Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Rant for the Day

Well that wasn't a terribly balanced or rational piece.  In my limited experience ... I have found that people from this part of the world (regardless of religion although predominantly Muslim obviously) are more fond of cats than dogs. YAWN. Having said that there is a large community of Muslims and non-Muslim Arabians that have dogs as pets. the Saluki dog  in particular is considered to hold a rather special place in the hearts of the Arabic People. I can honestly say that they treat their pets no better or worse than any other group of people. Please note both ends of the behavioral scale.  I think the dog story is an excuse for a bunch of extremist to act out and react to. Sadly extremists make it horrid for the moderates in any community. Furthermore being terribly passionate and vocal means that they generate lots of hate and support and at the end of the day everyone loses, except the extremist (of whatever stripe) who get his or her way, and then is that really a win.....?.

And the title of the article. Well that is just plain inflammatory. Which put the publishers fairly in the extremist sensationalist corner and no better than the people they are puportidy writing about.

If the Stonegate Institute really represents Moderate Muslims (as they say they do) then why ,oh why, would they title a piece "Muslims Declare Jihad on Dogs in Europe?"

Having blasted off at Stonegate and the article I have to say that I have not done a thorough read through all of  their articles etc. I do feel that this particular article does not fairly represent what they say they are about nor does it fairly represent moderate Muslims.
                                                     Happy Arabian Dogs.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Dinner with guests on Friday (last).

I do not know how to not over cater. Is that too many double negatives for you? 

So  my chain of thought usually stars with me thinking of having 6 or so peeps over for dinner and having a lovely evening around the table chatting and eating and drinking et al. Somehow that always turns into me thinking to myself “Penny be reasonable, you know you will cook too much food and it is as easy to cook for 6 as it is for 12” and the next thing you know I have enough people invited for dinner so that if I want to cook potatoes I need a wheel barrow to transport them. Well, not really, but you get the picture. Anyway, 6 people - intimate dinner turned into dinner for 12 and find a space to sit….

I won’t  give you the recipes of what I served up. You can find many on line or handed down to you by your great aunt ( right?).  My “modus operandi” is (mostly) to look in all my cookery books, look up a gazillion recipes on line and then mix them up. Sometimes this works and sometimes it is a case of too much change resulting in a complete mess…. On the back of that disclaimer -yes that is what that drivel is all about- I can tell you what I did to “ring the changes” and pass on some tips.

Beef Wellington tips

For a change I used both Pâté and mushrooms in different layers over the fillet.  I liked it but it was, in all honestly, a bit like overkill. It is probably better to keep it simple.  Decide on your smearing ingredient. Pâté, Mushrooms, Parma ham with or without mustard.

For the Pâté I don’t think you need anything too rich , think of  like Pâté de foie grass  -which in any case sounds a bit cruel to enjoy. I made my Aunt Trish’s lovely chicken liver Pâté recipe. It is way better to make the Pâté yourself rather than use shop bought as it quick and easy to make -  if you have  a hand processor.

I have read and ,over the years tasted, many recipes for Beef Wellington and what I have found is that this is such a lovely rich dish that you can afford to not go over the top and still have something very special. Yes you can add wine or port and have trendy mushrooms and garlic et al but at the end of the day this dish really stands on its own with inexpensive good ingredients. I do think t you should get good quality beef (preferably from critters that had a reasonably kind life and death) and use butter rather than marge. I used shop bought puff pastry, some people prefer filo and some like to put English muffins under the fillet to avoid soggy pastry underneath. 

Your Wellington will be soggy if you wrap the fillet when it is warm. You know how raw pastry likes to be cool? So get everything ready and let it cool down before you wrap it up. This is a good excuse to pre do the smearing ingredients.   The usual rule with beef is don’t over- cook it.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

This time the recipe I tweaked was not great.  Well that is not strictly true.  Stacked up against the beef wellington  it was a bit subtle and maybe a bit too Mediterranean to go with a roast beef so hints. If you use uncooked rice make sure it is a very absorbent short grained rice so that it cooks!!! If you are using couscous flavor it up with lots of herbs try fresh mint and parsley, sultanas, slivers of almonds, etc. You absolutely do not have to use cheese. 

Actually if you find a recipe that calls for cheese where the cheese is not the main ingredient, do me a favour and don’t cook it.

Stuffed peppers are an underrated meal. They are really great for a no fuss easy supper  and as a side dish for dinners. I prefer the red peppers but here in Dubai they are more than double the price of the green so generally I use the green peppers.

Apple Crumble

The person who invented crumbles deserves a hug and a kiss. All the loveliness of pastry and none of the stress. I prefer recipes where you pan fry the apples rather than boil them. I add orange juice to the pan for extra flavor and a bit of zing. I do peel the apples. Really just do it. There is no flavor benefit to the peel and somehow it just takes away from the whole apple crumble experience if you you have to chew through the peel. I add chopped walnuts or hazel nuts ( choose a nut) to the crumble YUMMY. I also use Demerara  / Muscovado  or a similar moist  brown sugar for the crumble rather than white sugar. Try mixing the flour up with some whole meal flour or some muesli.
So that is me done on the cooking front.


In the last two weeks here in Dubai we have had 3 sand storms. Big ones. My lungs have decided to go on strike. My lovely tall, say the height of an average 7/8 year old child, was blown over and shattered. Sniff, Sniff. Thank goodness that we live in a double glazed hermetically sealed environment or there would be sand dust everywhere. I went to work looking appropriately Muslim the other day as I had wrapped up my head in a lovely shawl so that I could hail a taxi and get to the office without looking like I had been blown about, tossed around and then spat out in a sand pit. It is not a look that works for me.  That is the shawl or the post wind look.

Sunday, 26 February 2012


Conversation with Bryan one evening mid-week last week

“So, Bryan” says I. “Hummmmmm” says Bryan working away on his laptop.  “Of the two people living in this apartment, do you know which one spilt a packet of rice all over the store cupboard?” Bryan looks up from bashing his keyboard, arranges his face into a furtive look and says “Ah yes, that would be me.” “And,” says I, “of the two people in this apartment, who did you think was going to clean up the spilt rice?”  Bryan looks guilty, plaintive and appealing all at the same time and says “I was kind of hoping you would.” And I did……… Except, I could not get into the corners so Bryan had to stop work and come and do that.  This begs the question. Was that team work or was I suckered…….. I am leaning very strongly towards the suckered.
This or....

It occurs to me that If I had a camera. I would be able to provide visual proof of the spilt rice. I really need to get: either a camera or a phone with camera that I can work.....

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Back tracking to " Almost Maine"

I went and watched a play over the weekend. I am always nervous of shows because I am hyper critical and difficult to please. People who do plays are generally sensitive and emotionally invested in something they have spent months working on. Everyone involved wants you to say "Darling you were wonderful" and most of the time you can't say that. Now generally that is okay because my opinion is not written down anywhere. Generally. If I am going to blog it is possible that someone other them my family will read what I think, what I really, really think. So it is a HUGH relief to be able to say that the play was a complete delight. In a nut shell the play is made up of several sketches between couples that live in the fictitious town of Almost in Maine. The sketches are delightfully quirky romantic, surprising and heartwarming. To borrow from a friend, I wanted to take all the characters and put them in my pocket and love them.

I had read bits of the script. In other words  I helped Bryan with his lines once and was told "thanks but no thanks" because I insisted that he get EVERY word right..... I mean that is the point of learning the words right? Anyway, I am getting off the point. When I read (the tiny bit of the script that I did read) I thought "Holy Moly (I never say Holy Moly -censored bit) this is an unforgiving script". Spare and made to allow the meaning to be conveyed through the action. If you do not get it exactly right it could go horribly wrong or be just plain dull. The Director and the Cast got it spot on. They made that script hum and zing. The timing was great, the pauses exactly right, gush, gush, gush. Sigh- what a treat to see really good theatre in Dubai.

I do have a criticism or two -well I can always find something. I believe that audiences need to be lead a bit. They need to know when something is over. I felt that the end of each sketch could have done with the lights fading out or blacking out a bit quicker. We did not know, as the audience, if this was  really it and considering that there where many sketches I felt that the cast were deprived of  thundering  applause as they did not know that it was time to thunderously applaud.

My other gripe is a general one for theatre productions in Dubai and I know that there is no easy solution to this. The runs are too short for the shows to really take off. This puts a great deal of pressure on producers to get the PR side of things done before the show. Word of mouth for good shows has no value. But what to do? This affects  ( is it affect or effect?) Amateur Dramatic shows more as they have imaginary budgets.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Only in Dubai Moment - Tiger in the Traffic.

Personally, I think he looks pretty real.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

14th February – Valentine
Well I am not one for all the fuss over Valentine Day for a couple of reasons:
Reason 1:- I do feel that if you only make an effort to show your deep and abiding love once a year  then frankly why bother at all?
Reason 2:-  A Valentine is (in my mind) about secret passions and ego boosting – like I said in my mind. If you are going to send a valentine you simply cannot let on that you have sent it EVER. That is what makes it romantic and frankly a card “to my every loving husband” -SURPRISE!!!!  just does not fit into that criteria.
Reason 3:- ARRRGH the cost. You will spend a small fortune on some manky sad roses that cost more on that one day than any-other-day- of -the –year. Really? How dumb is that?
Reason 4:- Do I look like a sheep?
On the plus side:  I do think that a bit of shallow commercial “sheeping” is not all bad. I did leave a chocolate on everyone’s desk at work and refused to acknowledge that I had done so even in the face of  first hand eye witness evidence such as ” but I know it is from you because I saw you put the chocolates on the desks……..” and that was fun.
Then I did a bit of reading about Valentine’s day…. And discovered that for some it is not considered terribly Islamic and here I am leaving heart shaped chocolates on peoples desks in an Islamic Nation. Oops.
15th February
Today I have a gripe about smells.
Not my own rotten breath by the by.
For some reason the office lavatory now smells like a hospital operating theatre. Or rather what I imagine one smells like.  It is so heavily disinfected that you have to hold your breath before you enter for fear of damaging your delicate lungs with the super clean disinfected atmosphere. I thought that maybe a quick spray of some floral scented air freshener might make it a bit more bearable. Word from the wise: Don’t do it. The combination of such competing odors is not pleasant. Add to  that the what goes on in the loo  smells and well I will leave the rest to your imagination.