Check any local supermarket shelf, and you’ll see a range of “Made in Qatar” goodies, from fresh fruit, veggies, meat, fish, poultry, and eggs to milk and yoghurt. Have you noticed an increasing number of local products such as flour, pizzas, juices, and ice creams? Supermarkets are becoming a treasure trove of homegrown brands, and for shoppers, the benefits are many. From freshness and flavour to affordable prices, buying local produce is a sure-fire way to get extra value out of your hard-earned riyal. And the benefits don’t end there—”buying local” is also a great way to help the environment with fewer air miles and less refrigeration. It’s a win-win situation for local producers, consumers, and the planet.
For expats Mariam Khalouq (full-time mum and marketing manager), husband Chuck Martini, (Head Coach/Manager of Premier League Football Academy [PFLA]), daughter Amina (aged 15), and twins Aalya and Adil (aged ten), local produce is an integral part of their daily menu. “Personally, I enjoy local produce because it provides better flavour and taste. It stays fresher for longer and the prices are cheaper. Local produce represents the place where I live—Qatar,” says Mariam.
On the family’s weekly shopping list are “Made in Qatar’” products, including semolina, flour, fruit and vegetables, herbs, meat, and dairy products. Fresh fish is a family favourite too. Mariam likes to buy “local fish such as seabass, hamour, and sheri” from their neighbourhood supermarket, Souq Al Baladi, where the fishmonger filets the fish to her liking.
Growing up in the fast-paced city of London in the United Kingdom, initially, Mariam wasn’t especially interested in food. Yet over the years, Mariam has grown to love the cuisine of her mother’s and husband’s birthplace, Morocco. Mariam’s mother-in-law, a keen home cook, has handed down traditional North African recipes. One example is the flavourful, classic Moroccan dish, lamb tagine and couscous. It’s a hearty and sumptuous meal piled high with veggies, nuts, dried fruits, and fresh herbs, served in a traditional tagine. For Mariam, it’s a perfect meal for using locally grown staples such as tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes, and parsley. The kids love an eclectic mix of global food, but when it comes to Moroccan meals, Mariam’s homemade couscous comes out on top. As a nod to the family’s British upbringing, classics such as shepherd’s pie and apple crumble also feature on the dining table, with roast dinners being a firm favourite.
For Mariam and Chuck, food is a great way to bring the whole family together, and this sentiment is a guiding force for every meal. When the youngest daughter, Aalya, was diagnosed with diabetes at age four, it shook the family to its core, as there was no family history of the condition.
As a result, they constantly monitor Aalya’s insulin levels and adjust her meals accordingly. In fact, they have taken it a step further by ensuring that all their meals are diabetes-friendly. “We all eat the same food at every meal. If Aalya can’t have a type of food due to diabetes, then the whole family will not eat it either. It’s our way of showing support because we want Aalya to feel included. Having said that, the whole family enjoys a huge range of food!” Say Mariam and Chuck.
And what do other family members like to cook? “We own a football academy in Thailand so we’ve spent a lot of time there and Chuck has mastered a Thai green curry. Amina loves Korean and Japanese cuisine and prepares sushi at home. Both the girls are keen bakers and especially love making cookies. Adil is not that interested in cooking yet but he enjoys trying all the recipes,” says Mariam.
There’s no doubt that this expat family has a taste for global flavours. Yet, you can always find their Moroccan roots at the dinner table. Fortunately, fresh produce such as tomatoes and aubergines, grown abundantly in Qatar, feature heavily in North African and Middle Eastern cuisine. From earthy aubergine dips like baba ganoush and moutabel to the tasty tomato and egg-based shakshouka, these homegrown staples are the basis for many regional dishes. You can also find other local fruits and vegetables such as squash, cucumbers, mushrooms, cauliflowers, cabbage, herbs, and chillies in most supermarkets. These also feature in many cuisines.
Plus, a new wave of local produce is starting to hit supermarket shelves, such as purple kale, swiss chard, and microgreens. Additionally, food boxes from local farms can be delivered straight to your door, packed with fresh raw milk, baked sourdough bread, eggs, and herbs. Every day, it seems that there are increasing options for shoppers.
With all these ingredients at her fingertips, does Mariam think local produce is healthier for her family? “Yes, I do. Local produce is fresher because it hasn’t flown across the world and [been] kept in refrigerators for longer times. It’s flavourful and has more of an organic factor.”
Mariam also likes to stock up on produce from Al Sailiya Central Market, the family’s local wholesale market, where she says she gets good deals on bulk buys. “It’s more economical for the family, and I always try to buy as much local produce there.” Competitive prices, fresher ingredients, and less damage to the planet—what’s not to love about homegrown products?
This cooked Moroccan salad (served hot or cold) is packed full of local ingredients such as aubergines, tomatoes, and peppers. Serve as a perfect accompaniment to cooked meats or as a dipping sauce for crusty bread. This method requires the vegetables to be chargrilled, but you can try roasting as an alternative.
- 2 red peppers
- 2 yellow peppers
- 2 aubergines
- 4 tomatoes
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 large tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp each of salt, black pepper, paprika, and cumin
- Chargrill whole peppers, aubergines, and tomatoes until blackened. Turn regularly.
- Set aside and allow to cool. Remove skins and chop into bitesize pieces.
- In a large pot, add chargrilled produce plus remaining ingredients—olive oil, garlic, and seasoning. Mix well until heated through.
- Remove from heat and spoon into serving dish or smaller, individual bowls. Garnish with parsley.
Youngest daughter Aalya is a keen baker and loves preparing macaroons, a popular sweet treat in Morocco, for the whole family. Easy to prepare, this recipe features locally produced semolina and eggs.
- 500g coconut flakes
- 200g semolina
- 120g icing sugar
- 5 eggs
- Zest of one lemon
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp butter, room temperature
- 1 tsp baking powder
- In separate bowls, set aside icing sugar and baking powder for later use.
- In a large bowl, add all ingredients. Gently mix until thoroughly combined into dough-like consistency.
- Set aside and allow ingredients to rest for one hour.
- While mixture is resting, heat oven to 200°C.
- Add baking powder to dough and combine well.
- Scoop a golf-ball-size of dough mixture into the palm of your hand. Gently roll between palms into a ball. Set aside. Continue until whole mixture is used.
- Gently dip top half of each ball into icing sugar.
- Place each ball onto non-stick baking tray. Allow space between balls as mixture will spread during cooking process.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool.