V-Day

I’m a bit of a humbug when it comes to Valentine’s Day – I love going out to dinner with Luke, but hate the idea of paying double the amount and sitting amongst other couples in various states of love/lust (for the record, PDAs are not enjoyable for anyone but the two locked in the embrace), all because it is the 14th February. Because of my aversion to such sentiment, I usually cook something tasty on Valentine’s Day or on the weekend it falls closest to.

Below I’ve included a fail-safe meal plan for the evening as well as several suitable drink options.

Canapés and fizz
This is incredibly simple and can be prepared up to an hour in advance and chilled (no longer as the avocado will brown).

Ingredients
8 ready-made blinis (available from Marks & Spencer)
1 avocado
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
Salt and black pepper
½ tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp lemon juice (adds flavour and keeps the avocado fresher for longer)
Cooked king prawns or smoked salmon

Method
1. Peel the avocado and remove the stone
2. In a food processor, blitz the avocado, yoghurt, salt and pepper, chilli flakes and lemon juice
3. Top each blini with 1 tsp of the mixture and either a prawn or sliver of smoked salmon

To drink:
Champagne is the obvious choice here, but for something a little more romantically themed, try Banrock Station’s Shiraz Rosé – easy-going, bright and refreshing, with flavours of strawberry and cherry, this pink fizz will go well as an aperitif or alongside the canapés.

If sparkling rosé isn’t your thing, top a glass of chilled prosecco with a splash of Belvoir Raspberry and Rose Cordial. A blend of raspberries and Turkish rose petal extract, this has just the right amount of sweetness without being cloying.

Steak and chips
This healthy version of a classic gives you the perfect excuse to indulge in dessert and wine!

Ingredients
2 fillet steaks (expensive, but surely your loved one is worth it?)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium potatoes, cut into wedges
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
100g mushrooms
100g crème fraiche
Salt and black pepper

Method
1. Plunge the potato wedges into salted boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and toss in 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and black pepper
2. Heat the oven to 200°c (180°c for a fan oven) and cook the wedges for 25-30 minutes until crispy
3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan, coat the steak in a little salt and black pepper, then fry for 3 minutes on each side (for medium). Put on a plate and cover with foil. Allow to rest for 5 minutes
4. Deglaze the oil and meat juices with the red wine vinegar in the pan
5. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes
6. Pour the crème fraiche over the mushrooms, cook for a further minute, then serve with the steak, chips and your choice of green vegetable (I generally go for broccoli)

To drink:
With steak, it has to be Malbec and, until 12th March, you can get Alamos Malbec 2010 Catena for £5.99 when you buy two or more bottles from Majestic. The dried fruit characteristics in this wine are perfect alongside steak, and the ripe sweet blackberry flavour balances the creaminess of the sauce perfectly.

Fluffy chocolate mousse
This recipe is adapted from Angela Nilson’s recipe on the BBC Good Food website. Free from egg yolks, butter and cream, it is a lot healthier than traditional chocolate mousse, but tastes incredibly indulgent.

Ingredients
80g dark chocolate
1 tbsp cocoa powder
½ tsp coffee granules
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 egg whites
1 tbsp caster sugar
50g light Greek yoghurt

Method
1. Break the chocolate into equal-sized pieces and put into a large bowl with the cocoa powder, coffee, vanilla extract and 2 tbsp cold water
2. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water) and melt the mixture until thick and smooth, stirring occasionally
3. Add 1 tbsp boiling water, stir and leave to cool slightly
4. Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites to form soft peaks, then whisk in the sugar until glossy
5. Using a metal fork, beat the yoghurt into the chocolate mixture
6. Gently fold one third of the egg whites into the chocolate and yoghurt mixture using a metal tablespoon (do not mix as you’ll beat the air out of the egg whites), then fold the rest of the egg whites in
7. Spoon the mixture into 2 ramekins and chill for at least 2 hours
8. Before serving, decorate with a scattering of orange zest

To drink:
If death by chocolate is your thing, try a glass of Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur over crushed ice. Available from Asda for £12.99 a bottle, it’s a Baileys lover’s dream!

For something less creamy, Chocolate Shop wine (£8.99 from Sainsburys and Co-op) has black cherry and dark chocolate flavours, and makes a rather interesting alternative to a glass of red wine.

If chocolate isn’t your thing but you also want a novel end to your meal, round it off with Croft pink, available for around £10 from Sainsburys, Co-op and Selfridges. With flavours of raspberry and honey, and a delightful soft pink hue, serve this pale port chilled or as a base for a sweet after dinner cocktail.

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