A Literary Feast For A Literary Beast

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Reading is something I started doing quite late in life, but my transformation into the literary beast, which I still proudly am, was fairly quick. It was ‘mystery’ that hooked me in, starting me off with some innocent Enid Blyton (of the Hardy Boys fame); it wasn’t long before I was injecting regular doses of Agatha Christie (remember Hercule Poirot?). My metamorphosis was complete; there was no going back. I started tasting other genres including horror, sci-fi and fantasy, and to this day, nothing gets my heart beating faster than speculative fiction.

I moved to Dubai in 2014 and it was then that I heard of the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature (EAFOL). The EAFOL is the highlight of Dubai’s event calendar and is organized every March by the hard-working people at the Emirates Literature Foundation. I was lucky enough to be part of the EAFOL volunteering team in 2015 and decided to (happily) render my services in 2016 as well; this time as a photographer. The event served to be a thousand KVA jolt of much-needed motivation/inspiration and I finally started my journey as an aspiring novelist.

This year, EAFOL had a stellar lineup of authors, poets, illustrators, chefs, scientists, astronauts and journalists from across the globe. I was fortunate enough to interact with quite a few of them; they were more than eager to share priceless insights into the mysterious world of writing and publishing. Every single one of these individuals (whose photos I’m about to share with you) is an amazing human being with the power of transforming lives through the pen. Hats off to you all – keep calm and write on!

Adel Khozam

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A.F. Harrold

Afshin Molavi

Annabel Kantaria

In Session: Afshin Molavi and Annabel Kantaria

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Alexander McNabb

Garth Nix

Jenny Colgan

In Session: Alexander McNabb, Garth Nix and Jenny Colgan

Anchee Min

In Session: Anchee Min, Victoria Hislop and Helen Macdonald

Antony Beevor

Anthony Horowitz

Brandon Sanderson

Brian Johnson

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Chris Carter

Ian Rankin

In Session: Ian Rankin and Chris Carter

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Chris Cleave

Chris Hadfield

Chris Haughton

Christopher Edge

Curtis Jobling

In Session: Christopher Edge and Curtis Jobling

Cristina Mejia

In Session: David, Hilary and Ben Crystal

Darren Shan

David Allen

David Melling

David Neild

Diana Darke

Gavin Mortimer

Gill Lewis

Harry Baker

In Session: The Wonderful World of Harry Potter

Imtiaz Dharkar

Jacqueline Wilson

Jo Simpson

Joe Wicks

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John Julius Norwich

John Man

John McHugo

John Torode

Jonathan Meres

Julia Johnson

Justin Marozzi

Kikka Hotta

Kiran Chhabria

Korky Paul and his Quirky Assistant

Lauren Child

Lauren St. John

Liliane van der Hoeven

Lisa Faulkner

Liz Fenwick

Maitha Al Khayat

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Marcia Williams

Marco Misiroli

Mark Evans

Michael Dobbs

Muhsin Suleman

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Peter Horacek

Rachel Billington

Rachel Hamilton

Riz Khan

Robert Lindsay

In Session: Scintillating Science with Christopher Edge, Nick Arnold and Rachel Hamilton

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Sean Fay Wolfe

Sebastian Fitzek

Shukri Al Mabkhout

Suad Amiry

Susan Abulhawa

Susan Casey

Tim Spencer

In Session: The UAE Mars Mission with Sarah Amiri and Saeed Al Gergawi

 

A Spook-tacularly English Halloween

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Even though I left the UK a few weeks before Halloween, the festivities were well under way; the great discounts on candies didn’t hurt either. I visited the spook-tacular West Midland Safari Park and was blown away by the phenomenal decorations. Here are a few photos for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

A Stomach-Friendly Approach to Eid-al-Adha

Eid-al-Adha, one of the two festivals celebrated by all Muslims globally, marks the remembrance of Prophet Ibrahim’s (Abraham – peace be upon him) commitment to sacrifice his own son Ismaeel (peace be upon him) to please Allah. Allah, impressed by this gesture of utmost devotion and unwavering loyalty, made it immortal by incorporating it as part of Hajj, an annual pilgrimage that brings millions of Muslims to Makkah, Saudi Arabia. It gives me chills just to think what we would be sacrificing had Allah not replaced Ismaeel with a sheep/ram.

Sacrifices aside, the thing we all look forward to most is the food and the endless BBQs that are sure to follow. However, after a few meat-eating days, one (or shall I say ‘the stomach’?) finally deserves a refreshing break from all the heaviness. Its often difficult to find the right balance between light and delicious; fortunately, there are a few middle-eastern staples that fit the bill. I decided to take an Arabian approach to this post as an homage to the roots of this festival.

As usual, I added a Pakistani twist to both recipes, so instead of a traditional Shawarma and Shish Tawook, I present to you the Roast Beef Shawarma with Hummus and Shish Malai Boti with Vegetables.

Roast Beef Shawarma with Hummus

Ingredients:

  • For Roast Beef
    • 1/2 kg beef (single lean cut)
    • 3 tbsp ginger paste
    • 2 tbsp green chili paste
    • 1/2 cup vinegar
    • salt to taste
    • 2 tsp black pepper
    • 1 tsp red chilies (ground)
    • 4-5 cups water
  • For Hummus with Tahini
    • 1 cup garbanzo beans (canned works best but you can also boil at home)
    • 1 tsp sesame seeds
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 2-3 cloves of garlic
    • 3 tbsp yogurt
    • salt to taste
    • olives for garnish
    • paprika or cayenne pepper for garnish
  • For Shawarma
    • 6-8 pita bread
    • 1 onion (thinly sliced)
    • 2 cups iceberg lettuce (thinly sliced)
    • 1 cup picked jalapenos, cucumbers, gherkins, beetroots and carrots (thinly sliced)
    • 1 cup tomatoes (cubed)
    • 1 cup cabbage (thinly sliced)

Method:

  1. Take a pan and add all the ingredients for the roast beef into it; cook on low flame till all the meat is tender and all the water has dried out.
  2. Wrap the meat in a foil and put it in the oven for 3-5 minutes on medium temperature. This step is optional.
  3. Take it out of the oven and let it cool. Cut into thin slices and set aside.
  4. Put garbanzo beans, sesame seeds, olive oil, garlic, yogurt and salt into a jug and blend till everything is a smooth paste; set it aside in a bowl.
  5. Cut pita bread into half and spread a tablespoon of hummus on the inside.
  6. Add two to three slices of roast beef to it.
  7. Top it off with onions, iceberg lettuce, cabbage, pickled vegetables and tomatoes.
  8. Serve with a side of hummus (garnish with paprika/cayenne and olives) and pickled vegetables.

Note: You can easily pickle vegetables at home. Just dice the veggies you wish to pickle and mix them in vinegar, some salt and sugar. Heat this mix in a pan for 5-7 minutes to get instant results.

Shish Malai Boti with Vegetables

Ingredients:

  • For Malai Boti
    • 2 chicken breasts (cut into 1 inch cubes)
    • 2 tsp ginger & garlic paste
    • 1/2 tsp white cumin seeds (roasted and powdered)
    • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds (roasted and powdered)
    • 1/2 tsp white pepper
    • 1/2 tsp black pepper
    • 3 tbsp cream (one that rises to the surface after boiling & cooling whole full-fat milk)
    • 3 tbsp fresh cream (a.k.a. heavy cream)
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 2 tbsp lemon juice
    • 1 tbsp green chili paste
    • 1/2 tsp garam masala
    • 1 tsp red chili powder
    • 1 tbsp vinegar
    • 3 tbsp yogurt
    • salt to taste
  • For Shish
    • 15-20 bamboo skewers
    • 2 tomatoes (cut into eighths)
    • 2 onions (cut into eighths)
    • 2 capsicums (cut into eighths)
  • Optional Ingredients
    • 1 small piece of hot coal
    • 1 tsp olive oil

Method:

  1. In a bowl, mix all the ingredients for malai boti and marinate the chicken for 1 hour.
  2. Put the marinated chicken in a pan and cook on medium flame till it is tender.
  3. If you like adding a smokey flavor to the chicken, (a) take a small steel bowl and put it in the center of the pan, (b) place the hot coal into it, (c) drizzle the olive oil on the coal, (d) cover the pan immediately, (e) let it stay for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Once the chicken has cooled significantly, put the individual cubes onto bamboo skewers interleaved with pieces of tomato, onion and capsicum.
  5. To give the skewers a slight char, place them directly over a flame; be careful not to set the bamboo skewers on fire.
  6. Serve with a side of tamarind chutney or mint raita.

Eid is all about sharing with people less fortunate than us. So if you are sacrificing something, a goat, a cow or a camel, please ensure that those around you don’t go hungry on this auspicious occasion.

A very happy Eid Moo-Baa-Rak to everyone!

Cheers,
Yousuf