The ups and downs of life as an expat (or just trying to cook dinner!)

Today started started on a downer but ended on a huge high.

I was down because simple tasks can become the most arduous when you are living in a foreign country, don’t speak the language and are not familiar with certain customs.

We were having people for dinner and I wanted to make Chicken Ouzi. I have been taught how to make this dish by my sister in law Assia. She is an excellent cook so I like to learn how to make her version of dishes as they are packed full of flavour. Generally speaking with Arabic food it is accepted that to make a certain dish there is a certain combination of  base spices that are used, but then from what I’ve seen every family has their own particular way of making the dish using different amounts of the base spices and/or with the addition of some other spices. In Ara

In this way one families version of a dish will look and taste different to another families and it’s certainly why there are variations in dishes with the same name between different Middle Eastern countries as the dishes have evolved over the centuries.

So this was where my problem started. I needed Atef to buy the groceries for me and had made a list of what I needed. On the list was a list of the spices that I needed. Assia makes her dishes using whole spices rather than ground and I certainly prefer this approach as I think that it gives the dish a certain depth of flavour that can’t be achieved using ground spices. I was wanting Atef to buy allspice and peppercorns as I had run out of them. Using my english/arabic picture dictionary I pointed out allspice to Atef so that he understood what I was wanting.

Atef returned home with instead of whole allspic and whole peppercorns a blend of ground spices. It wasn’t even just ground allspice. It was a complete mix of ground spices. Atef said that he had asked the man in the store for the spices for Ouzi and the man had mixed this up for him. I could only guess as to what was maybe in the mix having not seen it being blended and of course had no way of knowing what amounts of each spice would be in it.

Atef had to leave to go to Aqaba so didn’t have time to go back to the store to re-buy the wholes spices that I wanted and he wasn’t going to be back until later in the afternoon so I was going to have to make do with what I had. I do confess that I had a little bit of an emotional outpouring once Atef left. Yes there were tears and bemoaning and lamenting about not being able to just go to a supermarket and all the things are clearly labelled and where you expect them, and generally just feeling sorry for myself.

I realised that I was being completely irrational, pulled myself together and decided that well I needed to work with what I had and therefore I would just have to make my version of Ouzi. Perhaps so as not to cause any contention I will call it Arabic Spiced Chicken.

In and around Alia’s sleeps for the day I used the time to prepare dinner and realised that I had a lot to be thankful for. The major high for the day was that coming to dinner was an Australian family who were staying at Amra Palace Hotel. I was excited to be able to spend the evening catching up with this family and share a meal with them. Karen is an archaeologist and comes to Jordan every 2 years with as the team leader for a dig team to work on a site at Pella which is a site in the north of Jordan. The last time the team was in Jordan Karen and I got to know each other through phone calls and emails as she organised for members of the team to spend weekends in Petra and for them to stay at the hotel, but Karen herself hadn’t been able to come down. It was great to be able to finally meet Karen and her family and spend a lovely evening together. And not to boast but my Arabic Spiced Chicken and rice was delicious and thoroughly enjoyed by all of us.

In true Arabic fashion I served the chicken and rice with Arabic Salad, natural yogurt and bread,

We finished the evening of with some yummy Arabic pastries, that our guests had brought with them, and mint tea.

Check out this post for the recipe to the Arabic Spiced Chicken. IMG_0063 - Copy Arabic Spiced Chicken

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One response to “The ups and downs of life as an expat (or just trying to cook dinner!)

  1. Pingback: Arabic Spiced Chicken (My version of Ouzi) | Middle East Moments·

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