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02 DESTINATIONS

03 LIFESTYLE

04 NEWS

Sofreh Aghd – Persian Weddings

Religious wedding ceremonies are full of traditional and symbolic elements, like the Sofreh Aghd. If you haven’t had a chance to witness this Persian wedding ceremony, here’s an explanation of the symbolic elements.

In Farsi, the word Sofreh means ‘spread’ and Aghd means ‘ceremony. The following symbolic items make up the display known as the Sofreh Aghd.

The Mirror – a symbol of light, purity, and brightness. As the bride removes her veil, her reflection in the mirror is the first image the groom has of his soon to be wife.

Two Candelabras – these are placed on each side of the mirror, symbolizing clarity and energy in the couple’s life together.

The Traditional Persian Embroidered Cloth – a silk or embroidered cloth, handed down the generations, is a symbol of family and traditions.

The Holy Book – a symbol of God’s blessing for the couple.

Tray of Spices – to guard the couple from the evil eye, a tray of seven herbs and spices is part of the display.

Decorated Persian Flatbread – a decorative display of flatbreads is a symbol of prosperity for the feast and the couple’s life together.

Decorated Eggs, Walnuts, Hazelnuts, and Almonds – these are a symbol of fruitfulness, fertility, and abundance. The hope is that the marriage is as strong as the shells of these nuts.

Rock Candy – representing a sweetened life for the newlyweds.

Honey – a symbol of sweetness in the couple’s life

Two Sugar Cones – showering the couple with sugar is a symbol of a happy, sweet, and good life together.

Wild Rue – to guard the couple from the evil eye, a tray of seven herbs and spices is part of the display.

Sweets and Pastries – symbolising the sweetness of life.

Sugar Cloth – a piece of silk or fine fabric which is held above the bride & groom’s heads, for the duration of the ceremony, by happily married female relatives and friends.

Traditionally, the Sofreh Aghd would take place in the Mother of the Bride’s house. This would be set on a fine ceremonial fabric, on the floor. Today, the modern way of displaying the Sofreh Aghd is on a table or platform, designed to reflect the unique and personal style of the couple.

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Fish Pie With Crispy Cheddar Rosti

A Sunday supper menu classic at our house, whether it be for two, or a large family gathering, is a Fish Pie.  I’ve tried various successful recipes over the years, but this recipe by Irish chef Clodagh McKenna, has been voted the ‘Best Ever’ by my pescatarian husband.


Ingredients

  • 450g / 16oz floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper, peeled
  • 250g / 9oz smoked haddock fillets, skinless
  • 250g / 9oz salmon fillets, skinless
  • 6-8 large prawns
  • 400ml / 14 fl oz milk
  • 50g / 2 oz flour
  • 50g / 2oz butter, softened
  • 25g / 1 oz butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill
  • 50g / 2oz mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 shallot, cut in half
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns


Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 and grate the raw potatoes with the larger part of a box grater and pop the grated potatoes into a bowl of cold water to stop them from going brown. Grate the cheddar using the same said of the grater and set aside in a bowl.
  2. Place the smoked haddock and the salmon in a saucepan, pour over the milk and drop in the onion, bay leaf and peppercorns. Cook over a low heat for five minutes, then drain, holding on to the milk but discarding the onion, bay leaf and peppercorns. Then add the fish to the roasting tray.
  3. Melt 150g of butter in a saucepan then stir in the flour and cook for five minutes to make a roux. Add the milk that you poached the fish in as well as the mustard, and whisk, until the sauce is smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper, add in half the dill and pour over the fish.
  4. Drain the grated potatoes and pat dry with a clean tea towel until they are completely dry. Mix the grated potatoes in a bowel with the grated cheddar, rest of the dill and sea salt and scatter over the fish and the sauce.
  5. Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan and brush over the top of the pie to ensure the top gets really crispy. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.


This recipe should serve 4-6 people, as I like to include sides of french green beans, and steamed broccoli. Of course you also want to leave room for dessert. Enjoy!

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Bruce’s Top 10 Christmas Entertaining Tips

I love to entertain, but hosting during the holidays can heighten stress levels.  I’ve mastered the art of enjoyable entertaining over the years, and my gift to you this season is a list of insider tips.


10 / Setting the scene

When setting the perfect table, look at varying shades, introduce textures, such as fabrics, crystals, and items in varying shapes and heights – it’s about creating an elegant, stunning, but equally comfortable space for your guests.

9 / Point of view

Look at the room or table from your guests point of view.  I sit at each place setting to see what each guest will experience.


8 / Timing is of the essence

When entertaining I always time everything perfectly, but in order to keep my focus on my guests I keep hidden lists everywhere.  I love a vibrating timer as you don’t want endless beeps as your guests are enjoying the festive music.


7 / Avoid clutter! 

As I decorate I tend to remove some of the everyday.   A great personal touch is replacing photos in picture frames with ones from past Christmases.


6 / Scented Candles

Be careful with scented candles as some may be overpowering.  Mix complimenting scents and go wild with scent free candles!

5 / Be prepared

Ensure that you can prepare most of the menu details ahead of time…you don’t want to spend your entire time in the kitchen.  Hire gorgeous staff to assist – it’s money well spent and costs less than hiring caterers!


4 / Always plan for excess

You may have additional people turn up or a guest may have a last minute ‘plus one’ – it’s the holidays! 


3 / Stagger Arrivals

I like to give guests different times so you can spread out the arrivals, this way you can properly greet everyone.

2 / Drinks

Unless you want to spend your evening behind the bar, stick to champagne, wines, and a signature cocktail.  A festive punch is a great idea so guests can help themselves.


1 / End on a high note

Stick to your scheduled end time, and plan ahead for taxis.  You want everyone to get home safe, and this way you’ll still have time to clear up! 

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Spotlight on Aman Venice

One of eight monumental palazzos on the Grand Canal, Aman Venice is my residence of choice when visiting the Italian city.  It perfectly blends historical architecture with contemporary living.  

A boutique hotel which feels more like a residential palace – I would happily move into the Maddalena Stanza Canal Grande, with its silk-covered walls and canal view.

Wellbeing is at the core of the Aman brand, and self-care is a great excuse to try their grounding massage treatment.  I personally don’t need any encouragement!

In the city that sees almost 5 million visitors a year, my sightseeing of choice is watching the world go by whilst sipping jasmine tea from the Canal Garden. 

Canal Garden

MUST DO – The Palazzo Kitchen Table is an experience not to be missed, even if it’s just to visit the hotel’s wine cellar.

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