If you want to visit Dubai, winter is the season to come. It’s the time when temperatures dip to pleasant levels and three showers a day is no longer a necessity. It’s the time when you can swim in the sea without it feeling like splashing around in a bowl of steaming soup and it’s the time when you can put on your sunglasses as you step outside without them fogging up with big humidity. It’s a nice place to be …
After the long summer holidays, it’s easy to kid yourself that the sweltering weather is on the way out but really there’s still a few weeks to go.
In fact 19 is the magic number. And yes, 19 October is the magic date when the summer begins to fade away and the winter starts to creep in. ‘Such a precise date?’, I hear you cry. Well, here’s why …
When we first moved to Dubai I used to take tennis lessons. Despite having watched the entirety of the Wimbledon championships in 1977 when Virginia Wade won (and I was suffering from a nasty bout of Chicken Pox), I had never so much as picked up a tennis racket before, so it was all new to me. Our coach was a South African guy – very experienced and the patience of a saint – so the perfect teacher. Even through the summer, he always taught on outdoor courts so he knew the weather like the back of his hand. And having taught in Dubai for lots of years he knew the onset of winter when he saw it coming – and every year he saw it coming on 19 October. Every year. I’m a sucker for believing people who speak with great confidence and on this subject he did just that, so ever since then 19 October has been the date for me. I’ve shared the theory with everyone I’ve ever met in the hope that one day it will be presented back to me but I am in fact still waiting.
The lessons stopped a few years ago and I think the coach left Dubai, so I’m unable to update you as to whether our tennis/weather guru adapted his magic date to account for the strange weather patterns of recent years. We will never know. And as for my tennis – I wouldn’t say that I was AWFUL but fundamentally I just could never get the hang of serving … so I was fated to always look like a right wally on the tennis court. Shame – but always good to get the opportunity to use the word ‘wally’ … sadly under used in modern parlance I fear.
So assuming that there is some truth in the magic date of 19 October, what will I be doing in the winter, now that it is just round the corner? I’ll open the patio doors – full and wide; I’ll wear a scarf sometimes (perhaps even woolly) and maybe the occasional cardigan too; I won’t always have my hair scraped up in a ‘my hair doesn’t handle humidity very well’ ponytail and I will try to get our family into the swing of eating in the garden … as much as possible. Even if we aren’t barbecuing, there is something magical about relocating a regular dinner to the great outdoors and this winter we’ll be doing loads of it.
Considering that the temperatures in Dubai rarely enter the chilly spectrum, I do cook a lot of warming, roasty-toasty, cozy food; but as winter comes out to play, I’ll be interspersing these dishes with the occasional cooler, chilled-out dish.
And this is one of them – Roasted Peppers with tomatoes & anchovies. It’s a ‘quickie’, a ‘prepare ahead’, or even a ‘cook ahead’ dish. It sparkles for lunch with a salad and some good bread to soak up the juices, or for a mid-week supper with some rice or couscous and a few green beans. It performs perfectly as a starter and is pretty enough to act up as a dinner party dish too. It’s lovely to serve alongside a few other salad dishes or it’s powerful enough to go it alone. And it works hot or cold. Take your pick. Do with it as you please.
Scale it up or down depending on how many you are planning to feed but allow for some leftovers, as lunch the next day will then be a gift. Oh and don’t be alarmed by the anchovies if you’re not a fan – they mingle with the other flavours to give the whole dish depth rather than hitting you in the face. But if you want this to be a vegetarian dish then leave them out. Not a problem.
And even if, in your part of the world, 19 October is not the magic date for the start of good weather – come indoors, close the door tightly, turn up the heating and enjoy this magical dish anyway. I love a bit of make-believe …
- 3 red or yellow peppers
- 250g cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 6 anchovy fillets
- 6 dessertspoons olive oil
- a few basil leaves
- a roasting tray which will fit the pepper halves snugly in one layer
- Preheat the oven to 200ºC, 400ºF (gas mark 6).
- Carefully cut each of the peppers in half through the stalk and then carefully remove the seeds and pith from inside. Arrange the pepper halves, cut side up, in the roasting tray.
- Divide the tomato halves between the pepper halves and then do the same with the chopped garlic.
- Using a pair of scissors, snip one anchovy fillet into each pepper half.
- Add 1 dessertspoon of olive oil to each pepper half.
- Season with a little black pepper. The anchovies should ensure that adding salt is not necessary.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 30 mins or until soft and golden.
- Sprinkle with some ripped basil before serving hot or cold with all the delicious juices.