TRUTH be told, I much prefer to share a Valentine’s Day meal at home with my husband.
I love dining out in restaurants as much as the next person, just not on that night!
Instead, we share the kitchen and cook up something tasty together. It’s never anything super complicated, in fact giving complex cookery a wide berth is essential to avoid arguing about something silly like who’s nabbed the better spatula, or whatever.
We both love to cook yet we rarely spend time together in the kitchen, but on Valentine’s night, we cook for each other, together; chatting, laughing and looking forward to sharing a delicious meal with a great bottle of wine.
Valentine’s Day falls on a Tuesday this year; maybe not the most romantic of days. So, whenever you mark it, it’s good to remember it’s about making time for each other, and if you can do that over a tasty meal prepared together, all the better!
Try this sample menu for a fresh, seasonal Valentine’s dinner that’s light, delicious, easy to prepare and easy to work together on. NOTE – timing is everything!
Make the white chocolate mousse first so it has time to set.
Cook the puy lentils ahead of time (they don’t have to be served warm) and put the oven on to roast the squash and shallots before you ‘crack’ on with the starter.
Crispy Hen’s Egg, Parmesan Brioche Toasts
Basically, posh egg and soldiers. Substitute duck eggs for a richer version; boil the egg for a little longer. Come April, substitute brioche toasts for asparagus.
2 free range eggs in their shell, plus one whisked for coating.
Oil for deep frying
Plain brioche loaf · Butter, melted.
Parmesan cheese, grated.
Salt and pepper
1. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Bring down to a gentle simmer, and carefully drop in two eggs (in their shells) into the pan. Cook for three minutes – time it, don’t guess!
2. Remove the eggs into a bowl and run under cold water for a minute to stall the cooking.
3. Heat some sunflower oil in a high-sided saucepan. Meanwhile, carefully remove the shells from the eggs, and slice a tiny piece of egg white from the bottom.
4. Test when the oil is hot enough by dropping in a small piece of bread – if it starts to fry, you’re good to go.
5. Pane each egg in a little flour and egg and cover well with panko breadcrumbs. Drop carefully into the hot oil until golden and crispy.
6. Meanwhile, cut 2cm thick slices from the brioche loaf, remove the crusts, and cut into 2cm wide soldiers.
7. Brush with melted butter, and coat all over with salt, pepper and plenty of parmesan cheese.
8. Place a frying pan over a medium heat, add the brioche soldiers and fry until golden brown all over.
9. Plate the crispy hens’ egg with the soldiers and grate extra parmesan cheese all over.
Steamed Cod, Salad of Roasted Squash Salad, Puy Lentils, Caramelised Shallots and Harissa Yogurt.
You can substitute cod for hake, ling, plaice or monkfish. Save time by using tinned green lentils – just rinse and warm through on the hob.
250g puy lentils, cooked, or 1 tin of green lentils.
2 thick cut cod fillets
Half a butternut squash peeled and sliced.
8 round shallots, peeled.
100g plain natural yogurt
1 tbsp harissa paste · Handful of roasted hazelnuts roughly chopped.
Paprika and fresh parsley to garnish.
EVOO and seasoning.
1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Line a baking tray with parchment and add butternut squash slices ..and shallots. Add a small amount of olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss together to coat everything. Place in the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes, turning everything once halfway through.
2. Meanwhile, season the fish, and cook in a steamer until pearlescent. If you don’t have a steamer, pan fry or pop in the oven after the vegetables are done for 10 minutes at 180 Celsius.
3. Mix the yogurt and harissa paste, top with paprika and set aside. Drain and rinse the lentils.
4. Into a large serving bowl, place the lentils, the roasted butternut squash and shallots, half the hazelnuts and most of the parsley. Drizzle with EVOO, and season with salt and black pepper. Toss to coat everything thoroughly.
5. Spoon over the harissa spiked yogurt and finish the garnish with the remaining hazelnuts and parsley.
6. Bring the salad bowl to the table, and serve with the fish, good bread and butter on the side.
Milk Chocolate Mousse, Cherries, Amaretti Biscuit Crumb
Such a simple dessert, yet oh so tasty! Use tinned black cherries for this and make use of that syrup too. If you can’t get Amaretti biscuits, substitute biscotti or ginger nuts.
75g good quality white chocolate
2 large egg whites
½ tbsp caster sugar
100ml double cream
Tinned black cherries.
1. Break the white chocolate into smaller pieces, place them in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring until melted. Remove from heat.
2. Separate the eggs and place the whites into a clean bowl. Whisk to stiff peaks, add in all of the sugar and whisk again until fully incorporated.
3. In another clean bowl, whip the cream to soft peak (if you overwhip it, keep going – you’ll make butter, but you’ll need to start again for the dessert!)
4. Fold the melted white chocolate into the cream, the add one spoonful of the egg white and mix that in well.
5. Add remaining egg whites, but this time fold them in gently to avoid knocking the air out.
6. Decant into individual serving glasses, cover and chill in the fridge for an hour or until set.
7. When ready to serve, top the mousse with some cherries, syrup, and biscuit crumbs.