For this week’s Meet The Blogger, I talk to Sally Prosser, author of My Custard Pie. Based in Dubai, Sally shares a mix of British and local cuisine and recommendations for visitors to her adopted home.
Hello and welcome, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about the kind of content you share.
My Custard Pie is about food at the centre my everyday family life as an expat in Dubai. It includes recipes which I try to base on the seasonal local produce that’s available here – I’d sum this up as British influenced comfort food with a twist. Visitors to Dubai usually have an idea of a modern, blingy place – I try to offer an alternative view through food stories and reviews (although I did try an £800 cocktail with gold in it once). Travel is also viewed through a food lens…. or wine (a life-long journey to learn and taste more). My motivation…? I’m a keen eater
Is there a story behind your blog’s name?
It’s metaphor for life: delicious, inviting but unexpectedly might hit you in the face. It reminds me of childhood squabbles with my sister over the skin of the custard (Birds) and the Phantom Flan Flinger. I do have a bit of a custard obsession.
What are your earliest memories of cooking? Who or what inspired you to cook?
Rolling out bits of pastry with my Mum on the kitchen table… and she inspired me to cook, although she’d be astonished to hear that. It was basic food on a budget but all cooked from scratch, a lot of produce from the garden. She taught me to value good ingredients, for instance we ate bread from the baker rather than ‘rubber bread’ (white-sliced) which was the norm for the rest of our street.
What are the biggest influences on your cooking at the moment?
The changing dynamics of our family. My daughter has just gone to University so the vegetarian vote in our house (my younger daughter) has increased to one-third! I’ve acquired a slow-cooker so expect lots of gently-cooked but spicy pulse-based recipes. I also love the flavours and ingredients I experienced in Georgia and I’m learning about the cuisines which spread from the Caspian sea to the Black Sea and down to Iran.
Tell us the story of your most spectacular kitchen failure!
Probably when hot fat from some pork rind dripped onto my oven floor and caught fire while I was cooking for 10 people. A friend threw water on it, which sparked off huge flames – I thought the house would burn down. It didn’t and we still ate the roast potatoes that had been in there… outside in the garden.
Which food or ingredients could you not live without?
Garlic – my Polish grandma ate a raw clove every day which may account for my high tolerance levels and love of the stuff. Lemon, I would choose lemon over chocolate any day.
Which food writers / chefs do you find most inspirational and in the same spirit, are there any particular cookery books you cherish above the rest of the shelf?
Tamasin Day-Lewis is the cookbook author I turn to most. She is so in tune with the seasons, good simple food and great produce that’s available locally. One of the absolute highlights of my blogging journey was being invited to Diana Henry’s home. Her writing style is warm, inviting and her recipes meticulous. She manages to have her finger on the foodie pulse without succumbing to fashion or transience. Claudia Roden shaped the way I cook Middle Eastern food, was my companion in Saudi Arabia and I still refer to her New Book of Middle Eastern Food regularly. Dubai-life has meant I’ve been lucky enough to meet many celebrity chefs including Giorgio Locatelli several times. His dedication to achieving the best flavours with simple ingredients is impressive, and his genuine concern for the environment and his enthusiasm for great produce sets him way apart from so many who pay lip service. Oh, and his truffle risotto is sublime.
If I were coming for dinner, what would you cook for me?
Usually something I’d never cooked before. I love having people round as it gives me carte blanche to try things out. Probably quite a high risk strategy. Perhaps a full-blown Georgian feast, or an Iranian rice dish…although I might change my mind. We’d have good wine and great cheese at the end and I always over-cater…
If we were meeting for a meal out, which restaurant would you choose?
In the UK I would return to the Riverford Field Kitchen in the middle of their Devon Farm. Huge sharing platters of delicious simple dishes which are very veg heavy (and picked outside that day) and traditional puds with loads of custard of course. In Dubai it would be a tiny Morrocan restaurant in an obscure part of the city where the chefs sing and ululate from the kitchen to welcome you, and the waiters slice the enormous sugar-coated pastilla with a ceremonial dagger.
What’s been your favourite destination thus far, from a foodie perspective? Can you share a favourite memory from the trip?
Definitely Georgia in the Caucasus – a beautiful country with five micro-climates, stunning scenery and warm, kind people with a unique culture and heritage which has survived almost miraculously. Opening a qvevri (a clay vessel) which is buried in the ground and tasting the new wine with the people who had picked the grapes and made the wine was really special… as well as many banquets with heart-felt speeches, myriad courses and haunting polyphonic singing.
Which destination is at the top of your foodie travel wish list?
The Caucasus beckon again with Armenia and Azerbaijan tied in top place.
If we were to take a trip together, where would we go?
We’d drive from Dubai to the Mussandam coast in Oman. A dhow (wooden boat) trip would show us the splendour of the coast line which is like Norways fjords but barren and rocky. We’d eat freshly caught fish smothered in herbs hot from the barbecue.
What inspires you to keep blogging regularly?
Endless subject matter (I have over 150 draft posts) and the wonderful online community. Fooderati Arabia in the UAE and many, many friends I’ve met online and off from all over the world… all with a passion for food.
What are you absolutely loving cooking, eating, doing right now?
I’m on a preserved lemon kick right now, the vibrant, sharp, saltiness enhances so many things. It’s peak pomegranate season now and I bought some wild, organic fruit picked in Oman. Such a fresh and delicate flavour.
What’s the single most popular post on your blog?
Where to take visitors to eat out in Dubai on a budget – based on the reactions of a stream of friends and family visiting for over 14 years.
Can we give a little extra love and attention to a post you love but didn’t catch the attention of your readers in the way you hoped?
I spent a year researching my Desert Island Dishes post and it includes Georgio Locatelli, Antonio Carluccio, Clovis Tattinger (all interviewed personally) and many of my very favourite bloggers. This courgette cluster bread deserves some more love too.
What’s the one question you wish I’d asked you but didn’t?
What’s my biggest concern about food?
Please go ahead and answer it!
The control of our food chain and supply system by ‘Big Food’, Chemical companies and those solely motivated by the bottom-line and share-holder value.
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Blog URL: http://mycustardpie.com/
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MyCustardPie
Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/mycustardpie
Pinterest profile: http://www.pinterest.com/mycustardpie/
Instagram handle: http://instagram.com/mycustardpie
Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of the series, here.