Everything Street’s claim to fame was that it had everything. Dior handbags, Chanel perfumes, Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses, Ferragamo shoes and of course, hand-made chocolates arriving daily from Paris.
How else would Lenorte restock the shelves of its - marble and chandelier - gourmet emporium in downtown Riyadh?
A perennial stream of women clad from head-to-toe in black abeyas - the burka of Saudi Arabia – wafted in and out of stores. Apparently anything the heart desires could be found on Everything.
Sandwiched between Versace and Louis Vuitton was an unassuming shop with a small front door, frosted glass windows and a faded aqua façade; it housed one of the Riyadh’s most popular restaurants called the ‘Turkish on Everything’.
Most Wednesday evenings we would venture into the city with three candles and a box of matches and shuffle our way into the restaurant’s family section.
Syrian waiters would usher us into a small booth with a long table and four wooden chairs. A brass curtail rail, suspended from the booth walls, supported two heavily brocaded curtains which were drawn the minute we were seated. This was our privacy screen.
We would time our meal around sunset prayers, with our dinner arriving only moments before the front door was locked and the lights switched off. We had to dine by candlelight. Saudi law stipulated shops, supermarkets and restaurants were to close during prayer times; it was mandatory for customers to leave the premises.
For some obscure reason the ‘Turkish on Everything’ flouted these rules. Patrons were allowed to stay, as long as they remained quiet. I remember the hushed silence, the only audible sounds were the dulcet tones of a far off muezzin – the chap who calls the faithful to prayer five times a day – and the muted conversations of fellow patrons.
It was at this restaurant that I discovered Chicken-on-a-Tile which comprised of tender pieces of bite-sized chicken marinated in yoghurt, tomato paste and a concoction of aromatic Arabic spices. It was presented on a large ceramic tile and sizzled from the heat of the wood-fired oven.
I procured the recipe from my Indian cooking teacher and it has since become a firm favourite in my summer cooking repertoire, mainly because its flavours are enhanced by the flames of our bbq.
Given our recent spate of sunny days I have been lured from my kitchen onto our front deck. We have spent some evenings bbq’ing Chicken-on-a-Tile and enjoying the last vestiges of daylight overlooking our small dam and garden. Molly the neighbour’s dog – who decided to adopt me three years ago – sits quietly by our side. It’s at these moments I conspire to compare ‘everything’.
The scent of Everything Street’s Chanel perfumery has been replaced by the soft fragrance of a nearby wisteria. In lieu of a streetscape lined with designer shopfronts is a dirt road framed with an avenue of swaggering trees, and the dulcet tones of the sunset muezzin has been replaced by a chorus of magpie melodies; I’m certain their warble is a prayer composed to close the door on another day.
And if this isn’t ‘everything’, I don’t know what is?
Chicken on a tile
750 grams chicken pieces (thighs cut in half – the Sale Poultry shop on Raymond Street is happy to cut these for you).
2 garlic cloves minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons plain yoghurt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon oregano powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
¾ teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves crumbled (crush with hand)
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons sunflower or corn oil
- Combine all the marinade ingredients in a container and stir.
- Add the chicken pieces and mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Cook on a BBQ or under the grill.
- Serve on a bed of basmati rice with a wedge of lemon.
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