Tag Archives: Bahrain

Farmers Market Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto in a Jar

Bahrain had its First Farmers Market last week and naturally it was the first thing on my to-do list that day! Glad I did not leave it so late in the morning to visit, the farmers market was already very busy when I arrived and there was an excited buzz in the air!

Living on an Island we rely heavily on imports and local produce is very limited, although some supermarkets in Bahrain do carry a small amount! Supporting our farmers who are willing to offer us more fresh market produce is a must and I would imagine it is no easy task growing some vegetables and fruits in Bahrain’s harsh climate… although we do have beautiful weather at the moment!

Bahrain's Farmers Market

Picking up some beautiful bunches of fresh basil (purple and green), some cherry tomatoes, lettuce, small purple aubergine and cauliflower… I headed home feeling I had won a gold medal! I think I got overly excited and bought way too much basil so I decided to make up a jar of  “Farmers Market Pesto”! Making your own fresh pesto is so easy and so worth the effort, tasting so much better than anything coming from a supermarket jar!

Amy from Appetite for Discovery (thanks for letting me know about the farmers market) was also at the farmers market buying some fresh beetroot and if you love beetroot, head over to her blog for a delicious Beetroot, Walnut and Goats Cheese Salad!

Cherry tomatoes, basil, lettuce, small aubergine, cauliflower.  Balinese Prawn Curry with small aubergine and cherry tomatoes.

As well as making fresh Pesto I made sure none of my fresh farmers market produce was going to waste… making a very simple cherry tomato and fresh basil salad, with a pomegranate and olive oil dressing… eaten with fresh crusty bread! Added some of the small aubergine and cherry tomatoes into a Balinese Prawn Curry for a quick meal! Made a citrus salad with the cauliflower and used the lettuce in a salad with avocado and fresh pomegranate!

Purple and Green Basil. Basil Pesto in a Jar.

To keep fresh herbs longer store them in a glass or small vase with some water and place a plastic bag loosely over the top. Secure the bottom of the bag with a rubber band and keep in the fridge, changing the water at least once! Your herbs will stay fresh and crisp for at least four days and sometimes a little longer!

Using purple basil makes the pesto a darker shade of green but if you prefer a more vibrant green, choose green basil! Fresh pesto can be used with lots of different dishes; mix freshly made pesto with some pasta, use as a spread in toasted sandwiches, mix with vegetable salads, use in dressings, serve with grilled fish, chicken and lamb… a really handy and delicious store cupboard item to have! The recipe below made almost 3/4 cup of pesto!

 

Farmers Market Basil Pesto

Ingredients:

  • purple and green basil (I used 2 purple bunches and one green)
  • 1 handful of pine nuts (I prefer not to roast them)
  • about 3 to 4 tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

How to make: Snip all the basil leaves from their stalks using scissors (discard bruised and damaged leaves) and gently wash the leaves in cold water. Using a salad spinner to remove the excess water from the leaves is really helpful, or you can pat them dry with some kitchen paper towel.

Place the basil into a blender/processor with the pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic and lemon juice. Blend together using the pulse button, stopping to clean down the inside of the bowl with a spatula. With the motor running drizzle in some olive oil until the pesto has achieved a nice thick creamy paste. To taste, season with some sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Place pesto into a suitable jar with a lid (clean and sterilize) and pour a thin layer of olive oil over the surface of the pesto.  Store in the fridge and use within 4 days! Pesto can also be frozen (in a suitable container) for a couple of months in the freezer!

Dont forget to visit Bahrain’s Farmers Market which will be held each Saturday from 8am to 12am in Budaiya!

fresh dates and pollination

Emerging female flowers of the date palm

The arrival of date season brings an abundance of fresh dates and many varieties of this delicious fruit are available in shops, markets and stalls across the Island. Being a bit of a food stalker, these photographs were taken at different times throughout the year and like the lemon tree,  I wanted to share the incredible magic of mother nature.

February: Having date palms in the garden makes date season magical…  witnessing the first cluster of flowers emerge (shown above) among the fronds of the female date palm… to the growing and ripening stages of this sweet-sticky delectable fruit.

A cut branch of male flowers containing pollen

Hand pollination of a date palm

Male date palms do not produce any fruit, however their flowers contain pollen which enable the female date palm to produce fruit when pollinated.
March: In the photograph above hand-pollination is taking place… smearing male flowers (containing pollen) over the female flowers. Also tying a few strands of male flowers among the female flowers.

Pollinated fruit beginning to grow

Pruning a date palm

March: A couple of weeks after pollination fruit starts to form and will continue to grow, mature and ripen over a period of months!
Date palms and the growing fruit need pruning and tidying and the meager garden sheers will definitely not be up for the job…  some special tools are definitely required. With his knowledge and years of experience with palm trees… Bu Ahmed arrives with his climbing harness and scythe… and this is where my gardening skills truly end!

Climbing harness for palm trees

 Bare-foot and attached by a harness, Bu Ahmed climbs the palm tree, quickly pruning away sharp thorny spikes from the lower fronds and tidying its trunk… making it all look so effortless!

Tying cluster of un-ripe dates

May:  Pulling and tying down the heavy laden branches with un-ripened fruit makes the fruit easier to reach when ripe and at the same time beautifying the tree.

Some thinning of the fruit clusters had been necessary and cutting away parts of the clusters encourage dates to reach maximum growth, also ensures better air-flow around the fruit. Thankfully nothing every goes to waste with a palm tree and the wheelbarrow full of cuttings with un-ripened fruit is used for cattle feed!

June: Different varieties of dates  (mentioned in an earlier post) develop their own characteristic colours while ripening, shown in the photographs above and below.

July – August: Some dates have ripened (very quickly) and this is where all the sweetness begins… ! Most will be shared among family and friends, some enjoyed simply as they are, others used with cake and dessert recipes and some frozen for later use.

What is your favourite date recipe?

Bahraini Kebab

When served Bahraini kebab, you will not find yourself eating… a dish consisting of small pieces of meat, tomato, onions, etc., threaded onto skewers and grilled, generally over charcoal, which is the dictionary definition. Instead you will be served a vegetarian snack made from a thick batter, which has been shallow-fried, making this kebab resemble a pakora or a pakoda… in my opinion!

The batter for the Bahraini kebab is made using chickpea flour, known locally as kebab flourbesan and gram flour are also other names for chickpea flour. Tomato, onion and other spices are some of the ingredients incorporated into the batter, however ingredients may differ from household to household. Adding kurrat (so does my sister in-law) which is locally known as “bughel” adds a nice onion flavour to the kebab. Kurrat is also known as Egyptian leek and looks like long flat blades of grass which are widely grown in the Middle East.

The Bahraini kebab is very popular during Ramadan and usually served during Iftar. But also eaten and enjoyed as a snack with a cup of sweet tea (chai) anytime of day. Having had my fair share over the years… it’s a bit like throwing buns to an elephant, these kebabs are so delicious and I can never stop at just one!  Crisp on the outside with a soft interior, the Bahraini kebab makes a great little spicy vegetarian appetizer for passing around when entertaining. Also, delicious when served with a cool refreshing (will post recipe) yoghurt and coriander dipping sauce.

Bahraini Kebab

Bahraini Kebab

Bahraini Kebab

Ingredients:

  • 150g chickpea flour or kebab flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • pinch of garam masala spice mix
  • 1 egg
  • 140ml water
  • 2 tablespoons of finely chopped tomato
  • 1 tablespoon of finely chopped red onion
  • 3 blades kurrat, finely chopped
  • 1 small green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed

You will also need some sunflower oil for shallow-frying.

How to make: Sieve the chickpea flour, baking powder, salt, chilli powder and garam masala into a medium mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the chickpea flour, add the egg and pour in the water, whisking all the ingredients together until the batter is smooth. Add in the tomato, onion, kurrat, chilli and garlic, mix all the ingredients together and leave the batter (covered) to rest in the fridge for about 25 to 30 minutes.

Shallow fry: Pour sunflower oil ( approximately 1/2 inch deep) into a frying pan and heat until the oil becomes hot. Place tablespoons of batter carefully into the hot oil and fry until deep golden, flipping the kebab over, cooking the other side. When cooked remove the kebab from the oil with the help of a slotted spoon and transfer onto a plate covered with some paper kitchen towel to absorb any excess oil. Serve warm.

Note: Recipe can easily be doubled which will make approximately 30 pieces!

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