x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Lean, mean grilling machine

The George Foreman Grill must be one of the most-owned and least-used of kitchen appliances...until, that is, you are living in Dubai.

In the museum of unused kitchen appliances, the George Foreman Grill must rate as one of the most dormant. Since its 1994 launch into the niche market of celebrity cooking devices, over 80 million of the things have been sold worldwide. I estimate that 79.999 million of these are currently sitting sadly on top of kitchen cupboards, collecting dust. But brush off that dust, blow away the cobwebs and fetch them down, disbelievers, for truly the Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine is a wondrous invention.

It is a new and welcome addition to my culinary life because I am currently between apartments and housesitting for a friend in Dubai while she sits out the summer at home in the UK. "Don't get too excited about the flat," Jenny e-mailed when I proffered thanks for the offer of a place to stay. "It's very spartan." No matter. I was heartily grateful for a bed. "You do know I don't even have a TV?" she asked nervously a few days before I moved into her Discovery Gardens pad. Again, I planned to finish the West Wing box set and skip through series two of Gossip Girl on my laptop. I remained untroubled.

I then went around to collect a key. "This is the cooker," she said pointing to her kitchen, "But I haven't had the gas connected yet so there's only one electric hob." Jenny was absolutely right too; in six months of living there, she had not once felt the need for a visit from the gas man and the buffeting polystyrene has remained taped up in the new oven. "But there is that," she said brightly pointing at the grilling machine, parked next to the kettle.

"Oh good," I thought, while absent-mindedly poking at my stomach fat. "I am going to live off scrambled eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches all summer." Apart from the grill, Jenny showed me one small non-stick saucepan, one miniature sieve, one wooden spoon and one fork, knife and spoon. Perhaps I would simply have to become a forager in the survivalist manner of Bear Grylls. It wasn't clear what the environs of Discovery Gardens could offer in the manner of berries and nuts, but I was keen to avoid scurvy and find out.

Happily, I then turned to the grill, although not immediately. My relationship with George Foreman developed slowly. A small, white, rather puny looking machine, it is hard to imagine it being of any use to a muscled boxer - retired or otherwise. There it sat, looking neglected and not at all aggressive for a week before I inspected it. "What about a chicken breast?" I mused. "Can George save me from my egg and cheese diet?"

Turns out, he could. A brief five minutes sizzling time and out popped a slightly browned chicken breast. I now plan to extend my repertoire and have a go with fish and steak, or a bell pepper. Dietary rescue, it seems, is mere moments away.