For the Love of ...Love - A St. Valentines Feast

Usually I don't go in much for Valentines day, it kind of has that Hallmark-ish feel, also I don't like being 'told what to do', plus most of my ex-boyfriends didn't really care for it.... so maybe I just made myself not care too!? Anyway this year was to be different, R. seemed a bit disappointed at my lack of enthusiasm so...deep breath..I decided to whole heartedly embrace it... just to see what it feels like. Celebration = food, naturally, so what to cook? Well, I wanted to indulge our senses, throwing caution to the wind about how much butter I was using and also do something a little bit tongue-in-cheek. I decided on the menu as below, although I had to abandon a few ideas for different reasons. Ms. Marmite Lover (Londons Supper Club Queen) had a nice recipe for Palm Hearts Salad in her book Supper Club, I really wanted it as a course, but for love nor money they weren't to be found anywhere in Dublin...even Fallon & Byrne didn't have them!

Cupids Din Dins

Prosecco with crushed Raspberry Hearts
Cupids Arrows with Poached Egg & heart-attack Hollandaise
Eat your Heart out Artichoke with Lemon Butter
Bitter/Sweet Figs baked with Honey & Gorgonzola Crema
Heart-Shaped Vol-au-Vents with Wild Mushrooms & Beetroot Hearts
Blueberry Blood Custard Cakes with Lemon Curd Cream

  • So, Prosecco with berries, it's so easy -you can use any kind of berry you like and you can use frozen! Essentially you make a coulis. I defrosted some frozen raspberries in a pan (no water), sweetened them with a little honey and passed them through a sieve, to get rid of the annoying little seeds. Once the coulis has come to room temperature, put some in the bottom of a glass and pour in your chilled Prosecco or Cava or Brut, give it a stir and hey presto a lovely aperitif. I'm not bothered with Champagne - it is over-rated and over-priced. Dunnes Stores do a lovely tasting and well packaged bottle of Prosecco for E6.99!
  • Hollandaise sauce- it was my first time making this and it didn't split! I only wanted a small amount so I took 1 egg yolk, 2 dstp of lemon juice -combine these with a whisk over a bain marie, then whisking all the time slowly add cold butter 1/4 cup in total. I steamed the asparagus until tender but slightly al-dente, oxymoron -yes! I like to poach my eggs in a non-stick frying pan, employing a Heston Blumenthal trick -crack your egg on a slotted spoon over a bowl and quickly put it into the warm water -so you discard the stringy egg white bits, that make a poached egg look ugly! Apparently this can be avoided by using a really, really fresh one you've just lifted from a hens nest.

Asparagus with Poached Egg & Hollandaise

  • I took a whole fresh artichoke, in place of my palm hearts, tearing off some of the exterior leaves then simmering it in a large pot of water with a lemon quartered. A large artichoke will take about 45 mins to cook. When it's ready, drain it on a tea-towel and melt some (lots of) butter, to which you add lemon juice, pepper and a little salt, to taste. Pull off the leaves dipping them into your sauce and sucking off any flesh, until you reach the heart -then scoop away the choke (furry inedible bits) and eat the exposed no mercy, smother it in the buttery sauce.

  • The figs, again easy peasy, turn on your oven to 180'C/Gas6. It's not fig season so the only ones I could get weren't as juicy as I would have liked, but how as ever we scoffed them. Split the fig into 4 to halfway down, R. loves Cambozola but Fallon & Byrne were out, so Gorgonzola Crema it was to be, put some cheese in the open fig, with a teaspoon of honey on top and bake for about 15 mins on some baking paper. Serve with some leaves and if you have some coulis left over drizzle it around the plate.
Fig with Gorgonzola Crema & Honey

    • Next the soppy, sentimental plate...I had this idea to make heart shaped vol-au-vents, so I bought some puff pastry (Aldi do a decent one), using a cookie cutter I cut out the hearts and a few smaller ones for decoration. Brush with some beaten egg and cook in oven at 180'/Gas 6 until they turn golden -about 15/20 mins. Meanwhile clean your mushrooms, (I used oyster and brown capped French) in a frying pan put lots of butter and fresh thyme, cook your mushrooms on a medium heat. I added a little cream before serving to get a nice sauce. I cooked a medium sized whole fresh beetroot in water for about 35 mins, I then sliced it and cut out more heart shapes....I know I was really getting into it! To finish the heart shaped vol-au-vents, I very carefully cut out a central heart shape from the large puffed hearts and gently removed the center, leaving the base. Fill these with the cooked mushrooms and top with a beetroot heart, serve with leaves.
    Vol-au-Vents with wild Mushrooms & Beetroot Hearts

      • I used the recipe for the Flognard/Custard Cake, see previous blog /theopendoorsupperclub/2012/02/flognardcustard-cake-with-currants.html using fresh blue berries instead of currants and serving it with a lemon curd cream, in individual ramekins. There was a little lemon curd left in one of the jars I made for R. at Christmas so I just swirled it through some whipped cream -easy.
      Blueberry Blood Custard Cake with Lemon Curd Cream

      So myself and R. enjoyed the feast, we were suitably stuffed and I was glad to have embraced the culinary opportunity of V-day... oh wait, is V-day Vagina day? -well that would certainly be an interesting theme for a 5 course dinner...