ADVENTURES IN DUBAI: YOUR FAVOURITE NUMBER ONE BLOG BRITISH DESIGNER LIVING IN DUBAI TELLS (NEARLY) ALL
Sunday, November 28, 2004
It seems that one of my interests/hobbies is cooking. And I haven't blogged about it at all, ever, apart from the time I told you about my dodgy Yorkshire Puddings (search the archive, suckers). So, here's two things I made recently that I know you're just dying to hear about.
Thing number one.
HASH BROWNS Not a common thing in England, the hash brown. Bit of an American thing that was imported into motorway service stations in the early 80s, methinks. Anyway, I had one once and I liked it. Unfortunately the other 300,000 times I've tried them they've been crap. So, a couple of weekends ago, I thought I'd try making some myself. I get the trusty Delia Smiff off the shelf, nothing zilch nada. I try the other cookery founts of wisdom. Same result. I search the interweb. Nuffink. Seems like nobody has ever published a recipe for hash browns! Hmm. I have to resort to reverse engineering...what's in 'em?
Potato and onion. Possibly a breadcrumb coating. I decide that these things are a commercialised version of bubble'n'squeak (without the cabbage). So that means the stuff has all been pre-cooked. Hmm.. I boil a spud or two, and when they're cool enough to handle, I grate them. Also an onion (unwritten law of cooking savoury dishes - no onion, no food). Then I try mixing them together, but stick they will not. I chuck an egg in for binding purposes, but it's still a floppy mix, so I throw some flour in too. Not bad, let's glue some breadcrumbs to the outside. That seems to work, chuck 'em in the big frying pan, turn 'em over a few times, and whoop-di-doo, the best hash browns I've ever had, ever. (WARNING: I am a trained professional - do not try this at home, unless you can wait 45 minutes for a hash brown).
Thing number two.
PEASE PUDDING Pease pudding is an ancient dish from Geordieland. I think. My mother used to make it when I was a kid in Durham and later in Yorkshire. I hated it. After I'd left home and returned for a weekend (probably to get my clothes washed), me mam presented me with a blob of PP on a plate with some other stuff. For once I actually tried it instead of feeding it to a nearby pot-plant. And I loved it! 'Twere the greatest thing.
So, last weekend we had a bunch of pipple round to celebrate TotherArf's birthday (96 if she'm be a day). Talking with TotherArf about various things that we could sling together for a cold buffet, I suddenly decided that PP might go down well. As it happened, it did. The mother of one of our guests (86!) was so taken with it that she demanded a doggy-bag and the recipe.
Here's how I make Pease Pudding. My mother used to make it differently - her method involved slinging the goo into a muslin bag until all the moisture has dripped out.
Get a few handfuls of yellow split peas (possibly about 250g). Run them through your fingers and pick out any little stones (not necessary if everyone eating it has dental insurance). Chuck 'em in a big saucepan and cover with water, about twice as much water as other stuff. Add a finely chopped onion. Now, I don't know whether this bit is essential, but I normally throw in a pork knuckle (they used to call it a ham hock in Geordieland). Bring the pan to the boil, scrape off the scum, slap a lid on and simmer. After about an hour, take out the meat and scrape it off the bone - shred it into small bits and put it back into the pan. Continue to cook until the peas look like a kind of mush where the peas are no longer individually distinguishable - it should be thick and not runny. Stir in about 40g of butter and let it cool. It should set into a pate-like consistency. You can eat it hot or cold, it's wonderful on toast and it should last a week in the fridge.
"Pease pudding hot, Pease pudding cold, pease pudding in the pot, Nine days old."
Yer alright, we went to see play the other night. 'Pack of Lies', the (true) story of the innocuous couple across the road who turn out to be selling nuclear secrets to the Russians. The show was organised by Streetwise Fringe, who usually bring shows out from the UK. This one featured a local cast, and I have to say it was brilliant. What's more unusual is that this show was performed about five years ago by Dubai Drama Group, and several of the cast from that show were reprising their roles this time. In the original version, Geraldine Boyd was treading the boards for the first time, and obviously very nervous. This time around she was 'nervy', almost neurotic, which is exactly what the role demands. Alook Aima as the Scotland Yard geezer was more self-confident on this outing (not that he was a cringing thing previously). Eric Dury can act the pants off anybody anytime he chooses. The lady spy I thought was excellent - TotherArf thought she was too over-the-top. But really, the player of the match goes to Merryl Turner (aged eight-and-a-half, last time we spoke, but probably going on 17 now), who played the daughter of the couple across the road. Absolutely outstanding.
The only blot on the evening, for me, was that I thought I was going to see a different show. In my tiny little addled mind I had got it confused with 'Night Watch', a show in which my darling wife played an insane housewife. I only ever got to see the first half of that show, because our favourite son was being baby-sat and managed to stab himself so badly with a toothpick that I had to do a tour of several Dubai hospitals to see that he was ok - by the time I found the hospital that he'd actually been at (where they had put some Dettol and a plaster on the wound before sending him home with the baby-sitter), the show was over.
The 2-week mourning Sheikh Zayed / Eid Al Fitr shutdown finally came to an end today. Officially the mourning goes on for 40 days, which means that it ends on December 13th.
All of the schools went back today (I was a bit unprepared for the 6 a.m. alarm - nearly fell out of bed!).
And the radio stations returned to playing their trusty diet of drivel and mindless chat. Hurrah! They had been restricted to playing miserable classical music on two of the stations - I like classical music, but these stations only seem to have 3 CDs which they were endlessly repeating. Of the other two English-language stations, I've never bothered to tune my car radio to one of them, because I hate what they play, and the other one was playing every pop ballad ever written, but in an instrumental arrangement with Pan Pipes. Yuck!
There may or may not be an enforced ban on live entertainment during the 40-day mourning period, and this will affect a whole lot of school shows, commercial shows, and maybe even the Dubai Rugby 7s. Nobody actually knows, because the people making these decisions have been off work till today.
I've been getting a lot of spam recently from a company here in Dubai. It's particularly irritating because I usually get at least three copies of it, and it requests an acknowledgement that I've read it (which I never ever give). The messages they send are very heavy on graphics and take a noticeable amount of time to download. I'm not remotely interested in the product they are offering, and they do not supply an opt-out link. But today's edition of their message contained an email address. So I sent an email to that address, politely requesting them to remove me from their database.
In hardly any time, I got an email back saying that they were using Spam Arrest, and I would have to go to the Spam Arrest website and complete a verification process before the intended recipient could read my email. Alarm bells start ringing. How do I know that Spam Arrest won't start spamming me? So I do a little research on the web, and apart from discovering that Spam Arrest are being sued for copyright infringement by Hormel Foods (who make the kind of Spam you can eat if there's nothiing else in the house), I came across this little gem: http://www.doingfreedom.com/nas/spamarrest.htm
Interesting read, eh?
Back at the ranch, I'm bemused that a person / company who has spammed me is using such a service to 'protect' themselves from spam! And for me to communicate with the original spammer I have to sell my soul to another set of much worse spammers. However, I now know the phone number and location of the original spammer (they're in my building!), so words will be had after the weekend.
This article is dedicated to Anonymous Who Wants a Poppy
We just had weather! It rained! (For Anglo-Saxon readers, it PISSED IT DOWN).
Really weird it were, about 90 minutes ago I noticed some bright flashes in the sky. Looked like lightning. Went out on the balcony, and lightning it was. But no thunder and no water falling out of the sky. I took t'offspring to the local club so I could beat him at pool, and the lightning was getting pretty intense on the way down. Once inside, we heard thunder, and shortly thereafter we heard the drumming of rain on the leaky tin roof. Buckets were brought. The rain stopped after maybe 20 minutes, but the lightning is still buzzing away as I write.
For the record, offspring potted the black early in 2 games, and I managed to do it myself in the other game. Hehehe.
And for general information, who on earth thinks that writing about rain is an interesting thing? Well, anybody who lives in the Arabian Peninsula does. We get rain maybe two or three days a year. Some years we don't get any at all. When it does rain, it tends to be torrential, most older buildings are as porous as colanders, and the roadside drains are clogged with sand. It's all very exciting.
Nobody told me having a blog would be such hard work!
Anyway, today I have added a few bells and whistles. I now have a working BlogRoll. And I will shortly be part of a webring called expat express.
I expect I'll be filling that sidebar with all kinds of gubbins over the next few weeks.
And a change of template is definitely on the cards. I thought this black one was pretty cool when I signed up. Still do actually, but ze problem is that several other people are using it too. So I need to build something unique!
My goodness, I love the terminology of the Blogosphere!
Now then, I've just signed up for a BlogRoll, so I can add links to other blogs that I like, and now I find myself in a bit of a quandary. Many of the blogs I admire use rugged Anglo-Saxon English (My Boyfriend is a%@#& is an excellent one that springs to mind). I personally have no objection to this, but here in the Middle East such 'vulgarity' is seriously frowned upon. So I have to be a little bit careful and use a bit of self-censorship. Readers in the Western world will, of course, be outraged. But hey, I like living here and don't want to invite an early departure.
I have to admit, the attitude to 'bad language' is a very strange aspect of living here. Innocuous words and phrases in the West can be taken as serious insults here. A few months ago, I had a phone call from a young local female administrator from the offices where I am based. Can't remember what she wanted exactly, but it was something ridiculous. Anyway, I apparently told her to 'get lost', and said I would sort it out when I arrived at the office in half an hour. When I got there, the manager told me that the girl had just been in her office, in tears because of what I'd said. It had been explained to the girl that Westerners will very often say much worse things than that, and attach no meaning to them whatsoever. Anyway, I went and apologised to her, and she never phones me any more.
Right. Back to the point. I'm having a damnably hard time finding good blogs that are not awash with robust Anglo-Saxon. Bollocks.
Ramadan finally finished yesterday (I knew it had to eventually), so today is the first day of Eid Al Fitr. I haven't seen any announcements in the Press about Eid holiday arrangements - this is the usual way of letting people know how many days the Governement is taking off, and how much time the lesser mortals in the private sector can have off. In the absence of any info whatsoever, I've closed my office for 2 days.
I had a very nice comment attached to my blog yesterday, from Amrit(raj), another Dubai Blogger. Take a look at his blog, and also this really interesting art project. If you've never seen a Padmini before, they really do look better with the Artraj treatment! Raj, before you bury it in the sea, I'd really like to see it driving around the streets of Dubai!
Firstly, we're in the fourth week of Ramadan. This is the Holy Month for Muslims, when they fast during the hours of daylight. Non-Muslims are also expected to observe the restrictions, at least in public places. Business dealings with Muslims more or less grind to a halt during this month, as people work shorter hours, and are not terribly effective anyway.
Then, on top of that, the UAE President Sheikh Zayed died on November 2nd. So we had three days of mourning for the private sector (only essential businesses like large supermarkets were open). For the Government sector and schools, the closure period is eight days. The end of this period coincides with the end of Ramadan, which is celebrated by a 4-5 day holiday called Eid Al-Fitr. The full mourning period has been declared as 40 days, and it looks like there will be no live entertainment allowed during this time, although I've not heard of any official pronouncement.
So my set-design commitment with the Dubai Drama Group is looking a bit iffy. In theory the set should be ready by Dec 3, but the performance dates fall within the 40-day period so it may have to be delayed.
Anyway, the enforced holiday has meant that people are available for painting who would normally have been working. I've been onsite for the last two days, melting in the heat and giving myself sunstroke. We got a fair bit done, and I've left them to it today with some outlines to fill in; I have to get some real work done!
1) UAE President Sheikh Zayed has died. He's been very sick for a while, and rumours have been flying for the last 2 or 3 weeks. Visit http://www.sheikh-zayed.info to learn more about this remarkable man.
2) I have a new neice, born about half an hour ago!
3) And it's US Election Day. Well OK, that's not really news, we've known it would happen today for about a gazillion years. I just hope Bush doesn't steal it this time.