We hosted a little Arabian-inspired pre-launch party for Grantourismo yesterday here at our villa on The Palm. As is typical of Dubai, our guest list was multicultural, and included Dubai bloggers and ‘tweeps’, and a handful of friends, all from the media, publishing, arts, hospitality, and airline industries – and all really lovely people.

I devised the menu and prepared all the dishes with Lara’s help, and we spent about five hours prepping for 30 people. The villa’s kitchen was perfect for this kind of entertaining with a good stove and a decent-sized fridge with an ice-maker, and an ‘island’ in the middle of the kitchen that is tailor-made for plating plenty of dishes. Here’s what we served:

The Cocktails
Our welcome drink was inspired by the traditions of Arabian hospitality, and the ‘breaking of the fast’ during Ramadan, when camel milk and dates are served to guests. I’m not a big fan of milk-based cocktails, but this went down a treat. As we had a few Muslim friends coming, we made alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions. We served them in shot glasses on a small bamboo tray with a date on a toothpick on the side – Lara’s genius idea. It meant that people could pick up their little taster upon arrival and have a walk around the villa and check it out while they settled in…

Marhaba! (It means welcome in Arabic)
2 oz Baileys
1 oz date syrup
1 oz camel milk
Note that date syrup is very strong so err on the side of caution.

There are a lot of Indian expats in Dubai, and they make up a majority of the expat population, so I thought we’d go with a variation of one of my favourite cocktails from Asha’s, an upmarket Indian restaurant we used to frequent when we lived here full-time. We tried a non-alcoholic version of it in Kuwait, and thought it would be ideal…

Ginger & Basil Cocktail
2 parts ginger-infused vodka, then add a handful of torn basil, a dash of lemon, and 1 part apple juice. To make ginger-infused vodka, just grate a small knob of fresh ginger and put it in the vodka bottle. Leave for at least 24hrs. This cocktail disappeared fast.

Pomegranate is ubiquitous in the Middle East – it’s one of Lara’s favourite fruits. We thought it would mix nicely with gin. And it did!

Pomegranate Pop
2 parts gin
1 part pomegranate juice
small amount of muddled mint leaves
ginger ale
Shake or stir, as you prefer.

The Canapes
I’ve been developing some Middle East dishes for a project that shall remain a secret for the moment. I prefer finger food for these kinds of soirees, but I don’t really like the ubiquitous greasy samosas that most people opt for here. I used to serve most of the dishes below at parties we had when we lived in Bur Dubai four years ago.

‘Fattoush’ salad
green capsicum
shallots, parsley and mint, all chopped finely

I love fattoush, a typical Middle East salad, but how do you serve it as finger food? Use one of the ingredients as a container for the rest! I sliced the cucumber into large chunks and scooped out the centre on one side to form a cup. The ingredients above go inside the cucumber ‘cup’.

Toasted Lebanese bread is usually broken into small chips and mixed through the fatoush, however, it goes soggy very quickly. I decided to create crunchy breadcrumbs and use them in the same way Thai chefs use toasted rice powder in Larb Gai (chicken salad), so I made Lebanese breadcrumbs and added rock salt. Just before serving I added lemon juice and olive oil. People really enjoyed both the freshness of this dish and my refreshing take on it, and I’m proud of having found a new way to serve it!

MidEast/Med-inspired Pintxos
The rest of the dishes were a variation on Basque pintxos. We used French breadsticks, which we sliced and toasted. Then we brushed the slices with olive oil, and served them with the following Middle Eastern- and Mediterranean-inspired toppings:

Hummus with coriander
Za’atar, peppered lamb mince and pine nuts
Muttabal with roasted capsicum strips
Pesto, rocket & Parmesan
Olive tapenade with coriander & capsicum
Philadelphia cream cheese with anchovies and chives

Dubai Sliders
I wanted to serve something more substantial for the stage of the night when everyone was tipsy feeling peckish, so I had the idea of doing mini-burgers, or sliders, that were Middle Eastern flavoured. I went with burgers made from lamb kofta mince. The kofta mix contains cumin, coriander, garlic, and mint, and is usually squeezed around skewers and cooked over charcoal. I made it into patties instead.

The tiny buns were halved and toasted, spread with hommous, topped with caramelized onions, a slice of roasted capsicum, and then the patty. I secured the top bun with a gherkin-skewer. Around 30 of them were devoured in about 30 seconds!

It was a great night, made so with a great crowd of people!

End of Article


Sign up below to receive our monthly newsletter to your In Box for special subscriber-only content, travel deals, tips, and inspiration.

100% Privacy. We hate spam too and will never give your email address away.


Support our Cambodia Cookbook & Culinary History Book with a donation or monthly pledge on Patreon.

Shop for related products


Find Your Dubai Accommodation