Lately I've come around to shopping at the Union Co-op rather than Spinney's or Carrefour. I admit it is pathetic that it has taken me this long, but I was kind of intimidated by the Co-op. Depending on who you talk to, membership in the co-op may or may not be available to non-Emiratis. Nobody at the co-op is going out of their way to help you, except the smiling Indian guy who is whamming cans of beans onto your loaves of bread. And all the 'yes-madam'-ing at your fancier ex-pat markets can be kinda seductive.
BUT, and it's a big but, I've come to the conclusion that Union is FAR FAR superior in the freshness and quality of what they are selling AND they clock in about an average of 30% cheaper! What's not to love? For a 30% lower grocery bill and better food, I'll accept some sneering.
Chana masala spices were the clincher for me. I picked some up at Spinneys. I didn't examine the box very carefully. If I had, I would have found that it had been opened and re-glued and was literally crawling with several types of bugs! YUMMY!
Union co-op seems to be moving enough of this kind of stuff that nothing has bugs in it and I get the sense that there would be hell to pay if a supermarket was trying to sell such garbage to local grandma's.
Chana masala is a cooked chickpea dish that I tried a few months ago at an Iftar buffet. Here's my super simple version, quite tasty.
In a medium saucepan cook together 1 tbsp corn oil, 2 small red onions, 2 small tomatoes, 1 clove garlic, 1 thumb of ginger, 1 green chili. Cover and cook on low until reduced to about 1/3 of the volume. Add 1 can of well-drained chickpeas, about 1/4 tsp (to start) indian red chili and chana masala spice, plus salt and pepper. Stir to coat and add 1/4 cup light coconut milk. Cook on low until warmed through and chick peas are beginning to lose their shells. Top with fresh coriander.
Serve over rice or with chapati.