Personally, one of the defining moments of my early relationship with my husband, was when David baked a cake for my birthday. It was an espresso buttermilk cake with a warm chocolate sauce poured over it. The cake itself was highly impressive of course. But it was the gesture. The fact that he had made something special and given me something that could not be bought, that really made me pay attention.
But Valentines day isn't all that romantic for me I'm afraid. My husband is a florist, so it's one of the busiest times of the year for him. He works crazy hours for several days in a row. My role, I guess is a support one, keeping the home fires burning, making sure the team at his shop has some nice food to keep them going. I do get flowers, at the end of the day, (except for that one time he sold the roses he was saving for me, to a last minute customer. Don't worry, I made sure I was appropriately compensated later...).
If you do celebrate Valentines Day, I always think that cooking something special for the one you love is so much better than going out. It's just that extra effort, sharing something great that makes it all the more special. So I've put together a very sexy menu, which is quite beautiful but also very easy to make. Most of it can be prepared in advance, so that you won't be frantically cooking, being stressed, and not enjoying each other company. There's nothing romantic about a harassed sweaty person running around the kitchen. So at the end of this post I will provide instructions of what order to do the preparation. Also this, this whole menu is gluten free which should make some of my friends very happy (I'm looking at you Darryl)
Oysters Natural with Zingy Dressing
(quantities are for 12 oysters )
1 spring onion very finely chopped
zest of 1 lime2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons or champagne or very good white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
combine all ingredients and spoon over natural oysters as you eat them.
Roasted Lamb Rack with Mustard, Lemon, Garlic and Rosemary accompanied bySummer Vegetables in Butter and Herbs
2 lamb racks weighing 150 - 200 gm each (depending on how hungry you are)
2 cloves of garlic
Zest 1 lemon
1.5 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 stalks of Rosemary
2 teaspoons olive oil
In a mortar and pestle, crush garlic rosemary and lemon zest with a little salt until well broken down.Combine with mustard and oil
With pastry brush, coat warm lamb with mustard mixture. Place in oven proof ceramic dish and cook in moderate oven for 15- 20 minutes. This should result in the meat being medium rare. If you desire medium, add and extra 5-7 minutes, and 10-12 for well done. If you are unsure just give the meat a prod with your finger; bouncy meat is rare, firm is well done, medium as soft but not firm.
When done, remove from oven and wrap whole dish in foil and seal tightly. You can rest this meat for an hour if you want to but I like at least 20 minutes. Resting ensures even distribution of the juices within the meat so that you'll get a perfect medium pale pink colour all the way through. If you do want to rest for an hour, return the wrapped dish to the bottom shelf of the oven about 10 minutes after turning off the heat, and this will keep it warm.
sugar snap peas (split a few in half, but most whole)
asparagus chopped into 1 inch lengths
yellow squash sliced
40 gm butter
1 table spoon each of fresh thyme, marjoram, chives, all finely chopped
Melt 50gm butter in sauté or frying pan. Turn off the heat as soon as it has melted and do not allow butter to brown. Add fresh herbs and set pan aside.
Prepare a large pot of boiling water with some salt added. Drop trimmed vegetables in for about 3 minutes. Remove and drain well. Add blanched vegetables and toss to coat veg evenly with butter.
When you are ready to serve, slice rack into chops and arrange attractively on a warm plate next to buttery vegetables.
Marinated berries & cherries with champagne sabayon
2 egg yolks40gm (about 2tablespoons) caster sugar
50mls sparkling wine or champagne
Fresh Cherries, halved and pitted
Slosh of Cointreau or brandy or any liquor you fancy
(I'm not recommending quantities here because you should just have as much fruit as you think 2 of you will eat, and any ratio of any berries / cherries you like.)
Combine cherries/berries in a bowl and drizzle with cointreau, toss gently and set aside.
This recipe requires a double boiler. This is a saucepan with a couple of inches of water in the bottom and a bowl large enough to sit on top with out touching the water. The steam gently cooks the egg so that the sauce thickens while being whisked, without curdling.
In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolk and sugar to combine. Add wine and whisk over simmering water. Whisk constantly for about 5 minutes until mixture thickens.
It's best to use your sabayon straight away. You can refrigerate it for later but it won't be quite as foamy. To save time you can prep the egg yolks and sugar in advance, refrigerate that, then just add the champagne and cook. It only takes a few minutes so your date will be very impressed when you whip up this little piece of magic.
When your ready, spoon over marinated berries.
This is a perfect dessert to share. I like to only have 1 plate, 2 spoons, or maybe just 1 ...... You may end up licking the plate if you're lucky.
Tips for preparation
Start an hour or two before you are planning to start eating, by refrigerating your champagne. I'm assuming you will be drinking all but the 50mls you'll be adding to the dessert....
First make the dressing for the oysters. Place in a small dish and arrange oysters on larger dish with the dressing dish on the same plate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Entree DONE!
Prepare fruit with alcohol, cover with plastic and refrigerate. Whisk egg yolks and sugar, cover and refrigerate. Dessert nearly done...
Trim and slice vegetables as necessary. Set aside. Prepare meat coating. Score and sear meat, apply coating and roast in oven. Remove when cooked to your liking and wrap whole dish in foil.
Place pot of water and salt on to boil. When it reaches boiling, turn down to lowest heat until you need to use, then turn back up. Mains almost done...
Place butter in pan on stove but do not heat. Chop herbs and place in dish, ready to use when required.
When your date arrives, have oysters and champagne, relax and chat.
When you are ready for mains, turn up water temp, blanch veggies. While they are blanching, melt butter and add herbs. Drain veg and add to butter.
Slice lamb and arrange on plate, add vegetables and serve.
When it's time for dessert, place fruit on serving dish. Add champagne to egg/sugar and whisk over pot of simmering water until thick and foamy and serve.
Good luck with your Valentines Day. Please ask any questions if you're making this and need any help or advice. If you do make any of this, I would love to hear how it went for you!