Many thankings to our guest contributor today – Bindu Borle – who’s sent us yummy recipes and delightful stories earlier – thank you, Bindu!
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We had moved from our cozy and comfortable home in Hyderabad, to Dubai in 2007. It was a surprise, rather a shock, to move, as we were really nervous, and were full of apprehension at the prospect of moving to a totally new, foreign land.
Though we had been moving around in India from place to place like nomads, this was a totally new shift. It was exciting yet scary – we didn’t have much of an idea about the place except from what we had seen in the movies, read in the papers and been told by people who’d visited this place. The initial year was really uncomfortable for sure, but as we spent more time here, we got to learn more about the fascinating composite and cosmopolitan culture that this city has.
For the first time had we seen such a place where the expatriates from EVERY corner of the globe drastically outnumber the local Emirati population; where the expatriates make up ~85% of the population! This gives Dubai a very cosmopolitan feel, and it seems that the whole world has come in this small city, no bigger than one of our small towns, back in India.
I am a vegetarian and though I love to try different cuisines, am always a bit apprehensive about what goes in there. I decide to eat the food based on its appearance and smell. My son laughs at me and always asks me, “Why do you behave like a sniffer dog?” My answer to him is usually this, “I can’t take a chance with my food, it has to reach my set parameters!”
Once here, we let our taste buds explore the big, big world of various cuisines. As we started to travel more from here (Dubai being the biggest airlines hub and connected to each and every part of the globe!), there was a desperate need for me to know more about vegetarian food available in the city where we were/are going to.
Interestingly, our family of four could never reach a consensus on where to go! My husband and my son love to eat non-vegetarian and would recommend really different places where there are less vegetarian choices, or of totally different cuisines. On the other hand, my daughter is a pakka desi and doesn’t like to experiment with her food. For her daal-chawal and paneer is the manna!
I usually get horribly stuck between these choices, and a typical conversation on a Thursday night, when we are about to go out to eat, is like this:
Amay: “Let’s eat Korean today. We always eat Indian food…!”
Ananya: “I hate Korean (without even having to taste it) I want to eat jeera rice and daal-makhani!’
Amay: “But this is what we eat at home also. Why can’t you try something different?”
Ananya (sulking): “You and papa will get more choices, what about mummy and me?” I don’t want to go!
This would be accompanied by rain of tears, thunderstorm of more arguments, followed by a reluctant settlement of going to an Italian restaurant (Ananya’s second favorite after Indian food).
Talk about giving options in an open forum!
Change of gears and coming back to my lane, where I was talking about trying different cuisines.
Khubz is a Levantine pita bread which is commonly eaten here. It is an integral part of the Middle Eastern cuisine. I got an opportunity to taste lovely vegetarian starters made from this bread.
One of the yummiest and easiest is to make pita pockets. This can be made in no time and is a great starter as well.
I like to use feta cheese for it and since I am a vegetarian, I look for one without animal rennet.
There is no sacrosanct stuff to make this; you can be creative and think of as many options as you can. The one I make is not only my favorite but loved by the family too.
PITA POCKETS (Serves 4)
4-6 pita rounds
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
I orange bell pepper
One medium sized onion
Freshly chopped coriander
2-3 green chillies
1/2 tsp black pepper powder (Optional)
Cut the pita bread into halves and keep them aside.
Finely chop all the vegetables, along with coriander and green chillies.
In a big mixing bowl, combine all the finely chopped vegetables and spice. Add the crumbled feta cheese. Mix it well to ensure even distribution of the ingredients.
Heat pita bread in oven or on skillet/tawa (optional). I prefer it untoasted.
Cut pita rounds in half and stuff each half with veggie/feta mixture. While cutting and stuffing, be careful as not to break the pita bread.
The pita pockets are ready to be served with or without dips.
Surprisingly, my fussy daughter loves these pockets and happily takes them to school to share with her friends.