If you’ve started to tighten your belt, it probably means you’re not eating out as much as you used to (which might explain why your trousers are so loose). These days, you may not feel like dropping a few hundred Ds on dinner and drinks with friends. But that doesn’t mean all your Friday nights have to be lonely and unfed. There’s never been a better time to throw a dinner party, and it’s possible to do it for as little as Dhs40 a head. We asked Henry Dyer, the founder of Dish, one of Dubai’s leading catering companies, to come up with some menus that could feed a cost-conscious army.
For meat lovers
What better way to satiate your gaggle of carnivorous buddies than with a barbecue? To cut costs, you could have everyone bring a side dish. When it comes to choosing the meat, there is no shortage of cheap options.
‘Nothing beats sausage for value for money’ says Dyer, who recommends the Park N Shop (Jumeirah Beach Road, near Safa Park, 04 394 5671) for choice cuts of inexpensive meat. They sell fresh sausages for Dhs38 a kilo. Another option, he says, is to buy a whole rack of lamb for Dhs75 and have the butchers cut the chops. One rack can easily feed four people as a main course, or eight as an appetiser. It’s best to buy the meat the night before, and marinate it overnight.
‘Keeping it simple means keeping it cheap,’ says Dyer. ‘One of the best marinades is just a mix of garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. Make enough to coat the lamb, and you’re set.’
If you’d rather have the party indoors, you can cook the meat on a hot, well-oiled griddle pan (approximately five minutes per side) or in the grill (from 10 to 15 minutes)
Most of us know at least one person (or a dozen) who won’t eat meat, but will eat fish. For them, Dyer advises making a trip to the Deira fish market, where you can pick up a kilo of prawns for Dhs35. There’s a stall nearby where you can have the shrimp shelled and cleaned for Dhs15. Dyer suggests marinating them for half an hour or more (just toss in some olive oil, lime juice, garlic and whatever herbs you have hanging around) before throwing them on a barbecue or cooking them on an oiled grill pan (about two minutes per side, or until they turn pink).
While you’re at the fish market, duck into the fruit and vegetable market to pick up veggies for your side dishes. Though Dyer says that to get a true deal it’s best to go the fruit and vegetable market in International City.
‘They’re the market that supplies the one in Deira,’ he explains, adding, ‘you can feed a family of 10 for under Dhs100 in International City, but you have to negotiate.’ Potatoes, onions, carrots and cabbage all make cheap, filling fodder, and need little more than salt and pepper to bring out their flavours. Grab your favourite veg and try roasting them (peel them, cut them into small, uniform chunks, coat them in olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 400F for half an hour to 45 minutes). While you’re there, pick up some fruit for dessert (we’ll get to that next).
If you’re thinking of having guests at home and want to find the perfect dessert then Dyer recommends fancifying an ice cream sundae. He says, ‘Throw some sugar and oil in a frying pan to make caramel. Throw in chopped bananas and stir until they’re warm and coated, then put it on top of some vanilla ice cream with some crushed Maltesers, it’s always a hit’. If all that seems like far too much work, then you can still save money by employing Dyer’s company. Dish’s catering packages start from as little as Dhs75 per person. Dish (04 422 1613; www.dish.ae)
How to wet your whistle
Sure, guests come for the food and for good company, but a memorable drink will give the evening a boost.
Sodas and mixers are one way to go, but they don’t really make an impression the way a beautifully presented mocktail would. Henry Dyer of Dish recommends making a splash with your bevvies.
‘Muddled drinks are all the rage, right now,’ he says, referring to drinks that are made with fruit, herbs and/or spices, and that are then mushed together. ‘You can make any drink look impressive. Just grab some of your favourite fruit, maybe lychees or strawberries, and add sugar and mint if you want. Then, take the end of a rolling pin and smoosh them all around.’
Add your favourite juice or whatnot, and you’ve got a killer drink that your guests won’t be likely to forget. Time Out’s favourite? We like fresh mango with mint. It makes quite a splash.
Time Out tested
When Dyer fed us these tips, we couldn’t wait to try them out, so we called together 14 friends and had a feast.
Skewered marinated shrimp
Mashed carrots and onions
Ice cream sundaes
2kgs of shrimp Dhs70
Two racks of lamb Dhs140
Fruit and veg Dhs80
Two litres of ice cream Dhs50
Per head cost Dhs24