Dinner Time – dinner ingredients delivered in Abu Dhabi
I don’t know if it is just me, but when I go grocery shopping it is because our fridge is bare.
And I am usually mighty hungry too.
I also tend to make grandiose cooking plans for the week (Sunday: filet mignon, Tuesday: beef wellington, Friday: baked alaska…) and if you pair that with the fact that I tend to overestimate my cooking skills, it is easy to see why a week’s worth of groceries regularly ends up rotting in the fridge.
I really love cooking, but let’s be honest: sometimes it is a bit of a long winded process.
The worst thing? That sudden, horrible realisation, half-way through, that you are missing that one essential ingredient that will ruin the whole thing. (What? No ice cream left?! Goodbye, baked alaska).
Recently, however, I discovered Dinner Time.
Dinner Time is a service that delivers fresh groceries to your door, in enough quantity to cook four dinners (one vegetarian, one meat, one chicken, and one fish) for either two or four people. They also have a gluten-free version, and all the meals are prepared by experts nutritionists so they are healthy and well balanced.
(Here are their FAQ and dinner packages types) (Also: Facebook and Twitter pages)
The main difference with other companies is that they don’t deliver the food already cooked: they give you all the ingredients you need – in the quantity you need – together with four recipes which take less than 30 minutes to cook.
I ordered a 2 people box, which included four dinner meals.
What was delivered to me on the first day was a cardboard box full of vegetables and dry ingredients (plus a complimentary set of measuring spoons, which was a nice touch!), and a cold bag (with two ice packs) with the fresh meat, fish and cheeses.
My first impression was very good, as all the ingredients delivered were of great quality – even the pasta, for instance, which could have easily been a supermarket brand and I would not have complained, was instead an Italian gourmet brand.
The first meal we cooked was the Mexican rice salad.
Let me tell you: this is the best rice salad we have ever eaten in our life. It was SO nice that we told everyone we knew and passed the recipe to friends and colleagues. And W does not even like rice!!
With a mix of honey-covered hazelnuts, caramelised cherry tomatoes, spring onions, coriander, rocket salad and a squeeze of lime juice, it is basically heaven on a plate. I must confess, we re-cooked it just yesterday!
It mixed a lot of flavours we would have not necessarily though about mixing, but once all together… well, it was mouthwatering.
The second evening’s recipe was Spaghetti Bolognese with chard.
As on the previous day, the recipe was very straight-forward to follow, and the result really healthy and yummy.
W said the sauce was lovely because it was a different take on the classic dish, with more aromatic and fresh notes. It worked well with the spring onions and the mushrooms.
The third evening was time for chicken, paired with a grain we never tried before: bulgur.
We loved trying a new kind of grain which we had never really used before: it was very easy to cook, similar to cous-cous, and W loved the combination of cranberries, pumpkin, orange, honey, pumpkin seeds and chicken, for a yummy sweet and savoury combination.
The last evening, we cooked the salmon, mushroom and broccoli soup.
The combination of the fresh vegetables, the fresh salmon and the cream cheese worked really well. They even provided a garlic bread baguette to go with it!
To make a long story short, we just totally loved it. We got to cook new recipes without the hassle of going grocery shopping, we ate really yummy and healthy meals prepared in less than 30 minutes, and … nothing ended up rotting in the fridge, so no waste was made!!
We really loved this service, and we are planning to subscribe regularly. Especially in the summer, when the temperatures rise and we don’t really fancy spending too much time carrying heavy grocery bags, I think this will be a real treat.
Even better, if we subscribe for more than one box, it will cost less, going down to approximately £45 (British Pounds) a week, which considering that it includes 4 complete meals for the two of us, it is not only an easy and yummy solution, it is also very convenient.
Plus, we can check the menu in advance on the website, and if we don’t like what is planned next, we can skip a week and bring our credit forward.
In conclusion, we would totally recommend Dinner Time to anyone who loves eating well and would gladly do without the hassle of grocery shopping!
Food traditions in the UAE
The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (adach.ae) published some very interesting leaflets about Emirati customs and culture, so I thought it would be interesting to share them on the blog. All the data below has been taken from these pamphlets.
Much of the Arabian Peninsula, an area of more than 3 million square kilometres, has been occupied for millennia. In some areas, settlements developed into cities, and along the coast fishing villages and busy ports grew. However, the vast desert regions were populated by nomadic Bedouin herdsmen who moved between the oases scattered throughout the interior.
Although vegetables such as cucumbers, pumpkins and onions were cultivated, together with lemons, pomegranates and melons, it was the wheat and dates grown in the oases that formed the staples of Bedouin diet. Dates keep well, can be eaten fresh or dried, are easily transported and have excellent nutritional value: there are over a hundred different varieties of dates.
For thousand of years, wheat was used to make gruel or porridge, or ground into flour for bread which was baked over coals, or even directly in the intensely hot sands.
Some of the many wheat-based dishes include the harees, a mixture of ground wheat and meat, and the bathitha, a sweet made of wheat flour dates and ghee.
The harees is one of the most famous meals in the Arab world and has been cooked for centuries. It is usually served in a deep dish at weddings, during Ramadan and at the religious feasts Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha. It is also served to new and nursing mothers since it is believed to have restorative properties: ground wheat and meat are cooked together over a low heat until the texture becomes creamy.
Rice is eaten either alone, or with meat or fish, using the right hand only. Popular rice dishes include the makbous and the.mashkhoul.
The makbous recipe has been passed down through the generations and it is a very popular dish in Abu Dhabi: meat, chicken or fish is cooked with onions, dried lime and spices such as turmeric, cardamom and nutmeg. When tender, the meat is removed and rice is cooked in the remaining stock. The meat is then mixed back with the rice, the dish covered and hot coals heaped upon the lid to complete the cooking process. The meat and rice are served on a large dish or tray, garnished with nuts, raisins and fried onions.
Fish is still very popular, and a wide range is available even inland. The fish market (Suq As Samak) in Al Ain sells around thirty species such as barracuda, prawns, shark and anchovies.
Milk from camels, goats and sheep provided a healthy supplement to the diet. It could also be churned into butter, or used to make yoghurt and cheese. Honey, various salad leaves and occasionally fish eggs, truffles or mushrooms were also eaten by the Bedouins.
However, the most important element of the diet was – and still remains, meat.
Nowadays camel meat is often served, but it was a rarer commodity to the Bedouin, who prized his camel above all else. Meat usually came from goats and bull calves, as well as quails, pigeons and houbara bustards, brought down by trained falcons, or rabbit and foxes, hunted by the fast Saluki dogs.
Archaeological excavations have unearthed the remains of darts, spears and other hunting gear, and pictures on the walls of some of the Hili tombs depict many different kinds of game: large animals such as gazelles and oryx abounded, but domestic cattle, sheep and goat were all kept by the earliest inhabitants of the UAE around seven thousand years ago.
In the last few decades, the range of food available locally has increased enormously. Various expatriate communities have introduced new dishes and the Asian communities exert one of the most powerful culinary influences, as there are many variations on popular Indian dishes, such as biryani.
The traditional local values of hospitality, generosity and courtesy to guests are still upheld. Family meals at home are informal, but at large gatherings time-honoured etiquette is observed, and the social intercourse is invariably accompanied by coffee.
In the past, the coffee was frequently prepared by the host and served to those who had gathered to exchange news or tell stories.
The beans were roasted in a pan (mehmas) then cooled in a wooden tray, known as mabradah.
They were then ground in a mihbash – a form of pestle and mortar, made of wood, iron or brass, and brewed in a clay pot (malkama).
The coffee was then poured into the classic beaked Arabian pot (dallah) and served in small ceramic cups (finjan), exactly as it is today.
Tradition dictates that the cup must be filled only a quarter full, and frequently refilled. When no more coffee is required, you need to rock the finjan to and from as the pourer approaches.
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W knew of a tropical fruit whose smell was so bad that in some hotels they would put a sign in the lobby, forbidding people from eating it in the room. He could not remember, however, which fruit was it.
First we thought it might be the dragon fruit, but once trying it we realised it was delicious, and not smelly at all! After a bit of research, we found it: it is the durian!
Known as the king of tropical fruit (whilst the queen is the mangosteen), this fruit is native to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei, but is mainly exported by Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, and you can easily find it in the supermarkets of Abu Dhabi.
Known for its large size, strong scent, and striking thorn-covered husk, it can grow as large as 30 centimetres long and 15 centimetres in diameter, and it typically weighs one to three kilograms. Its shape ranges from oblong to round, the colour of its husk green to brown, and its flesh pale yellow to red, depending on the species.
It is apparently a cousin of the hibiscus and the okra, and it is rich in minerals like manganese, copper, iron and magnesium, it is free from saturated fats, rich in dietary fiber, a good source of antioxidant vitamin C, and an excellent source of health B-complex groups of vitamins (a rare feature among fruits). (source)
Wikipedia confirms that its strong odour had this fruit banned from certain hotels and even public transport.
It even says that ‘the smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as rotten onions, turpentine and raw sewage.’
Now, this is a bit rough.
To be completely honest, we were expecting something in between zombie’s breath and a pile of rubbish abandoned in the sun, but you know what? It was not so bad.
Yes, it stinks. But not more than some French cheeses that you can easily buy at London’s Borough Market (and I am talking from experience).
The taste reminded me of almonds and apples, and maybe a bit of cheese, but online it has also been described as similar to custard, cream-cheese, onion-sauce and sherry-wine. (source)
It is quite a delicate flavour in any case, and apparently a lot of people brave the smell to be able to taste this tropical delicacy.
Useful links for those who would like to know more include this step-by-step guide (with photos) on how to eat a durian (which shows how we completely did it wrong) and several tasty recipes, such as durian tiramisu, ice cream, crepes, egg tarts, yoghurt cake, cream and custard, and all sort of sweet and savoury dishes inspired by Thai, Filipino and Vietnamese cuisine.
I will have to try and buy another one, to see if this time the smell lives up to the hype, and maybe try one of these inviting recipes!
Super easy recipe: Hasselback potatoes
Jacket potatoes are yummy. We recently heard about this new way of eating potatoes, and we quickly found an easy recipe that works for us.
2 tablespoons of olive oil
A pinch of table salt and pepper
2 potatoes (big ones)
150g of hard cheese of your choice (Cheddar or Gouda or similar)
1 can of baked beans
1 large onion
– Preheat the oven at 180 C.
– After washing the potatoes carefully, dry them and rub them in oil, salt and pepper.
– Cut the potatoes almost to the bottom, but not completely, in slices roughly 1cm apart.
– Cut the cheese and the butter in thin slices.
– Insert each slice inside the potatoes, alternating butter and cheese.
– Place them on a tray covered in baking paper or aluminium foil.
– Cook them in the oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
– In the meantime, chop the onion and fry it in a pan with a bit of oil.
– Warm up the baked beans in a pot.
– Once the potatoes are ready, eat them immediately with a side of onions and beans.
These potatoes are super easy to make and taste great!
Quick Recipe: Strawberry Smoothie.
The granadilla is the fruit of a plant called Passiflora Ligularis and it is a close relative of the passion fruit.
It is native to the Andes mountains between Bolivia, Venezuela and Colombia, but it grows as far South as Argentina and as far North as Mexico. It is also cultivated in Africa, Australia and Papua New Guinea.
How did it find its way to our local supermarket is one of the wonders of the modern world!
This was a surprising fruit to try: as softness goes, just by its appearance we thought it would be like an apple, or an orange at the most, but actually the hard outer shell cracks incredibly easily, to reveal a gooey middle that would be perfect as zombie brain lookalike for the upcoming Halloween festivities.
The seeds, which are hard and black, are surrounded by a gelatinous transparent pulp, which is the edible part of the fruit and contains vitamins A, C, and K, phosphorus, iron, and calcium. (source)
I must be honest: I did not eat much of it, as I was not really sure about the texture, but it tasted very delicate, sweet and aromatic, and I think it would be perfect to flavour ice creams or jelly.
I found a few recipes using it for a yummy sorbet, a fridge tart, lovely curd tarts, a mousse, another mousse, a cake, a sponge cake, yet another cake, or cream cheese icing.
Looks like it’s a real favourite for dessert-lovers, so I must try one of these soon!
FWNAB: Carambola (or Star Fruit)
The Carambola – also known as ‘star fruit’ because of its almost perfect cross-section shape – is native to South East Asia, and popular all over the Asian continent.
There are two slightly different varieties of this fruit: a sweet one and a sour one.
Indian Carambola is generally a little bit more sour, and bright yellow when ripe.
The sweeter Carambola comes mostly from China and is normally bright green even when ripe. (Source)
I guess the one we bought was from the second group! (At least I hope so!)
This fruit is completely edible, skin included, but it is advised to trim the ribs to remove the darker green edge, which can be quite bitter.
This fruit has many health benefits as it contains Potassium, antioxidants, fibers, and Vitamin C. Despite being a tropical fruit, it is also very low in calories.
People with kidney problems, however, or people taking certain medicines, should avoid eating it, as it contains Oxalic acid, which could be harmful in particular situations. (Source)
Some people seem to think that the qualities of this fruit are mostly decorative, because it does not taste of much.
The one we ate had a very delicate flavour indeed, somehow similar to apples, however the overall taste was lovely.
Thanks to its fresh notes, this fruit is also used in the preparation of many perfumes and beauty products.
There are really plenty of recipes featuring this versatile fruit, and not only for its pretty shape: Carambola Chicken Salad, Carambola sauce for Salmon, Scallops and Steak, an Upside down cake, Crepes, Bread, a Mango-Orange-Star Fruit Sauce, a Thai Rose Petal Salad, a Crab salad, a Shrimp salad, a Caprese, obviously Jam but also chutney, and several Tropical Smoothies.
I can’t wait to prepare my own lovely meal with the help of this beautiful fruit!
Quick Recipe: Oreo Smoothie
Quick Recipe: Spicy Mac And Cheese
INGREDIENTS: (for 2 people)
WHAT TO DO:
- Start pre-heating the oven at 200°C.
- In a saucepan of salted, boiling water, cook the pasta. Make sure to cook it a couple of minutes less than the suggested time on its packet, so that it won’t overcook later in the oven.
- In another saucepan, prepare the cheese sauce:
– Melt the butter.
– Add the flour. Keep stirring until the mixture is golden and smooth. (Approx 2-3 min).
– Gradually add the milk, stirring continuously.
– Cook for 8-10 minutes until your sauce is thick and smooth.
– Add the blue cheese and half of the grated cheddar cheese, plus a generous pinch of chili flakes. When smooth, take the saucepan off the hob.
- Add your cooked pasta to the sauce, stirring well.
- Transfer the mixture to a ceramic dish, or similar ovenproof dish.
- Cover with the remaining cheddar, more chilli flakes and grated Parmesan.
- Place in the oven until golden. (it might take from 5 to 10 minutes, it is up to you to decide when it is crunchy enough for your taste!).
The Kiwano, (scientific name: Cucumis Metuliferus) is part of the melon and cucumber family, and let’s admit it: it looks pretty amazing! It was even featured on one episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine as an alien “Golana melon”! (source)
Thanks to its spikes, it is also known as ‘horned melon’, ‘blowfish fruit’, ‘hedged gourd’, and half a dozen other names.
Despite being now cultivated in several parts of the world, from Australia to South America, this interesting looking fruit is originally native of Africa: in the Kalahari desert, during the dry season, the Kiwano is actually the only available source of water. (source: Wikipedia).
With good levels of vitamin C, iron, potassium and antioxidants, plus beta-carotene and vitamin A, this fruit is very healthy, helping, amongst other benefits, to give a boost to the immune system. (source)
According to the internet, it should taste like a cucumber, however the one I tried tasted more like a lemon, with a tangy, fresh and citrusy aftertaste. On other websites, I found people comparing it to kiwis and even bananas, so I guess it all depends from how much you let it ripen before devouring it.
Aside from its decorative qualities, this fruit well adapts to both sweet and savoury recipes, such as the ones I found: tropical sorbet, salsa and frozen mousse, vinaigrette, gazpacho, and flounder with kiwano salsa.