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Shopping in New York

Written in the third person.


It was their second evening in New York. The Indian man and the little boy scrutinized her basket. “You must be a tourist” he commented and she asked what gave her away. He told her that nobody else would be buying shampoo and flour from the small store. She watched him, unblinking. He seemed new here, like he didn’t belong, just like her, but also that he didn’t belong in the of tourist or traveler. If he stayed in New York he would learn that this was normal.

She didn’t belong in New York either, but 3 years of regular travel had left a mark. The skills to blend into a new place were there. This helped especially when trying to ward off pushy sales people. If your attitude could convince them you belonged there they wouldn’t bug you that much.

New York consists of many individual shops. You couldn’t buy everything you wanted from one place. The liquor store sold liquor. The cheese shop had cheese. The newsstand sold papers and cigarettes. There were many of these places, they were scattered across the city. The wine products available at convenience stores were not wine, merely a sweet drink containing some wine as an ingredient.

It felt like a little bit of a time waste, having to walk from one place to another. Yet this was New York, this was part of what made this great city so wonderful. Every store had a different vibe. The convenience store on the corner of 8/ 48 was acceptable, but the guy behind the counter communicated with grunts the entire month she shopped there. In contrast the store next door was so different.

Against the counter a gangly teenager stood, he had the cockiness of Joey Tribiani seeming confident enough to try his luck with this college student even though he was 16 years old. A few African American men sat discussing Melanie Trump’s disastrous speech. The atmosphere was relaxed, like they were regulars. After discussing the speech they started listing elegant first ladies. The verdict was Eleanor Roosevelt.

So it was with the other stores as well. The diners too, you could move from one to the other not actually changing the quality of your purchases, but the hedonic value definitely.

Pictures aren’t the only proof

I don’t take pictures of everything, I don’t have an Instagram account and I don’t write about every kind and charitable thing I do. This lack of evidence, however, does not mean it doesn’t happen. If I start taking more pictures, it’s for memories, because I want to remember life, not to prove that I’m living life.

I cook, I live, I donate. Some of the homeless in New York were surprised at my natural kindness, which astonished me. I was just being who I am, but apparently I’m very different from most people if people remark upon it.

I have shared my pizza, sat down on the sidewalk, bought tickets, smiled at strangers, payed for food. Cooked for 2years and lived a pretty ordinary life, or well, a life which I call ordinary. Don’t judge what you cannot see, just because there isn’t proof doesn’t mean you won’t find evidence when you talk to those who have crossed my path. Don’t feel the need to prove every small act. Do it for yourself, for the person in the queue next to you, not for the picture, for Instagram or for Facebook. If you document something, do it for the memory.

Finger vs. food processor

On September 1 I decided to bake a cake. The ingredients included chopped nuts. I used a food processor to chop the nuts and somehow also managed to chop right through my left index finger, slicing the nail into 3 parts, exposing the bone and, apparently, crushing the tip of the bone.

The blood started gushing out, and I immediately put my finger into my mouth. After a full minute I thought I should probably look at it. Where seconds before there had been a functioning body part there was now a mangled mess of flesh.

Mum was out shopping, so I grabbed my headset, my handbag and as an after-thought a cloth. There was no way that I could put pressure on the wound, but I was thankful that I had taken it later when I realized the cloth was drenched with blood.

I called mum and got a taxi to the hospital. I wasn’t in pain, I was in shock. The nurse took some pictures of my finger with his smartphone and sent them to the plastic surgeon, before sending me for an X-ray. The pieces of my nail was just sitting there, connected to nothing, but not removed either.

The surgeon came to see me and mum and explain what would happen next. He said that I should sleep in the hospital that night. The worst pain came from the disinfectant, I had to put my finger into this brown liquid for 15min, brown liquid with burned and hurt more than the actual injury.

The finger was bandaged and wrapped up all nicely to await the next day’s surgery. I had an uncomfortable night. Odd phrases kept coming back to me “finger reconstruction” “skin graft” “bone exposure” “physiotherapy” “crushed finger”. I fell into an uneasy sleep with strange dreams about shadows. The glass panel next to the door let in all the light from the hallway and the sleeping mask did not help.

The next morning I called the nurse and she wrapped my hand in plastic so I could shower. My room was a single room with a private shower. Very Dubai, more space and luxury than is actually needed.

I was wheeled into surgery and only remember waking up with a rather sore throat, due to the intubation. It gave my voice an excellent quality, I could sound like Fenrir Greyback from Harry Potter.

Checking out took longer than I ever thought. It was more than 3 hours after the surgeon had seen me and told me I was cleared to go home that I was finally able to leave. I had some hospital food, it was actually quite good, or I was just so hungry that I thought it was good…

I left with my arm in a sling and both my index and middle fingers wrapped in tight bandages. I don’t know why both fingers were wrapped together, I guess it was to keep the injured finger company. I also had a really large plaster on my thigh. This covered the area where they had cut some skin to reconstruct my finger.

The following Wednesday (7 Sept.) I went back to the hospital. The bandages were removed and my middle finger would no longer be wrapped up. New, loose bandages were placed over the wounded finger. The skin graft looked like a piece of chicken skin to me, but the doctor seemed pleased.

Another week later (14 Sept.) the metal wires which had insured my finger bones healed correctly, where removed and I was sent to physiotherapy. The finger wasn’t swollen, but it looked swollen due to the local anesthetic that the doctor had injected before pulling out the metal. The physio gave me “exercises”, yes, finger bending exercises. I couldn’t make a fist, I couldn’t bend the top joint of the finger, no matter how hard I tried. A few days later (17 Sept.) I could finally bend the finger a little further.

Without my finger, I could not cook or clean or vacuum or make my own bed. I could not cut my food, pour my water or do anything which I was so use to doing automatically. It felt weird asking for help for perfectly ordinary things, like making coffee.

Yesterday, some of the scabs and dead skin came off, revealing beautiful new pink skin under it. Still waiting for a new nail to start growing. The nail bed was totally destroyed by the food processor, so I really hope and pray that a new nail will grow again.

My finger will heal again, but this just gave me a fleeting glimpse of what it might be like when you injure yourself in a car crash or get an amputation. It’s weird, you know you’re hurt, but you still feel like living life as if you aren’t.


Cooking tit-bits

I use to be exceptionally squeamish about food. Even that little bit of meat juices use to bug me when I ate steak. My insistence on cooking every single thing in at least one Jamie Oliver book has over come this. I have a recipe coming up which requires a “jointed rabbit” and I just watched a how to video very calmly, I didn’t even flinch when the guy decapitated the carcass. I’ve also touched a dead fish’s eye and ripped the meat off a duck’s carcass. This book has removed my squeamish streak.

Cooking this way has also lead to having a really well equiped kitchen. My beautiful and really cute pasta maker arrived today. I bought everything I needed for every recipe and our kitchen is now a lovely place filed with almost everything you could ever need while cooking Western food.


My month in New York

After a 24hour flight, lay-over and delays we arrived in New York. First day was a jetlagged blur. I tried a few different things, but ended up having breakfast and lunch at the same place, close to home. I also over estimated myself and walked far too much, because I knew how to walk, but not how the subway works. New York is built in a grid with numbered streets, so it’s easy to figure out where to walk, but working out the subway took a few days. Got a great tan from all the walking though. Looks brilliant.


  1. Union square market

The second day was better, much better. I didn’t get lost once, but that might only have been by accident. I started the morning by going to the Union Square Green Market. I had only 3 things on my list for Jamie Oliver’s recipe of cubed roasted potatoes. I needed garlic, rosemary and, of course, potatoes, special potatoes. Jamie had written “waxy potatoes” and I had no idea what this would be.

I passed flower stalls and cheese filled tables. Stands with bread stacked high and rows of huge cookies. Vegetable stands and a fish counter. Carrots in every color along with rainbow rhubarb, seriously, rhubarb in all the pride colors.

I lifted a small bunch of very fresh rosemary out of some water and paid for it. The garlic still had its “top” on. Like the leafy part, when I bought it the guy removed that. Looks different than the ones at the store.

I walked all around the market looking for “waxy potatoes”. Finally sitting down and reading that waxy potatoes are also known as “new potatoes” among other names. Now, almost every vegetable seller had new potatoes. I just hadn’t known what I was looking for!


  1. Central park

I’m certain today’s visit will just be the first of many. I actually intend to spend much time there. It’s only one stop from our apartment, so it’s easy to get there.

I found an African American guy singing under a bridge. The arch made the acoustic fantastic, so even without a mic his voice carried. He has real talent and a strong voice, along with an audience of one. I sat down, cross legged, and rested my very tired body. After two or three more songs he asked my name and sang me a song. He’s really good at freestyle, he made up the most beautiful song. The lyrics included “Maria… beautiful… star… welcome to new York, welcome to New York… Maria…” He and his Yamaha keyboard stand there making wonderful music for passersby. Nobody else seemed to truly listen.

I didn’t record him or take a bunch of pictures in the park. I saw a squirrel in the park, about 5 or 6 other people saw him as well, nibbling a tiny piece of food. I was the only person who didn’t take a picture. I actually looked at the squirrel and after all the cameras had clicked and their owners had left, I still watched the squirrel. I’d like to add that I don’t mind pictures, but we miss reality.

A girl in “an itsy-bitsy, teeny tiny, yellow polka-dot bikini” sat on the grass rubbing sunscreen all over her body and sunbathing in the middle of the park.


  1. Christopher Park: 

Currently sitting here next to George Segal’s life-size sculptures of a lesbian couple. It’s really tiny. The statues are beautiful and seems to portray two people just being together. If I hadn’t known it was meant to represent a lesbian couple I’d have thought it was just friends. I like how he portrays the LGBT community. The streets in this neighborhood are really pretty. The first pretty streets I’ve found so far. The other streets are interesting, but these are cute as well.


  1. Friends building Located on the corner of grove and Bedford St. Is the building used in the FRIENDS series. I came here not only because I loved the show but also due to the location. It’s very central and easy to find. In the 5 min I’ve been sitting here at least 6 others have taken their picture in front of the building and walked away without truly looking. I watched as a group of tourists came by with a guide. They seemed to be on a movie walking tour.


5.      West Village Stroll. I had thought that west village and Greenwich were two different places.  It seems to be the same place with two names. It’s quite pretty though, with lots of trees which create a rather relaxing environment. NYU is closed, because it’s summer, maybe if there where more people it would feel different.

6.      Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

Waiting in Brooklyn Bridge Park for this pizza place to open, apparently there are two. Grimaldi’s is the touristy one and then right next door is a better pizza place. I waited in the park and shared my Atkins bar with a squirrel who then persistently returned to see if I had any more food. The pizza place is so busy that after placing my order for their smallest and cheapest pizza (which turned out to be quite large!) I had to wait outside. Within 10min of opening the place was packed with people queueing outside and waiting for their turn to have some pizza. I ordered mine as take-out and then carried it back to the park where I shared my very large pizza with a homeless guy and continued reading Stardust by Neil Gaiman.

  1. Brooklyn Bridge Bridge/Tunnel: “A drive-through cathedral” is how the journalist James Wolcott described the Brooklyn Bridge, one of New York’s noblest and most recognized. And I just saw the statue of Liberty for the first time in my life. The bridge is much bigger than I expected or, well, I did expect it big it just took me longer to walk over than I thought. Tip: go with cash there are a couple of artists selling pretty sketches for $10. Got some good sun exposure, so I’m not Dubai white anymore. Interesting experience.


  1. Staten Island Ferry Every day, some 70,000 people ride the free ferry to Staten Island, one of the city’s outer boroughs. We were on the ferry early this morning. It was nice seeing the statue up close and on the return journey you have a great view of the Manhattan skyline. We spent no time on the island but just took the next ferry back. The statue was not as big as I’d expected. Ellis Island seems to be a tiny spot of land. From the ferry I saw lines of tourists standing waiting to go up the statue.


  1. The cloisters

We came here rather early. There are two ways to walk from the station, firstly you can walk along the road or secondly you can walk through the park. The park gives you flashes of the Hudson River and its lovely and green and quiet. Quiet, I’ve discovered a new trick: There’s so much noise pollution that I’ve started wearing earplugs. New Yorkers talk really loudly, louder than necessary. Everything is loud, so I’m wearing earplugs! Anyway, the cloisters were pretty and really relaxing. The kind of sightseeing you can do while on vacation. It’s beautiful there.


  1. Bryant Park: I came here partly for the park, but also for the New York Public Library. In this library is the original Winnie the Pooh teddy bear. I hung out in the park for a while, until some dancers decided to start their very loud music and disrupt the rather peaceful environment.

At some point a “Christian” man walked passed me preaching something while walking. What he said seemed to hold no connection to my perception of Jesus and he was the one people would hear, not me… Later on another man came and sat down and just started rambling to me, he said some nice things, but I scurried away, not sure if I should talk to him.

Saw the Empire State Building from far away as I passed the library, which, seeing as it was Sunday morning, was closed. Came home for a decent nap. Some people had managed to nap in the park on the grass, but I just couldn’t see how, maybe I’ll acquire it.


  1. The Met – I spent about 10minutes here, looking at the sculptures and the Greek pottery. It’s really beautiful and I was amazed at the style of the art, because other art I’d seen from that period in Rome was much more stick like. These figures had movement. I didn’t stay long, since it’s so big and I had no idea what else I wanted to see.


  1. Grand Central terminal

The amount of detail on the ceiling was interesting. It’s so high that you can scarcely make it out, but still somebody cared enough to make sure it’s beautiful. The roof was much higher than I had remembered.


  1. Jane Carousel – I don’t really know architecture or carousels very well. So this work of art was entirely lost on me. I was walking through Brooklyn Bridge Park and just saw the sign pointing to it and I’d read all about how special it was so I wanted to see it, but I didn’t get it.

As mentioned I am still cooking Jamie Oliver’s book. For a duck pasta recipe he requests half a bottle of Barbera winewhich I couldn’t find in Dubai, not even a substitute. So, on my way home from the Jane carousel I walked into a liquor store, just to check. There is was, one bottle left on the shelf. I bought it instantly and carried it from Brooklyn to Manhattan and then packed it in to Dubai – now I can finally make the Duck pasta as intended. I love shopping for this book. It opens up the world in a new way.


  1. Appellate Division Courthouse next to Madison Square Park: I think I saw it, but I’m not sure. Apparently there are two figures on either side of the door representing wisdom and force and I did not see them, so I’m still not sure. I tried to find it though, but then I passed the subway and well Union Square Market was open so I just went to buy some vegetables.


  1. Top of the Rock – Great view. It gave me a good idea of where I was in the city. You see the whole of Central Park and then the statue of Liberty on the other side. I wasn’t sure from such a distance which bridge was Brooklyn Bridge, New York has more water than I ever thought, so there are many bridges to see from the top. I like going up towers, and seeing the city in a new perspective. There are two tickets which I liked, one lets you go up only once and the other one is “twice in one day” so you could go back at sunset or late at night and see the city in a completely different way.


  1. The Highline – This was much smaller and narrower than I’d thought. It’s an old unused train line which has been turned into a park and then leads to a lovely indoor market. We passed a yoga class, and some joggers everybody trying to get into the little bit of green that there was. The walk was short, but nice and then we went down to the Chelsea Market.


  1. Chelsea Market – It didn’t look like I had expected a market to look, it was more an indoor shopping center selling food, but it was great once I got used to it. I bought all the vegetables to make Jamie’s Red Mullet recipe. There was large bunches of basil with such large leaves and many different kinds of chilies and yellow tomatoes and an entire wall filled with different kinds of coffee beans. After this I visited the fish store, which now said it didn’t have red mullet. The manager came out and asked whether I wanted something in the same size or flavor as red mullet and I said flavor, he recommended bluefish and it was delicious.


  1. Bergdorf Goodman – This is a department store, with Macy’s changed and Barney’s franchised, this store is now the high end department store to go to apparently. I thought I’d have a look, I prefer souvenirs in the form of home ware and clothes, not the stuff they sell at the tourist stores. After about 10minutes in the store it became clear that I didn’t belong there and that stuff wouldn’t suit me. There was little heart-shaped necklace in the kids section I thought would be nice, but it was $6000 and made of real diamonds and white gold. This made me leave rather quickly.


  1. Arthur Avenue – Also known as the true little Italy of New York. Beautiful, but tiny. I was standing outside a café trying to google if they were any good and I looked across the street. My eyes fell on a café with 4 Italian looking men chatting outside and smoking, instantly I knew the place would be good and I wasn’t wrong. I ate the most delicious cannelloni there along with a perfect espresso. A man with an authentic Italian name came to chat with me and asked me if I had ever asked my smartphone a question it couldn’t answer, when I said yes he told me that meant that I was smart. I liked that, because a while back in a lecture the teacher asked “when was the last time your phone couldn’t answer you?” and I thought “5min ago” but the teacher was trying to prove how great technology was. Anyway, the cannelloni, the espresso, cigars, chatting, wonderful. PS. I’ve been searching for Amaretti cookies for almost 8 months for a Jamie Oliver recipe – I found them! Beautiful streets, more run down and dirty and plain than Manhattan but really nice. Don’t come if you don’t have anything else you want to do in the Bronx. Took me an hour to get here from Manhattan. With walking and the express train.

PS. After 2weeks back in Dubai I found the same Amaretti cookies on a shelf here. Standing there all innocently as if they hadn’t been eluding me for so long. But I don’t regret visiting little Italy and am happy to know that I have the best version of the cookies. Thus far Dubai’s baking has rather disappointed me.


  1. Most days include Central park and watching the sunset from our balcony. Last night the sunset was a lovely yellow. It had rained in the afternoon and by sunset the rain had cleared up and the sun was shining through all the clouds. I love going to the park in the day, it’s just green grass, trees, blue sky and white clouds – everything Dubai doesn’t have. Yes, Dubai has parks, but it’s different… I come to the park and I don’t want to listen to music or read a book, I don’t want to be transported, I’m in love with where I am and I don’t want some story to interfere with that. I have tried to read, but I don’t get further than two pages. All I truly want to do is just be there. I want to sit, watch the people, drink in the scenery and just be. It’s a perfect place, at least for me, for now. Sheep’s Meadow is my favorite spot. Many morning I also visit the church to pray.


I go to Central Park and I just sit, I think, I don’t think, I watch the people, I ignore them. I try to read, but the park is so wonderful, I don’t want to be transported to Hogwarts or Middle Earth. When I’m tired I lay down on the grass and have a quick nap. First I put my shoes down, then my bag on top of my shoes and then my head on my bag. This should stop people from stealing my stuff without me realizing. The patterns of the green leaves against the blue sky fade as my eyes close and after about 30minutes I sit back up and continue my relaxing time. It’s my favorite place in all of New York, based on very limited exposure.


  1. WalMart – As a tween I loved the Olsen Twins and I had read that they sell their clothes and make-up at Walmart, later the store was referenced in many movies, including The Sisterhood of the Traveling pants and also my Jeff Dunham. In my business books I’ve read about how effective Walmart is and how great their business plans are. After all the references I thought it might be an interesting thing to visit Walmart. I knew it would be a store, but I thought it would be interesting or special or something to make it so well known. I searched for the bus, waited at the wrong gate, then at the right gate. I tried to get on the bus, but didn’t have the right ticket. More than an hour after I left home I was at the right gate for the right bus with the right ticket. New Jersey has a very different vibe from New York. Walmart was just a store, like Game in South Africa or Carrefour in Dubai. Nothing to make me get why it was so well known. I walked around for a few hours, picked up some things I needed and then came back. The place I had wanted to see for so long was just a normal place, it wasn’t special in any way, it was just big.


  1. Food – I use to love pizza but can hardly stand it now. It’s so tasteless, even at places which are well-known and receive good reviews. Sadness… I cannot believe the things in the stores to eat. Things that people want to eat. It’s rather disguisting. I tried Twizlers, just like the Gilmore Girls, and they are terrible. I bought a pretzel and it was tasteless. I bought wine which turned out to be not wine, but a wine product, meaning it’s wine mixed with water and sugar and sometimes high fructose corn syrup! It’s terrible. All the sugar and carbs and processed foods and refined carbs. I had a hotdog and, being use to real food, I couldn’t believe people think it’s good. I bought a corndog. This I liked until I focused on what was in my mouth, the added sugar in the corn flour clashed dramatically with the salty sausage.


  1. Nails – I thought it might be interesting to get my nails done in New York. See something different, experience it the American way or something. Turned out to be exactly the same as in Dubai, a Nepalese lady painted my nails with Essie polish and there was nobody else in the salon. I thought maybe I’d get my nails done and idk have Monica and Rachel discuss Ross next to me or have Emily Gilmore enter the salon, but no, it was the same experience I’ve had in Dubai. At the very end a business man walked in and asked whether the salon did mani/ pedi walk-ins and then sat down to have his nails done. The Emirati men in Dubai are meticulously well taken care of, but there is a separate salon for men and women. This was the first time I shared a salon.

Cooking crab

I went to the fish market yesterday with mum  and bought 1kg of blue crabs. I went to wait for the crab to be cleaned and mum was still looking around. The fisherman told her “you wait, mamma” and ushered her to the bench where I was sitting.

Today I followed Jamie’s recipe on how to cook and pick crab. This took me 3 hours. I spent the first hour relaxing infront of the tv checking the water waiting for it to boil and then waiting for the crabs to cool down.

Then I sat down and started with my lobster cracker, crab pick and crab scissors. It took me  the better part of 3 horus to get all the meet out. I hurt myself a few times as I was trying to tear off the claws and legs, blue crabs have thorns like roses do.

It was fasinating though. I have only ever seen the canned crab meet in the store. Never bought it though. But the process of buying, cooking and shelling something was very different from buying a can of some shredded white meet.

In the end I tasted the fresh crab meet and the canned crab meet I had bought and there was no difference. I couldn’t believe this, so next time I will be using store bought crab meet and saving myself the crab picking, but I’ll never regret today and all that I learned.

Dinner was Jamie’s Old fashioned potted crab. I tried a few bites, eating it with nothing else. It’s good, but has a really strong flavour. Stronger than I expected. It tastes very fishy.

Working with crab has done one good thing though, I no longer fear working with lobster. I’ve worked with claws and eyes and weirdness and I was fine. I think sometimes we run from the unfamiliar and it’s not even that scary.

Cooking with Jamie Oliver

Last January I bought Jamie Oliver’s book, Cook with Jamie. I decided to make ever single recipe in the book. I usually picked a main course, a desert and a vegetable. I have made many of his salad dressings. First time for me, I usually just bought the stuff in the store. Absolute rubbish now I know how to make it myself. The homemade mayonnaise was interesting, but I haven’t made it again. It wasn’t as creamy as I expected.

The sauces where made to accompany the really, really good salads. I purchased my first salad spinner and learned how to use it. Totally worth it, this is some of the best food I’ve had.

I made a tomato salad and learned that there exists more then “normal” tomatoes and cherry tomatoes. Tomatoes aren’t even always red, never knew that. They come in so many different sizes and colours . I always thought they weren’t ripe and bought the nice red ones.

The egg salad was really good. I never liked boiled eggs, I always scrambled my eggs so that I wouldn’t have to eat the yolk seperately. The few times people around me ate boiled eggs the smell was disguisting. Blue-ish yellow cores and pieces of egg shell cracking, I never thought anybody would get me to like boiled eggs and then I made the egg salad. Jamie Oliver has achieved the near impossible, I ate my egg yolk seperately and actually enjoyed it!

The pasta section was entirely skipped at first, but I will definitely return to it later this year. It just didn’t go with my current dietary requirements. But oh my goodness it looks delicious. I had never even heard of gnocchi, but by the end of the year I’ll have a good grasp of what it is and exactly how to make it.

I spent two months making all the Risottos. I only cooked once a week and then made enough for the entire week. So 8 risottos = 2 months… I made them with grated cauliflower instead of rice, but still it was amazing. I loved the cheesy ones, like tomato, basil and ricotta oh and the spinach and goat’s cheese one was the first time I ate goat’s cheese. I couldn’t find the amaretti cookies anywhere, so I’ll remake the recipe someday, but it was good even without it.

When I cook meat it’s usually steak or mince, but I never knew what to do with big pieces of meat or how to cook a roast. I looked at the butcher’s counter, but I never knew what to buy. I loved Jamie’s direction. I learned so much from his tips and the “how to buy” sections. I knew what was good and what wasn’t because Jamie described it really well.

In the mutton section I giggled very much at the picture of the sheep. It looks like those stained glass sheep in some of the catherals with the eyes looking upwards. In this section  I really loved the lamb shank pie. I have not made the mad moroccan lamb yet, but my Moroccan friend did make me some lamb dish which looked exactly like Jamie’s picture. Now I’ll make Jamie’s recipe and compare it with the “real thing”.

I worked through the pork section. Pork is available in Waitrose in a special little section saying “Non-muslims only”, here you find pork, pork flavoured stuff, gelatin and products containing gelatin, like Pop Tarts. The old-school pork chops recipe required me to buy Stilton cheese for the first time and so I realized I actually like it. The blackened barbecued prok fillets were delicious. I actually had to figure out how to use the grill, so that was a good lesson. I liked this so much I made it repeatedly. The slow roasted pork requires planning, so I’ll make it during  a holiday.
The chicken recipes worked really great for individual lunches. Enjoyed those immensely. I also made those teeny tiny chickens, poussins, just like the fancy people in movies eat. It was excellent.

I skipped the turkey recipe, but I think I might return to it just out of nostalgia seeing as I’m almost done with the book. I also purchased rabbit, but it’s still in the freezer until I can find all the ingredients for the sauce and get my head around the idea of eating rabbit!

Duck isn’t a South African dish. I’m not even sure it’s available there, so this was a first for me. I made crispy duck with plum chutney. It was food heaven. I bought the plums and spices from the little Indian store, I was the only western person in there. The food was perfect, I didn’t even care that it took me 80 minutes. Oh, I also time every recipe, that way I can plan ahead in the future.

At first I skipped the fish. Whole fish seemed “gross”. I had no idea what to do with a whole fish or how to eat it. I finally decided that I really wanted to make every recipe in the book. I went to a Filipino neighbourhood one day and felt almost sick waiting for them to turn my one fish into fillets, while 2 men next to me where choosing salmon heads which were on a special. I’m glad to say that I’m much better now. I go to the fish market regularly and I am trying to get through all the fish recipes before the summer heat sets in. I know I can buy it at the store, but it’s so much more fun to go to the market. (“Pour me a heavy dose of atmosphere…”

The first time I braced myself and decided to cook whole fish I was half-way through the recipe when Mum asked if she could help and I said she should look up how we were going to eat whatever I was making.

I have only had tuna from cans before. I looked at the recipe doubtfully and I really wasn’t sure I wanted to make it, a whole 200g tuna steak that would presumably taste like the cans at Zoom? But decided that Jamie had never let me down. Everything I had made so far had been perfect. So I bought some tuna and fell in love with it. It tasted nothing like the canned goods. It was just lovely and I can’t wait to make it again. It’s delicious.

Monkfish tail is for sale at Carrefour. I saw this, but then went to the fish market and still bought it whole. Removing the heads (about half of the fish) took almost an hour. These fish have really, really thick skins and I’m not skilled yet. Next time I’ll have this done by the fishmonger.

My only terrible recipe was Jamie’s take on a Japanese dish, black cod. I drove all over town getting the ingredients, I marinated the fish for 24 hours, I did everything and it was disgusting. Maybe I’m not into Japanese cuisine or something. But if you only have one fail in a whole book I think that’s a pretty good record.

Oh, the Thai-style sea bass was my favourite. I loved the Thai paste. So tasty. The roast salmon feeds more then 10 people. I made it for me and Mum and we lived off the left overs for a week. There’s still some left in the freezer.

I haven’t been able to find John Dory in Dubai. I’m sure it’s here somewhere, but not in any of the usual places. I went to the fish market and the fishermen decided to tease me telling me “this is John Dory” holding up many different fish. I was very happy to realize that I could identify all the fish they showed me.

Unable to find John Dory I bought squid. Jamie had written “tentacles removed” but the fisherman had limited English and just asked “you want hand?” I unfortunately said “no” and only later realized that this was edible. I hope the fishermen enjoyed it though.

Cooking the squid lead to me burning my finger for the first time in over a year’s cooking. I only burned the tip and it kept hurting for almost four hours. The food was so good I still made it again the next day and remembered oven mits.

When I bought the book the lobster pictures looked so gross I just said I wasn’t going to touch one. Now after facing many new and different types of food I am prepared to say I’ll try it. I even bought a lobster cracker and a crab pick for future use. Althougth with my lack of shell-fish equipment the store could have sold me anything that day.

I enjoyed the vegetable section. My favourite was the creamy butternut squash. I made that quite a few times. It was delicious, I used coconut cream instead and the flavour seemed to really compliment the dish. I made the courgette recipes with tiny cucumber the first time, but have since found real courgettes and am remaking all the recipes. They are delicious.

In the desert section I started with the meringues. I probably made the recipe 10 different times in a 3 day period. The people at Zoom told me I was eating “too much eggs”. Then finally the last meringue turned out perfect and I used it for the Eton mess which is really good. I loved the fruit meringue with hazelnuts and can’t wait to make it again.

The custard has become a staple in the kitchen. I regularly make chocolate mousse and reserve the yolks for the custard. I use coconut milk and coconut cream in this. The coconutty taste is really enjoyable for me. I tried making rhubarb and custard more than once. Having read about it in novels I really wanted to like it, but it just didn’t turn out nice. Maybe someday I’ll manage it.

The cheesecake was almost addictive. It’s so quick and easy that I felt like making it for breakfast every day. I started making it without the egg and not baking it till all I really had was sweetened cream cheese and that wasn’t the same thing. So I went back to following Jamie’s instruction completely.

I’m really excited about the Black Forest Swiss roll and the victorian sponge cake “with all the trimmings”. It’s taking me more than a year to make every recipe, but I love it. I found something I’m passionate about. Going to new, interesting places to find the needed ingredients is so much fun.

I bought 3 different pestle and mortar sets. First a really cheap one to see if I would use it, then a teeny tiny one when I was travelling Viena. Almost useless, way to small, almost the size of an esspresso cup’s inside… and then yesterday I bought a granite one, heavy, solid, perfect. Can’t wait to use it. I literally went the mall for only this, it’s rather heavy.

It feels like I’ve enrolled in a wonderful cooking school. I’ve learned much more than I expected, not just about food, but about approaching new stuff. I never would have gone to the fish market, but this book took me to the most interesting places. I hope I can always cook. The book is filled with highlighter in and little notes, I never had to make adjustments to the recipes, Jamie’s instructions and ingredient amounts are perfect. Most of my notes are just my rating for the recipe.

Back in South Africa I would flip through some Jamie books and see that he had recipes for home made pasta. I use to think these were entirely unnecesary, why would you bother making it if you can just buy it in the store? Since then I have become very aware of real food and how rubbish some store bought stuff truly is and I’m so happy to have really good recipes for home made stuff. Much better.

I enjoy every week. It’s like reading a good book, you’ll never again just read, because you know what good writing feels like. I know good food and so boring food will never work again.


Cheese – starting

I recently decided to start exploring the world of cheese. As wine is expensive in Dubai I decided to not include it in this experiment. I read that some combine tea and cheese, so I think I’ll be trying that from time to time. This will be an on-going trend in my blogs.

I’m only eating baked Camembert cheese and Goat cheese this week. The hard goat cheese goes really well with spinach. I also tried Rambol cheese – probably one of the best things I’ve ever put into my mouth, including French food.

I also bought some very salty sheep’s cheese. Not sure how to use it just yet.

Dubai to do part 3

  1. Lan Kwai Fong next to Lamcy Plaza has the best Peking duck in the city.

There are little notes all around the restaurant stating that they have the best Peking duck in the UAE. Not sure how they determine that, but having never eaten duck I didn’t think I’d be able to know the difference. The Peking duck ended up being a whole or half duck which was way too much for one person, so I ordered some other duck dish and had duck for the first time ever. Not bad.


  1. Noodle Bowl on 2ndDecember Street

My feet decides to retaliate today after I almost over used them for the past two weeks. I looked on the list for something small and easy. A taxi dropped me right in front of the entrance and I found the place. A collection of Eastern deities are present, including a bikini wearing Buddha. I had never had Szechuan Chicken before, it’s very good.

I walked through the centre and saw that a beauty salon had a mani-pedi combo offer and got my nails done. Not a good idea as it later transpired, but they look nice thought. As I walked out a taxi pulled over to drop a client and I hopped in and headed home. Perfect plan for hurting feet.


  1. Shop at Al Safa Park’s flea huge market held on the first Saturday of every month.

This market has since moved to Zabeel park and I only found this out when I arrived at Safa park…

The market sells primarily second hand clothing. It fills up mostly with workers trying to buy second hand pretty stuff. There are worn out shoes sold for Dhs. 5 and discarded ball gowns, junk and treasure mix and it’s impossible to distinguish them sometimes.

I bought a few tops, none of which fit in the end.

I did however find an Indian woman selling what she said was handmade clutch purses made from pure silk. They where so beautiful that I bought one and I think I might actually return just for that stall, if I can find it again!

Dubai to do – part 2

  1. One must visit Dragon Mart at least once. They have virtually everything and objects you might not find anywhere else.

I heard about Dragon Mart when first moving to Dubai. People told me it’s a nice cheap place, but I never got around to going. Today I ended up here almost unplanned, I mean it was on the list but I only came because the other stuff didn’t work out.

There’s nothing here I would even consider buying. I like Arabic lamps, or at least I think I do. So I walked through the large electric department and found nothing. The cheaper you go the more bling you find. New money…


  1. Dubai Outlet Mall.

Maybe if I needed something it would have been different, but it’s just another mall. It doesn’t seem to be anything different. I did find a comic book store like in Big Bang Theory, with figurines and books and art and stuff, so that was interesting. Oh and I regularly drive by a French Bakery and there was a franchise here so I just walked through.



Sharjah is 38min by bus.

  1. Look around the Blue Souq.

According to a friend of mine dubai didn’t have all the stuff the Blue Souq sells for a long time. People would travel to buy shawls and stuff there, but now Dubai has it all. I was a little bored here, looked around the carpet shops and then left.


  1. Peruse through the Iranian shops along Sharjah Port (Khalid port).

There were no shops here, only docks and an army base.


  1. Sharjah Archaeological museum.

Had a really boring start to the day, but this was excellent. I keep being amazed that anything survived the past 5000 years and it’s still in one piece and that by using these different inch scraps of remains we can tell parts of the story of the people who lived then. Will people someday peer through glass at my life?
Currently sitting in an empty cafeteria. I guess 12h isn’t prime museum time.
I bought a mini portable Bluetooth keyboard yesterday. Really convenient to have it, now I get to blog and travel simultaneously. I think I like archaeology and history, but it’s also tiring to never be certain to always be guessing why or how something happened.

Somehow facts are more reassuring sometimes, but of course if we don’t speculate and try to prove theories we won’t get the fact.


  1. Jones the Grocer on Sheikh Zayed Road has the juiciest burgers and an array of imported cheeses.

This is one of those healthy organic restaurants located near no taxis. I ordered a lamb burger, but it’s not the best I’ve ever had, wasn’t even juicy! I saw the cheese and then started walking towards the metro. Luckily a taxi found me.


  1. Take the Dubai Tram.

I did this for the first time when I visited the Palm. It’s pretty, cause you get to see all the buildings and the ocean while riding.


  1. Jam out at The Fridge, Al Quoz.

I walked passed here by accident on my way to find a taxi. It looks so high end that I’m not sure I’d ever feel comfortable to “Jam out” there.

  1. China Sea near Deira Clock Tower.

I was definitely at the right place. 5 Chinese tour busses also stopped here. It’s an all Chinese speaking restaurant. I ordered some wontons to start and then later on squid with green beans. If somebody had told me I’d be asking a waiter for chopsticks someday, instead of a fork I wouldn’t have thought it possible. I use to have the hardest time getting the hang of it, but when visiting here I ended up asking for chopsticks.

The ceiling was covered in red Chinese lanterns. It’s a two story large and very successful restaurant. At some point another tour bus stopped out side and the gold shirted manager could be heard shepherding them upstairs in Chinese. The only Chinese I know is “Zièxiè” (thanks). My bill came with had written hurriedly written mandarin letters.


  1. Zaroob for Lebanese cuisine.

The best thing I ordered here was the haloumi skewers. It comes with haloumi and cherry tomatoes, it tasted kind of like those toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches I use to have all the time. I was quite tired when I got here and the music seemed really loud, but the skewers were so good.