Even though sometimes you may not have time to eat properly, you should at least try to eat proper food in a messy, beast-like way. Balance it out - this burger arrangement, with the fries shoved inside, is my efficiently time-saving twist on a regular Elevation cheeseburger. There's no doubt it's an unladylike way to eat, but, it's all organic and free-range, so the primitive wolfing-down of it is actually just rustic and authentic. Also it's nostalgic, because of chip butties.
Food gestures can be so beautiful. Yesterday I flew out of town for a day - constituting an early start and four flights - and arrived back in Muscat at 11pm, starving. Have you ever eaten on Gulf Air? No, me neither.
Maurizio had been with our friends James and Carla, and when he set off to pick me up from the airport, they kindly gave him a full plate of the roast dinner they'd cooked. So when I fell off the plane, dragged myself through the electronic gates, and slumped into the car, I was greeted with a delicious scent of rosemary and garlic, and devoured the whole thing (meat from the bones and all) on the drive home.
As if it were needed, this is another good example of why not following the Rules is a good idea. I'd recommend a restorative roast to anyone at any time, in any location, even a moving vehicle. Just what I needed after a long day of travel; tasty and comforting, and the garlic cloves got straight to work on killing off all the germs that four plane-loads of passengers insisted on breathing into the public domain.
(In the interest of full disclosure, this is a pre-used photo - while it is possible, even advisable, to eat roast dinners in the car at night, it's an almost impossible proposition to photograph the procedure.)
Yay, my favourite hidden jewel in the Muscat restaurant treasure trove, Marjan at the Grand Hyatt, has re-opened for the cool(ish) season. I'm here this evening for poolside sundowners, a delicious dinner and a romantic view over the beach. Now it's been a while since I ate here, so this time I won't feel at all guilty if I order their Indonesian slow-cooked, fall-apart beef stew for the hundredth time. Note: Marjan has a lovely atmosphere for couples, but don't get this dish if you're on a first date...you'll inevitably pay more attention to the rendang than to your partner.
This morning I was distraught to miss another fine cooking lesson at the Hyatt - the dessert one was loads of fun, and I really wish I could have attended this one with Chef Mauro, but at 8.30am it clashed with work commitments. I don't really need to know about Italian food as Maurizio is happy to be the Keeper of the Knowledge. But I was looking forward to the opportunity to legitimately eat pasta for breakfast.
Who decides what is eaten when? Why is it that a pain au chocolate is fine, but if I fancy a sticky toffee pudding in the morning it's not? Ditto meats. I'm English, and pork is an integral part of our classic national fry-up, but most of us would baulk at the thought of eating beef or chicken at breakfast. Have you ever seen hash browns on a dinner menu? They're potatoes aren't they? Chips are fine but not squared-off versions?
And why is it that enjoying a bowl of cereal any other time than morning is something we're exclusively allowed to do in our late teens and early twenties? And why does the same not apply to porridge? I'm at a loss as to why the species is not rising up and questioning these mandates.
Thank goodness someone had the sense to invent brunch, giving us a place for all those in-between foods that we must have been unconsciously wanting for breakfast, knowing that to indulge would mean risking the scorn of our peers. Like smoked salmon. And alcohol, come to think of it, in boozy brunches. How did that come about? You'd have to guess it's a Cava conspiracy, for the wineries to crowbar their unlimited bubbly into a mid-morning, yet socially-acceptable framework.
I have Maurizio to thank for opening my mind to the possibilities of breakfast. To the disgust of many and the secret envy of more, he lives the dream of every young boy, and has chocolate cake or chocolate biscuits dunked in chocolate milk for breakfast. He's a visionary. He wouldn't have scoffed if I came back from the Hyatt this morning full of lasagna.
Salads get a bad rap for dullness, and can bring to mind frustrating calorie deprivation and limp lettuce, but I love a good fat juicy salad. Salads have a good thing going for them: you can make them out of anything and you don't even need to cook them. Even I can assembly a salad. And sometimes I do. In theory, you can get more imaginative with less effort, and be rewarded with a dish of which every mouthful is different.
The key to making a proper meal of salads is just to eat loads and loads. Like a kilo or so of this concoction of refreshing and tasty goodness that we had for lunch, which has in it: grilled chicken, pears, walnuts, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, goat's cheese, wholegrain mustard and honey.
This weekend there's a Mexican Fiesta at Rumba Lattina. Showcasing how well Rumba does this best-known of Latin cuisines, this is the proper stuff; everything homemade with authentic Latin ingredients, and authentic and lovely people on the team too. Here's my sizzling fajitas; the party goes on tonight with all-you-can-eat delicioso-ness. Ay waistline mio.
FatSu tips: inspired by the buzz that went round the table at our last dinner at Safari, when Anne's get-the-ketchup-bottle-to-give-it-up tip drew gasps of joy and astonishment from the guests, all of whom were hard-bitten, world-weary media types.
Like the one I passed on from Anne, none of these tips are likely to come directly from me. I don't really know anything. So here's a tip from Maurizio. For those of us with soft mouths, discarded pizza crusts are a terrible waste of dough. What Maurizio does is to drizzle a few drops of chilli oil onto the very edge of the slice, and tilt it to let it absorb into the crust, softening it up and making it edible. Zero waste and an extra kick from the chilli heat.