Cooking With Mark

A new take on the takeout meal

Resist the temptation to click and eat by serving yourself a homemade stir fry

Last year, my sister made her first trip from the UK to Dubai. I met her and the kids at the airport, their flight coming in early morning from Birmingham. I love when my visitors land on a night flight as the journey from the airport is more stunning at night — you truly appreciate the illuminated skyline.
My sister did just that and was blown away by the sheer scale of everything. This theme continued throughout the week. Our weeklong tour of the city was very well choreographed, and we did all the main attractions, beach, desert and most of the malls. I explained that many of Dubai’s landmarks are record-breaking in some way, whether it be height, length or construction costs.
On her last night I treated the family to a posh dinner, and while heading to the restaurant we got stuck in traffic — another Dubai pastime. As we inched along, my sister wondered why there were so many scooters on the road. I explained that the glowing boxes were full of delivery food, and as we sat not going anywhere she started counting — 26, 27, 28. My sister thought it was crazy — she’d never seen so many delivery guys on one stretch of road.

Our weeklong tour of the city was very well choreographed, and we did all the main attractions, beach, desert and most of the malls.

It got me thinking — we sure do live in a takeout culture. Whether it’s a lobster delivered to your desk or a full-on roast dinner, your order can be as extravagant as your imagination. And with the increasing number of apps available, it’s easy just to click your next meal.
So many people have told me their new year’s resolution is to stop or at least reduce the amount of food they order online.

I have on occasions ordered in using an app. I was cat-sitting over the holidays, so rather than transport groceries from home, I did click and eat a few times. It’s so easy, not to mention tempting to add that extra side or supersize your meal.
So here’s what I did to curb my takeout intake. I looked at a few apps to get the average price of a favourite dish — chilli beef noodles — and the average cost per portion was between Dh45-80. Which isn’t cheap, but you’re paying for the convenience. But then I decided to see what I could make for around the same price.
Notepad in hand, I headed to a mid-priced local store and shopped for the ingredients for my own chilli beef recipe. Now assuming you have the basics already, like soy sauce, stock and seasoning, my shop came in at around Dh35.

The noodle recipe alongside was the result of my shop — ready cooked noodles, 500g of beef, spring onions and a small bottle of chilli sauce. Added to the essential ingredients at home, this meal for two came in at Dh17.5 per person. Plus, you can use the remainder of the chilli in another dish.
In my second recipe, I’ve added some kale and red peppers, a great way to use the rest of the chilli sauce. A few simple ingredients and a shop bought stir-fry sauce can make a delicious quick meal. I’ve done some calculations, and if I ordered my noodle dish online once a week for a year, I would have spent over Dh4,000. If I resist the temptation to click and eat, I’d save enough to buy a top-of-the-range Kitchen Aid mixer. Now that’s food for thought!

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CHILLI BEEF & KALE STIR FRY

Recipes, food styling and photography by Mark Setchfield

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