If you asked me what my weekend looked like 10 years ago, even seven, I’d describe it like this. A few days in advance, I would scour the internet and newspapers trying to decide which restaurant to make a reservation at. There were many rules- it had to be one we hadn’t visited before, it needed good reviews, somewhere close to a tube station, somewhere that served good honest food. That was all- we didn’t ask for much!
I’d get home from work early and have a long hot bath (read bath- not shower), put on my fancy date clothes, spend time doing my make up, the works. Me and Akber would walk hand in hand to the tube station, him holding an umbrella over my head (it ALWAYS rained in London), me clutching a tiny purse under my arm.
We would talk hours on end, about our day, our work, our bosses, our life ahead. We would spend time looking through the menu, our fingers stopping to read each course. We ALWAYS ordered dessert, always. That was a given. Sometimes, we would just walk on the streets and casually walk into a coffee shop for a quick crepe, an ice cream, just coffee. People watch until closing time.
Our weekends are quite a bit different now, not that I would have it any other way. Sometimes weekdays merge into weekends and I don’t even realise what day it is. Except I find that my two kids tend to wake up earlier on a weekend. They just know somehow, you agree? The day is spent in and out of high chairs as we go from one meal to another. In between, I find myself cooking the next course.
Meals are quick, messy, loud. There are normally four people all trying to have a different conversation but at the same time. Eventually me and Akber give up and then we watch, and listen, as Maryam and Hassan talk, scream, eat, make a mess, enjoy.
The rest of the day is spent ferrying the children to different playdates, parks and birthdays. I usually grab the first outfit in my cupboard, there is no time for make up and my clutch bag has now been replaced by a larger contraption. One that houses a house literally. Trust me when I say I have EVERYTHING in my bag. It’s just a question of finding it.
We still walk hand in hand though. Except I hold Maryam’s and Akber Hassan’s. Eating out is a chaotic affair. We usually know exactly what we want to order and don’t even require a menu. The staff generally know us, pretty well too. But like in the past, dessert is a must. Some things just never change.
As you can tell, life has changed dramatically. and you know what, I love it. I do love this new life of mine, my family, the busyness, the chaos, the noise. All of it. But every once in a while, I crave some alone time with Akber, a date night if you like. On those rare and special nights, the kids are in bed early and most of the time, we would book a fancy restaurant. Occasionally though, I cook for us at home and it’s usually like this. A quick juicy steak with mashed potatoes or fries, a little green on the side and a little something to jazz up the steak.
Usually it’s a creamy pepper sauce or a peri peri style one. This time, I opted for a zaatar butter. Laced with honey, it goes perfectly with the sharpness of the sumac and fresh herbs. A beautiful meal eaten with a beautiful person.
Tell me, what special meals do you cook when dining alone with your other half?
Rib Eye Steaks with Zaatar Butter
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp fresh oregano
1 tsp sumac
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp honey
100 g salted butter, room temperature
2 rib eye steaks (about 250 g each)
To make the zaatar butter, pound the sesame seeds in a pestle and mortar. Add the rest of the ingredients until salt and pound to make a rough paste. Add honey and butter and mix through. using cling film, form a sausage shaped roll about 1 inch think and refrigerate until firm.
Brush both sides of the steaks with olive oil and season really well with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat a grill pan on high heat until smoking. Add the steak to the pan and cook on each side for 3-4 minutes for medium rare (or to your liking). Place on a warm plate loosely covered with foil to rest for a few minutes.
Slice the butter into rounds and serve on top of the hot steak with steak fries or mashed potato on the side.
Note: Extra butter can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes