It is the time of year again when the colours pink and red begin to dominates 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 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 rosti, 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 which 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.
If you haven’t got time to plan the perfect menu, we have put together this easy Valentine’s menu for you – give it a go!