Spend some quality time together in the kitchen this Valentine’s day. Forget a cringe worthy dinner for two in a restaurant this Valentine’s day, get busy in the kitchen instead. As Valentine’s day creeps up again and restaurants start filling up, why not have a go at cooking your own romantic meal for two at home this year instead? No matter where you go out for a meal on Valentine’s day it can’t help but feel a bit forced and cheesy as couples line up two by two, sometimes under duress amid a sea of tables for two, with candles that aren’t normally there. Instead, cooking at home could win you extra brownie points, particularly if you go the whole hog with three courses. It can be surprisingly easy too, with the right recipes.

Valentine’s menu

 Serves 2

 

                        To start: Scallops with a banana puree and Parma ham crisps

For the Puree:

2 bananas
50ml double cream
1 scant teaspoon of salt
6 scallops
Green salad leaves
Small handful of coco nibs
Slice of Parma ham

To make:

Puree

Blend all the ingredients for the puree and keep warm

Parma ham crisps

Heat the oven to 190°C

Grease two identical baking sheets; one on the inside, the other on the underside

Place one inside the other so the ham slices are sandwiched between the greased surfaces

Bake in the top of the oven for 9 minutes

Remove the upper baking sheet and leave to cool

NOTE – The ham will be limp straight from the oven, but will crisp up as it cools

Scallops

Pour a ‘film’ of olive oil into a pan and bring to high heat (until the oil is almost smoking)

Season your scallops with salt and white pepper (black will do, but white is more delicate)

Place them into the hot oil, presentation side down (usually the larger side)

The objective is to caramelise the scallops, giving them a deep golden-brown colour

Approximate timing is 3 minutes, but do check and let the colour be your guide

Turn over, but do not caramelise the second sides, since this will overcook the scallops

Test with fingertips; the scallops should be firm but not rubbery, with a little bit of give

Just before you remove them from the heat, a squeeze of lemon juice is recommended, this will counteract the effects of the oil, whilst bringing out more of their fantastic flavour

NOTE – For extra indulgent luxury, try adding a knob of butter just before turning the scallops

Arrange on a plate, scatter with the coco nibs and arrange the leaves around the scallops, top with the crisp and serve.

Main course: Panfried Salmon, Lentils, Beetroot Carpaccio and a Smoked Salmon Scotched Egg

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2 Salmon fillets

200g cooked Puy lentils

1 beetroot

100g smoked salmon

2 cooked quail eggs, peeled

1 hen egg

Plain flour

Breadcrumbs

100ml double cream

Grated horseradish to taste

Salad leaves

To make

For the quail egg, preheat your deep fat fryer to 170C (you can use a pan with oil, but be careful)

Mince the smoked salmon very finely and encase the quail egg in this

Wrap in cling film and set in the fridge for at least 20 minutes

Then roll gently in flour, egg and breadcrumbs

Roll again in egg and breadcrumbs, deep fry until golden brown, keep warm

Slice the beetroot finely, using a mandolin and then cut into perfect circles using a cookie cutter

Lightly whip the double cream and fold in a pinch of salt and the horseradish

Mix the Puy Lentils with a dash of olive oil and season with salt, arrange on a plate

To pan fry the salmon, heat a film of oil in a pan and heat until just starting to smoke

Season the salmon and pop into the oil (skin side down or if using skinned salmon – belly side first)

Flip when one side is golden brown (salmon will take 10-15 minutes to cook depending on thickness, the flakes will be defined, start coming apart and the meat should not be translucent)

Place the cooked fish on the bed of lentils, spread with a tablespoon of the horseradish cream, arrange the beetroot carpaccio on the salmon and pop the quail egg on a dollop of the horseradish cream on top of the beetroot

Decorate with the leaves.

 

To finish: Pine nut panna cotta with basil shortbread

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For the panna cotta:

125ml full fat milk

125ml double cream

100g pine nuts, bashed in a pestle and mortar

30g caster sugar

6 leaves of gelatine

For the biscuits:

125g unsalted butter, room temperature

55g caster sugar

180g plain flour

To make:

Biscuits:

Preheat the oven to 180C

Beat the butter with sugar until smooth

Beat in the flour and roll into a log and chill for 20 minutes

When you remove from the fridge, roll out to a £1 coin thickness

Cut out your desired shapes and transfer to a baking tray lined with a baking paper

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown

Cool on a wire-rack

Panna cotta:

Heat the milk and the nuts until scalded, take off the heat and leave to infuse for a couple of hour

Lightly oil your dariole moulds

Soak the gelatine in cold water

Strain the milk mixture in a colander lined with muslin, make sure you squeeze all the liquid out

Warm through with the cream and 30g sugar, until dissolved

Stir in the gelatine

Pour into the moulds and chill for at least three hours


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