Thursday, February 16, 2017

Omani Produce, Origin Oman, One Star House Party

So, I love cooking. I was once upon a time a fancy-pants chef, and although I have no desire to cook again professionally, there is nothing that gives me more pleasure than cooking for friends and family. I am doubly blessed because I have a wonderful cadre of friends who are happy to drop everything and pitch up to help eat dinner when I have cooked too much or have found something really special at the supermarket. It's my favourite thing in the world.

One of the things that changed most dramatically during the 5 years we were living overseas is the availability of stuff produced in Oman, specifically food. Local produce was generally limited to cabbage, tomato, eggplants, dates, honey, root vegetables, salad herbs, and fresh fish. If you wanted frozen fish one had to suffer the ignominy of buying frozen fish that had been caught in Oman, exported to the UAE, and then reimported here to be sold in supermarkets. It was RAGE inducing. Occasionally in season there would be a delivery of some perfect pomegranates or garlic from the mountains, or locally grown romaine lettuce, which was always exciting, and demanded a grilled Omani prawn Caesar salad to celebrate.

Getting to the point: You Guys, there is so much amazing Omani-Grown Produce available these days! a couple of days ago I found the most gorgeous candy-cane beets, grown in Oman. There are several organic farms producing lettuce, kale, red chard, different kinds of squash, fresh flowers and even heirloom tomatoes. I know this makes me sound like a total douche-bag-hipster, but I really do love red chard and kale. Additionally, we have Fish&co who are packaging and freezing local Omani fish here. Fresh fish is great, but sometimes you just want to whip something out of the freezer for a fast dinner. Sultan Center probably leads the market in stocking Omani Produce, but Carrefour has really upped their game in this department as well.

The Origin Oman Logo

Years ago, I was approached to contribute to an Origin Oman cookbook. The plan was to have various local chefs compile 3-7 recipes each using Omani ingredients and distribute the cookbook free or for a nominal charge in all the supermarkets during Ramadhan. It was a great idea, and with very little notice, I created, tested, and wrote a bunch of recipes to contribute. Origin Oman sent a great photographer to capture the finished plates, and people, that food looked the business. Seriously high-end shit, Y'all. We hit a snag in the road when Origin Oman helpfully suggested that I wasn't nearly Omani enough to be the author of the recipes, so perhaps we could credit my partner with the recipes instead, and stage photos of her cooking the food, so it would seem more "Omani" At the time, I honestly wasn't too fussed either way, but my partner kindly declined. I have no idea if the cookbook was ever published or not, but I was thinking maybe I should post a weekly or monthly recipe here that highlights Omani ingredients, and what is so great about them. What say you, Blogosphere?

This, belatedly, brings me to One Star House Party which is a Pop-up restaurant at the Al Bustan running for a week starting tomorrow night. It's the brainchild of some wanderlust-stricken chefs who have decided to do a 20-month, 20-country round the world trip, cooking a seven-course meal on the final week in each country. The meal will highlight Omani produce, ingredients, and the best that Oman has to offer. We bought tickets for the first night, and I am basically pissing myself with excitement. If you want to know more about the event, Sythe, over at Muscat Mutterings did a write up on the event HERE Tickets are a super expensive  USD 120 each, and do not include alcohol, though the website indicated that the booze is BYOB (an optimistic pipe dream here, I'm sure). I'll post a review of the experience, so tune back in Saturday.

More from here soon. 


Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

I'd read your cooking posts, although I am so not a "search for special ingredients" person. I'd find it interesting however, if you'd document your "special shopping trips" if you visit any of these farms in person (or you just use the local grocery stores). I've found local milk, eggs, organic tomatoes, and herbs, from farms and personal gardens, as well as a lot of fruits, but in the end, I don't put in the effort to cook with any of this stuff;p. so my husband ends up giving my MIL like a bag of Omani veg and she's happy to do something with it.

That's cool that you did pro cooking. Exhausting work. I could never ever do it, even if I love to eat out;p.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see some of your recipes! I imagine they would be dishes with attitude. And i'd just love to see you post more often generally. Love your writing!

Trygve Sahar Harris said...

Well I'm just in the process of moving to Muscat (from Salalah and then away) and just found those vegetables at Souq al Sabah last week. And I had just been moaning about the lack of produce compared to Salalah.
I would be delighted to read and try your recipes-please post!
And speaking of Origin Oman! I make frankincense essential oil. Yeas ago, I contacted Origin Oman, thinking how great it would be to be certified as an Omani product, which of course, it is.
At first all went well, they gave me a login to the website, and then, suddenly.......nothing. Cut me dead. Never heard from them again, my login didn't work, no answer to my phone calls, no reply to emails. I became PNG. I had assumed no one was working there, until one day I noticed Mountain Dew with the Origin Oman logo! Aha, so I just dropped it and have never heard from them again, years later. Now I wonder if perhaps it's my non Omaniness that did it.