Posts in Abu Dhabi
Basbusa piece

Basbousa is a traditional Middle Eastern sweet cake made with semolina and a rosewater sugar syrup. It is a lovely sweet treat at the end of a large meal.

My dear friend Azwa and her husband Justin generously made this traditional dessert for our Abu Dhabi dinner!


Adapted from Famous Cuisines Channel

2½ cups semolina
1 cup desiccated (unsweetened) coconut
1 cup sugar
½ cup self-raising flour
¾ cup thick yoghurt
1½ sticks (12 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup blanched almonds (see below)
1½ cups sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp lemon juice                                 
1 tsp rosewater

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Prepare an 11 x 14” baking dish by generously buttering the bottom and sides.
2. In a large bowl mix the semolina, coconut, sugar, flour, yoghurt, melted butter and vanilla.
3. Spread the mixture with your hands into a buttered 11 x 14” baking dish. Let rest for 30 minutes.
4. Cut into diamond shapes, cutting all the way through to the base of the pan.
5. Place an almond in the center of each diamond.
6. Bake for 35–40 minutes or until golden brown.
7. Meanwhile, make the syrup. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
8. Simmer for 5 minutes without stirring. Stir in the lemon juice and rosewater and remove from the heat. Leave to cool.
9. Once the cake is finished baking, remove from oven and pour the syrup over the cake while the cake is still hot. Cool.

Great served with coffee or hot tea.

Blanched Almonds
¼ cup almonds

1. Bring a small pot of water to boil
2. Add almonds and boil for no more than 1 minute
3. Drain and rinse with cold water
4. Blot dry, let cool for a few moments
5. Using your fingers, simply squeeze almond out from skin, it should fall off very easily.

We ran out of little blanched almonds so finished off the corners with pistachios!


The dressing and fresh herbs are the real stars of this dish. Simple ingredients are taken to new places with the addition of sumac, pomegranate molasses, and crunchy bits of pita.

You will not regret the trek to your local Middle Eastern market to find the pomegranate molasses. I want it on every salad from now on, and I’m excited to try it with fish, chicken dishes, or even just with a little lemon on some chickpeas or white beans, I’m pretty sure the possibilities will be endless.



Adapted from Bon Apetit

4 teaspoons ground sumac, soaked in 4 teaspoons warm water for 15 minutes
3 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons (or more) pomegranate molasses
2 small garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons (or more) white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
2 8-inch-diameter pita breads, halved, toasted until golden brown, broken into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
3 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped, or 4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 pound Persian cucumbers, or one 1-pound English hothouse cucumber, quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
6 scallions, thinly sliced
2 Little Gem or baby romaine lettuces, or 1 small head romaine lettuce, trimmed, cut crosswise
into 3/4-inch strips
2 cups (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 cups purslane leaves or additional 3/4-inch-strips romaine lettuce
1 cup fresh mint leaves
Ground sumac (optional)

1. Combine sumac with soaking liquid, 3 Tbsp. lemon juice, 2 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses, garlic, 2 tsp. vinegar, and dried mint in a small bowl. Gradually add oil, whisking constantly, until well blended. Season with salt; add more lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, and vinegar to taste, if desired.

2. Place pita pieces in a medium bowl; pour oil over and toss to coat. Season pita to taste with salt.

3. Mix tomatoes and next 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add 3/4 of dressing; toss to coat, adding more dressing by tablespoonfuls as needed. Season with salt. Add pita; toss once. Sprinkle sumac over, if desired.



Abu Dhabi GP 2018: Koobideh, Shirin Polo, and Fattoush

It is already the end of the season! Hard to believe. It was a great first half with proper competition between Vettel and Hamilton and the Red Bulls putting up a fight. Though Hamilton started to dominate toward the end it was fun to watch the top 6 duke it out on track and lots of drama in the mid field. Congrats to Hulk for winning the F1.5 competition as well!

My three favorite moments from the 2018 season:

  1. Max tearing through the field race after race, particularly his win in Mexico and his excellent drive in Austria.

  2. Kimi’s solid win at the U.S. GP, it didn’t hurt that we saw it LIVE!!

  3. Lewis smashing the track record at the Singapore GP, pure perfection, with the added bonus of the new coined term: “Lewis Lap”.

Three things I am looking forward to for 2019 season:

  1. All the new blood! Looking forward to seeing all thenew F1 rookies: Norris, Giovinazzi, Albon, and Russel! Also super excited to see how LeClerc and Gasly stack up to their more experienced teammates of Vettel and Verstappen.

  2. New regulations might bring the pack together a little more and create more excitement! Especially simplifying the front wing which will likely make for better following and passing opportunities.

  3. Jenson Button commentating for Sky! I’ve missed JB and look forward to seeing how he contributes to the race weekends.

What are you looking forward to?

Of course I’m also excited about continuing to find new dishes and explore more traditional foods, my Christmas wishlist is replete with cookbooks and cooking implements like tagines, maamoul molds, pasta cutters, and the like. I have expanded my spice collection and have learned a lot of new techniques this year. I never thought I would make bagels, let alone croissants. I think I’ll take some time over the winter to work on my pasta making skills!

Our last meal of the season for Abu Dhabi was a nice little feast. We grilled up some koobideh kebabs, made shirin polo, and fattoush, and my friend made a delicious dessert of basbousa.

Abu Dhabi Meal


Adapted from 196 Flavors

 A few saffron threads
¼ cup water
1 lb ground beef
1 onion
½  tablespoon turmeric
½  tablespoon sumac
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
4 roma tomatoes

1. Soak saffron in ¼ cup of boiling water, infuse for 10 minutes.

2. Grate entire onion on a box grater or in a food processor with the grater attachment, then using a dish towel or paper towel squeeze out as much liquid as you can from the grated onion.

3. Mix the ground meat with the grated onion, then add the spices, salt and pepper. Stir for 2 minutes or until fully incorporated.

4. Finish with 2 tablespoons of infused saffron water and mix well again.

5. Place in a covered container in the fridge for at least 6 hours.

6. Make 4 koobideh kebabs by pressing the meat well onto wide barbecue skewers. If you do not have traditionally wide koobideh skewers, simply form into a 8-10 inch log shape. (Standard skewers or bamboo skewers will not hold the beef and it will slip around or even slip off easily.) Optional: Pinch the meat with your fingers regularly throughout the log/skewer every inch to give it the characteristic koobideh shape.

7. Grill the skewers on a grill or grill pan over high heat. Turn them regularly to ensure even grilling for approximately 7-10 minutes (depending on the heat of your grill or pan). At the same time, grill the tomatoes until lightly charred in parts and softened.

Shirin Polo

Shirin Polo

 Adapted from Food 52 recipe by Fig & Quince

2 ½ cups Basmati rice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter 
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound carrots, julienned
½ cup barberries (soak in cold water for 5-10 minutes, rinse a few times, drain)
2 tablespoons sugar, separated
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon coriander powder
½ teaspoon ground saffron, dissolve in 2 tablespoons hot water
¼ cup almonds, slivered or chopped
¼ cup pistachios, chopped

1. Wash rice with cold water, using your hands to swish it around. Repeat several times until the water runs clear. Drain.

2. In a large pot bring 2-3 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil. Gently add the rinsed rice. Bring to a gentle boil again and boil rice for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally & gently. Drain in a colander. Pour 2 to 3 cups of tepid water over the rice in the colander. Drain again.

3. In a big pot, preferably nonstick, bring 1/2 cup water and 2 tablespoons oil plus 1 tablespoon of butter to a boil. Then, one spatula of rice at a time, arrange rice in the pot by first covering the bottom of the pot, using a spatula to spread it, then layering the rest of the rice to taper on top in the form of a pyramid or dome. Make several wells in this rice dome with the handle of a wooden spoon. Cover and cook over medium heat until rice steams – usually around 20 minutes.

4. Once steaming, reduce heat to low, and continue to cook for another 30 minutes until rice is fully cooked. When done, turn off heat and let rice rest undisturbed in the pot for 5 minutes. (Your goal here is to both produce fluffy steamed rice and a crusty bottom referred to as tahdig.)

5. Meanwhile prepare the carrots and barberries. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add carrots and sauté over medium heat until slightly soft, around 5 minutes. Season carrots with cumin, coriander, cinnamon  and 1 tablespoon sugar. Stir to combine, then cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. Wipe skillet with a paper towel, heat ½ tablespoon olive oil till very hot; reduce heat and sauté barberries with 1 tablespoon sugar on low flame, stirring frequently, for no more than a minute. Remove from pan and set aside in a separate bowl.

6. Once rice is ready to be served, place 2 spatulas of rice in a small dish and sprinkle with saffron water, using a fork to fluff the rice grains and color it with saffron water. Lightly mix the colored rice into the pot, not fully integrating so that you will still be able to see it when it is served.

7. You have two options for how to serve the rice: 

Platter inverting method: Using a butter knife run it along the edge of the pot to separate the tahdig (crisp rice) at the bottom corners of the pot. Then, using a large platter, set it over the rice cooking pot and invert the contents of the pot onto the platter in a quick flipping movement. If the tahdig does not comes with the rice just take a moment to release it in as few pieces as possible and layer it on top of the rice pile. Top with prepared carrots and barberries in between or next to the tahdig. Garnish platter with the pistachios and almonds.

 Scooping pyramid method: Alternatively, taking one spatula full of rice at a time, arrange a layer of rice on a platter and then top with a third of the carrots and barberries. Then add another layer of rice, forming a pyramid or dome with each new layer, top it again with another third of the carrots and barberries. Repeat till you've used all the rice, reserving just a little of the carrots and barberries to serve as garnish. You will then reach the tahdig, or crispy bottom. Try to separate this from the pot as gently and as in tact as possible. Top the pile of rice with the tahdig to serve. Garnish everything with remaining barberries and carrots, and the pistachios and almonds.  

Apricot Almond Cake (Flourless)
Apricot Almond Cake

The 2017 season is over and I am already missing the familiar roar of F1 cars in the background as I make Sunday dinner. I'm starting to plot and plan next year and honestly working on photography lighting solutions for this dark and dreary winter weather. I'm already gathering recipes and reading up on food history, and finding new blogs to follow. I use Pinterest as my gathering place for recipe ideas, F1 artwork, etc., check it out if you want a little inspiration for cooking, traveling, or F1.  

I'm looking forward both to a little break and looking ahead to next year. We've got plenty to keep us busy over winter. We are also, still eating this cake. 

I have renamed this cake from how it appears in the book (actual name below). I think it is primarily a nut flour cake with flavors of tangerine and apricot, it tastes mostly of apricots and almonds, hence my re-naming. However you call it, it is delicious. Just fair warning, this is a monstrous cake. I made it in a 16"  form pan and it has lasted us over a week, with multiple servings a day, and I am not complaining, it is still delicious. 

Flourless Tangerine Apricot Cake

Olives, Lemons, & Za'atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking by Rawia Bishara

8 tangerines, peeled, sectioned and seeded
8 apricots, peeled and pitted or ¼ lb dried apricots
1 cup sugar
1 lb raw almonds, ground to texture of farina
1 cup pistachios, ground to texture of farina
1 cup crushed walnuts
2 tablespoons baking powder
8 large eggs
4 tablespoons Frangelico liquer (optional)
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1. Place tangerines in a large pot with enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until the fruit is soft, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a colander to drain, then put the tangerines in a blender and puree until smooth .

2. Place the apricots in the same pot with enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until the fruit it soft, 15 minutes – 25 minutes for dried apricots. Transfer to a colander and drain, add to blender and puree until smooth. Add to the tangerine mixture.

3. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 16-inch round baking pan (preferably a springform pan for easy release) with nonstick cooking spray.

4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine sugar, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and baking powder. Set aside .

5. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs until pale yellow. Add the pureed tangerines and apricots, the Frangelico (if using), and vanilla and beat until incorporated.  Continue mixing and gradually add nut mixture to the egg mixture until all has been incorporated and mixture is smooth.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake until a ckae tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly.

7. To serve run a knife around the edge of the cake pan to loosen it, if not using a springform pan then invert a platter over the pan and flip it over to release the cake.  Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.


Apricot Almond Cake and Coffee

This is lovely served with a nice hot cup of Turkish coffee. 

Since I do not have a Turkish coffee pot to make it properly, here is my cheater version:

Quick Turkish Coffee

3 tablespoons good quality coffee grounds
½ tablespoon sugar
2 cardomom pods, lightly crushed
3 cups water, boiling

Place first three ingredients in a French press, pour over boiling water and wait 5 minutes.

Serve in the smallest cups you can find!

Apricot Almond Cake slice
Abu Dhabi GP - Cardamom Crumbed Lamb, Eggplant Salad, and Apricot Almond Cake

I can't believe it is the end of the season already. The final race in Abu Dhabi is quite a spectacle and a great send off to what turned out to be a pretty exciting year. 

Congratulations to Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton for clinching the Constructors and Driver Championships! Hoping next year we see more competition at the front... I'm looking at you Ferrari. Expecting Red Bull and hopefully McLaren to also show some good upgrades and make this a real fight! 

Images from Instagram (@lewishamilton @mercedesamgf1) 

For the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix we expanded our culinary choices beyond machboos and in fact I ventured all the way... to the library. I found a stack of books on Middle Eastern cuisines which ranged from Israeli, Palestinian, Azerbaijani, Turkish, and Emirati to more countries and regions beyond.  It was fun perusing the recipe books and reading about the regions wealth of food history. 

For this race I picked a few that just sounded too irresistible: Cardamom Crumbed Lamb, Eggplant Salad, and Apricot Almond Cake. 

Middle Eastern Cooking Library Books
Cardamom Crumbed Lamb

Cardamom-Crumbed Lamb Cutlets

Artichoke to Za'atar: Modern Middle Eastern Food by Greg Malouf and Lucy Malouf

2 racks lamb
5 pods cardamom, seeds only, lightly crushed
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons sherry (or apple cider vinegar)
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
½ cup crumbing mixture
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Crumbing mix:
1 tablespoon sumac
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, roasted (or pan toasted) and crushed
zest of ½ lemon
½ cup bread crumbs

1.     Preheat over to 425F.
2.     Clean up racks of lamb by scraping bones of excess fat and tissue
3.     To make the glaze, put cardamom seeds, mustard, honey, and sherry in a saucepan with a grind of black pepper. Heat gently until the honey melts. Mix ingredients constantly until they come together in a thin glaze.
4.     Combine the cumbing mixture with the olive oil. Add the parmesan to the bread crumbs and mix together. 
5.     Lightly season lamb racks with salt and pepper. Spread the glaze generously onto the meat side of the lamb racks and press the crumbing mixture into the glaze, packing it on generously but neatly. Wrap aluminum foil around the bones to prevent charring.
6.     Drizzle olive oil on a baking sheet and place lamb racks on top of oil. Cook in preheated oven until desired temperature. (Book suggests 12 minutes for medium-rare, 15 for medium – we needed at least 25 minutes for mefium-rare, so make sure to use a thermometer – med/rare 145F.)
7.     Allow to rest with an aluminum tent for 10 minutes.
8.     Slice and serve.

Served with Eggplant Salad and Za'atar bread (or... cheater za'atar bread, recipe below)

Zaatar Bread

Cheater Za’atar Bread

Flatbread (Trader Joe’s Naan, pita bread)
Good quality olive oil
Za’atar spice blend (see below)

Spread 1 tsp olive oil on each flat bread, sprinkle generous amount of Za’atar spice blend on flat bread.

Bake for 5 minutes or until slightly brown and crispy edges form.

Za’atar spice blend

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano (or ½ Tbsp. dried)
1 Tbsp. sumac
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients


To end the night, and the season, we had a delicious Apricot Almond Cake and Quick Turkish Coffees.

Almond Apricot Cake

Looking back over the 2017 season there were some spectacular races and a lot of great race drama. If you want to relive it, the Formula 1 Youtube channel has highlights from every race in a playlist. Alternatively, you can just pull up the defining moments like Baku or Mexico, or some of the most exciting races like Malaysia, Singapore, and China.

Or like me, you can revisit it through food by going back and making more Char Kway Teow and Banoffee Pie

Looking forward to next year, in 2018 two new (returning) races will be added to the calendar, in France and Germany. New races means new food! Can't wait to explore french cuisine and make some delicious things covered in butter! 

It will be a long winter wait for March 25th, 2018... but in the meantime I may have some surprises and fun things in store to keep us entertained and well fed over the break. 

Here's to the future:

"It's been an amazing season and now a new era awaits. The greatest races are ahead of us... " 

Formula 1 Youtube Channel: For more F1® videos, visit

Roasted Eggplant Salad
Roasted Eggplant Salad


Eggplant Salad

Olives, Lemons, & Za'atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking by Rawia Bishara

2 large eggplants, peel on, cut into large dice
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for pan
1 tsp sea salt
6 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 2 lemons
½ tsp crushed red pepper, or to taste

1.     Preheat oven to 500F
2.     Prepare rimmed baking sheet with light coat of olive oil. Spread chopped eggplant onto rimmed baking sheet and dress with more olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and bake until eggplants are lightly browned and softened, 15-25 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3.     In a large mixing bowl, combine remaining ingredients, mix well, add lemon juice or salt to taste.
4.     Gently fold in cooled eggplant, taking care not to crush it.


This salad is fabulous. My non-eggplant loving husband even loved it, though he said it would be much better... without eggplant. 

I tend to disagree and think it is better just as it is. The dressing is bright and acidic and the mix of ingredients is just the right amount of crunch. Lovely.