'We apologise for the late running of the 06:38 train service to London Euston. This is due to the low rolling stock.' Brie had heard that apology so often she could recite it on beat with the train station announcer. It was a Wednesday morning, and the train had been late every day for the week. Monday morning, they had apologised for the late running of the train caused by weekend maintenance works that overran. Tuesday morning, they apologised for the late running of the train caused by shortage of staff. Today, it was a low rolling stock. Brie turned to 'Mr Voguish' next to her on the station concourse and mockingly said. 'Its low rolling stock today!' 'Yes!' he replied. Just as amused as Brie for the delay to the train, he smiled and quipped. 'Should we expect insufficient tracks tomorrow?' She chuckled and replied, 'We don't want to give this train service any additional excuses.' Brie had been getting this train service for the last five months following a timetable change in September. It was now January and the only reliable clockwork service this service provided was that it would be delayed. If not delayed cancelled. There is a 06:33 train service, consistently on time but its schedule arrives into Euston after the 06:38. If the 06:38 is no more than twelve minutes late, and intermittently it has been, (unless cancelled) continues being the better of the two options. It was a religiously dark and frost-covered January morning. The silence as she walked through the path girded with naked branches on either side - untroubled. Until some cyclist would come hurtling past dinging their bell and breaking the peace. The light from the said bicycles would cause the grass to go a glistening silver and crunch under her feet as she moved off the path for the cyclist to pass. Even in that level of darkness, she could still see an airy white light over the lake. It was almost celestial. The timetable change meant Brie was now catching a later train (if only by a few minutes). Interestingly she continued turning up at the station at her usual time of 06:30 for a train that was routinely delayed. It was during these additional minutes of 'dolce far niente' that Brie began to notice some of her fellow commuters. 'Mr Voguish' was now on his phone discussing the renegotiations of a contract. Newly in the business of renegotiating contracts herself, Brie habitually eavesdrops on such conversations, listening for anything she could learn. He walks off to the coffee bar but not before glancing back with a quick wave to her. They had passed each other several times before, coming through the double doors at the station. His impeccable dress sense, his love of wearing double monks and that insatiable fragrance he wore caught Brie's observation. He once held the said double doors open for her when he saw her coming. But it was one night around half-past nine, that she had her allure of him cemented. They were both disembarking the train to go home, he noticed it was her, stepped back and allowed her to get off first. To say she was thunderstruck would only be the beginning of the storm. Brie almost fell out of the train. 'Thank you' was all she could muster, in fear that anything else she said would have lead to blind embarrassment. 'You are welcome, have a good evening' he replied. Thanks, you too! Brie responded, suddenly picking up her pace as if to get away from the situation. Her excuse being a taxi was waiting. A taxi was indeed waiting. Brie got into the backseat of the car, sat down and deliberately bashed her head against the headrest in front. 'Idiot. Idiot. Idiot.' - she muttered under her breath. Before that chanced meeting, she had week in, week out concocted a plan to bump into him at the coffee bar and accidentally spilling her coffee. Of course, she had never been capable of executing it. She perceived he worked somewhere the likes of Canary Wharf. He wore an elegant and classy Glashuette Senator watch in rose gold with dark brown alligator straps. Short dark hair coiffed back, he was voguish in every way. He reminded her of her favourite Hallyu star in the Korean drama The K2. Those mornings she'd happen to catch a glimpse of him in the station were mornings made, despite the train being delayed or cancelled. She waved back at him. Once again wishing she had garnered enough courage to say more. Just then the 06:38 now nine minutes late was being announced as shortly arriving into platform four. Brie made her way from the concourse to the platform. The shortage of carriages visible both inside and outside of the train. There were only eight carriages where customarily they'd be twelve. Commuters did their best to get up close with each other. So close that as the train hurtled along with passengers swaying side to side, you could almost imagine them doing an Argentine tango. And with that, the gloom of the morning commute dissipated when Brie conjured herself an image doing the Argentine Tango with 'Mr Voguish.' On Thursday morning, unfailingly, the 06:38 train was once more delayed. This time due to signal failure up north. Friday morning the service was cancelled altogether. She had desperately hoped for a glimpse of Mr Voguish that morning knowing she would be off on holiday for two weeks. Regrettably, he was nowhere to be seen. Brie had enjoyed two weeks holiday in the Middle Eastern sun and returned wholesomely refreshed. She got up before her alarm and strolled to the train station for 06:30 as usual. And as per usual the 06:38 was delayed but so were the two trains before and after that. The station concourse was overly bustling with commuters. All of whom were now standing like meerkats looking up to the display board willing it to display some good news. 'Oh to be on holiday now!' Brie thought to herself. An announcement came on. 'Ladies and Gentlemen, we apologise for the disruption to the services this morning, this is due to the overrunning of maintenance services carried out over the weekend.' Brie revisited the display board, and the delayed 06:26 train service would be her savviest option. She started making her way to the gates only to glance bank and see the service change to cancelled. Just then another announcement came over reiterating the cancelled service. This was promptly followed by the information that 06:33 service would now call at all stops to Watford Junction and then London Euston. Of course this information was received on the concourse with utmost disdain. Some quick thinking was required. Brie considered getting the 06:33 but the thought of unnecessarily being stuck on a train for over an hour was most displeasing. Besides her love for the good old unfaithful 06:38 now delayed by twenty minutes would not allow her. The delayed 06:33 had since left, and the concourse was slightly less populated. Brie did a quick scan of it searching for you know whom. She spotted the 'breakfast couple!' So-called as they appear to have breakfast from the next-door coffee shop each morning. Mr would hold the two cups of coffee while Mrs bites into her cinnamon roll. Arms interlaced as they strolled towards the ticket gates. From their attire, Brie's supposed they worked in IT. She also spotted Mr Foxhunter. It had been about four months now since she first saw Mr Foxhunter, and although she had satisfied herself that no foxes were being harmed, she could not stop herself from referring to him as such. The smart tailoring of his suits were unmissable in any crowd and so Brie surmised he worked on Saville Row. Still no sign of you know whom. The 06:38 was now half an hour delayed. Painstakingly making the 06:33 to have been the better choice. Brie scanned the concourse once more. Three ladies stood in a huddle, coffees in hand and cackling, their bare legs on show in sandals. Brie mused at the temperature on that side of the station, it must be ridiculously warmer than where she stood. And then she noticed their luggage cases. They were clearly off to somewhere warm. A commuter walks past, and he appeared to have showered in his entire bottle of cologne. He'd be good to sit next to Brie thought. Just then it was announced the delayed 06:38 was arriving at platform four, and as if being carried on an ocean wave, the crowd was swept through the concourse. The announcement continued to say that due to the overcrowding, first class was declassified. Brie did her best to get on to the train and inched her way down the aisle. She pulled her phone out, plugged in her earphones and steadied herself among the throng of standing passengers for the journey. She switched on the Korean drama she was watching the night before and continued watching where she had left off. It was about seven minutes into the commute when the train ground to a halt. The passengers rocked forward and then back. It was on rocking back she sensed the warm liquid running down her back. As she did so, she exclaimed 'Jinjja!' 'Joesonghabnida.' said a male voice behind her. Brie suddenly realised she had just spoken out in Korean. She blamed it on the drama she was watching, but interestingly the response was also in Korean. It was then she recognised the fragrance. Brie turned around, not before composing herself, of course, to come face to face with Mr Voguish. There was no escaping a conversation now.
"Hello!" Was all this text said among the other direct text messages in her Instagram inbox. It was six o'clock on a Saturday morning. And like any other social media crazed addict, Alaina starts her morning ritual injecting Instagram while still laying in bed. There is not much else to be concerned with, as the world is on lockdown. No school runs, no morning commutes (all be it being a Saturday) and no other half making pillow talk. She replies to the messages from her favourite people, comments on, likes the posts she missed overnight and drops a quick response to the funny stories. Like so many of the lonesome hellos before this one, she ignored it. The same sender had liked a few of her photos. Still, she ignored. She was conscientious about whom she spoke with privately on social media. Besides, she was quite the pragmatist when it came to relationships. But if nothing else he was tenacious. As later on, the same sender had gone on to like all her selfies. Of the five hundred and forty photos Alaina had posted, ninety-seven of those were selfies, and he dropped a red heart on every single one of them. This person at least required the social media courtesy of a response. And so she decided to like a few of his posts but only then realised it was a private account. 'Hmmm.' She thought. Her focus now on his profile photo, his inescapable eyes with his infectious smile, caught her attention. His hair, dark and wet. His shirtless tanned broad shoulders contrasted with the blue in the middle of the ocean. He looked to be about twenty-five years old. Heart eyed, she pondered why this very comely young man was so tenacious in his pursuit of her. Without question, he deserved a reply. With nervous fingers, she typed 'Hi!' Unsure of what else to say, she paused, deleted her response and re-read the earlier message. It had not changed. It was an uncomplicated short and sweet, 'Hello'. And so, a simple 'Hello!' was her reply. No sooner had Alaina's reply landed than his profile lit up with the green dot, and he was typing. Seconds, and only seconds passed, but it felt like minutes to Alaina before the response landed back in her inbox. 'Ping' and three ''Smiley face with hearts" emojis dropped in her inbox. 'Ping' and two "Shy face'' emojis dropped in her inbox. 'Ping' and one ''I can't believe what I am seeing'' emoji drops in her inbox. Although not one for using emojis herself as she had often felt they were best suited to the generation z brigade, she had learned a few things from her 'in the know' teenagers. Notwithstanding, she sensed the kick and intoxication in his response, and she smiled to herself. "Espanol?" "No ingles" "Soy de Argentina" "Espero me entiendas" Alaina bolts upright in bed, her face replicating the astonished face emoji. She took a look back at his profile, the one she had no interest in moments before. His photo had occupied her attention, and now it was his name. Massimo. She had always liked the name ever since she'd come across it via a fashion brand. It helped that she loved their clothing. What's more, she felt the name had an air of authority surrounding it. Baresi. Where had she come across that name before? Instantaneously, she remembered. One of her University girlfriends' boyfriend's surname was Baresi. Both were from Italy but met at University in England. He always joked that had they crossed paths in Italy; he would never had noticed her, which often made Alaina shake her head at them. For some years after finishing their studies, they continued dating. The last Alaina knew, Baresi had emigrated to Argentina. On that memory she revisited the photo. Could they be related? What are the chances? She thought. She sat back on her left arm, right hand on her forehead, supported by her right knee and stared at the white bedsheets. Massimo Baresi. Now that is one sexually attractive name, if ever she had heard one—his biography written in full English. An Italian name, lives in a Spanish speaking country with a biography written in English but didn't speak English. Interesting is what she thought. Alaina locked her phone screen, got out of bed and walked to the kitchen. She reached for the handle of her favourite coffee mug, the one that says 'Raffles Singapore Hotel' and stared at it as if the explanation was there. What had she missed? Thus far she had understood every word Mr Argentina had written. And immediately she was grateful for deciding to choose Spanish as part of her study curriculum from secondary school thru to University although University was some twenty years ago. Alaina had always loved languages and the semantics of them. With that, she took up learning Mandarin and German in the lockdown. Jokingly Alaina thought of adding Spanish to the list. She then became concerned that she may not be able to communicate with Mr Argentina, who until six am that morning was a virtual unknown. There was a battlefield in her head. On one side, the battle raged for her to stay away from men on social media whose accounts were private. On the other hand, the war surged for her to tear up the rule book and see where the conversation with Mr alluring with no common language, seven thousand miles and four-time zones between them would lead. Alaina had since made her coffee and drank it. Now, she was placing the ingredients for a cheesecake into the cake mixer. Some four hours had passed since the last message. Alaina concluded she had to draw a line under the situation. She picked up her phone and started typing, ''No Hablo Espanol...'' in response to his message. Alaina was just about to click on the Send button when an impulsive thought change her mind. 'What the heck?' she thought. She decided to tear up the rule book and throw out the excel spreadsheets on this one. And instead typed ''Hablo un poco de Espanol." And her screen lit up once more with those yellow smiley face emojis with three hearts. Followed by 'Mucho gusto!' (Nice to meet you) Alaina laughed to herself and thought, infatuated or what? She herself was swooning, but someone needed to remain grounded in the current situation. After all, they'd only written about six sentences between each other, if that many. And then he wrote 'Tu eres una morena muy hermosa!' Not muy bonita (pretty) Not muy linda (cute) But muy hermosa (gorgeous) 'Tu eres una morena muy hermosa!' (You're a gorgeous brunette!) 'Flattery is going to get this young man everywhere!' Alaina said audibly. He says ALL the right things. Well at least, those words sounded like all the right things she'd want to read first thing out of bed on a Saturday morning. Her eyes lit up with mischief, as she bit on the corner of her lower left lip and typed. 'Muchas Gracias Massimo' (Thank you very much Massimo) 'Encantado de conocerte' (Pleased to meet you) 'Tu tambien eres muy guapo' (You are very handsome also) 'Sii Muchas Gracias' he responded. At least he was not shy about it, Alaina thought. The conversation went on seamlessly, where he exchanged information about himself—sharing everything from being born in Italy to an Italian father and Argentinian mother who met at University in England. His mother took a job with a investment bank, and they relocated to Argentina when he was nine years old. After his studies, he joined the army and he too now works in banking. Alaina glanced back at his profile photo where all but his and head shoulders were submerged underwater and satisfied herself that yes, that body had been in thru military training. Massimo continued typing. He is single, no kids. He loves sports, especially water sports, swimming and surfing. He loves sunsets, travel and walks on the beach. He backs that up by sharing one of the said sunsets with Alaina. But this was no ordinary sunset. It was now midday, and for the first time since six o'clock that morning, Alaina had another photo of him. She placed the phone on the kitchen table and clicked on the picture to enlarge it. Once more, she sat back, right arm across her torso, left hand cupping her mouth, eyes in disbelief. Alaina was trembling, literally. He stood in the fore corner of the photo on the beach in an open hoodie, surfer board torso exposed and his chiselled face looking out to the sunset over the ocean. Michaelangelo had not seen this body before he sculpted David. Because if he had, wars would have fought over the sculpture. Massimo continued typing, but Alaina frankly could not remove her eyes from the photo. She finally reverted to the conversation where he had just noted he was thirty years old. And she was relieved. Relieved to find out there was only sixteen years between them and not the twenty years she had initially thought. 'Are you single?' He asked. And for the first time in a long time, she was pleased to be divorced and single. 'Where are you from?' 'Do you have kids?' 'How old are you?' Alaina replied. 'She is single.' And Massimo responded with multiple question marks. The conversation paused as Alaina pondered how best to respond. On the one hand, she could interpret the question marks as a compliment; that is, how are you single? On the other... She decided she'd concentrate on the complimentary interpretation and reiterated she was single. Had previously been married, has two kids but now divorced. She was about to type her age and stopped herself, concerned that this might be a deal-breaker. Suddenly she wanted to be years younger. Suddenly she wanted to be in her twenties and carefree. The hesitation continued. Alaina looked away from her screen. Her eyes landed on the cake mixer and the cheesecake mix she had started earlier that morning. She had never lied about her age, but for some unknown reason, neither was she ready to disclose it. Had they been sat in a coffee shop somewhere, this situation would surely become one of those moments of awkward silence, Alaina thought. As if by intuition, he wrote: 'Me gustaste desde la primera foto que vi de ti, no te faltare al respeto.' (I liked you from the very first photo I saw of you, I won't disrespect you.) 'Oh my gawwd!' This one is definitely a keeper! She exclaimed.
It had never been a good idea for her to do the balance sheets at this time of the day. On the one hand, neither sides of her brain would speak to each other. On the other hand, she's become slightly lethargic after inhaling a chicken roti for lunch. The second one of the week, thanks to the other half. It had been a crazy morning with two unexpected bulk deliveries and no space immediately available to store them. The news the boss was back on the island, seemed to have sent everyone pushing their panic buttons to the on mode. Suddenly, this needed to be done, and that needed to be completed, and it all should have been yesterday. Sara had been in the office for three months but had only spoken with him on the phone. The boss had been away at the head office in the United States the entire time. She recounted the receipts. Once more, she double-checked the amounts on the receipts matched with the figures on her sheet. Finally, she was satisfied and began crunching the numbers through the calculator. Her concentration was now broken by the ringing of her desk phone. The caller had the wrong company, and so she could quickly return to her paperwork. She then realised another telephone was ringing and had been for a little while in the back office next door to hers. She was sure she had heard laughter coming from there just a few moments ago. She'd cry, but she is all cried out with her womanising other half. Yes, the one that brought the chicken roti for lunch. She gets up to answer the incessant ringing of the phone in the next-door office and is greeted by two ladies having a chinwag. One of whom manages the said back office. Slightly frustrated and with a straight face and smiling eyes, she apologises for interrupting what could only be classed as 'the joyous mouth bashing' of another lady's love life. With a firm voice, she said, "Ladies, can we kindly answer the phone or forward the line to my desk." She then turned on her heels and left. An act fraught with repercussions. No sooner had she walked out of the door than one of the ladies hushed.. 'Ahh, did you hear what she...' Sara continued in her stride back to her desk because what these two gossip-mongering ladies heard or thought they heard about her was of no interest. More importantly, there was a balance sheet that needed balancing. At this time of day, the afternoon sunlight rides in like a white horse from the right side of the open double doors onto her desk in the front office. She moves the balance book into the sunlight and once more starts counting. Out of nowhere, a shadow falls across her pages. Who dares stand in my sunlight, she thought. She stops to collect her thoughts and note down some figures before looking up, when a voice said.. 'You should avoid reading in the sunlight like that, it's not good for your eyes!' Her thoughts definitely needed collecting then. For that was the silkiest West Indian tone to have ever glazed her ears. Slowly she lifted her head, and then her eyes gave his five-foot, 11-inch frame a twice over. From his grade one haircut to his combat shorts and military boots back up to his loose but slightly defining of the muscle t-shirt. And then their eyes clicked and locked like the door on a Stockinger safe. Tall and dark with a military physique and absolutely handsome. To say anything less would have been short-changing this beautiful figure that just stood in Sara's sunlight. 'I'm here to see Paul, is he in?' Now there's only one Paul in the entire building but goodness she had to keep him talking. 'What's Paul's surname?' She asked knowingly. And he sensed she was toying with him but politely answered either way. Balance sheets were forgotten, smile as wide as the river Nile, she picks up the phone to dial Paul and asked 'Whom should I tell Paul is asking for him?' 'Its Cohen Broderick!' he said. It rolled off his tongue like the smooth, sweet and silkiness of sweetened condensed milk. 'He will know who I am.' She puts the phone down. ''Gosh, that is an unusual name for this little island' she said and to herself - a sexy one too! ''My parents saw it somewhere and liked it.'' She rolls back the chair from behind the desk and stands and straightens her belted purple playsuit. For the first time that day, she regretted not wearing the pair of heels her mother brought her from the UK. Her matching purple flats that do nothing for her short legs will simply have to do. She could at least be grateful the playsuit shows off her bum well and, more legs than any other work attire would allow. She walks towards the front of the desk where he is standing. An act that provides her the opportunity to stand face to face with his handsomeness. It was then she noticed the fragrance he wore. Goodness, he speaks well, looks hot and smells great! She offered to take him to see Paul and lead the way. 'I have not seen you here before!" he said She looked back at him and smiled. But not before pondering on the fact he had been to the office before and could possibly return again. ''Neither have I!" she said poking fun at him. The conversation was smooth, and Sara went on to say she was covering maternity leave. At this point, they had arrived at the door at the end of the hallway. Sara was about to open the door, but he reached out, opened the door and gestured for her to enter. To say she was taken aback would not entirely cover it. At five-feet, four inches tall, she had to look up to see into his eyes. As she did so, she smiled and calmly said - ''It would appear chivalry is not dead!'' And he smiled back. Just at that moment, bounding towards the door in his usual excitable strides, was Paul. As a matter of fact, Paul's entire being seemed to have been hit by a bolt of excitement. "Heh Seyrah, I was just about to come see you!" While everyone else is happy to call her Sara, Paul, in his usual enthused self calls her Seyrah! ''Seems like I've saved you the job'' she retorted with a giggle. He then noticed Cohen standing behind Sara. Not sure how he would have missed him. They greeted each other like only good old friends do, and Sara was soon forgotten. She closed the door behind her and leaned back onto it. And to anyone who could hear her, audibly went - "Well he can stand in my sunlight any day!" She got back to her desk and sat with her legs tightly crossed and took a deep breath. She needed a cold drink, but getting up would be a misjudgment. For one, neither sides of her brain were speaking to each other, that is, if they were speaking at all. She really needed someone to hold on to her heart because it was beginning to take on a pace she was unsure she could manage. And her knees definitely would not have supported her legs standing any more. She remembered the bottle of Ting she had placed in her desk drawer after lunch. It was slightly warm now, but it would have to do. She popped the lid, wiped the mouth of the bottle and drank straight from it. She decided the books she tried so desperately to balance earlier may be best done first thing the next day. At this point, the message light on the phone was flashing vehemently. She went through the ten messages waiting and distributed them. One of which was from the boss questioning why there was no one to answer the phone. She quickly called him back and discovered what he wanted was to find out whether or not his favourite brand of coffee was in his office. And it was. Some twenty-five minutes had now passed, and Paul came bounding into the front office. With bated breath, she waited for the second figure to follow, but it was just Paul. He noticed her slight disappointed. "He has left," Paul said. "Hmm" was all Sara could respond, pursing her lips and looking away from Paul to the open double doors. "But he did ask about you" Paul chimed on. Sara quickly glanced back at Paul with enthused eyes. "Yeah!" said Sara. I told him you are in a relationship though, Paul continued. You are, in a relationship, yes? "Aha" was the only word Sara could muster and even then she almost choked saying it. Her breath had temporarily left her body. She glanced at the balance books at the side of the desks and pulled them towards her. They suddenly seemed appealing.
Don't fancy making another smoothie with your over ripened or leftover fruit? Here is a quick and summery alternative! I was placing a punnet of strawberries in the freezer, to prevent them from going sour before we could eat them, when I discovered another punnet of strawberries already in the freezer. It didn't end there; there was another container of frozen cherries, another with mangoes and another of frozen grapes. The latter is the chosen way my teenager likes to eat her grapes in the summer. Still, there was a pattern emerging. I was rounding up the fruits in the freezer but never taking them out for the parade. Today was not overly warm, but I fancied something cold and fruity fresh. Something quick and something easy! And as it is 'Quarantine Quick' - only three ingredients are required, and is ready in approximately five minutes. INGREDIENTS 1 x Punnet of Strawberries (300g) 4 x tbsp of Rich and Dark Agave Nectar Juice of half a small lemon DIRECTIONS Place the frozen strawberries (washed and de-leafed) into the blender along with the nectar and lemon juice. Blend for approximately four minutes or until all the fruits have been blended. That is it. The strawberry sorbet is ready to serve. The lemon juice truly gives the sorbet that extra freshness. For an adulterated twist, add a dash of your favourite summer tipple! Replace the strawberries with a fruit of your choice of frozen, sweetened fruit deliciousness. I also tried with 300g of frozen diced and ripened mango. The mango sorbet was the creamiest of the three flavours and very rich. I found one mouthful at a time was satisfyingly delicious. Using the exact measurements above I swapped the strawberries for 300g of frozen Santina cherries. The latter was a great idea until I realised halving and de-seeding cherries is - well, not that exciting. But guess what? Of the three fruit flavoured sorbets made, the cherry sorbet drew the most 'oohs!' So much so, I kept eating it during the blending process. The flavour truly packed a full punch! This sorbet is the one I would reach for again and again just as is. If using tangy fruits such as kiwis the lemon juice can be omitted. Start putting your leftover fruits in the freezer or purchase ready frozen fruits. On those hot days, get ready to whip yourself up something quick, easy and 'summerlicious!' Serves 2 Using 300g of fruit serves two small portions or one personal serving (3 scoops) of sorbet. Footnotes Note 1 - Times based on Vonshef Blender Note 2 - Used the Agave Nectar Rich and Dark to enhance the sweetness and colour of the fruit. Note 3 - If the sorbet slushes during the blending process, place in the freezer for approximately 2 hours. Disclaimer: This is not an advert for any of the products mentioned.
The quarantine may have given us more time to spend in the kitchen and learn new skills! But also the opportunity to develop the skills we already knew; toil less over the cooker and eat more. So as I perfected my medium done steak today, it was only fair that I should share with you. As with my previous quarantine quick recipes, this requires less than three ingredients. INGREDIENTS ✅ 2 x Ribeye Steaks approximately 820g (lovely thick pieces) ✅ 1 x tbsp sunflower oil ✅ Salt and crushed black pepper to taste Garnish: Red chilli pepper and spring onions (optional Sauce / Dip: Cucumber Raita DIRECTIONS 1️⃣ With the salt and pepper, season the steak to taste and let it rest for as long as you choose. 2️⃣ Brush both sides of the steaks with cooking oil. 3️⃣ Place the steaks in Airfryer and cook for five minutes on 175 degrees. Turn the steaks and cook for another five minutes on 200 degrees. (The latter gives the steak its gorgeous dark caramel colour on the outside. It also adds that bit of crispiness to the outside. The inside remains moist and pleasurably pink.) 4️⃣ Allow the steak to rest for ten minutes, garnish with chopped red chilli peppers and spring onions. We ate this with frites from Marks and Spencer, also air-fried and homemade raita to counter any heat from the chillies. If any leftovers from the steak and there are not likely to be any but if so: a) slice thinly and add to a salad - steak salad, b) slice into chunks and add to a bun - steak sandwich This method is a quick, easy, stress-free and mess-free option! Serves 2. Footnotes Note 1 - Vonshef Airfryer based temperature and times Note 2 - Raita recipe is over ten years old, but there are suitable available recipes on the net. Disclaimer - This is not an advert for any of the products mentioned.
Wanting something quick, warm and crisp? Here's an effortless recipe that can be tailored to any palette be it spicy, savoury or otherwise! There isn't a lot to this dish, matter of fact we came about the crispy version when my daughter omitted to switch the cooker off. It was an accident, no shame in saying that! Though on first appearance it may suggest it's been created by a professional. The terrific news is - there are only three ingredients and it takes less than fifteen minutes! It's music to your ears with more time to dance to it. INGREDIENTS ☑️ 1 x 250g La Famiglia Rana Prosciutto Cotta & Mozzarella Tortellini ☑️ 6 x Strips of streaky smokey bacon ☑️ 2 x Tablespoons Sharwoods Rogan Josh sauce DIRECTIONS 1️⃣ Add a dash of salt to a pan of water and bring to the boil. Add pack of tortellini to the boiling water and leave to cook for no more than two minutes. 2️⃣ Heat a good nonstick frying pan. 3️⃣ Quickly pan-fry the bacon in its own fat (or grill in the microwave). Once crispy remove bacon from pan and set aside. 4️⃣ Drain the tortellini and coat in the sauce. Add to the hot frying pan. (If bacon was done in the microwave add butter to the frying pan). This is to prevent the tortellini from sticking. 5️⃣ Pan-fry for five minutes or until crispy. Top with the crispy bacon and diced red bell pepper. It is flavoursome; it smells divine and adds some crunch to what would have been an everyday bowl of tortellini! Ideal as a snack, lunch or quick dinner. Oh! And as this dish is so versatile, it can be swapped for your favourite brand of tortellini and play around with varying sauces. Same dish, different flavours. This recipe serves 2
Have you been eating more but moving less? If like myself, the answer is yes here's a quick (as in less than thirty minutes) and versatile salad to have any time of the day. Not only is it quick but only requires three ingredients we most likely already have in the refrigerator or can readily find at the supermarket! INGREDIENTS ☑️ 1 x Tinned Mackerel fillets ☑️ 1/2 Bell pepper ☑️ 1/3 of a large cucumber Dressing: A toss of salt, Eaton's scotch bonnet pepper sauce and french dressing DIRECTIONS 1️⃣ Partly peel the cucumber (this adds text and colour), roughly dice and add a toss of salt! 2️⃣ Chop bell pepper into bitesize chunks and add to cucumber. I'd recommend red or orange as they tend to have a sweeter flavour. 3️⃣ Drain most of the oil off the mackerel and add to the above. 4️⃣ For a bit of a twist, add a tiny dash of scotch bonnet pepper sauce and french dressing! It's crispy and fresh! Lovely as a breakfast, lunch or snack option. And makes for a great summer essential, don't you think? Side note - for this, I used mackerel in olive oil. Alternatives are mackerel in sunflower oil or tuna! This recipe serves 1
With a certain virus whose name is more recognised with the beer drinking crew been declared a pandemic, it appears Londoners have unofficially chosen to self isolate. Because having rocked up to this pretty little cafe at two thirty in the afternoon, with it's eye catching black and white pavement tiles and fanciful hanging pink wisteria, I find all but three of it's tables are occupied. Let's face it, what other common sense or reason would I have to walk twenty minutes across London from Marylebone dressed in trainers, pearls and a pink top? But, all of that isolation is great! It meant that when I ultimately arrived at Saint Aymes on 59 Connaught Street, I had a choice of the choicest seats. Those insta worthy photos without the queuing, without having to become a contortionist just to get that gorgeous selfie! Yes, the beer sounding virus has indeed granted some benefits to life on the gram! Not only was I seated for all those great shots but served immediately. A non hectic atmosphere and really mellow music that can actually be enjoyed. So what to choose? A cup of rose tea with dainty twenty three carat gold flakes and gorgeous rose petals heaped into a crescent shape inside the rim of the cup? Or Or the familiar scent of a cappuccino, in an aesthetically matching China gold cup, with golden cutlery and twenty three carat gold flakes for that extra glimmer? That is the question... There will never be sufficient rose petals to keep this coffee lover away from a cup of coffee and so I opted for the latter. And a beautiful cup of cappuccino it was! - Latte art - mastered - Presentation - faultless The cappuccino - so creamy and beautiful that I opted out of adding sugar. Unheard of in my case! Of course all of that complimented with this dreamy white chocolate and raspberry cake. The biscuit base - beautiful and crisp Topping - a really light mouse and not overly sweet It would not have been out of place to ask for another! If London were to go into lock down just this minute, this is the place I'd be happy to be held up in. Out door seating in front of it's imaginary pink wisteria framed glass front. Inside, all the hydrangea and rose floral walls you will need in a weekend. Hopefully I'd be the one lounging in the pink chaise longue on the lower ground floor and that would be me, isolated but settled for the weekend! Have you been to this pretty little café? They offer friendly services and staff who are mavens in capturing the best photos! Great for: a fairy-tale café, coffee with the girls, Instagram hotspot Where: 59 Connaught Street, St George's Fields, W2 2BB When: Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 12:30 to 18:00; Wednesday and Friday 12:00 to 17:00 Website:
A private chef, a personal butler, à la carte meals and a spot of volleyball played on sand speckled with gold dust are the least you would expect from a desert safari.... ...In Dubai, a destination, famous for converting its desert sands into a glitzy garden of high rise buildings. From the iconic to the infamous, to the most luxurious, to the unbelievable, it's all in Dubai. Skiing, skydiving, zip-lining over an urban city are all ordinary everyday list of attractions in this Emirate. Adding lustre to the list must be the not-to-be-missed experience of an Arabian desert safari. With this being Dubai, these are the grand dames of desert safaris. Where a Range Rover is the transportation de rigueur and having your own private chef is as ordinary as spotting oryxes. Ahmed (our driver) arrives ten minutes before time. As the vehicle's door opens the unmistakable scent of oud rides out on a traditional Arabic rhythm. He greets us with ice-cold bottles of water, an unplaced accent and Oxford University's English. Forty-five minutes into the drive and there is a world-renowned city skyline somewhere behind us but there is nothing to show for it. Instead, the bronze sands of the Arabian desert sprawls like a lazy morning in bed and endlessly like the farmlands of the Canadian prairies around us. Ahmed tells us we are nearly there and the exhilaration gauge rises but nothing compared to the moment the shemagh was wrapped on my head. It feels as if the shemagh is the genie that makes it all happen. A quick photo stop as the sun begins its final descent. Even as the sun begins to set, the heat still carries it's drunkening effect. A climb to the top of a sand dune only ten feet high in the drunken heat and the sinking sand underfoot results in an unwinnable race but barrels of laughter! This sand dune summit is achieved and the reward is - an ocean! An ocean of sand dunes! Save for the haze in the distance, the picture in the frame is a pristine, undulating landscape of golden sands. What was approximately a ten-foot climb on one side is a descent double that on the other side of the dune. The sun glints a smile at the top of the dunes and each dune, in turn, casts a shadow on the dune behind it! 'The sun sets quickly at this time of the year' says Ahmed as the 4x4 climbs it's the first dune. I am unsure if the statement was made as an initial distraction. As the next twenty minutes was spent, eyes shut, relocation of the stomach to the mouth and an unforgiving bashing of the dunes. Sat in the next seat all that time, was the younger version of myself squealing with the thrill of each stomach-churning, spaceless drop where I dared not open my eyes, mouth or even breathe. 'Try the sandboarding,' he said 'You will find it much more fun!' It must have been beginners' luck as the first attempt was a glide through like the 'Usain Bolt' of sandboards. The magic carpet was pulled after that, as it simply fell apart. What followed was no end of face plants, belly flops and cheese rolls. For all that, it truly was very entertaining for those watching. It is the middle of the desert, the sun has now set and the air, comfortably cooler. The glow from the lamps in the distance become more prominent. A melodious tune wraps around you as the smell of barbecue hangs in the evening air. The magic carpets pulled earlier are now covered with seats and cushions on the desert floor and a campfire crackles nearby. An inviting seat for the Arabic coffee and dates that followed. Another party takes a seat on the adjoining carpet. The campfire lights up each other's faces with each hysterical recount of the others' sand dune and sandboarding endeavours. The atmosphere becomes rousing! Or could it have been the champagne? Dinner - a dine as you wish on a heartwarming and traditional Arabian feast. Shawarma, bread and salad stations. Cold Arabic meze, barbecue meats that smelled as good as they looked! Whilst the chefs created a feast for the soul, the entertainment was a feast for the eyes and ears! Flowing raven haired belly dancers whose 'Maya hip' movements never faltered. Instead moved hypnotically with every beat as if they were one and the same. Tanourah dancers who left you asking - 'how do they do that?' Each set of performers being a build-up to the next as nothing before captured the attention of the camp like the blazing fire dance show! If the entertainment was a battle for which drew the most 'awes' then the fire dance blazed it. The desert night sky showed its starry blanket as the fire pit crackled. The courteous hellos from only hours earlier had now transcended into a friendly hookah smoking atmosphere! All those bright lights and the unending carousel of things to do in Dubai can be exhausting. Take an escape from your escape to Dubai with a luxury desert safari. Be it a morning, evening or overnight desert safari. If you have ever envisaged a safari camp near an oasis or with gourmet dining or butler service... There is an enticing mini collection of Arabian desert safaris with a distinctive difference with these tour operators! Nara Escape - Nara Private Escapes What transitions Nara Escape into desert safari stratosphere is their Hollywood style experiences and exemplary attention to detail inside Dubai's Desert Conservation Reserve. They can also host your private or corporate event in their unique desert setting. Best for: overnight desert safaris, bespoke desert safari, treated as celebrities, gourmet dining Platinum Heritage - Private Platinum Hot Air Balloon Experience Best for: desert retreat, hot air ballooning Ocean Air Travels - Customised Evening Red dune Safari Best for: length of time to dune bashing and sand dining Rayna Tours - Overnight Desert Safari Best for: something memorable Platinum Heritage - Royal Platinum Desert Experience Best for: An actual oasis in the desert location, personal butler, fine dining, treated like royalty Please note: I am not in any way affiliated with any of the above mentioned companies
Michelin and their coveted stars have had an erratic love affair with fine dining in Leeds. An affair which began in 1996 with the first Michelin* star awarded to Pool Court at 42, The Calls. Coupling with Racasse shortly after, they swiftly joined the soiree in 1997. Leeds then romanced two, one Michelin starred restaurants for the next three years. Michelin's love of Racasse waned and Racasse lost its star in 2000. Only for Michelin to ignite a one-star romance with Gueller in 2002, the culinary honeymoon was over in just a year. The city's remaining one-star restaurant was divorced in 2006 and for fourteen years not so much as a fling. Until, chef Michael O'Hare and his fine-dining restaurant - 'The Man Behind The Curtain.' At the time, recognised for his unorthodox chef's shag but equally known for his win with his 'Emancipated' cod, ink and chips presentation on the Great British Menu 2015. Its location is on the lower ground floor of Flannels and opposite the vibrant and eye pleasingly designed Leeds Victoria Gate shopping mall - reservations may be difficult to get. But once secured, descend the low lit stairs and go Behind the Curtain (literally). It was mirrored columns and bare walls, except for an artistic display of skateboards more reminiscent of a skateboard shop. A muted décor of black, white, marble and low lights. In some ways, it cut a figure of the 'Man' himself who came onto our television screens back in 2015. The fur-covered off-white seats at reception begged for a caress while swigging on Krug champagne accompanied by caviar in sour cream and chive with truffle crisps. All of which happens before moving onto the designated dining area. Except for two tables where more than two guests were seated, it was a solid showing of couples on the night. The no window and lower ground floor setting was a reminder of a night club frequented in my late teens called La Cave (french for The Cave). Always delivering a rip-roaring night out and always, packed out like sardines. But there is no elbow to elbow in this setting and thrilled to hear your conversation will not be overheard. The setting is such that the food becomes what the Mona Lisa is to the Louvre - the key attraction. The tasting menu is presented as a ten or fourteen-course escapade of show-stopping culinary execution with wine pairing. With taste menus, the entire table eats the same dishes except where there are dietary requirements. The wine pairing is optional. Char Sui octopus presented as a hot dog on a red love heart, tuna nigiri on a lightning flash and wagyu sirloin beef held in the palm of a skeletal hand were the first of three dishes presented. A question of 'Which should be eaten first?' Knowingly the plates are placed in such a way, you are compelled to eat from the love heart first, then tuna and then beef. Whilst all clever in their conceptions and in particular the beef it remained the culinary stand out of the trio. An intricate creation that undeniably kept the wagyu beef true to the palate. The dining experience developed at a beautiful pace as if to unfold a story, a work of art. One where the kitchen directs and the dishes are definitely the showpieces. Never knowing what is next until each plate is delivered to your table and the waiters detail the dish. At times the waiters themselves became a part of the show, synchronised in their strides and the delivery of the dishes and cutlery to the tables. Going into a fourteen-course taste menu at a fine dining restaurant, it was unthinkable that one of the tastes plates would be ackee, saltfish and 'johnny bake'. This dish, eaten on many a Sunday morning in a Caribbean home. But there it was, where all but my sense of sight recognised it! A beautiful execution with attention to keeping the essentials true to themselves. Both a humbling and euphoric find. Somewhat like the new partner, you would have no qualms telling the parents about. And just as one dish made its way off the breakfast menu of a west Indian home, so did another disguised as a savoury mouthful of eggs, edible eggshell included. Not only was the eggshell edible but the wrapper on the cupcake that followed sometime later was also good to eat. In actual fact, apart from the plates served on, and the cutlery, it is all for eating. Cheese fondue with rendered beef fat had been reinvigorated following the chefs' recent return from the French Alps. An awakening which will have me reach for cheese fondue the next menu it crosses. 'Emancipation' an inimitable twist on cod and chips. An excited mouthful of savoury crunch you want to have repeatedly. Perfection! Just as the dishes went from fish to meat to poultry so did we journey from the Caribbean to Europe and the far east and our taste buds from savoury to sweet. Ultimately gratified with a recognizably flavoured drumstick lolly ice-cream and that long-awaited tray of macarons. Don't be too concerned with the flavours and fillings, simply single out the one or the ones your eyes are drawn to. After fourteen plates there's no failing to remember this taste experience and just like the macaron selection, all but impossible to choose the starring plate of the show. Wine - Vineyards from around the world make an appearance during the wine pairings. A selection of champagnes, reds and whites. The outright favourite being the Contro Brachetto d'Acqui 2019. For non-wine drinkers, a glass of cherry soda with fermented passion fruit juice is a glass of foamy topped contentedness. Is 'The Man' and 'The Man Behind The Curtain' deserving of their Michelin star? With a solid marriage in place since 2015, Michelin undoubtedly believes agrees they do. Highlights: It was a solid performance from the staff throughout the evening. Emancipation remains the most memorable dish of the night whilst the glass of Contero Brachetto the most memorable wine. Artistic in both food and decor, chef O'Hare's personal touch is felt throughout the experience. Great For: a dégustation awakening, romantic dining, special occasions Location: Flannels, 68-78 Vicar Lane, LS1 7JH Website: *Michelin Guide Star History: 1996 - 2020
Halong Bay: 7 of the Best Suites Cruising Halong Bay
Is a Halong Bay cruise on your Vietnam itinerary? Mention Vietnam and certainly seeing the lantern-lit streets of the ancient town of Hoi An, experiencing the Cu Chi Tunnels and an overnight cruise on Halong Bay is on everyone's itinerary. Halong Bay itself is like a dream! The lure of it's emerald green waters splattered with floating villages, karsts and islets like lotus gardens across the bay. It's a destination which requires at the least an overnight cruise to absorb as much of this natural wonder. A cruise offers the opportunity not only to take in its breath taking scenery but to participate in out-of-doors pursuits, including fishing with the locals, dinners on a private beach, tai chi in the morning sunrise and cave exploration. Like any top destination, Halong Bay attracts a plethora of accommodation and has something for everyone. The likes of Emperor Cruises, Bhaya and Au Co recognise the discerned traveller who indulges in exploration from a plush and comfortable surrounding. Au Co Suite, The Au Co Cruise As opposed to a two hour car journey from Hanoi, guests on a three day cruise are welcomed off a forty five minute sea plane commute from Hanoi, taking in the iconic bird's eye view of the bay along the way. Should you choose to call the Au Co Suite yours for your stay, you are greeted by a sleek interior design more reminiscent of Santorini but for the carefully placed oriental objects around the suite and the towering limestone karsts out the window. A glossy hardwood floor extends to a separate, beautifully wood panelled bath and shower. Your very own private deck at the front of the boat with table and chairs is a generous extension of the suite, providing an undisturbed haven. While on the three day, two night cruise, enjoy four course gourmet presented lunches and dinners. A Vietnamese traditional home meal and a barbecue under the stars on the final evening. Also part of the experience is a traditional folklore performance on the origins of the Vietnamese people. The Au Co cruise also takes you away from the over-visited Halong Bay areas on an exclusive route to Lan Ha and Bai Tu Long bays. Surely a cut stone cruise in Halong Bay cruises. Amenities: Premium Sea Plane transfer, sparkling wine, bathrobes, air conditioning Size: 40 square metres Ideal for: luxury, impressing the other half and a culinary experience The Terrace Suite, Bhaya Classic Cruises Bhaya Cruises were one of the first to offer overnight cruising as an extension to the routine day excursions on the bay. With six hundred square miles of natural beauty, a trip that extended overnight meant visits to other areas of the bay previously not possible on a day trip. The pinnacle of the twenty rooms onboard these more traditional boats is the Terrace Suite. The suite takes on a simple, understated Vietnamese decor with custom wood furnishings. The floor is a beautiful dark wood. The Terrace Suite is the bonsai of the list but what it lacks for in size is duly compensated for with a more vibrant and relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff. Reconnect with nature by joining in one of the myriad of activities hiking up to Hang Sung Sot Cave, Titop mountain or kayaking. Amenities: Private terrace, use of kayaks, cocktails at sunset Size: 16.5 square metres Ideal for: Young at heart, traditional Halong Bay cruise, active The Superior Suite, Paradise Peak With a total of eight suites onboard, Paradise Peak luxury cruise offers the ultimate in an intimate and chic escape. Whereas, the personalised Vietnamese hospitality service feels much more like home away from home. A stay in the Superior Suite on the upper deck enjoys peerless views from your very own private terrace. From the thousands of years old karsts as you sail by to the starlit sky at night to the reflection of the moon on the water's surface. The bed takes to the centre stage with its plush white linens. Pops of oriental red and Indochinese motifs pays homage to the location. Dine communally or request the services of your personal butler to arrange a more cosy dinner in the suite. This suite is positively romantic! Amenities: Private terrace, private dining, personal butler service Size: 40 square metres Ideal for: romance, excellent butler service Regent Suites, Ginger - Heritage Line Say good morning to Halong Bay from this Indochinese inspired decor of the regent suite! Beautiful attention to detail in the custom-made silk panels and intricate lattice work. Connect with the natural beauty of the less traversed Lan Ha Bay through the generous floor to ceiling windows or from the privacy of your jacuzzi. Enjoy international dishes as well as traditional Vietnamese meals created from freshly sourced ingredients. Neither should an opportunity be missed for an afternoon cocktail in the pool on the top deck with its 360 degree views. Amenities: Private balcony, jacuzzi, pool Size: 50 square metres Ideal for: luxury, culinary feast, less traversed route Alisa Premier Suite, Alisa Cruise Sailing since 2017, Alisa Cruise Line is one of the newest on the bay. Being this new Alisa Cruise is cementing its status as a modern, boutique line. The Premier Suite is a sleek, sophisticated design and oh-so-chic! A palette of taupe and beige adds to the elegance of the suite. This ensuite is fully equipped with modern amenities and the attention to detail is impeccable. Intimate and understated, its perfect for younger couples and singles alike. Amenities: en suite, spa services, karaoke Size: 26 square metres Ideal for: young couples, single travellers The Royal Suite, Emperor Cruises Choose a cruise aboard the award winning Emperor Cruises with its eight elegantly designed suites. The jewel in its crown is the Royal Suite. Sixty square metres of floor space not including the private balcony, you will be sailing the largest, luxurious and most uniquely designed cruise on the bay. A light flooded suite with custom furnishings and natural wood floors. Its decidedly regal with its engaging neutral palette of creams, beige and dark wood. An art program suited to an art gallery, gym, spa, library and kids’ club are some of the niceties onboard. An all inclusive cruise ensures guests want for nothing. Amenities: 24 hour room service, butler service Size: 70 square metres Ideal for: experiential cruising, art enthusiasts Private Charters Prefer not to share your Halong Bay experience with strangers? For the ultimate in exclusivity, charter an entire boat. Opt for a boat that accommodates your party size, select the number of nights and design an itinerary off the beaten track! Love your privacy - go private all the way and charter a private jet to Cat Bi International or Noi Bai International airport. Whether you choose a one night Halong Bay cruise or curate your own personal Halong Bay cruise, take inspiration from the suites above. Be sure to save this post and book the suite that bests compliments you!
What does French Polynesia, Fiji and the Maldives have in common? All have the overly seductive, glamorized, let's honeymoon here overwater villas and bungalows! Oozing 'oh wow' gasps out to azure blue waters. And whilst these destinations undoubtedly remain the pole sitters for a captivating overwater escape, the Caribbean is gathering pace in the field. Enter Sandals Resorts International, a hospitality group whose foundations lay in Caribbean soil were the first to pioneer overwater villas in the area. Now with three properties offering overwater villas they now have firm foundations in the Caribbean Sea. Sandals Royal Caribbean, Montego Bay, Jamaica The flagship and very first over-the-water bungalows of the Sandals group hosts twelve Tahitian-esque styled residences in a heart shape layout off a two mile immaculate white sand beach. Step out of your king sized beds enveloped in cool luxury linens onto hardwood floors out to an extended sun deck and a Caribbean breeze. Each bungalow is equipped with a walk-in rain shower, outdoor shower, an outdoor Tranquility Soak Tub designed for two and over-water hammocks. At night, the glass panelled floors and the lights in the water add to the magic. Amenities: Airport arrival lounge, Red Lane Spa treatments, unlimited water sports Royalton Resorts and Spa, Antigua Cocooned on the crescent of the private beach at Deep Bay on the west of the island, Royalton Antigua can be reached in thirty minutes from the airport. These just recently launched bungalows combine contemporary design and amenities with 'All in Luxury.' Amenities: Infinity plunge pool, butler service, personal fitness/yoga classes, sunset mixologist service Rosewood Mayakoba, Mexico A retreat for honeymooners and couples alike, these 977 square foot Deluxe Overwater Lagoon Suites affords privacy. Fused amidst the tropical mangroves of the Riviera Maya, these suites offer floating views out over the lagoon. The suites are beautifully understated, white walled canvases giving way to hints of Mexican inspired motifs around the suites. These suites are just the way you envision your home to be after the kids have moved out but with your very own plunge pool. Glass walled bathrooms that invite nature in and you out to an open air garden shower. Amenities: Private boat dock, Bose audio and sound, heated plunge pool, butler service The closest airport serving private jets is Cancun International. Sandals Grande St Lucian, St Lucia As a leading honeymoon resort group, the magnetism of an overwater villa is not an ambitious grasp. Therefore not unexpected when Sandals debuted additional over water bungalows at its St Lucian resort. The same show-stopping floor to vaulted ceiling windows affording views out to the Caribbean sea. A neutrally toned decor with accents of azure blue as if to spray the colours of the outdoors on the inside. Mosaic covered spa sized bathrooms complete with Red Lane Spa Amenities. Hard to imagine a struggle for romantic moments here with an over water hammock to gaze at the bejewelled Caribbean night sky from or cosy moments with your favourite glasses of bubbles from the open air soak tub for two. Amenities: Butler Elite Service, beach and bonfire parties, unlimited water sports, overwater hammock Which one of these have you visited, or which would you plan to visit? And debuting 2021 is the ultra luxurious Four Seasons Resort and Residences Caye Chapel, Belize