Welcome to part 5 of my Food from Home series!
- Part 1: Why I moved to the Middle East and Tabbouleh
- Part 2: All about shawarmas, and my favourite, Chicken Shawarmas
- Part 3: About my school and Vegetable Biryani
- Part 4: About eating out in Bahrain, and Shish Tawook (or Arabic/Turkish spiced grilled chicken)
In addition to questions about my school in Bahrain, another thing I’m often asked is what I did in my spare time and what day-to-day living was like. One major difference between my life there and my life here in Canada is the general scenery. Since Bahrain is really just a small patch of desert, there’s a whole lot less greenery and a lot of sand. You can tell when you’re in an area that wealthier people live in by looking at the gardens and roundabouts, like the one below.
Another difference: Bahrain has very few intersections with traffic lights. Instead, they’re all about the roundabouts. However, like Canada, they do drive on the right side of the road so that didn’t take my parents much getting used to. As I mentioned here, we lived on a compound in an area called A’Ali which was a fairly traditional village. One of the things A’Ali is famous for is its clay pots, and if you were driving down the streets it would be very common to see a whole bunch of these for sale.
The average speed limit on the roads (not just highways) is about 100km per hour, and without being stereotypical and rude, let’s just say that the locals are rather creative when it comes to driving. If you’re of the mind that the shoulder on the road would be much better utilized as a passing lane, I think you’d like it there.
Since the minimum driving age in Bahrain is 18, my mum and dad were always the ones driving my sister and I to our after-school activities. Our whole family was into golf, and when I wasn’t studying for exams I could be found on the course almost every day.
Apart from the King’s golf course, ours was the only grass one on the island. (Others are all sand.) The club was called Riffa Golf Club when I was living in Bahrain, but has undergone some major renovations since and is now The Royal Golf Club.
For the majority of the year we walked the course, but in the summer it was wayyy too hot so it was the norm to take a cart. And have no fear – in the event that golfers manage to get lost, they can rely on these lovely GPS units.
When I wasn’t golfing, I was competing on my school’s swimming, soccer, basketball, and cross country teams. A lot of my friends back in Canada worked in part-time jobs when they were in high school, but due to customs, visas, and Bahrain’s labour laws, this just wasn’t something western expatriates did. Instead of working at a local restaurant or clothing sore, my sister and I got involved in some modeling. We would be asked to wear everything from clothes of European retailers that were new to the Bahrain market….
… to creations of local designers like this:
And as you can see, this involved biiiiiiiiiig hair and obscene amounts of heavy, heavy eye makeup.
Can I get a bottle of makeup remover and 2 sleeves of cotton pads please?
Alright enough of that. Time for some food! This week’s recipe is a much more simple one than those I’ve featured already in this series. I figured you might be looking for some lighter fare after reading about vegetable biryani and chicken shawarmas, so today I’ve got a vegan friendly salad for you. It’s called fattoush, a salad that contains bits of traditional Arabic flatbread. If you have pitas going stale in your kitchen, this is a fabulous way to use them! Traditionally, chefs chop up a bunch of simple seasonal produce – usually tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, herbs and lettuce, and coat them with a light simple dressing of lemon, salt, pepper, and olive oil. So where does the pita come in? This is my favourite part of the dish!
Pitas are either toasted in the oven or fried, and depending on the cook, they may sprinkle them with a bit of sumac beforehand. Sumac is a tangy spice that adds a bit of a sour flavour, and can be found in Arab/Lebanese grocery shops. You may have heard of za’atar, a spice mix that contains sumac, thyme and sesame seeds. Za’atar is often spread on veggies, savoury baked goods and meats prior to cooking, and if you can’t find sumac on its own, you could use za’atar in this recipe. Can’t find either? There’s no great substitute for sumac, but a little lemon juice and sea salt should do the job. Once toasted, the bread is broken into pieces and tossed with the rest of the salad.
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Keywords: bake toast appetizer salad side dairy-free nut-free soy-free vegan vegetarian vegetables Arabic Middle Eastern
Ingredients (4 servings)
- 1 whole wheat pita (about 6 inches in diameter)
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp sumac or juice of half a lemon and a sprinkle of sea salt (to season the pita)
- 1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped
- 1 large tomato, chopped into wedges
- ½ large cucumber, chopped (and peeled if desired)
- ½ cup red onion, chopped into wedges
- 2 tbsp sliced fresh mint
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- pinch of sea salt
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Split the pita in half to reveal the rough parts inside. Place the bread rough side-up on a baking sheet. Brush it lightly with a 1 tsp olive oil and sprinkle with sumac, or brush on a little lemon juice and sea salt. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the bread becomes golden and is crispy.
Meanwhile, chop up all vegetables and toss them together in a large serving bowl. Slice the mint as finely as you can and add it to the salad. When the bread is cool enough to touch, break it into bite-sized pieces and mix them in with the vegetables.
In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing. Pour it over the tossed salad, and serve.
Nutrition per serving: 131 calories, 6g fat (1g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 101mg sodium, 19g carbs, 6g fiber, 5g sugar, 4g protein.
This could be served as a side, an appetizer, or as a lunch if topped with a protein source such as chicken or chickpeas. Fattoush doesn’t make great leftovers because the pita bits go soggy after a while, and call me weird… but I actually sort of like that!
So tell me…
- Did you do any random part-time jobs in high school?
- Were you a member of your school’s sports teams?