Recent News

WSB Inspiring Woman: Sarah Bin Saeed – Blend Culinary Institute

WSB Admin 27/09/2019 0

Tell us about yourself? 

I spent several years as an Audiologist helping people improve their quality of life. But I was bitten by the “entrepreneurial bug” and was inspired to open Saudi Arabia’s first-ever Culinary Institute focused on delivering a fun, interactive experience for corporate teams, families, couples and groups of friends. 

What brought you to Riyadh? 
I’m a Saudi born and raised in Riyadh.
How did you get inspired to start Blend Culinary Institute? 
I wanted to create a culinary institute where gourmets, food lovers and cooking enthusiasts could have fun while learning the art of cooking from well-known, highly reputable Saudi and international chefs. And I love it! It’s great to see people blending the pleasures of cooking and being together, and I feel lucky to be a part of it!
What do you do at Blend Culinary Institute? 
I’m the owner of the culinary institute, but I work there as well doing a variety of things from organising classes, to helping clients during the show.
What is a typical day like for you?
A typical day is being a working mom with a busy schedule. The juggling. The feeling of always being pulled in different directions. But there’s also the good stuff, like my wonderful friendships with my team, the satisfaction I get from my career.

What do you enjoy the most about your work?

I’m a huge people person, and I love being part of fun valuable moments in Blend where you can see the results instantly in their dishes and on their faces.

What is the hardest part about your work?

Like any career it has its downside, whether it’s coping with tough clients, trying to manage your time effectively, dealing with self-doubt or the inevitable chore of taking care of the business side of things. In any job, there are varying unpleasant or difficult parts. How I deal with it is by keeping a positive attitude.

How do you balance being a mum/ a spouse and a working woman? 

I don’t. After many hours of self-reflection and conversations with friends and family,  I’ve found a recipe for success with life-work integration rather than work-life balance. For me, it’s not about striving for a perfect balancing act but rather integrating across all aspects of life so you can bring your whole self to everything you do. 

Tell us about your journey of finding a job in Riyadh.

As I mentioned previously, I used to be an audiologist. But I didn’t find myself much in the medical field. So, I decided to figure out what I like and started with organizing little classes and I found something new there.

What advice would you give women considering starting their own business/ OR seeking employment in the Kingdom?

Follow your passion, do your research on how to start this particular business, develop a full business plan, and most importantly consider your time management.

Where can creative women go to network in Riyadh?

Several places.

 

Do you have a quote or motto that you live by?

Nothing happens to you, it happens for you. So, don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.

 

Contact Information & Social Media

Website: www.blendculinary.com

Instagram: blend culinary

Snapchat: blend culinary

Twitter: blend culinary

Phone number: +966583676105

 

Read more

Recipes: B like Bulgarian banitsa

WSB Admin 27/09/2019 0

By Rositsa Dorovska

Bulgarian cuisine has many signature meals. Most of them are typical for the whole Balkan region with local variations and specifics. When you have to opt for one speciality only, that should be the famous pastry – banitsa. Banitsa cannot be translated from Bulgarian, but it’s similar to the Turkish burek, another untranslatable delicacy. Thought, they both cannot be mistaken for each other.
In brief, Banitsa is a dough pie, stuffed with an egg and cheese mixture. It‘s a kind of symbol for Bulgaria from centuries. In the past, banitsa used to be completely homemade. From the dough, rolled manually by the hands of our grandmothers, through the eggs from homegrown chickens, with fresh homemade yoghurt and cheese.  Finally, the dish would be baked not in a modern oven, but in a furnace.
Nowadays it’s a rarity to find such banitsa makers, but the importance of the dish remains. Banitsa is food for sharing, with a special place on each table with or without occasion. Only during the fasts, some people avoid it, because of the dairy products ingredients it contains.
Preparation is very easy, as all of the ingredients could be found in your nearest grocery store, but if you can use organic products from small farms or producers, the taste will be different and you will support the sustainable economy, as well.

Ingredients for banitsa

Package of dough leaves – refrigerated

4 – 6 eggs

250-300 gr. Cheese ( usually cow cheese)

Two spoons of sunflower oil

50 gr yoghurt

Sparkling water

Melted butter

Preparation :

All of the products should be at room temperature

  1. 1. Whisk the eggs in a bowl, then add the cheese crumbled. Add the yoghurt and the sunflower oil. Finally, add a few drops of sparkling water and mix all together. Do not use the chopper, it‘s best mixed manually.

Preheat the oven

  1. 2. Use the dough sheets one by one.  Spread thoroughly the melted butter on the first sheet and add some quantity of the mixture. Now you can either roll the dough like a spiral or put it straight fon the tray. Continue with the other sheets left, as long as you have some mixture. It‘s better if you can keep a small amount of the mix for the final touch.
  2. 3. Bake for 40 minutes at 150 degrees. Usually depends on the oven.

When it‘s almost done, spread the mixture leftovers as a topping. If you‘ve run out of the mix already, you can put melted butter instead.

Let the ready banitsa ‘rest’, covered with a clean towel. Eat while it‘s warm. The best drink for accompaniment is ayryan. Similar to the labneh for drinking, ayryan is half yoghurt, half water, beaten and seasoned with a pinch of salt.

Enjoy the taste of Bulgaria.

Read more

Recipes: Finding Joy with Yummy Scrummy Veggie recipes?

WSB Admin 25/09/2019 0

By Lizzie Daniell

With a new vegetarian in our family – with a somewhat healthy appetite – I’ve started to look outside my normal carnivore comfort recipes to try and create something yummy for him to enjoy when he comes to visit. I believe when he’s cooking for himself, rice is his stable diet. Surely I can do better than that….. let’s see!

Living in the Arab world for the last few years has opened up a huge repertoire of exquisite new taste and flavours which gives me so much joy. To me, food is about love, comfort, time with family/friends which brings about a feeling of happiness and joy! Doesn’t mean I’m a fantastic cook, but when you mix the above with an excellent recipe, amazing things can happen!

After enjoying a wonderful lunch with my daughter at Comptoir Libanais in London, I decided to turn my hands to some of their delicious recipes.

Great restaurant and cook books if you are interested @ https://www.comptoirlibanais.com.

What I noticed is that there are as many vegetarian recipes as there are for the carnivores amongst us. If you have time to lovingly prepare their dishes – magic can happen. And what a great way for me to show off to my son… “look I am capable of creating a veggie feast!”

So the recipes I want to share with you are some savoury favourites of mine. So get your shopping bags out, them aprons on and let’s see what happens…..

  • Moussaka with Tahini (moussaka bil tahina)
  • Courgette fritters
  • Spiced fried potatoes (batata harra)

A gorgeous mix of flavours eaten together – or munched individually.

Moussaka with Tahini (moussaka bil tahina)

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 aubergines

2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing and drizzling

1 large onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed

400g chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato paste

6 tomatoes, sliced

1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained

Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the tahini dressing

125g yoghurt

40g tahini

Couple of pinches of za’atar

Flat-leaf parsley, chopped

  1. Take one aubergine and chop into bite-size cubes, lay on a plate and cover with salt. Set aside for 15 mins to draw out all the bitter juices.
  2. Slice the other aubergine into rounds then salt and set aside.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large pan and sauté the onion for around 10-15 mins until its starting to soften and caramelise.
  4. Rinse the cubed aubergine and add to the pan with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Cook, stirring from time to time, for about 10 mins until the cubes have softened and turned golden.
  5. Stir in the garlic and cook in the heat of the pan for a couple of mins until you can smell the aroma. Pour in the tomatoes, and tomato purée and bring everything to a simmer. Cover and cook over the lowest heat for 15 mins.
  6. Rinse the salt off the remaining aubergine. Preheat the grill and oil a baking sheet. Brush the aubergines slices liberally with oil and grill until golden, turning halfway through. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6.
  7. Place a layer of the aubergine sauce in the bottom of an ovenproof dish, then cover this with the sliced tomatoes, chickpeas and finally the grilled aubergine. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil.
  8. Bake for 20 mins, until bubbling and golden on top.
  9. To make the dressing, stir together the yoghurt, tahini and za’atar to taste.
  10. Scatter the chopped parsley over the cooked moussaka and serve with the tahini dressing
  11. YUMMY

Courgette fritters

Makes at least 15

Ingredients:

5 courgettes, grated

1 tsp salt

2 onions, peeled and grated

2-3 tbsp olive oil

150g feta cheese

3 eggs, beaten

Small bunch of mint, leaves only, chopped into shreds

½ tsp baking powder

Plain flour, for the batter

Vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Grate the courgettes, place in a bowl, then sprinkle on the salt and leave for 30 mins.
  2. Squeeze handfuls of grated courgettes until they release as much liquid as possible. Then place the dry courgettes to one side, discard the liquid and return the courgettes to the bowl.
  3. Peel and grate the onions. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan over medium heat, then fry the onions until soft.
  4. Add the onions to the bowl of courgettes and stir well. Crumble in the feta and add beaten eggs.
  5. Add the mint and plenty of black pepper. Stir everything together, then add the baking powder and enough flour to make a soft batter (you can always adjust the consistency).
  6. Heat 2-3cm of vegetable oil in a deep, heavy-based saucepan.
  7. When the oil is hot enough, test the temperature with some of the batter. It should fry to a golden brown in 2 mins, so lower the heat and allow the oil to cool if it colours too quickly.
  8. Spoon rounded tablespoons of batter into the oil in batches and fry until golden.
  9. Drain on kitchen paper, test the first ones to check they are cooked in the middle, then keep warm in a low oven while you fry the remainder.
  10. Eat and enjoy!

Batata Hara (Spiced fried potatoes)

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1kg potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm dice

150ml olive or sunflower oil

3 garlic cloves, sliced

Salt to taste

A handful of coriander leaves

Juice of 1 lemon

For the spices (optional):

2 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp paprika

  1. Parboil the potatoes in boiling salted water for no more than 3 mins. Drain the potatoes, and heat the oil in a frying pan.
  2. When the oil is hot, add the potatoes (in batches if required) and fry until golden, adding the garlic about 2-3 mins before they’re ready so it cooks.
  3. Once the potatoes are crispy, drain the oil from the pan. Season the potatoes with salt. Then mix with the coriander, spoon on to a plate and squeeze the lemon juice over.
  4. If you want to add more spices, return the potatoes to the pan once you’ve drained the oil away, sprinkle the mixed spices over evenly, season and toss over a high heat for 1 min before serving with coriander and lemon.
  5. Divine!

Now let’s EAT!

I would love you to share with me some stories of your experiences with the love of food and where it made you feel joyous and warm – look forward to hearing from you. Until next time.

To be part of my community, please view my website http://findingthejoy.info or if you would like to share your foodie recipes, please email lizziefindingjoy@gmail.com

 

Read more

The story behind popular Indian dishes

WSB Admin 25/09/2019 0

By Anupama Sreejith

India is a nation of hedonists and our choicest guilty pleasure is food. And for all our diversity, our communal love for food is the one common element that unites us all, despite the fact that cuisines from different parts of the country are incredibly varying. Still, you might have wondered while enjoying the rich culinary culture of the country, who developed certain staples like the biryani or a chicken tandoori, and how they came to be?

While watching one of a TV program about the origin of popular Indian food, I was fascinated to find out the history and origins behind some of the most common Indian dishes we have all grown to love. Since some accounts are largely dependent on oral histories, a few facts have gotten blurry as they’ve been passed down through the years.

  1. Samosa

Everyone’s favourite tea-time snack is believed to have originated in the Middle East before the 10th century. Originally known as a ‘sambusa’, the Indian version was introduced by traders from Central Asia somewhere in the 14th century. Ibn Battuta, a 14th-century traveller and explorer, describes a meal at the court of Muhammad bin Tughluq, where a small pie stuffed with minced meat, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and spices, was served. While the Muslim community still relish the Mughal version, the vegetarian version has also become very popular in all parts of India.

  1. Idli

One of the healthiest south Indian breakfast, rich in carbohydrates & proteins, is actually not from India.  According to the Chinese chronicler Xuang Zang, there were no steaming vessels in India. It is said that the cooks who accompanied the Hindu Kings of Indonesia between 800-1200 AD, brought fermentation and steaming methods and their dish Kedli to South India along with them. The Arab settlers were strict in their dietary preferences; many of them came here when Mohammed was still alive and they were neo-converts to Islam from Paganism. They insisted on halaal food, and Indian food was quite alien to their palate. To avoid all such confusion regarding what is halaal or haraam in food, they began to make rice balls as it was easy to make and was the safest option available. After making the rice balls, they would slightly flatten them and eat with bland coconut paste, sound familiar?

  1. Sambar

We all know that Idli and Sambar are inseparable.

Sambar, as a dish, was created in the 17th century! It is said that it originated in the kitchen of Thanjavur Marathas ruler Shahuji, who had an immense liking for a dish called amti. The dish was special because it had kokum as one of its main ingredients. However, catastrophe struck when during one particular season, the kokum (which was imported from the Maratha homeland) ran out of supply. However, some brilliant adviser in this court suggested that they try tamarind pulp for the sourness –an ingredients locals swore by. Shahji experimented the dish with tuvar dal, vegetables, spices and the tamarind pulp and served his cousin, Sambhaji, who was visiting him. The court loved the dish so much that they created a whole new supply of tamarind, and named the dish sambhar after their guest, Sambhaji.

  1. Gulab Jamun

The sweet, derived from a fritter, that Persian invaders brought along when they came to India. The dessert got the first half of its name, ‘gulab’ from the Persian words ‘gol’ (flower) and ‘ab’ (water), referring to the rose water-scented syrup that the fried khoya balls are dunked in. The original preparation known as ‘luqmat al qadi’ consisted of soaking the khoya balls in honey syrup and then having them drizzled with sugar.

  1. Dal- bhaat

Talk of coming home after a long day of work and roughing it out in the rains to the goodness of some steamed rice and dal, a.k.a. dal bhaat, with some tangy mango pickle to go with it, and nothing feels more satisfying. This simple comfort meal too isn’t Indian in origin. Actually of Nepali origin, the dish entered Indian kitchens through North Indian influences, spreading across the country’s vast geography to be adapted for different palates.

  1. Rajma chawal

When someone from the North of India moves elsewhere to study or work, it isn’t unusual for him or her to complain about how the rajma doesn’t taste anywhere close to what is found in the North. And though rajma chawal continues to be a well-loved staple, particularly in the Northern states, the preparation technique for it comes from outside as well. To begin with, the kidney bean was brought to India from Portugal and the technique of soaking and boiling beans is borrowed from Mexican cooking traditions, the bean constituting their staple diet too. A rich and thick rajma gravy prepared with chopped onions, garlic, tomatoes and other spices, the Indian variant is very different from the Mexican preparations of the kidney bean. Probably next after dal bhaat on the list of comfort foods, this dish goes best with some steamed rice, especially during winters.

  1. Filter coffee

While 99.9 percent of Indians link filter coffee to South India especially Chennai, this sleep jerking drink is actually of Yemen origin. The drink known as Kaapi, is the South Indian phonetic rendering of “coffee”. A definite must for a South Indian breakfast today, Filter Coffee is believed to have been introduced to India by Sufi saint Baba Budan who discovered it while on a pilgrimage to Mecca. In order to show its taste, the saint carried along seven coffee beans from Mocha, Yemen to India. On his return home, he planted the beans on the slopes of the Chandragiri Hills in Kadur district, Mysore State (present-day Karnataka). The seeds were also planted in parts of TN and Kerala. Those days, many Indians due to their faith, were prohibited from consuming alcoholic beverages and this black coffee came as a substitute for it due to its bitterness and dense taste.  Subsequently the milk coffee became popular through the famous Indian coffee houses during the mid-1940s.

7.Biryani

This is one dish which is popular in every part of India. While Mughals introduced this dish in the northern part, Arabs brought it to the south.

The word ‘biryani’ originates from the Persian word ‘birian’ which means ‘fried before cooking’. Legend has it that Mumtaz Mahal (1593-1631), Shah Jahan’s queen, once visited army barracks and thought that the soldiers were under-nourished. Therefore, she asked the chef to prepare a special dish, which provided balanced nutrition. After a few rejections, she finally settled on biryani, considering it the ‘complete meal’ which could be eaten as a single serving. So, while the first origins of this dish have Persian and Afghani influences, the Mughals crafted it within the vast Indian subcontinent they ruled for years, proving the potency of the frequented spice route. Also, the next time you visit the Taj, make sure you give Mumtaz a small whisper of gratitude.

Other theories involve Taimor The Lame bringing biriyani down from Kazakhstan via Afghanistan to Northern India and nomads burying an earthen pot full of meat, rice and spices in a pit, which was then eventually dug up to become biriyani.

So, one can conclude that historical events such as foreign invasions, trade relations, and colonialism have played a huge role in introducing certain foods to this country.

Sources:

www.homegrown.co.in

www.livingfoodz.com

Read more

Recipes: Tasty date recipes

WSB Admin 23/09/2019 0

By Sairah Zubair Khan

After opening the fast in Ramadan, my mind would wander to sweet treats! How can I treat myself and my family but be healthy at the same time?

I think I found the answer I was searching for!

My friend had gifted me a box of date balls. Hand-rolled little jewels of deliciousness, presented in a box and made with such love. I have ended up making these for gifts, as an after-school snack for the children, teacher’s gifts, a small treat to be consumed after a gym work out session. They provide instant energy and can be as sweet as you would like.

I would like to share three recipes; I adapt these to levels of sweetness that I require, or if I am serving to anybody with nut/food allergies.

Chocolate and Orange Date Balls

Recipe-laurencariscooks.com Pinterest

Ingredients (30-35 balls)

2tbsp berry, freeze-dried

2tbsp cacao nibs

2tbsp goji berry (reserve some for decoration)

15 Medjool dates (pitted)

2 cups orange juice

2 tsp orange zest

2tbsp tbsp cocoa powder (reserve some for decoration)

100g dark chocolate

2tbsp coconut oil

1 ½ cup almonds crushed

2 tbsp chia seeds

3 tbsp desiccated coconut

3 tbsp crushed hazelnuts

3 tbsp pistachio nuts, finely crushed

2 tbsp dried rose petals

Method 

Take the stone out of the dates and soak them in the orange juice for half an hour.

Then in a food processor, mix the drained dates, berries, cacao nibs, goji berry, orange zest and cocoa powder.

Mix until smooth, then add the coconut oil, almonds, hazelnuts and chia seeds.

The chocolate should be melted to pouring consistency.

Shape the balls and place in the fridge for 1 hour. Then take them out and coat in the melted chocolate. Place them on wax paper.

Prepare the decoration ingredients on separate trays. Some balls can be dusted with cocoa powder.

Use the desiccated coconut, pistachio nuts, rose petals or goji berries to sprinkle on top of the balls.

Leave for 1 hour on wax paper in the fridge and enjoy. The remainder can be boxed in an air-tight container and stored in the fridge for up to 7 days.

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffles

Recipe-grandmotherskitchen.org Pinterest

Ingredients (25 truffles)

1 cup of chopped, dark chocolate

1/3 cup of cream cheese, room temperature

½ tsp raspberry extract

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tbsp raspberry jam (seedless)

100g milk chocolate

100g white chocolate

 

Method 

Melt the dark chocolate, place in a heatproof bowl. Mix the cream cheese, raspberry extract, sugar and raspberry jam into the chocolate.

Blend until smooth and place in the fridge for 3 hours.

Take out of the fridge and pinch off some of the mixtures, form a round ball (1 inch in size).

Place on wax paper and put in the fridge for half an hour. Melt the milk and white chocolate, in separate bowls.

Coat the truffles in the milk chocolate and place back in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Then drizzle with white chocolate.

Leave in the fridge for 10 minutes to harden. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for 1 week.

You can also experiment with adding cocoa powder, using raw cacao nibs ground down or 1 tbsp instant coffee granules, mixed to a paste.

Frozen raspberries 5 oz would work well, thawed and blended into a paste

Apricot and Coconut Bliss Balls

Recipe-caseyjade.com Pinterest

Ingredients (20 balls)

1 ½ cups dried apricots

¼ cup almond meal

1 cup desiccated coconut

1 cup macadamia nuts

Method

Add the macadamia nuts and the apricots to a food processor. Blend until smooth. Add the coconut and almond meal. Combine well.

I f you cannot obtain almond meal, grind 25g peeled almonds until smooth, like a flour consistency.

Place mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes. Take out of the fridge and roll into 1” sized round balls. Add coconut to a tray and cover the balls.

Store the balls in the fridge for up to 1 week, in an air-tight container.

You can also freeze for up to 3 months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more

My take on the tastiest British desserts

WSB Admin 23/09/2019 0

By Deepa Thomas-Sutcliffe

This month, I would like to pay tribute to my new (future) home country and celebrate their many delicious desserts I adore. I first heard about some of them through the many British authors I enjoy. The descriptions of some of the afternoon teas from Enid Blyton’s books used to get me all excited to try them myself someday. In later years, desserts drew my eyes in movies, series and the images on the internet all got me excited until I was fortunate enough to visit the UK and taste them myself.

Join me on a culinary journey as I drool over and describe them to the best of my ability…

First, the Victorian Cream Tea, best enjoyed in a charming tea house bursting with atmosphere. My favourite is Betty’s in York. A cream tea is a charming Victorian tradition of getting together between 3 and 4 pm for a mini-meal. The story goes the afternoon tea tradition was started by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford and a close friend of Queen Victoria. She was hungry and wanted a small meal to ‘put her on’ till dinner. She soon invited her friends to join her in the tea ritual and even got Queen Victoria into the habit. The cream tea is served in 3 courses in a 3-tiered tray with a selection of sandwiches, a selection of mini cakes and some scones and clotted cream to be washed down with a cuppa of tea. Something I really enjoy.

Secondly, Scones and clotted cream. Scones have been described as drops of heaven. They can be plain, sweet, include raisins or be savoury. Plain scones are an integral part of the cream tea and often served with butter, clotted cream and strawberry jam. There is also the great scone debate – clotted cream first (Devon style) or jam first (Cornish style). The Queen herself prefers jam first but this author likes the clotted cream first. What’s your preference?

Thirdly, the heavenly Victoria Sponge Cake. It’s a two-layer sponge cake, filled with a layer of raspberry jam and whipped cream. It’s light and airy and delicious and often called the quintessential English teatime treat. It was named after Queen Victoria who was known to enjoy her sponge cake. There are variations also made with buttercream, with strawberry jam and even served with fresh fruit. There is of course the Victoria Sponge debate about which version is better. In my case, I prefer whipped cream and strawberry preserve in my Victoria sponge.

Fourthly, Clotted Cream Fudge. Clotted cream fudge is tasty, chewy fudge that dissolves in your mouth. It’s my favourite fudge and best bought in the charming historical apothecary or sweet shops in my view. Available in all the seaside towns as well. They are very rich and last forever so spread the guilt over a longish period as you savour them. 

Fifthly, Sticky Toffee Pudding. This Duchess of Cambridge favourite also features among my favourites. A yummy date sponge cake served with toffee sauce, sometimes accompanied by ice cream or custard. It’s usually served warm and hence a perfect winter dessert in my view. Some of the origins point to it being introduced by Canadian soldiers but it is now firmly a British classic.

This was such a hard list to create with so many contenders, Carrot Cake, Coffee Walnut Cake, Snowballs, Eton Mess, Brandy Snaps, Strawberry Shortcake, Shortbread Cookies, Cinder Toffee all are candidates as are many other delicious British desserts. What’s on your top 5? Would you agree with my choices? I would love to hear from you….

Tweet to me on www.twitter.com/deepathomas and share your take…

 

 

 

 

Read more

Celebrating the people of Saudi Arabia

WSB Admin 26/08/2019 0

By Rositsa Dorovska

If you were crying prior to your move to Saudi Arabia, you’ll cry harder when you have to leave. With these wise words, I have been welcomed to the Kingdom, almost a year ago.  The sentence is by one of my compound neighbours.

Though I was not really upset, my feelings were mixed for that new, yet so different chapter ahead. Like anyone, that happens to experience moving to KSA, I believe. On one side are the worries regarding the weather – the extreme heat, the sandstorms, the constant “dust in the air” forecasts. On the other side – the lack of proper information about what the real-life in KSA looks like. The mainstream media tends to cover only certain aspects of the cultural and religious specifics in this country. But they often skip the human factor. That way, they are shaping an inaccurate image of the Saudis. For the majority of the outside world, Saudis are kind of a mystery. So the easiest way for some people to explain to themselves the unknown is via clichés. Generalising a whole nation is always a bad approach.

The first cultural shock you can feel here in KSA, is that the common characteristics are totally wrong and archaic.  Most of the locals you will meet, actually, will be very friendly, helpful, curious to know your biography and story. I feel so pleased every time the local people ask me about my culture and language. Saudis are usually very familiar with the history of my country and they greet me wholeheartedly. As a member of the diplomatic family, my personal goal in KSA is to elevate the image of my country, here and vice versa.

The best surprise for me, is the open-minded and strong Saudi women I meet on random occasions in my daily Saudi life.  Embracing the loosening of the past strict rules that used to determine their lives, currently, there is a proactive and progressive generation of young Saudi ladies. Well educated and ambitious, they are running businesses, creating start-ups, gaining respect and moving forward to achieve their brave goals. Almost every day I have the chance to stumble upon such bright and successful stories – women professors, lawyers, managers. Not every expat, living in Saudi Arabia can make local acquaintances because some people prefer to spend their time behind the walls of the compounds. Given that some compounds are miniature cities, often it’s not very stimulating for a foreigner to explore the world behind the gates. Suddenly your project is over, you have to bid farewell to this country, and you’ll find out that you’ve never tried local food, you’ve never had a meal with or even a chat with Saudis… And that‘s a pity because the country is so vast, rich, diverse…But you cannot get to know that, without knowing the people…

Judging them from their media image or clothing is very discriminative. I had the honour to participate in a conference, organised by a local trust and The United Nations, where amongst many other interesting women, the dean of Princess Noura University spoke. And she rocked the hall, full of men and women. She was an inspiration for the audience, as she is for the students, I believe. Many of them were there – artists, young entrepreneurs… At that moment I realized, that nothing can stop the progress of this society. You will ask about the men and their opinion. Well, let me just share one personal story. A young local uber driver, made me feel ashamed when I told him that I can‘t speak Arabic, and I haven’t got a driving license as yet… But I was smiling secretly, you know. Of course, there‘s still a long way to go, but there is no way back for this population of youngsters, studying and working hard to make their dreams come true.  On the foundations of their old and rich culture, they will build a new Kingdom – modern and prosperous. No change is possible, without the society involved. So I am celebrating the people of Saudi Arabia, their tribal loyalty, but their global minds and vision.

 

Read more

WSB Inspiring Woman: Nelly Attar – Journey to Mount Everest

WSB Admin 26/08/2019 0

WSB is thrilled to feature Nelly Attar as WSB Inspiring Woman again. Nelly is the founder of Move Studio and is passionate about helping people move and get fit.  This time, Nelly tell us all about her journey to prepare for and successfully summit Mount Everest.

Tell us about your inspiration to become a mountaineer?

It gradually developed from local day hiking trips to a weeklong hiking trip overseas, to eventually month long (and beyond) mountaineering expeditions overseas. What kept me going is the experiences I passed through during each trip, the lessons I learnt, the potential I discovered in myself and all the wonderful people I met along the way. Just like any other sport that I regularly practise, mountaineering gives me great purpose and a big reason to work hard every day.

What inspired you to attempt Mount Everest?

Well, it was an idea I had for quite a while. When I started climbing, I thought maybe if I am crazy enough, one day I will attempt something like Everest. Mount Everest has been on my mind for quite a while. Obviously, it’s the highest mountain peak in the world, so what’s more appealing than that. But then it started turning into a dream so I started thinking that if I do this mountain or that mountain and can challenge myself this far, I would love to try something like Mount Everest. So, in the beginning, it was a dream because I wanted to see how far I was able to push myself, what my physical capabilities consist of, what I am able to do mentally, emotionally, physically. And then that dream kept growing over the years and turned into a goal just last year when my training partner Shareef suggested Nelly, let’s set the goal for next year rather than a dream for someday. That was possibly the best conversation we could ever have as that conversation changed our entire year. We ended up deciding to do Everest the following day. We started reaching out to companies, we paid the deposit, it all started happening from there. What really impressed me about Everest was the challenge, the challenge that comes from the climb – the physical, the mental, the emotional challenge of committing to something this big, of being able to train for something this big and then going on a mountain where there is no guarantee that you are going to be able to climb it, no guarantee that you are going to be able to come back. And the person who really pushed me to do it was my friend Shareef.

How did you prepare?

I would prepare for hours every week. My training was for between 14 – 30 hours a week, building up over the weeks as we got closer to Everest. I had two coaches in the States which helped me come up with my programme, which would consist of a lot of fasted running (20-30 kms), uphill training (indoors on the stairs machine, on a treadmill, hiking with a heavy backpack on my back with the volume increasing every week) as well as loads of strength training for my core and my legs. The training also consisted of training my body to extreme temperatures so I did a lot of travel in cold climates and climbing lots of mountains in extreme temperatures. The training also included practising with my equipment, practising many of the practicalities and little details that would be critical in the climb. This included toilets, toiletry kits, food while hiking etc. You have to think of everything as these little things can add up and cause a problem if you are not prepared.

What was the journey to prepare like? Did you get enough support? Did you need training outside the Kingdom?

I think the journey to prepare for Everest was the best part of climbing Everest. So much happened in a year from growth to learning to meeting people both internationally and locally who helped me prepare for Everest. I believe preparing for Everest is training for life. And it’s amazing, this is what I strive for on a bigger scale. I want to encourage as many people as possible to get active and Everest helped me do that. When I trained, girls and boys of all ages would join me in my training (2 people to 30 people at a time). It was amazing to see that through my training for Everest, so many people would get active, unlock their potential. Lot of them went on to run marathons or climb mountains. It was amazing to see that my dream has allowed people to get out there.

The journey was quite hard, there was a lot I had to get creative with in terms of training resources as I was training in Saudi Arabia. We have limited resources for mountaineering in Saudi as we don’t have the landscape that would resemble something like Everest. Also, as a woman training outdoors, there was a lot I needed to be mindful of. But having said that all these things combined made the journey even more meaningful. It gave me so much more drive, so much more reason to work through the challenges and if I could do these things in Saudi, I knew I could definitely do this on Everest.

Yes, I got amazing support. 100%. My people, my community, my colleagues, my family, even strangers that heard of my journey gave me so much support. They made me feel the journey is ‘ours’. My success was theirs and this is what kept me going on the mountain. I would also like to express my gratitude to Fitness, Nestle Arabia they were a great supporter of my journey. They really liked my journey and wanted to be a part of it.

Some of my training was outside the Kingdom. You need prior mountaineering experience to climb Everest. You need to be proficient with the technical skills that you would need to tackle Everest. Yes, I had to travel a lot and climb a lot of 6000-metre peaks to gain decent experience for Everest.

Did you climb other Mountains in preparation?

I have climbed 14 peaks before climbing Mount Everest, 5 of which were 6000-metre peaks and 2 of which are almost 7000-metre peaks.

Tell us about the Everest experience? Did you have a group and guides with you? How did they support you? What equipment did you need?

We went with an American mountaineering company, who were very experienced and well established. We had 3 western guides including the company’s owner, we had about 10-15 Nepali guides, all excellent. They helped us train on the mountain, helped us get higher up, helped us emotionally, physically and made us from a group of people into a team through their constant encouragement and values. You spend 2 months on the mountain with this group who didn’t know each other so it was important we felt like a team, like family. They prepared food, melted water for us to drink, set up tents and took care of most of the logistics. Without them, most of us wouldn’t have been able to summit Everest. They were there every single step of the way, first to ensure we were safe and then if we were able to, ensuring we kept going forward and onwards.

Lots of equipment, I think I had a 7 or 8-page gear list including sunblock, down jackets, thermals, mittens, gloves, beanies, ski goggles, waterproofing and windproofing gloves, mountaineering boots, proper socks, crampons, food, headlight, portable chargers. You need to also take spares because if you run out of equipment, you can’t get spares on the mountain.

What did the moment you successfully summitted Mount Everest feel like?

The minute I started walking towards the summit, I started sobbing so much. I generally cry whenever I summit or reach the finish line of a big race, just because I am so relieved, so happy and proud. All the emotions come rushing to me, Nelly you have done it, you believed you could do it and you have. I am so grateful for all the people who helped me do it. But I have never sobbed as I cried on Everest, I literally cried for 10 minutes, non-stop.

It’s really hard to describe, it felt like a cocktail of emotions – so proud, so relieved, so happy I made it and I felt so strong.  I was also nervous as there were many dead bodies on the summit. I was also nervous coming down due to the traffic as we were going down and many people were still summiting the same way. Most accidents happen on the descent. I was very cold (-40 degrees) and I was scared I would get frostbite. There was discomfort mixed with fear mixed with happiness and relief mixed with just being so overwhelmed for being on top of the world. I can’t quite describe it.

You may not believe it but as soon after I reached the summit and began the descent, I felt a bit of a void. I was thinking, what’s next? I just fulfilled my massive dream of fulfilling Everest and now what do I do next.

What milestones did you set? Are you amongst the first Arab women to summit Everest?

While I set a few milestones, I think being the first person from Riyadh to summit Mount Everest is the most meaningful to me. That’s where I can support the community, create an impact. I am hoping to inspire people in Riyadh to train, to take on mountaineering, take on extreme sports, to get outdoors. The sports and fitness landscape in Riyadh is starting to emerge, more and more people are getting outdoors. So, I really hope that if they see someone from Riyadh, doing this successfully, they also get motivated to put in the hard work and achieve their dreams.

I am also one of the first from Saudi Arabia, the first from Riyadh and one of the first Lebanese females to summit Mount Everest, one of the first 10 Arab females who climbed Mount Everest.

Did you support any charities with your efforts?

I fundraised to enrol as many children in the Early Learning Centres at Basmeh and Zeitooneh. Basmeh and Zeitooneh are a non-profit in Lebanon. They work with a lot of refugees, equipping them with basic rights, integrating them into society through work and education. One of the biggest challenges they face is funds to be able to educate children. So we fundraised for 28 children to be enrolled in Early Learning Centres next year, mostly refugees and some underprivileged children. We also fundraised to Clean Up Everest, donating 800$ for the cause.

What’s next for Nelly Attar? Any more mountains in your future?

Stay tuned as I have yet to decide. Of course, there are going to be loads of mountains and adventures in the future. Everest is the biggest climb but it’s not the biggest challenge out there. There are many other challenges out there that I would love to tackle in the future. For now, I have a lot of work-related goals I want to achieve in the next six months. In November, I have 3 international marathons. In December, hopefully, another climb. Some sports-related challenges in my immediate future, which should build up to bigger things soon.

Can you share some advice for other ladies who may like to summit Mount Everest?

My advice for any women who wants to climb Everest is to start small. The idea of climbing Mount Everest can be very lucrative, very exciting but it’s a very dangerous mountain and not something one can do without the proper experience, proper expertise and you never know, once you get into the mountaineering world, this may be something you don’t want to do. You may be interested in more technical or steeper climbs in lower altitudes as compared to something like Everest which is not very technical, yet very high in altitude. So I would say, gain as much experience as possible, train as much as possible, don’t rush it. Take as much time as you need. It took me 3-4 years to develop that dream into reality and I still think I could have gained more experience, prior to climbing Mount Everest. Train, start small, take one step today that can help you get to the goal, whether it is making a phone call or donning your sneakers and getting out of the house. Then see how it unfolds

Where can people go to see footage of your journey?

They can go to my Instagram@NellyAttar. There will be a website soon (www.nellyattar.com). I am also working on a documentary of my climb (To dream of Everest) which will be released before the end of the year.

 

 

 

Read more

My foodie journey through Riyadh

WSB Admin 25/08/2019 0

By Deepa Thomas-Sutcliffe

Over the last year and a half, I have been tasting my way through Riyadh’s restaurants. As a vegetarian foodie (yes, we exist), I was thrilled when a friend started Riyadh Vegetarians and Friends networking group on Internations and drafted me as her co-organiser. She then left the country and I invited Christine, another foodie to be my co-organiser. We meet alternate Thursdays for dinner with an interesting group of foodies, some regular members, some occasional members and some newbies from many different ethnicities and parts of the world. The group size varies between 6 and 12 or so depending on the restaurant and we usually order dishes for the table that we can all share. All food that we order is vegetarian so my perspective on restaurants is probably skewed as it would be representative of a proportion of the menu.

Through our dinners, I have enjoyed some really great food, some great and some mixed service and (thankfully) a few disappointing experiences. The majority of restaurants are quite happy to cater to vegetarians and occasionally have modified meat-only dishes to suit our tastes. The conversations at our dinners are a nice mix of cultural exchange, people’s lives and work at Riyadh and where we are going to travel next. Many of the members are not vegetarians but join us for good food and interesting conversation. No preaching about converting to vegetarianism or veganism from us, I promise.

Here are some of my favourite restaurants in Riyadh organised by cuisine. It’s hard to choose just one so I have mentioned a couple of restaurants:

  1. Italian: San Carlo Cicchetti and Serafina both tie for the best Italian food I have eaten in the Kingdom.
  2. Indian: Zafran stands alone for some really delicious food and great service.
  3. Lebanese: Lavash serves tasty Lebanese in a luxurious environment. Leila’s at Oud Square is pretty good too.
  4. Multi-cuisine – Urth Café – for a nice ambience, tasty food and yummy desserts. Check out the large trees in the restaurant.
  5. Desserts – Cioccolat Italiani for some of the best gelatos I have had here

What’s your list of favourite restaurants? WSB is happy to review new restaurants that members recommend so please mail us on info@wsbksa.com.

If you would like to join us for a veggie dining experience, you can sign up on the Internations website. Just look for Riyadh Vegetarians and Friends and join over 250 foodies from 46 countries. Looking forward to dining together soon…

 

 

 

 

Read more

The Saudi Cultural Heritage Cookbook project

WSB Admin 25/08/2019 0

By Sahar El Jamal

I am Sahar El Jamal, a mom of two wonderful daughters, with a great passion for providing an extraordinary food experience. I started Nouraya Gourmet, as a home-based catering company, five years ago, out of a huge passion and a long family history in culinary and sweets manufacturing that dates back to more than one hundred years ago.

At Nouraya Gourmet, we reinvent your moms’ recipes and we modernize the culinary traditions. We always believed in the simple comfort and nostalgic pleasure in food that gathers people, revives memories and puts a smile on the face.

A page from the cookbook

One year ago we started a new project that complements Nouraya’s vision. The story started when I met two Spanish ladies who had the vision to create the first Arabic/English Saudi Cultural Heritage Cookbook. Together with a beautiful Saudi lady that embraced and supported the idea and helped in making it happen, a talented Columbian photographer that captured mouth-watering photos, the journey started! The book revives the Saudi culinary traditions; it consists of old traditional recipes cooked only by Saudi women and presented by our team with a modern twist. We travelled throughout the country, from Riyadh to Jeddah, to Dammam, Ihsa, Jouf, Abha and many other places to cook with the locals and to hunt for more and more recipes.


Interested to try some Saudi dish? Here is the Marquq recipe

Al-Marquq is a popular Saudi food famous for the Najd region. Although most Saudi dishes depend on rice, there are few that use the whole wheat instead, and Al Marquq is one of them.

Al Marquq

Cooking Time: 120 minutes

Serves 5 people

Dough Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cup wheat flour
  • Salt
  • ½ cup Water

Stew Ingredients:

  • 1 kilo meat chopped with bones
  • 2 small onions chopped
  • 1 tbsp. ghee
  • 3 medium tomatoes chopped
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 cup pumpkin diced
  • 1 cup squash diced
  • 1 cup green beans diced
  • 1 cup eggplant diced
  • 1 tbsp. “Baharat”
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbsp. cardamom
  • 1 tbsp. whole black peppers
  • 1 tbsp. cloves
  • 4 lumi
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 2 hot green peppers

Directions:

  • Sift the flour into a bowl, then add the salt and water, knead the ingredients well until getting soft and light dough. Divide the dough into round mid-sized pieces.
  • Coat the dough balls with oil, cover and set aside to rest.
  • In a heavy saucepan heat the ghee over moderate heat and sauté the onions until softened. Add the cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and black pepper, lumi, stirring for one minute, until mixture is fragrant.
  • Add the meat pieces and cook until browned from all sides.
  • Season with salt and “baharat” and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
  • Stir in the tomatoes and tomato paste. Cook until the tomatoes soften.
  • Add 2 litres of water to the meat mixture and simmer, covered, until the meat is half cooked.
  • Stir the vegetables into the meat broth; continue cooking for 15 more minutes.
  • During this time, flatten the dough pieces and shape each piece into a circle, put it over the boiling stew and leave it for 3-5 minutes then push it aside and to the bottom, then add a new one and so on until all the dough is used.
  • Cook on low heat about one hour then serve.

 

Read more