I hear the weather is rather sad in Europe. Cold and wet in Paris, the same in London and just as cold in Milan. I can’t say that I am loving Dubai but at least it is summer here, with a lot of fresh produce and herbs piled in the markets including purslane (baqleh in Arabic), one of my favourite herbs.
Despite the trend towards global ingredients, purslane remains little known in the west. Perhaps because it is fragile. The leaves bruise easily and you need to be careful handling it. I don’t normally wash it. Instead, I just wipe off any earth delicately with kitchen paper. And I have to admit that I very rarely buy it in London looking as fresh as it does in the pictures above and below. And I certainly cannot pick up as much of it as I want and just stuff it in a bag, as in the display here. Middle Eastern shops have the herb neatly bunched up and I often have to discard part of the bunch because the stalks are too tightly packed resulting in some of the leaves ending up spoiled.
I love Pakistani food, but it is not often that I can have it well prepared. The Lahore Kebab House in London has expanded and is no longer as good as it used to be and Salloo’s is too expensive and too far from where I live. And I can’t go to Karachi (where I had fabulous food last year) every day, or even every year.
Luckily, I happen to be in Dubai where my brother, a fine gourmet, lives and he seems to have the best addresses. Today, he took me for lunch to Barbecue Delights, a rather charmless restaurant in an equally charmless part of town but where the cooking is just perfect. As usual, we ordered far too much: raita and salad before anything, then chicken tikka, mutton ribs, lamb chops to start, followed by lamb biryani, potatoes, spinach, daal, and kulfi to finish.
Every dish apart from the lamb chops (tough and not so tasty) was scrumptious but my favourite was the mutton ribs. They reminded me of my mother’s dale’ mehshi (ribs stuffed with rice and minced meat). After lunch my brother showed me where he lived, on the 41st floor of a tower opposite the DIFC overlooking a good chunk of Dubai and the sea. Sadly, the light was not so good but the photograph below gives you an idea of how amazing the place is. I guess there are some consolations to being here.
Near Lamcy Square, Oud Metha, Dubai, Tel: +971 4 335 9868 or 9870
As you know, I am pretty familiar with camel meat but when I recently posted a link on facebook to an article on camel burgers in Dubai, my lovely friend Charles Perry (who is the leading expert on medieval Arab cookery) left a comment about a recipe he had for camel hump. I had seen the hump for sale at my camel butcher in Aleppo but I had never seen a recipe for it. So, I asked Charles for his. Sadly, he couldn’t find it — it had gotten lost between computers — but as usual, he sent me lots of information and other recipes; and I thought it would be great to have him do a post here about how camel meat was used in medieval times. Here is his post with some photographs that I shot in the souks of Aleppo.
Charles Perry: Last May, Anissa blogged about visiting a camel butcher in Damascus and making camel kebabs. That was a new one on me – I’d only heard of camel being cooked in elaborate stews. It’s how they cooked camel in the Middle Ages.
Camel meat was reasonably popular back then, popular enough for doctors to gravely warn against eating too much of it (in the manner of doctors throughout the ages). They held it to be “heating” and to “engender thick blood,” and declared it suitable only “for those who do exhausting labor.” Or suffer from “hot stomach” and diarrhea, oddly. Read more >