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Let’s be honest: it’s going to be hard to make Valentine’s Day feel special this year. But just because you will be stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t do your best to make your significant other feel spoiled. In fact, putting in the effort to make a romantic dinner is arguably more thoughtful than going to a restaurant would have been (provided that you don’t burn anything, of course). We’ve rounded up some of the best food and drink recipes that you can try out this Valentine’s Day to suitably impress your other half … or your family, or even yourself.
Individual beef pies with oysters by James Martin
The original aphrodisiac, oysters have long been credited with boosting our “happy hormone” dopamine. Casanova, the world’s first lothario, wrote in his autobiography that he ate around 50 oysters every day, and recounted stories of “accidentally” spilling them down the cleavages of his lady friends as part of some seafood-related high jinks. Whether oysters’ amorous attributes are scientific fact or fiction, they remain associated with romance and are undeniably impressive to serve up at home. James Martin’s recipe pairs them with some delightful beef pies.
Ingredients (serves four to six but you can adjust ingredients accordingly)
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 kg shin of beef diced
freshly ground black pepper
2 shallots peeled and diced
500 ml beef stock
250 ml British bitter
a little plain flour for rolling out
500 g ready-made puff pastry
2 egg yolks for egg wash
large bunch of flat-leaf parsley
100 g sourdough bread roughly chopped
1 lemon zest
12 oysters just-shucked in their shells
Heat the oil in a very large, non-stick casserole pan then fry the meat, in batches, until well browned all over. Transfer each batch to a plate as you do it and season well. Once all the meat has been browned, return it to the pan with the shallots and pour over the stock and beer.
Cover, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer gently for two hours. Spoon into a large shallow dish and cool. You can make the stew up to a day in advance and chill in the fridge until you want to assemble the pies.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Lightly dust a clean work surface with a little flour then roll out the pastry until it is 2mm thick. Using the top of one of the pie dishes as a guide, cut out six circles slightly larger than the dishes, then fill the pie dishes with stew (we used mini-ovenproof saucepans).
Brush the edges of the pastry lids with the egg wash then turn over and lay on top of the dishes and seal around the edges. Brush the tops with egg wash, sit the pies on a large baking tray and bake for 40 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden.
While the pies are in the oven, prepare the oysters. Put the parsley and bread into a food processor and blitz to make fine breadcrumbs. Add the lemon zest and blitz again. Season well. Arrange the oysters on a baking tray, spoon the crumb mixture over the top and bake on the top shelf of the oven for 10 minutes. To serve, pop the pies onto plates with the oysters alongside.
Lemon Sole, Brown Shrimps, Parsley & Capers by Roy Brett
Refreshingly simple to make, but unequivocally stunning, this lemon sole recipe is a winner for all amateur cooks. It comes from Roy Brett, chef patron at Ondine, who reckons that wintertime is the perfect time to enjoy sole when the fish is at its prime texture. “We have always had lemon sole on the menu,” he says, “and we have tried from time to time to vary the garnish, but always revert back to the classic combination. This recipe has stood the test of time.”
4 lemon sole (skin off)
200g plain flour or gram flour
100g brown shrimps
50g little capers
100g unsalted butter
100g shredded parsley
1 lemon cut in half
100ml olive oil
Dust each fish with flour and season with salt and pepper. In two non-stick frying pans, set at a high heat before adding a little olive oil and fry the fish on one side for 3-4 minutes until golden brown before turning over and repeating the process.
At this point it’s the time to add the butter, it will start to foam to golden brown and at this point squeeze the lemon juice, this gives the sole a nutty brown flavour.
Turn down the heat before adding the capers, parsley and brown shrimps. Baste the sole with all the ingredients then simply serve.
Roy Brett is chef patron of Ondine, Edinburgh
Iced Vanilla Tiramisu
If the idea of making both a main meal and a dessert is enough to leave you in a cold sweat, you’ll be pleased to hear that this tiramisu takes less than 10 minutes to prepare, requiring no baking at all. A contemporary take on the classic Italian dessert, it replaces the usual mascarpone with Morelli’s Double Cream Vanilla Ice Cream.
Ingredients (serves two)
Morelli’s Double Cream Vanilla Ice Cream (slightly softened)
6-8 Italian lady finger biscuits
1 mug brewed coffee (cooled slightly)
3 teaspoons granulated sugar
50ml marsala wine (you can use brandy or dark rum if you don’t have marsala)
In a bowl, combine the coffee, sugar and marsala, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
Dip the lady fingers into the coffee mixture and leave for a few seconds to soak up the liquid.
In a dessert glass, place two soaked lady fingers at the bottom, and add a layer of Morelli’s ice cream. Repeat the layering process of lady fingers and ice cream until the glass is full – make sure the top layer is ice cream.
Wrap tightly, and place in the freezer for a few hours until you want to serve. When you are ready to eat, remove the tiramisu from the freezer and let stand at room temperature for up to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with cocoa powder and serve.
You’ve cooked a main, you’ve whipped up a dessert, but if you really want to impress, why not top it off with a Valentine’s-themed drink? This loose-tea “love potion” can be made as a mocktail or cocktail depending on your preference.
Ingredients (makes two drinks)
2 tsp Chilli Rooibos tea from eteaket
4 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
125 ml ruby grapefruit juice
Juice of one lime
1 slice ruby grapefruit – cut into quarters
1 tbsp light brown sugar
125ml fiery ginger beer
6 slices lime
Small chillies for decoration (optional)
Brew two teaspoons of Chilli Rooibos tea in 120ml boiling water for 7 mins while stirring in 4 tsp of caster sugar and 1 tsp of ground cinnamon. Allow to cool.
Add the grapefruit juice and the lime juice. Dust the grapefruit slices with the brown sugar. Caramelise the grapefruit on both sides either using a cook’s blowtorch or by grilling carefully.
Fill two glasses with ice. Add three slices of lime to each glass. Divide the liquid between the glasses and top with ginger beer. Decorate with the singed grapefruit wedges and top with a few small chillies. To transform into a cocktail, substitute the ginger beer for a shot of spice rum.
Erica Moore is the founder of the Edinburgh-based tea firm eteaket.
Lobster Spaghetti from Amy Elles
If you are looking for a dish that has a wow factor, you can’t do much better than lobster. It might be expensive, but it will show that you’ve pulled out all the stops – not to mention the fact that lobster is considered to be an aphrodisiac. This delightful recipe comes from Amy Elles, chef patron of the Harbour Café in Elie, a restaurant which is renowned for its quality seafood.
Ingredients (serves two)
400g dried spaghetti (De cecco if possible)
1 chilli (deseeded)
2 garlic cloves
5 large ripe tomatoes – deseeded and diced
150ml white wine
Salt & black pepper
2 x cooked Scottish lobsters (600gm) meat removed
Sliced spring onion or basil leaves for garnish
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. While the pasta is cooking finely dice the shallot, chilli and garlic. Then melt the butter in a large pan and add the onions, chilli, garlic and a little salt, cook them until soft (being careful not to let them get any colour).
When soft add the wine and bubble until reduced by half. When it has reduced enough add the tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add in the lobster meat and gently heat through (be careful not to cook for too long or the lobster will overcook – a couple of minutes is enough to warm it through). Season with salt and freshly ground black to taste.
When the pasta is cooked drain it (but make sure you keep a little bit of the cooking water too) and add to the sauce. Mix well and serve garnished with basil or sliced spring onions and a drizzle of very good quality extra virgin olive oil.
Amy Elles is the chef patron of the Harbour Café in Elie- www.theharbourcafe.co.uk
Red Rose Cocktail from the Highland Liquor Company
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to take your partner out for cocktails to celebrate Valentine’s Day. But with this recipe, created by the Highland Liquor Company and Scottish Mixology, you can take on the role of bartender at home and impress with your mixologist skills.
It combines Ullapool-based Seven Crofts gin, which has tasting notes of cardamom and coriander, with seasonal blood oranges and rose liquor.
60ml Seven Crofts gin
20ml Blood Orangecello
20ml rose liqueur
10ml simple syrup
25ml lime juice
2 egg whites (or 20ml Aquafaba for vegans)
2 drops cardamom bitters (optional)
To make the simple syrup, combine sugar and water in a pan and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before using.
Combine all of the ingredients in a shaker and shake to combine. Add ice to the shaker and shake again before straining into a glass. Enjoy.
Roast Chateaubriand from Geoffrey Smeddle
Cooking a Chateaubriand is undeniably impressive. But there’s a reason that it isn’t part of the repertoire of most home cooks, as it is both time-consuming and complex to make. But if you feel up to it, this recipe from Geoffrey Smeddle, chef patron of Michelin-starred Peat Inn in Fife, should more than do the trick.
Ingredients (serves two)
1 beef fillet head or Chateaubriand, 400-450g, trimmed of any outer sinew
2 red onions peeled and cut into sixths
4 cloves garlic (skin on)
Vegetable oil and butter for cooking
Several bushy sprigs of thyme
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
200ml red wine
Chips and salad as side dishes (optional)
Remove the meat from fridge 30 minutes before cooking. Heat oven to 220C. Heat roasting tray in oven. After a few minutes, remove it and add two tablespoons of oil, the thyme, onions and garlic then return to the oven at once. Cook for five minutes, shaking the tray once or twice.
Meanwhile, heat a frying pan over a high heat and add two tablespoons of oil. Season the meat all over with sea salt flakes. Place meat in the pan and leave to sear on the first face for two minutes until well brown. Give meat a quarter turn with tongs and continue browning all over. Once browned, place onto the roasting tray in the oven. Cook for eight minutes, turn over then cook for a further eight minutes.
This will give medium rare; add another minute to each side for medium, another for medium well and so on.
Once cooked, lift the meat onto a plate. Season lightly with fresh-ground black pepper lightly. Place onions and garlic with the meat. Cover with a loose tent of tin foil and rest for 15 minutes, turning the meat over once.
Place the roasting tray over a gentle heat, add vinegar and scrape at any sediment with a wooden spoon. Once the vinegar has boiled, add wine and reduce by three-quarters, then turn off heat. Add to the tray any juices that have collected under the meat. Transfer to a small jug.
Place the meat on a carving board and set on the table.
Slice thickly and arrange on two warmed serving plates. Add chips, roast red onions and garlic, a green salad and a dollop of horseradish or mustard. Share the cooking juices and enjoy.
Geoffrey Smeddle is chef patron of The Peat Inn, by St Andrews www.thepeatinn.co.uk
Confit Courgette from Jérôme Henry
If you or your significant other are vegan or vegetarian, you might be struggling to find a Valentine’s Day recipe that has the required panache. But this confit courgette, complete with a quinoa, pine nut and preserved lemon dressing, will prove delicious for herbivores and carnivores alike.
Ingredients (serves two)
1 sprig of thyme, stalk removed
1 preserved lemon
1 tbsp honey (replace with a vegan honey substitute to make this a vegan recipe)
50g roasted pine nuts
6 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for serving
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 small chilli, finely diced
Salt and black pepper
First, make the confit courgette. Peel the courgettes and then cut the flesh into cubes. Add two tablespoons of olive oil to a pan and add the courgette. Cook gently and stir occasionally. Add one tablespoon lemon juice, thyme, honey and half a cup of water. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the courgette is tender. Slice the courgette skin and add it to the pot.
Cook for a further five minutes then crush the courgette with a fork and season with salt and pepper. Next, make the preserved lemon dressing. Chop the preserved lemon finely and then dice the shallot.
Mix the preserved lemon and shallot with four tablespoons of olive oil and two tablespoons of lemon juice. In a small pan, cook gently for about 4 minutes, just enough to tenderise the shallot.
Next, cook the quinoa. Rinse the quinoa and then put it in a pan with a fitted lid and cover with 200ml water. Cover the pan and cook over a medium heat for 15 minutes or until the quinoa becomes fluffy and the water has been absorbed. Set aside to cool.
Finally, crush the toasted pine nuts in a mortar and pestle and then mix with the quinoa.
To serve, mix the fresh herbs with a little olive oil and the chilli. Add the herbs to the plate and top with the quinoa, courgette and preserved lemon dressing.
Season to taste and serve warm or cold – your choice.
Jérôme Henry was the head chef of Le Roi Fou in Edinburgh, which closed its doors last September