instantly. They are named Silk Canisters on a lot of sites, due to the tactile, smooth feel of the rubber coating and are manufactured in The Nederlands. The bamboo lids also come with a rubber seal so that these jars are airtight. Right now they hold my tea bags, coffee capsules and sugar. There are a lot of colours and sizes on offer but I think the yellow ones are particularly popular and had been out of stock shortly after I purchased my canisters (Ha!). If psychedelic colour tones are not your thing, know that they offer a more muted colour range to suit calmer personalities and decor. Me, I like getting my kicks in colour! Oh, Howkapow also sell the Falcon Enamelware range. It’s nice to keep purchases all in one place….just saying.
Orla Kiely is no stranger to anyone interested in handbags or interiors. While I admire the Irish designer’s retro inspired prints, it wasn’t never a love thing. But walking around John Lewis, you can never be prepared for what you are going to bump into and I did into these, literally. I almost toppled the display over but at least it meant that the 5 piece Cake Storage Tin Set featuring a simpler version of her famous stem design caught my eye. I liked the muted tones, the tactile nature of the raised stem embossing round the tins and the bright pops of colour on the lids. Plus, I thought the bright yellow here would work with the yellow silk canister. I know, I need a life. Incidentally, they do. She has other, more bold designs and colour schemes but as much as I love pattern and colour (more the merrier), the pared back simplicity of this set got my vote…and my money. My only gripe is that I wish the sheet of metal forming the body of the tin was a bit thicker. Somehow it got a dent in the suitcase despite the enthusiastic bubble wrapping and comparing it to my old tins, it is thinner. Still, even if I knew its faults, I’d still have it. Such is love.
Last but certainly not the least, there are cookbooks. Books lugged from Glasgow to Aberdeen and then spread over three cases to reach Dubai. Some are very current releases and others are again, long time Amazon Wishlist occupants that have finally been given a home. A quick rundown of some of the newcomers to my shelf.
I am especially stoked about Wrapped by Gaitri- Pagrach Chandra. A quick flick through looked extremely promising and I’ll be giving that book a good workout (and a review) soon. Once I figure out where the flour is in this kitchen. In the meantime, she has launched her own website with links on where to stalk her on social media. Not, that I do, you know…
James Morton’s Brilliant Bread which a fair few online cooking pals have been praising generously since it was released last year. Nothing like a hipster who also bakes! I like his easy but enthusiastic, honest approach to home based bread baking. The tone of writing gets progressively more pumped up when you move to the meaty chapters like sourdoughs and laminated pastries, which I found rather endearing. It’s clear where his ultimate passion lies in the wide spectrum of bread baking. Have a look through his site.
Honey & Co by Itamar Sarit Packer & Itamar Srulovich - Middle Eastern food (with an Israeli slant) from the restaurant by the same name in London. I’ve had a good read through now and I found the writing big hearted, open, welcoming, witty and downright honest. The kind of writing that makes you wish you could share a plate of humous with them and have a natter. I imagine Itamar to be a man who waves his arms around a lot to make a point. I made their humous (am on a quest for the perfect humous recipe ) which was finger licking tasty, the Muhamra (oh!! Muhamra!) all sweet, smoky and tangy, the pomegranate chicken with herby burghal salad which my guests loved and the rich, smooth honey parfait. With that kind of start, I reckon the rest will be fantastic.
Bill’s Basics - Bill Granger is the king of easy cooking – easy on fuss, quick on time and full on flavour. He is fast becoming my go – to man when I time is ticking and I need to get my kids chomping on something. This book, as the title ensures, covers basic recipes, ones that can easily become part of your weekly repertoire. As ever, there is a leaning towards South East Asian flavours, the bedrock on which his tastebuds reside but there are plenty recipes rooted in traditional ‘western’ cooking. It’s no fuss, just good, flavourful, healthy food.
Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey has been on the list for so long it’s hard to remember I now have it! I had a read through with my friend and we were both oohing and aahing at most of the recipes. This book isn’t about fast cooking, it’s about taking the time to immerse yourself in preparing something rather wonderful. Drawing from all the countries that are piled in the South East Asian category, he’s created a book packed with flavour and vigour. Can’t wait to get stuck in!
Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy by Alice Medrich is a stalwart. This book was published in 2010 but even in this world of here today and gone tomorrow food publishing, this one is in a class of it’s own. Just a initial read through taught me so much more about the technique and science behind the different little pastries that fall under the cookie basket. Alice Medrich’s covered all bases and the recipes are divided according to the feel of the end result, ie, gooey, crispy, crackly…you get the idea. It’s packed chock full of the most delicious sounding morsels. This woman is the chocolate guru, her newly revamped blog is a delight to visit. The shatteringly thin chocolate chip cookies is the chosen first recipe. I’ll keep you informed of proceedings.
That’s the roundup of what’s been happening behind the scenes. I am still getting my bearings and the sat nav lady and I are bonding. While the dust is still settling, there’s my sister to yap to, my brothers to bug, my mother to pinch recipes off, my best friend to shop with, whilst feeding The Scotsman and our kids. Life, dear reader, is rather good.