Greetings to all the foodies!
Let me introduce myself: I am Barbora Stiess and I run The Devilled Egg Kitchen Academy. It is the time of year again when the colours pink and red begin to dominate every shop. Forgetful boyfriends make last-minute restaurant bookings and us girls feel compelled to search for the perfect (pink) dress. How about skipping all that and staying at home this year? Saint Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be about pre-packed romance, crowded restaurants and set menus; you can make your own rules!
Valentine’s Day the way we know it is a modern invention; Valentine himself was a tragic martyr from 269 AD. The romantic undertone was added in the 14th century when Geoffrey Chaucer referred to the day as the time to mate (how very romantic!). Chocolate, cards, teddies, hearts, flowers and pink are of course recent additions. Don’t get me wrong; I am a ‘girlie girl’ at heart and a big fan of romance. I look forward to red roses and pink champagne, but will not be going to a restaurant. I would rather create a Valentine’s meal that we will both love and remember.
February is a great time for some of my favourite ingredients:
- Purple sprouting broccoli – fantastic stir-fried for a few minutes in coconut oil with a little pinch of Cornish garlic sea salt and served with toasted flaked almonds.
- Oysters – try these in a champagne tempura batter (equal amounts of corn and plain flour, a pinch of turmeric and enough champagne to create a light batter that just coats the oysters), served with a sweet chili dipping sauce.
- Venison – seasoned with salt and pepper, pan-fried to add colour and flavour, then roasted until just pink. To complete, serve with a rösti, kale and a nice, rich jus (or gravy).
When planning your ideal menu, aim for variety and lots of colour. To celebrate Valentine’s Day, I would recommend lighter meals since heavy food can make you sleepy. Don’t forget to plan drinks to accompany your dinner – perfect match-ups are not required, just something which will complement the flavours in your food. As Euripides, the Greek tragedian, said in 400BC: “If wine ceases, there will be an end of love.” Alcohol is among the greatest of aphrodisiacs and an ideal addition to a menu that celebrates love. I tend to start such a meal with a champagne/Prosecco cocktail. Try mixing sparkling wine with a dash of Malibu and Chambord, and decorate your glass with a fresh strawberry.
Oysters are a classic Valentine’s feature, and are included in my menu every year in some form. From Petronius to Casanova, fresh oysters have historically been viewed as a symbol of virility and passion. If you are not keen on them raw, try the tempura recipe above.
The following is a simple but delicious menu to get you into the right mood:
Parma-wrapped Baked Fig
An incredibly sensuous fruit, fit even for Cleopatra.
- First, heat a dash of olive oil in a pan, throw a handful of flaked almonds in with a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of Greek honey.
- Fry until the almonds turn golden brown, spread on a plate and leave to cool. Quarter your figs (3 per person) without cutting through all the way and wrap half a slice of Parma ham around the base of each.
- Stuff each fig with half a teaspoon of mascarpone and drizzle lightly with more honey. Bake on 200°C for 7 minutes.
- Serve on a bed of salad leaves, top with the almonds and drizzle with balsamic syrup.
Smokey Salmon with Avocado and White Chocolate Sauce and Asparagus
Avocado is the true forbidden fruit of the Aztecs. Asparagus, meanwhile, is packed with potassium, calcium and vitamin E. Richard Burton (Hollywood’s ‘greatest lover’) referred to them as a ‘lascivious’ vegetable.
- Start by preparing the sauce: heat a dash of olive oil in a pan and add 2 finely-chopped shallots with a large pinch of salt and cook until translucent. Add 200ml white wine to the pan and boil until reduced by half.
- Throw in 100g Green & Black’s white chocolate (there are vanilla seeds in it!). Add the flesh of one avocado, chopped, 100 ml of double cream and chopped chives. Blend until smooth and keep warm.
- Sprinkle two salmon fillets with a generous pinch of salt and sweet smoked paprika. Heat a large dash of olive oil in a frying pan until smoking and add the fillets. Brown the salmon on both sides and then bake in a preheated oven (180°C) for 15 minutes or until the flakes of the flesh are well defined and the fish feels springy to the touch.
- Serve with pan-fried asparagus (dash of olive oil in a hot pan and a pinch of salt for 6 minutes).
Chocolate and Hazelnut Truffles
Chocolate was deemed sinful by the Church until the 17th century: the perfect finish.
- Warm 200ml of double cream in a pan. Break up 200g of dark chocolate into a food processor and, whilst it is running, pour in the cream.
- Add 3 tablespoons of Frangelico (hazelnut liquor) and a spoonful of clotted cream.
- Keep in the fridge overnight (or at least for 3 hours) and roll into truffles in the afternoon before your dinner (for extra crunch, roll in chopped and toasted hazelnuts).