Archive for November, 2013

Classic Apple Pie ~ Easier Than you Think

November 20th, 2013 24 comments

Applie Pie ~ Traditional pastry I’m diverting from my Arab theme this week because apple pie is a universal favorite, and the American holiday of Thanksgiving is coming up. 

I’m a bit obsessed with apple pie. As a child growing up in Washington State (the apple state) I learned how to make it. And now as an expat living in Dubai and a homesick Washingtonian, I’ve made countless apple pies for holidays, international days, and for no reason at all.

Some people stress out about making pies and pie pastry. I think they are aiming for “perfection,” not realizing that a fruit pie is a RUSTIC dessert. Any cracks and imperfections and liquid oozing out of the top will simply make the pie look more delicious!   

Classic Apple Pie

As for types of apples, I use mostly Granny Smiths, which are green and tart, and I include a few sweet red apples, such as Braeburn, Rome Beauty or Pink Lady. Here in Dubai, apples are labeled simply “green” or “red” so sometimes it’s a bit tricky figuring it out. Just keep in mind, you can’t go wrong with Granny Smith. 

Not everyone grew up eating this dessert or watching their grandmother making pie. So, here you go, my Apple Pie Primer.  

Apple Pie Slice

 Pastry Ingredients

2 cups (300g) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 c + 2 Tablespoons (160g) softened butter and/or shortening

5 T ice cold water

Filling Ingredients

½ cup (100g) sugar (or less)

1/3 cup (50g) flour

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

7 medium apples, peeled and sliced thinly


1.  Prepare pastry.  In a large bowl, mix flour and salt. Add softened butter and cut into flour with pastry blender or fork. Keep blending until butter particles are the size of peas. This texture will create a flaky crust.  Apple Pie ~ blend in the butter with a pastry blenderSprinkle in the ice water, a few tablespoons at a time, blending the mixture with a wooden spoon. Form pastry into a ball and divide into two.

Apple Pie ~ Cut ball into twoOn a floured surface, form one half into a disk and dust with flour. (Cover the other half with a dish towel and set aside.)  

Apple Pie ~ Form dough into disk

With a rolling pin, roll dough out, rotating the dough frequently to prevent it from getting stuck to the counter. If you are nervous about this step, try rolling dough between two sheets of wax paper.  

Apple Pie ~ Roll out DoughRoll out dough only once. When the dough rips—and it will rip—repair by pressing the dough back together. Do not re-roll or over-handle. Rolling the dough again will destroy the lovely flaky layers of the crust.  

Apple Pie ~ Expect the dough to rip

Apple Pie ~ Press the dough back togetherCheck to see you have the right sized round—about 2” larger than the pie dish.   

Apple Pie ~ Check size with pie panTransfer the dough to the pie dish. Using a scraper or metal spatula, gently loosen the dough, fold into thirds and transfer to pie dish.  

Apple Pie ~ Fold with scraper

Apple Pie ~ Fold dough into thirds

Apple Pie ~ gently transfer dough to dish

Apple Pie ~ unfold dough in dish

2.  Preheat oven to 425°F / 220°C. Move rack to the center of the oven.  

3.  Prepare the filling. Mix flour, sugar, and spices in small bowl. Peel and slice apples thinly—or better yet, get a loved one to do it for you. Apple Pie ~ slice apples thinlyStir the sugar and spice mixture into the sliced apples until all the apples are coated. Fill the pastry-lined pie plate with the apple mixture. It may seem like too much, but keep adding.Apple Pie ~ tansfer applie mixture to dishWith both hands, pack down the apples. This will help avoid air pockets and create a nicely packed filling.Apple Pie ~ pack applie mixture into dish4. Prepare the top pastry. Roll out the remaining dough the same as before and transfer in the same way as before. If the dough rips, don’t stress, just try to press back together and think “rustic.” Apple Pie ~ transfer top pastry to dish

Apple Pie ~ unfold top pastryThe pastry will overhang around the pie dish. Tuck pastry under all around the dish, trimming and discarding as needed, sealing the edges.Apple Pie ~ tuck pastry evenly around edge

Apple Pie ~ prepare edges of pieFlute the crust by pinching in a uniform, decorative manner around the edges.   Apple Pie ~ add decorative fluted edges to pieCut slits in the pie to let the steam escape.

Apple Pie ~ add vent slits to top of pieLightly brush the top with milk and sprinkle with sugar.    Applie Pie ~ brush top of pastry with milk

Applie Pie ~ Sprinkle with Sugar5. Prepare aluminum foil cover. This step may seem like a hassle, but it prevents excess browning and hardening of edges. Cut out a square of foil. Fold in half and cut a ring of foil to fit the pie. Save the center of the foil.   Applie Pie ~ Cut square of foil

Applie Pie ~ Fold & cut ring in foil6. Bake for about 45 minutes. The following is my own method for baking: For the first 15 minutes, bake the pie completely covered with foil. That is, press the ring of foil around the edges and place the center of foil on top.Applie Pie ~ cover top with foilThen remove the top foil and rotate the pie dish in the oven. For the next 15 minutes, bake with the foil on the edges only.    Applie Pie ~ Bake with only edges uncoveredRemove all foil and rotate the pie dish again. For the last 15 minutes, bake the pie uncovered—unless there are dark spots, which you can cover with a piece of foil.   Applie Pie ~ Bake last 15 minutes uncoveredThe pie is finished when the crust is lightly browned and bubbling. Remove from oven and cool before cutting.     

Apple Pie ~ traditional American pastry_ (800x604)

Questions: What are your apple pie tips and tricks? What pies do you serve on Thanksgiving?

Guide to the Global Village

November 6th, 2013 8 comments

Dubai's Global Village, canal ride

As an expat, one day I will eventually leave Dubai. One of the things I will miss most will be the Global Village, a shopping extravaganza out in the desert with pavilions representing 31 countries and one continent. The Global Village has both a global feel and a State Fair feel. For me, it’s about the shopping—unique handmade global items—but also the multicultural entertainment and cheap street food.

Yes, the Global Village has seen many changes over the years. It originally started as a small fair on the Creek in 1997, lasting one month & launched with the Dubai Shopping Festival. Now a separate entity, the Global Village is permanently located in Dubai Land on Emirates Road.

This year the Global Village is better than ever in terms of facilities, entertainment, organization, and quality of goods.

Global Village, entertainment

Guide to the Global Village

1. Go early. Gates open at 4:00; arrive near opening time for good parking and no lines. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a sweater for those chilly winter nights. Also, bring a heavy-duty shopping bag to haul your goods.

2. Get a map inside near the entrance and plan your strategy. For the most authentic experience, I suggest starting with pavilions representing countries from the region.

3. Don’t plan to visit all the pavilions in one go. Be selective and take your time. Also, give yourself time for the multicultural entertainment, food from the region, and maybe amusement rides.

4. Keep an open mind. Pavilions change from year to year. If the Egypt and Turkey pavilions were disappointing in past years, it doesn’t mean it’s the case this year. In fact, these pavilions are currently very worthwhile.

5. Shop, shop, shop. Bring lots of cash, preferably in small bills. Also, bring your bank card as an ATM backup in case you see something unexpectedly amazing.

6. For objects with prices of more than twenty or thirty dirhams, it’s a good idea to bargain—but do so with a smile.

7. In addition to trinkets, handmade items, carpets and textiles, think food. Among the unique foodstuff on offer: honey from Yemen, saffron from Iran, zataar from Lebanon, olive oil from Palestine, tea from Morocco, and baklava from Turkey.

8. When the vendors hand out food samples, try them. This will provide sustenance for more shopping. One stroll through the Palestine pavilion can add up to a light meal.

9. When your feet start to hurt, it’s time to eat an actual meal. Have Middle Eastern or Southeast Asian “street food” and watch the world go by. You’ll even a find a few proper restaurants this year, such as Reem Al Bawadi. After a good rest, look at your map and strategize your next round of shopping.  

10. The Global Village saw 500,000 visitors over the past Eid Al-Adha break. If you dislike crowds, avoid the weekend and national holidays. Arrive super-early.

Favorite Pavilions

With so many pavilions, it’s hard to choose, but here are my favorites:

YEMEN PAVILION: Sample and buy delicious honey from Yemen, as well as spices and nuts. Other unique items are antiques and jewelry. You can even pick up a curved dagger here. Stalls are manned by chatty Yemeni men in traditional dress—including the required dagger at the belt.

Dubai Global Village, Yemen Pavilion, jewelry antiques

AFRICA PAVILION For me, this is the must-see pavilion, as it overflows with unique hand-crafted items from Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania, Senegal, and Zimbabwe. Find items such jewelry, drums, African art, hand-woven baskets, crocheted items, coffee beans as well as carved wooden items of all kinds, including bowls, bookends and African figures.

Dubai Global Village, Africa Pavilion, wooden bowls

TURKEY PAVILION This is a fantastic place to stop for a sweet snack—either Turkish delight, baklava, Turkish ice cream—or all three! For something savory, try the fried potato swirls on a stick. Find exquisite items for the home, such as colorful Turkish pottery, samovars, as well as Ottoman and mosaic lamps.

Dubai Global Village, Turkey Pavilion, pottery

PALESTINE PAVILION Buy foodstuff from Palestine: olive oil, zataar, sumac, olives, flavored cheeses and more. Also find the iconic Palestinian embroidery, as well as items carved from olive wood: ornaments, rosary beads, and nativity scenes—the typical items from Bethlehem and Jerusalem. While you are there, you might catch the debbke dancers.

Global Village, Dubai, Palestine Pavilion Thobs

MOROCCO PAVILION This is the place to create your Moroccan lair. Get a silver Moroccan teapot, as well as colorful tea glasses, a tea tray and a box of tea to go with. Also find Moroccan clothing, pointy leather slippers and the gorgeous pottery of Morocco. Discover cooking items such as clay tagines and couscous cooking pots, foodstuff such as harisa—as well as decorative hands of Fatima.

Global Village, Dubai, Morocco Pavilion, Tea shop

More Pavilions to See

It’s so hard to narrow the list down. Here are more pavilions I’m enjoying this year:

AFGHANISTAN Explore rare antique items. Pick out some colorful Afghan clothing or a winter coat. Take home a carpet or a kilim. Or simply buy foodstuff and nuts. 

TUNISIA Discover food-related items such as wooden cooking utensils, pottery, decorative tagines, olive oil and Tunisian foodstuff. Try on some leather sandals or hand-painted jewelry. Take home a kilim.

INDIA At the largest pavilion explore textiles galore, as well as footwear, jewelry, kitchen items, and more. 

SPAIN Experience Andalucía! Find Spanish saffron, olive oil, colorful clothing, jewelry, espadrilles footwear, as well as tapas and other foodstuff.

EGYPT Bring home some Egyptian cotton underwear, pajamas and traditional Egyptian clothing. Find papyrus prints, cat statues and heads of Nefertiti. And don’t forget the belly dance gear!

IRAN Stock up on Iranian saffron, as well as tablecloths, Persian carpets, jewelry, and traditional art. Find nuts and Iranian food; listen to some Iranian music.

JORDAN Buy some pottery or an embroidered thob. Sample food and bring home olives and zataar. 

PAKISTAN Pick out a leather jacket for yourself—or maybe a leather purse. Find colorful fabrics and other textiles.

Global Village, Dubai, Debke dancing

Basic Facts

1. The Global Village runs from October 5th, 2013 to March 1st, 2014.

2. Timings: Weekdays 4:00pm to midnight; Fridays 4:00pm to 1:00am

3. The entry cost is 15 dirhams.

4. The Global Village is located in Dubai Land on Emirates Road, Exit 37.

5. The Global Village is in its 18th season, running since 1997. In recent years, the Global Village received 4.5 million visitors per season.

6. You’ll find more than 28 pavilions from around the world, as well as canal boat rides and amusement rides in the newly launched Fantasy Island Funfair.

What’s your favorite item or pavilion at theGlobal Village?