Thanksgiving

As my other half is American, we always celebrate Thanksgiving in style. The last Thursday in November is Thanksgiving which means TURKEY AND TONS OF BUTTER-Yay! If you are interested in finding out what it’s actually about, you can read about it here . However, I won’t attempt to explain as I’m bound to get something wrong and be ostracised by Patrick’s family!

We love Thanksgiving and whilst in Dubai it has grown from 8 close friends sharing a turkey to last year when we opened up our balcony in Dubai and had almost 50 guests for dinner, a beer pong tournament and a LOT of drinks. That poor balcony (and the turkey’s carcass) has never looked the same again….

Anyway, as we have just arrived in Lagos and I don’t know 50 people we decided we would invite a few of Patrick’s colleagues to celebrate the holiday. So I set about writing my list, checking it twice…oh wait, wrong holiday.

As there is a very random selection of supermarkets, boutique grocery stores and in delis in Lagos it’s a bit of a challenge to get everything at one shop so I spent Wednesday driving round with Lawal trying to find everything we needed.

Despite going to 6 shops, some American items simply do not exist here and I know they aren’t even sold in the UK so I used my initiative (and my bestie Google) to make these subs.

  • I couldn’t find sour cream for my cheesecake so used Greek yoghurt which seems to be more expensive than gold here. Over N4000 (£11) for a small tub so looks like that will be off the shopping list for the foreseeable future.
  • British style sausage meat- everything seemed to have the weird South African sausage taste which would not suit by stuffing recipe so after taste testing 4 different types of sausages (what a shame!) I decided upon plain pork mince instead and seasoned it to taste like sausage meat.
  • There were no fresh or canned cranberries or cranberry sauce so I improvised with dried cranberries and rehydrated them and drained them of the added sugar and boiled with orange zest, lemon and orange fresh juice, a pinch of cinnamon and finished with Tapioca flour as I don’t buy processed flours such as wheat and cornflour for the house.
  • There were no Saltine’s so I used Jacobs Cream Crackers instead which worked a treat. So we were good to go….

The Bird Family Nigerian Thanksgiving 2016 Menu

NB: I’ve linked any recipes I used from the internet for your reference. I also forgot to take photos of everything as I was busy hosting and cooking but , take my word for it, it all looked and tasted amazing.

Cocktail hour food

  • Lobster dipI used fresh lobster tails and butter poached  and finely chopped them before adding them to the dip mixture. I also doubled the sriracha to cut the creaminess and also because I am obsessed with spicy things. It was incredibly rich so would be good served with some veggies as well as crusty baguette and crackers.
  • Jalapeno popper dip – My sister in law recommended this recipe so I whipped up a batch. I hate mayonnaise so I left that out and added extra cheese and it went in about 5 minutes flat.  A definite crowd pleaser.
  • Mini pigs in blankets with a honey mustard dipping sauce– I wrapped the sausages I had bought, but I deemed unfit, for my stuffing testing in streaky bacon and grilled them until crispy and served with a mix of real honey and mustard mixed together with some mayo (aka the devils condiment)
  • Champagne, wine and whisky obvs

The main event

  • Garlic butter roasted turkey- I make my own fresh garlic, herb butter with salt and pepper and rub it all underneath the skin into the meat and a bit on the top and cover with bacon rashers and whack it in a really hot oven for the first 15 -20 mins to get it crispy and brown then turn down to cook covered in foil.IMG_8937.JPG

My friends laugh at me as I own 3 different meat thermometers but I just don’t trust timings as our turkey was ready almost an hour before the recommended, calculated time of many cookery books and websites and NOBODY likes a dry turkey. I like to keep my wings wrapped in foil until the end so they stay nice and moist also. I subscribe to minimal basting, no brining or messing about-just butter and a meat thermometer and you have a perfect juicy turkey every time. Certainly not the healthiest option but it’s fucking delicious!

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  • Whipped mash- I bake my potatoes in their skins then when they are fluffy inside, remove the inner spud, add butter, S&P, milk and a dash of cream and whip with a hand whisk. The potatoes have a roast potato taste within the mash which is the best of both worlds.

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  • Giblet gravy- Get a pan and add the giblets, turkey neck and any other stray bits inside the turkey with onion, garlic, carrot and celery chunks  for about an hour on a simmerand drain. Remove the giblets and chop them very finely and add back into the drained cooking liquid. Chuck away the veg and neck etc and leave the giblets and stock to cool in a large pan. Once your turkey is cooked, take it out to rest, drain the juices into your stock/giblets pan and add hot water or wine to the hot roasting tray to deglaze then add that to the juice/giblet mix and bring to a rolling boil. Make a slurry-I used tapioca flour but you can use cornflour or any thickener with cold water and mix it then add into the hot pan little at a time until it is your desired consistency. Season to taste. I could literally just drink this and be happy.
  • Sausage, sage and onion stuffing –  I changed it up a bit by adding in a load of sage and I used butter instead of margarine as margarine is full of chemicals and crap and tastes like plastic (just my opinion). I stuffed my bird with it so all the turkey juices oozed into it and it was AMAZING!
  • Scalloped corn- 1 sleeve cream crackers, 1 can creamed corn, 1 can milk, 1 egg – mix and bake until golden
  • Cranberry sauce -detailed above
  • Creamed corn – can of creamed corn
  • Honey and spice roasted carrots- carrots roasted with honey, cinnamon and nutmeg roasted until soft
  • Broccoli and courgette 
  • Creamy parmesan mushrooms – basically cook mushrooms in butter and whack a load of cream and parmesan cheese in with it
  • and boxed Kraft mac n cheese (Patrick’s childhood fave so he refuses to let me make ‘real’ mac n cheese!)

To finish

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  • Baked cheesecake – I changed the base for Oreos and Digestives but would half the butter they mention as it was far too much and made it hard to cut. I also thought it was incredibly sweet so would half the sugar also but I suppose that’s the American taste so went well with thanksgiving but was far too sweet for me. Obviously didn’t make the topping but added double stuff Oreos as the topping as they are PB’s favourite cookies.

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Leftovers

I stripped the turkey or meat and boiled the bones overnight in the crockpot with some onion, garlic, carrot and celery and used the stock to make a spicy turkey noodle soup.

Also, obviously wolfed down a plate of leftover stuffing, mash and gravy the next day as it was SO GOOD!

Well, back to reality and on the healthy eating train now and i’ll let you know my gym and fitness class reviews and some of what i’ve been cooking next week.

Have a lush day,

Becca

 

 

 

Week one

I’ve survived week one! So, here is a little recap of what we got up to.

After continuing the unpacking all day on Saturday we headed out to RSVP restaurant with Patrick’s colleagues for dinner. The restaurant was so modern and sophisticated with a fantastic cocktail menu-what’s not to love about an extra gingery Moscow Mule?

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We ventured out the back of the restaurant to find an open plan garden area with a beautiful pool and bar which looks like it would be a lot of fun to hang out at. Once our table was ready, we shared a variety of starters including sushi wrapped in some sort of local green leaf instead of seaweed, spicy deep-fried cauliflower, honey chicken, hummus and salmon teriyaki bites- all were delicious and disappeared very quickly. The mains, a selection of various meats and fish, were equally delicious and excellent quality-the pork chop being my favourite. I can’t wait to go back again and work my way through the cocktail menu and stuff my little face some more.

On Sunday we continued with some home organising and I headed to the pool in our complex for a little Vitamin D while PB worked. We then headed out to one of the clubs we are members of- The Jet Ski Club. The club consists of a tiki hut style bar next to a swimming pool looking out to the water where a small jetty is bolstered by jet skis.

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The club was really lively and the manager explained to us this was the busiest time of the week as they offer transport to the beach and back for members so people had come back to enjoy some food and drink after a hard day of sun worshiping. We decided to stay for dinner and ordered a Greek salad and beef and chicken suya plates. Suya is a traditional Nigerian meal of flattened meat marinaded in spices and cooked on a barbecue/braii. It is served with extra suya spice and fresh red onion and tomatoes. It was so fresh and delicious I could eat that every day. Plus , its Paleo and low carb so i’ll definitely be snacking on that in the lead up to the wedding so I fit into my dress!

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Patrick headed off to work on Monday morning. It’s gonna take a while for me to stop thinking Sunday is the first day of the week and Friday is a working day now we are back in a non Muslim country. Anyhow, I decided to venture out and away from Food Network and found a spinning class in the Four Points Sheraton which is a 10 minute drive from my apartment. There were 5 other women in the class and I really enjoyed the music -dance remixes of old school hip hop , afrobeats and dancehall tracks which kept me motivated/ dancing away for the hour. Usually spinning is only 45 minutes and I’m ready to finish but I really enjoyed the whole hour class despite being pretty exhausted at the end. The following day I tried an ab-blaster class which was really intense but when I didn’t feel anything the next day I assumed I have cheese grater abs hiding away. Then the DOMS set in 4 days later show no sign of abating leaving me feeling as if i’ve been punched in the stomach and ribs so it obviously worked well and i’ll go back to ab blaster again once I am in less pain.

The studio offers a range of cardio and toning classes during the day so I’ll be heading there most days to get my sweat on and then to their on site gym to do weight sessions as an addition to the fun cardio-heavy classes. I’ve also heard about a yoga studio that I hope to try next week so I have a broad range of fitness options so I don’t get bored of my workouts.

Tuesday night I met Patrick after work and we visited the Eko Hotel rooftop bar and restaurant which is a stunning open top lounge bar with great views of the city. There was a brisk wind which the waiter informed us is why they can’t serve full meals outside as things tend to fly around and people have been know to get some extra seasoning from flying bugs. With that in mind,  we opted for some sushi and a mixed appetiser basket. Although there was a limited selection of sushi and no tuna which is my favourite we opted for two varieties which were both great. The sushi rice was really fresh and soft with a good amount of fish but the mixed basket was a little dull tasting so we left most of it.

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The bar would be a great place to take visitors to Lagos as it’s got a great view of the city and an extensive drinks menu. There was a restaurant indoors also which had a full service menu so may well head back there to try out some of the main menu if the quality of the sushi is anything to go by, we would be in for a treat.

On Wednesday night we headed to the local Mexican restaurant Bottles. We sat outside in the courtyard and sipped on some Margs.

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PB’s colleagues joined us and shared a starter platter of wings, quesadillas, chips and dips etc which were all very tasty. I ordered blackened shrimp skewers and guac for my main which were a little too heavily seasoned for my liking but the rest of our party enjoyed their fajitas and burritos.

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The restaurant was very busy and people were enjoying the live 5 piece band. Patrick and I (after probably too many Margaritas) got up and danced the night away and everyone seemed in good spirits with the dance floor packed by the time we left. A great night out in a casual dining spot.

Now for week two and tackling Thanksgiving for 10 people!

The big move

It’s not often you wake up on your birthday with your most prized possessions (20 handbags and half the MAC store) in 3 suitcases ready to move to a country you have never been to before. However, today was that day for me.

So I set off to the airport, terrible wine headache from the previous days festivities on board, ready to start my new adventure.

Usually on my birthday I would be thrilled at the idea of Champagne at 10am but instead I nosedived into the comfiest chair in the lounge and settled for a mug of Earl Grey and the most glamorous of breakfasts-beans on toast. With that, I bid farewell to the country that had been my home for more than 7 years and settled in for the flight, finally ready for a small champagne.

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The flight was a short but relaxing 7 hours so I got to watch a few films and enjoy some of the lush food on board. Confession-airplane food is my favourite food. I also had butter chicken which I was too much of a hungover, eat everything in sight, piglet to get a photo of!

 

We landed 40 minutes ahead of schedule and there was a lovely greeter who informed me not to be alarmed by the amount of police and guns when coming off my flight as the Governor and his family were also travelling from Dubai so extra security was arranged for their arrival. I hadn’t even noticed to be honest, was too busy trying to find my Yellow Fever card amongst the mounds of tat in my bag! Despite it being pretty hot in the airport we swiftly went through passport control ,with some of the friendliest officers I have ever encountered, and onto baggage claim where my helper and I collected my cases. Following a quick tag check I was outside and reunited with Patrick ( yay <3) and his driver Monday very quickly. Also, my BFF Sami had sent me champagne and balloons which made me feel cry a little happy tear. So far, 1000 times less stressful and scary than I had imagined!

We then head off to our new home in Ikoyi which took about 30 minutes as we were assisted by a patrol car to push us through the traffic. We started to unpack then had an early night as I was pretty tired from all the travelling.

View of the water and jetty from our balcony:

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The following day Patrick headed off to work and left me alone with 10 Nigerians. So I took the bull by the horns and unloaded the container, had the electricians round and met with our building manager Grace, my driver Lawal and our house steward Victor- all the sweetest people ever who also rolled up their sleeves to help with the move. We had loads of really fresh New York style pizza for lunch and the unloading and fixing was done in a day.  Such a difference to Dubai where you need a new born giraffes, brothers blood then to travel to Deira  and back via Jebel Ali with it to get anyone to move you in/ bring you pizza/ get anything sorted in less than a year! Very refreshing.

Below: Patrick, Grace and the workmen trying to install the TV (excuse the mess!)

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Pending putting up paintings and finding (many) shoe racks to keep my babies safe we are all settled in. Time to relax by the pool in the beautiful sunshine with the love of my life!

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What I’ll miss about Dubai…

On my final day being an official resident in Dubai I thought it fitting to go to a beach club in front of the 7-star Burj Al Arab hotel and drink wine with some friends.

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It was a lovely relaxing day with stunning views and a small peek at 360 bar out at sea where I went for my first 5 star experience when arriving in Dubai over 7 years ago.

It got me thinking about my experiences and about few of the things I would and definitely wouldn’t miss about Dubai so I hope this tongue in cheek list resonates with a few of you sandpit dwellers.

Things I’ll miss about Dubai in no particular order:
My Dubai family- I couldn’t have done it without you reprobates / The parking ticket men on the exit at the malls  / Zaatar w zeit fattoush / Marc Jones’ Welsh Christmas / a 4 dirham Shawarma from Karama / Men sweeping the roads of sand in a sandstorm /Gracy ♥️/ Ladies night / Going to a club and ending up on a yacht / Falcons flying in first class/ No maamsirrrrr, not possible / rubbing the stamp off in the Westin to get 3 more free wines/ Shammmaaalllllllll 🌪/Yacht club happy hour and Marina club sandwiches /Chi / not realising Chi was open air for the first 40 times I went / Media 1 pool parties and meeting Penn State’s best ever swimmer/ about 50 days holiday a year / Balcony parties / fishing trips / round the clock delivery of anything you want /The Atlantis pool parties in a wheelchair / veal -turkey-dog- beef- chimpanzee bacon and sausages /getting your car washed 12 times a day and it still being covered in sand / Being tailgated and undertaken by someone with 7 kids not wearing seat belts and a lion hanging out the window / Beach parties with the worst DJs / boat parties with Show Me Love on repeat / telling the shopping bag packing man in Spinneys I don’t need a bag as i live upstairs /JBR traffic / Counting how many champagnes you drank at Yalumba brunch / Camels blocking the road en route to barracuda /Being able to leave a Ferrari open with an Audermars Piguet watch on the dash board and it still being there 6 weeks later / Ibn Battuta cinema / beauty salons everywhere💅🏼/ being asked why I’m not tanned if I live in a hot country/ going to the water park when you are hungover / Ordering food any time of the day but not often getting what you asked for/  the mall car washers trying to help you to park but standing behind your bar and settings off the parking sensors / milk and honey delivery at 3am / Being told by my Asian colleagues/beauty therapist I am looking tired/chubby/wrinkled/fat/never going to get married/ bad hair day /very pale etc and it being a term of endearment/  Emirates- when you want to escape anywhere with your glass of wine filled the whole way/ being asked if I am not allowed to drink wine and have to be covered up as I live in the Middle East/ Bullfrogs at Rock bottoms and getting a shawarma on the way out / doing Crossfit outside in 50 degree heat / Papa Murphys taco pizza RIP / Eating hummus all day errrydayy /Doing a Palm strip at the weekend ♥️ you Cabana/ Telling yourself you’ll only have one Palm strip and end up dying of a cheap wine hangover (Sunrise is a killer) / Stallions Club in RAK/ People reversing down a 7 lane high way /Having an inordinate amount of condensed milk in a cup of tea at any meeting you go to / The A380 bar /my colleagues / watching the rugby at Barasti / Media 1 brunch / Spinneys rotisserie chicken / going to Marina Mall Waitrose to look at hot men (when I was single! Sorry PB😂)/ Staycations in random Emirates/ Mint lemonade / going to a meeting and the person you meet with being at least an hour late then spending 94% of the meeting on their phone / Being stranded for 12 hours on SZR after it rains for 9 minutes /Guessing ‘pimp, customer or father?’ With the ladies ‘friends’ in 360/ ordering an 80 quid bottle of wine and having to collect it from someone’s car boot / Being 6 weeks behind on Eastenders and patiently waiting for when Danny Dyer finally came on! / Valet at the chip shop/The best Indian food / hummus, hummus with meat, hummus with shawarma, freshly baked Arabic bread with hummus, hummus with pine nuts, hummus with pomegranate syrup. Love you all! See you soon Inshallah 🇦🇪🇦🇪🇦🇪🇦🇪🇦🇪🇦🇪🇦🇪🇦🇪🇦🇪🇦🇪🇦🇪🇦🇪🇦🇪🇦🇪🇦🇪🇦🇪