Sweet Korean Lentils

Our life in the UAE day to day is not that much different than life at home.

I get up every morning, do the same things I would have done at home, eat the same breakfast and always enjoy (at least) one cup of coffee before heading out the door.

But there are some things that snap you back to the reality of living 10,000 kms from home.

Like the weather- it just doesn’t get old. Andrew and I went out for a walk last night around our apartment complex and it was 29 degrees. We actually commented about how cool it felt. And as we walked, I looked over at Andrew and said “I will not miss the snow this year…not even one bit.” Sorry family and friends that are digging out of the first big snowfall.

Sweet Korean Lentils

And how is it possible that I went on a boat cruise the first weekend in November? AND WENT IN THE WATER? Sigh…life is just too good.

Sweet Korean Lentils

We continue to make our micro apartment our own and yesterday Andrew tackled our *ahem* “laundry room” project. We had lots of wasted space above our washer and in an 800 sqft apartment you cannot afford to have any wasted space. So we did what every good UAE expat does. We went to Ikea and bought something for cheap to solve the problem. I’m sure we alone are keeping the Ikea here in Abu Dhabi open for business between all the house stuff, ice cream and shawarma we buy. Thankfully our new friend Hassan is opening our eyes to all things shawarma and we are realizing that Ikea does not make the world’s best shawarma (gasp!).

Sweet Korean Lentils

Andrew borrowed a drill and got all the right screws and attachments for drilling into concrete and set down to work. There was a lot of math involved all to find out our walls are not actually straight or square…

Oh well, I think he did a great job and now we have double the shelf space we had before. It’s amazing how much the little things make a difference.

Sweet Korean Lentils

The other big thing I am missing is my stocked pantry and kitchen utensils. I mean I am getting by and making due but every now and then I wish I had this or that to make my life a little easier. Tonight I decided to tackle a new recipe in order to use up some lentils that I bought and free up some more cupboard space.

Sweet Korean Lentils

I started by cooking some sliced leeks in a little oil on the stove. Leeks have become my go to replacement for onions and green onions. They are super cheap and abundant here and they have a nice mild onion/garlic flavor that I quite like.

Sweet Korean Lentils

In a separate bowl I mixed together the sauce

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Sweet Korean Lentils

Once the leeks were soft, I poured in the sauce and 1 cup of green lentils. I know the original recipe called for red lentils, but I thought “hey, a lentil is a lentil right?” Green ones should work just fine. Wrong.

Sweet Korean Lentils

1 hour later my lentils were still a bit firm and I had to add another 1/2 mixture of sauce in the process to try to soften them up.

If it called for red lentils, use red lentils. Clearly they are not as similar as I first thought.

I served this with green bean and rice and there was plenty left over for my lunch.

Sweet Korean Lentils

The Verdict- other than the fact that the lentils could have been a touch softer, the flavor of this dish is so incredibly good. I will definitely make this again, but will make sure I have the right lentils on hand for the job.

 

Homemade Spanakopita

It’s strange when you move to a new place…for the first little while it kind of feels like you are just on vacation. You don’t want to commit to too much cause it doesn’t feel like you will be there all that long.

Here is an example- while in the grocery store I waffled over buying a jar of mustard because my brain thought we wouldn’t be here long and wouldn’t use it all. I had to remind myself that, in the course of a year, we will probably use up a jar of mustard. If not, let’s live on the wild side and buy one anyways!

So you are always oscillating between visitor and resident. Setting up and putting down roots, but not too deep because you don’t want it to be hard to dig them up in a year.

I wonder if, as the months go on, that feeling will go away.

We have been here a month and I feel like things are starting to feel more like home. We can get around and find some of the places we visit all the time without google maps. We have a weekday and weekend routine and we are getting out to see more of this new city we live in. And finally I can tell which direction is north…for the first month I had no idea which way was which…

We have visited the Grand Mosque which was breathtaking. It took over 10 years to build and the Sheikh it is named after and who had the vision for this beautiful building never saw his dream realized. He died before construction finished. I’ve heard it said that if you have seen the Grand Mosque, don’t bother going to see the Taj Mahal…it’s a bit disappointing in comparison. We thoroughly enjoyed our tour (though I did feel a wee bit hot in all that covering and at one point may have considered lying down on the air conditioned tile floor).

The Grand Mosque

 

We walked a small part of The Corniche, a beach/walkway along the Arabian gulf. We made our way out onto the sand and dipped our feet into the bathtub-warm-clear-blue water….and then promptly made our way back to the air conditioned car and promised ourselves we would come back in November…not at noon.

The Corniche

I’ve had some henna done my good friend and her beautiful daughters. This was an amazing and eye opening experience. I was, by far, the most fair person in the whole place and the more I sat there, the more I became acutely aware of how different I looked and dressed. Though everyone was incredibly gracious and kind, it was a highly self conscious moment. Even so I look forward to many more henna visits and interacting more with local women in my new home.

Henna for my birthday

And we walked the Yas Marina Circuit (Formula 1 track). Again, another one of those surreal moments as you walk out onto the track and see it from the ground level. It is massive, expansive and you can just imagine the cars racing around the corners. You can run, walk or bike this track 2 nights a week and it is such a cool place to be and to watch people. We loved it and are looking forward to our next visit and hopefully a chance to ride the track on bikes too!

Yas Marina Circuit

I am working to build up my little pantry here in Abu Dhabi so that I can cook the things we love from at home…the problem is, you can’t find all the things to make the meals you loved at home. And the brands you recognize are much more expensive. It’s been a bit of a challenge to say the least. Groceries is a multi-hour affair because you have to look and read and wander back and forth to find what you are looking for, and try to find a suitable substitute when you CAN’T find what you are looking for. Hopefully as time goes on, it will get easier and I will feel more comfortable in our local grocery store. Right now, it feels like I’ve run a mental marathon when we get back into the car.

But we have food, can afford food and are being open to new things. So an extra hour in the grocery store is not that big a deal.

The other hurdle I am overcoming is my new micro-kitchen. At home we had a lovely, large kitchen with a big island and lots of counter and cupboard space. Here I have 2 small counters and literally 4 cupboards. Again, we are adjusting…tripping over one another and adjusting.

Tonight I made spanakopita for dinner. I had bought a large container of feta cheese last week and was looking for a quick and easy way to use it up. This seemed like a great way!

I bought some puff pastry squares, frozen spinach and some Parmesan cheese and I was in business.

I mixed together the drained and squeeze-dried spinach, a large cube of feta cheese, some Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper.

I spread a little bit of the mixture on each of the puff pastry squares and folded them into little triangles.

I sealed them with a fork and baked them in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes until the pastry had puffed up and was golden brown.

 

The Verdict- they were pretty good! I said to Andrew, we could put lots of different fillings inside (both savory and sweet) and would have lots of different pie type meals. The pastry would also be great for on top of a shepherd’s pie or chicken pot pie…maybe that will be something I try next.