The UAE’s top food bloggers share recipes for success

As top food writers converge in Dubai for the city's first Food Blogger Connect event, we talk to the best of the UAE's 100-plus food bloggers about their recipe for success.

Alejandro Belman/The National
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As top food writers converge in Dubai for the city’s first Food Blogger Connect event, we talk to the best of the UAE’s 100-plus food bloggers about their recipe for success.

Best for healthy eating

The mother-of-two Anja Schwerin, 38, a German freelance photo editor, has blogged for four years, combining healthy recipes (such as Thai coconut quinoa and broccoli pistachio burgers) with tips on eating well.

My readers: 75,000 page views per month, 800 email subscribers.

Memorable post: Sometimes it takes me by surprise what recipes become popular, like Grandma’s Sweet and Sour Cucumber Salad.

Best foodie experience: I lived in China as a child and loved seaweed salad. I never ate it again until I met my husband, who took me to a Chinese restaurant on one of our first dates 20 years later. It might have helped me fall in love with him.

Best for inspiring stories

The British expat Debbie Rogers, 46, was obese but lost 72kg — half her body weight — after having gastric surgery two years ago. She started her blog while recovering.

My readers: 2,700 followers. I write on the themes of pleasure (eating, drinking and travel) and pain (fitness and exercise).

Memorable post: The first one, where I shared personal information about weight loss surgery and my transformation, was one of the hardest to write.

Best foodie experience: I was incredibly impressed with the food cooked for us every night on Mount Kilimanjaro over a propane gas cylinder. Sensing our energy was flagging, we were served a feast of fried chicken and chips and made it to the summit in good spirits.

Best for food and travel

The Goa-born PR director Radhina Almeida Coutinho, 30, has been blogging since January 2012 in her search for Aleppo cherry kebab, dulce de leche treats in South America and the Maldivian catch of the day.

My readers: are people just like me — they love to eat and have perpetually itchy feet. I get up to 500 hits per day.

Memorable post: My open letter to Gary Rhodes about his Rhodes to India show, which was so aggravating because I felt he was disrespectful to the chefs who took time to teach some of their favourite dishes.

Best foodie experience: Everything food-related about Vietnam was incredible.

Best for Middle Eastern food

A slick blog which looks like an online magazine, it was set up two years ago by two Egyptian Americans, the lawyer and mother of twin boys Brenda Abdelall, 32, and the entrepreneur Heba Saleh, 27.

Our readers: About 15,000 visitors per month. We both found there was a lack of websites promoting healthy Middle Eastern food.

Best thing about blogging: There is nothing in the world like a celebration for a Middle Easterner and we just want to share the excitement.

Best foodie experience: (Brenda) In a back alley in Cairo eating koshari — the carb-fest of rice, macaroni and lentils topped with fried onions and spicy tomato sauce — off a tin plate.

Best for vegetarian food

The Uttar-Pradesh born Anjana Chaturvedi, 47, set up her blog two years ago after her daughter Haripriya Rajesh got married — to teach her everything she knew. (Maayeka is Hindi for the maternal home after a bride leaves.) “The incessant phone calls from my daughter for recipes and tips inspired me to start blogging all I know,” she says. Her recipes come complete with mouthwatering images.

My readers: 75,000 page views per month.

Best foodie experience: When my daughter cooked a complete meal for the first time. I still remember the taste of that kofta curry.

Best newcomer

The Emirati Shaikha Al Ali’s tagline is “release your inner chef” and for seven months, the enthusiastic 19-year-old student has given a platform to long-forgotten traditional recipes, filming herself or family members on her Nikon D90 as she recreates dishes and posts recipes in English and Arabic.

My readers: 60,000 views on YouTube, 1,000 hits a day online.

Memorable post: My karak chai ice cream generated a big response. I have since started producing it as a trademark flavour.

Best foodie experience: Being invited to appear on the TV show Masterchef Australia on a tasting panel when the show recently filmed in Dubai.

Best for home cooking

The Palestinian-Canadian Reem Ayyash, 30, a marketing manager for a chain of restaurants, has blogged for 11 months with step-by-step instructions complete with pictures for fare ranging from quiches to Nutella lava cookie cups. Her colourful blog is illustrated by her graphic designer sister-in-law Zeina Khalifeh.

My readers: About 3,000 unique page views a month. I write for women who love to cook and entertain.

Memorable post: I have my fair share of flops. Flat cakes, raw salmon, crunchy potatoes, runny cheesecake. Luckily that doesn’t stop me from experimenting.

Best foodie experience: I spent three months at Le Cordon Bleu cookery school in London. I loved every minute of it.

Best for food photography

Shiyam Sundar, 32, from Madras, is a product researcher and developer for Iffco food company. A former chef, his year-old blog features luscious images of street food stalls and fresh produce.

My readers: Up to 5,000 views a month. I focus on Sharjah where I live as there is a lot of authentic, good street food there.

Memorable post: My gulab jamun cheesecake is a recipe close to my heart and got 10,000 hits.

Best foodie experience: The puri bhaji (south Indian snack) I have for breakfast at weekends from the Majeez Al Punjab cafeteria in Sharjah is consistently good.

Best for food for thought

The British-born Sally Prosser’s musings on food, life and everything in between have made thought-provoking reading since 2009 and won her a place in The Independent newspaper’s top 50 food websites.

My readers: Anyone who shares a love of really good, simple ingredients, uncomplicated food with excellent provenance and a curiosity about other food cultures.

Most memorable post: I asked many people what their desert island dish would be. It took me more than a year to compile and included chefs like Antonio Carluccio and Giorgio Locatelli.

Best foodie experience: Eating a raviolo cooked and served by Giorgio Locatelli with a whole egg yolk inside and topped with a sliver of fresh white truffle.

Best for indulgence

The Australian Sarah Walton, 39, a former restaurant manager, enjoys the finer things in life. Her three-year-old blog includes dining experiences with high-end chefs and dishes from her travels.

My readers: Up to 1,000 views per day. It is all about easy but fabulous cooking.

Memorable post: I had a lot of feedback after my Wadi Rum post saying I had converted them to camping.

Best thing about blogging: a fellow blogger telling me they were cooking my chocolate cake for the fourth time.

Best foodie experience: Au Fil du Temps in France is one of those places you find in the middle of nowhere, a Michelin star restaurant that seats only 14. The food is modern and clever and the service personal and friendly.

Best for learning about other cultures

From Moroccan tagines to Ottoman traditions, the Palestinian Dima Sharif’s excellent Ramadan series focused on how Muslims celebrate the holy month around the globe and the heritage of some of the dishes still served up at feasts. The 34-year-old mother of two has blogged for five years.

My readers: home cooks and those interested in exploring food and culture.

Memorable post: As I was writing about the Basque county’s gastronomic societies, I felt I was experiencing it all over again.

Best foodie experience: In Mauritius, a complete stranger invited my family to dinner. He cooked a feast and I felt I was being allowed to taste and experience their life. We are closer than we think: put food somewhere in the middle and we connect.