I had always realised that eating in such countries could be dangerous. We had to take precautions. We were filming in the UAE. The crew itself was one that allowed versatility. Cameraman Tony Mander could operate the sound equipment and soundman Mike Matthews could operate the camera, so that should any one of them go down with some local disease, we could still operate. We still had Osman and Siqseq, from Cairo, in reserve.
However, to try to avoid such eventualities, I lay down some rules concerning eating. First, there was the question of where to eat. I insisted that it should be in a main restaurant or in the hotel where one could expect a high standard of hygiene. Second, there was the question of expenses in terms of outside restaurants.
The plan, that I was to keep for all Middle East locations, was that, on the first night on a particular location, we should all eat together at a good class restaurant. We would eat whatever we wanted and then the bill would be divided by our number. We were seven strong. Whatever that figure was would become the limit I would agree to pay for any future use of an outside restaurant, by any member or members of the crew who decided that they wished to eat at a location of their choice. Meals within the hotel were covered by the hotel bill which was paid for by the Ministry. In the event we always ate together.
This worked well, in that I never had a member of the crew go down with food poisoning or any food induced bug. Within the hotel, we ordered large numbers of mixers to be placed in the fridge for our use, with our spirits, instead of ice.
The restaurant we chose for the first night was The Mandarin in Abu Dhabi. Because of our number, we were shown to the large round table with the rotating shelf. We had eaten in Chinese restaurants before and we had a certain drill. Each member of the party would order what they wanted and this was placed on the revolving shelf. Anyone could choose to have some from each plate and, when a plate was emptied, it would be replaced with a full one so that the person who chose it in the first place could have their full share.
What we were offered included: Lamb with Asparagus, Prawns with celery and almonds, Stuffed fish, Chicken with black bean sauce, Drunken Chicken, Pork chow mien and, of course, Dim Sims and Spring Rolls.
Here is a recipe for Lamb with Asparagus:
Half a kilo of lean lamb, 3 small tomatoes, 1 onion, half teaspoon of salt, a bunch of asparagus, 200 millilitres beef stock, 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil, 1 clove of garlic.
For the sauce: 1 dessert spoon of cornflour, 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, 4 tablespoons of water.
Cut the asparagus into 2 centimetre lengths, enough to fill two tea cups. Boil in water for five minutes. Cut the lamb into slices half a centimetre thick. In a frying pan, heat oil, salt and a sprinkling of pepper. When the oil is hot, add the lamb and the crushed garlic. Fry for ten minutes when the lamb should be tender. Add the asparagus, the tomatoes (cut into quarters) and the beef stock. Cook for a further two minutes. Mix the cornflour, Soy sauce and water, then pour over the lamb. Carry on cooking until the sauce thickens.
Here’s a recipe for Stuffed Fish
Ingredients: A whole fish weighing a kilo, gutted, scaled and cleaned, 125grams of pork, half teaspoon of sugar, 150 millilitres cup of soy sauce, 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil, 3 shallots, 3 slices of green ginger, a tablespoon of cornflour.
Score the back of the fish with cuts about a centimetre apart. Mince the pork with the shallots and ginger. Mix this with the cornflour with a tablespoon of the soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of water. With this mixture, stuff the fish. Seal the fish with skewers to retain the stuffing. Heat the oil until it is smoking hot, then add the fish and fry it on both sides until it is brown. Add the remaining soy sauce and sugar and one cup of water. Put the lid on the pan and cook for a further 15 minutes over a medium heat.
Main photo by Bill Bumgarner.
Next chapter: Chapter 75: Defender of His Faith