Experiencing Food Tourism – at the Comfort of your Own Home

For me, traveling is synonymous with FOOD. Food is the vital representation of any culture. I’m sure many of you would agree with me; if you visit a new place and don’t get to taste their local cuisine, then you missed out a whole lot of your tourism experience at your destination.

Or it could be vice versa! Or can it be?

Like, I feel I have traveled some parts of the world (not literally) just by trying out their local food without visiting the country itself. Or how I would put it : “Get the Slice of Spice from Everywhere Nice!”

What if you can’t visit that country or simply can’t afford to? That doesn’t mean you can never know what their local favorites taste like! Thanks to all those websites and lovely food bloggers who zealously share the recipes which are readily available on internet.

But sometimes there comes a catch: you see a really tempting Google image of the food you want to cook but unfortunately, the recipe you are looking for is written in a foreign language you can not decipher.
I follow few Facebook pages or websites related to Arabic cuisine, but since English is not yet a common language in many Arab countries (particularly Saudi Arabia), I often end up just drooling at the picture as the recipe mentioned is in hardcore Arabic. Unfortunately, even the automated translator fails to translate the technical key words/ingredients properly. Such a bummer!

For sites that don’t use translation software, I wish they would come up with a translating app for consumers that is much more smart and would be more diverse verbally so I could experience ‘food tourism’ in a much better way… all that WHILE being at home because cooking new stuff does not intimidate me at all!

Flying Experience – Saudi Arabian Airlines

So many reasons I can put forward to explain my blogging hiatus. Don’t know about YOU but it would definitely bore me doing so. ( Don’t want to come off as a Whiner 😛 )

To be quick, here is a peek at one of the things I had done during this unforgivable long looong gap: Traveling!

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Good Ol’ Saudi Arabian Airlines hardly disappoints. Nothing is too lavish, neither unpleasant or uncomfortable. To be honest, I’m not the person who loves flying. Yes, I do love visiting places but certainly NOT being in a confined space in air, be it even for an hour. It could get worse if the person seated in front or behind or anywhere nearby does not mind their ‘stinky business’. And not to forget some noisy passengers like kids!

Luckily, I’m one of those few who have this gift of falling asleep in awkward positions (neck tilted, no head-rest) so I get to pass those crawling hours somehow.

Saudi Airlines has nice seating even in the economy class, footrest is a plus! Flight-attendants are nice, polite and certainly are helpful unlike the ones I encountered in other flight. There was this time I was traveling alone in an airline I don’t want to mention here, I had to load my hand-luggage in the overhead locker but I just could not because of course my luggage wasn’t that light for me to carry up that high. It was twice that despite of explaining the reason it wasn’t physically possible for me to load, that rude airhostess kept on pressurizing me to do it myself because “we are just too cool to help you”. Anyway, it was nice of one passenger to help me with that.

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So yea, I have never had an unpleasant experience with SA. However, last time I got this great opportunity to travel in the business class which was obviously an even better experience. For me, one of the few perks of flying apart from games and entertainment is anticipating the in-flight meals and snacks! I like how SA always provides hot towels to sanitize our hands before meals. I really dig that as I’m a hygiene freak!

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In business class, before the plane took off we were first refreshed with dates and Saudi kahva (coffee) with refills. Then when it was meal time we were furnished with the business class in-flight gourmet menu. It was a three-course with delicious options. And when the meal was served, my little table was a sight of delight!

And oh yes, I got my hands on the free issue of the fantastic “Sayidaty” in English – a Dubai based women’s magazine which normally costs SR 10 in KSA. 😀

Spanakorizo – Spinach Rice

Spinach.
Many of us might have childhood memories of scowling at the name in response to our anticipating question: “What’s in for dinner?”.
Watching Popeye The Sailor Man did us no better and the term ‘rich in iron’ spelled nonsense to us – we would still look at the green glop disapprovingly. Luckily, for me it became different as I grew up and let my tastebuds discover how yummy spinach can be.

Frozen spinach is abundantly available in Saudi Arabia all year round. And frozen form makes cooking easier and quicker as you don’t have to go through the process of cleaning, chopping, washing and blanching, etc.
I recently tried this recipe which is inspired from traditional Greek cuisine, called Spanakorizo. Typically, has ingredients like onions, dill, pepper and lemon, besides spinach and rice.

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I went with a little desi (indo-paki) approach since we like our food a bit spiced up.  Here are the ingredients:

    • 2½ cup Basmati Rice
    • 400g Frozen Spinach – thawed
    • ¼ cup fresh Dill- chopped
    • 2 Onions – chopped
    • 2 tbsp Garlic Ginger – crushed
    • 3 sticks of Green Chillies – chopped
    • 2 tbsp Lemon juice
    • Salt
    • Olive Oil
    • Water

Spices

  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 stick Cinnamon
  • 2 pc Star Anise
  • 1 Black Cardamom
  • 3 Green Cardamoms
  • 5-6 Black Peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Fennel seeds

 

Method:

  1. Boil rice with some salt until half-cooked. Drain. Set Aside.
  2. Heat oil slightly. Add all the spices except cumin and fennel seeds. Fry for few seconds.
  3. Add onions, ginger and garlic. Sauté lightly at medium heat.
  4. Now add cumin and fennel seeds and fry for few more seconds.
  5. Add spinach and mix well. Cook for 5 mins. Keep stirring. Pour in lemon juice and some salt.
  6. Add dill. Mix.
  7. Stir in the half-cooked rice. Mix well. Now cover and let it sit on steam for 5 mins at very low heat.

Spinach and rice make awesome combo! The addition of spices makes the dish even more aromatic. I served it with yogurt dip which went great with it. But I have even seen Feta cheese being served with it in traditional recipes.

 

“Connecting Global Minds” – My Expat Experience on InterNations

Hello Bloomers! 
We are thrilled to announce that with the Grace of Almighty, we have been featured on the online expat community site InterNations.org!
This is a great month for Groom&Bloom – after all, Spring is the season for Blooming =)

It is rare to find an online social network that caters to emigrants worldwide and offers unique perks to its members; such is the blessing “InterNations.org” to which I stumbled across during my forlorn pursuit of ‘familiarity’ in the digital world while my stay at the foreign land.

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InterNations
, with its diverse team of savvy members, comprehensively guides and makes the expats living abroad ‘feel at home’. Truth be told, I did join few expat online communities which did their job fairly well, but what makes InterNations stand out from the rest is the exclusivity it provides in terms of organizing and offering to join the most happening recreational activities in one’s locality and giving expats like us a chance to interact and socialize in person with a sense of security.

I’m also impressed by their venture in presenting individuals’ perspective regarding expat-life experiences, which is also essential to reassure nervous ‘newbies’. For the same reason, InterNations reached out to me and gave me this wonderful opportunity to have my blog “groomandbloom.co.nr featured in their ‘Recommended Expat Blog in Saudi Arabia’ section.

There’s still a lot for me to explore about this dynamic, versatile and ever-expanding expat community and I’m honored to be a part of it!

Click  here to read how we get up-close about Saudi Arabian life in my point-of-view as an expat! 

My Birthday Glorified with “Saadeddin” Rocher Cake

I’m still enjoying the after-glory. ‘Of what’ you might ask. Well it was my birthday two days ago on 13th March. Birthdays are great reason to get pampered and to have guilt-free indulgence of everything rich and sweet. But I have been struggling to control my diet since a couple of weeks, told my folks that it’s okay I would gladly celebrate my birthday without a cake this year. And my brother, who is the most enthusiastic about anyone’s birthday, has even recently moved to another city so I was determined to go ‘cakeless’.

The very morning we received the delectable joy in a big green box sent for me. It was a surprise – Rocher Chocolate Cake by SAADEDDIN PASTRY – from my brother, Dany.
I wasn’t expecting it at all this time as my brother isn’t physically here, but the lad proved it otherwise. 😀

So the cake. It was heavenly (it has to be specially for all the chocolate-lovers) and although I’m not a big fan of anything too chocolaty, I loved it. The top layer was made of chocolate encrusted with Ferrero Rocher crunchy bits followed by second layer of airy mousse sitting on top of moist chocolate fudge. At the bottom, the cake was bordered with caramel frosting. Decorated on top with white chocolate triangle and straws, given a touch of royalty with few scattered tiny crunchy pearls made of chocolate as well!

The Irresistible Rocher Cake

The Irresistible Rocher Cake

To all those who are not aware; SAADEDDIN PASTRY is one of the finest high-end bakery in the Middle East, offering variety in everything you may want to satiate your ‘sweet tooth’ cravings with – from Arabic sweetmeat to Western delight. And not to forget: a wonderful collection of frozen treats! So if you happen to visit Saudi Arabia, it is worth the whim to try them out! And those like me who celebrate their birthdays with a SAADEDDIN cake, consider themselves lucky.. So huge thanks to my bro, which I have already given to him, but the whole world should see it too! =D

As for my diet-control, ahhh I’ll give it another shot. 😉