It’s Valentine’s Day on Friday! If you don’t fancy a meal out with loads of other couples but would prefer a cosy home-cooked meal for two, it’s about time that you start planning it! Today we have a menu to inspire a lovely romantic meal - three delicious courses from three different books, so you can cook up the whole thing or just pick something that your valentine would love! You can do plenty of preparations in advance for these dishes, so you don't have to be cooped up in the kitchen all night and can enjoy the evening together from the table!
Cherry Tomatoes stuffed with Spinach Pesto
(from The Vegan Pantry)
These will make a great starter to share from one plate, perhaps even to pick on together in the kitchen while you finish the mains! The recipe makes 20, though you could make less or simply save the rest for the next day!
Cod fillets with Lemon & Thyme Crust & Bean & Chorizo Stew
(from Friends Around the Table)
This dish will be both impressive and delicious, and your valentine will love the time and effort that’s gone in to it’s creation!
(adapted from Burlesque Baking by author, Charlotte White)
These gorgeous cookies can be made in advance ready to bring out at the end of the meal as a romantic surprise!
cherry tomatoes filled with spinach pesto
These small, delicate bites are a real treat not only because of their fresh taste but also because the bright red and light green combination of colours really gets noticed! They can be served not only as appetizers but also as amuse-bouche, to impress your guests.
20 cherry tomatoes
2 handfuls of baby spinach
85 g/2/3 cup sunflower seeds
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon lemon juice (to prevent oxidation of greens)
1–2 tablespoons of water, if necessary
Wash the tomatoes and remove their stems. Next, cut a very thin layer off the bottom of each tomato so that they can sit on a serving plate without rolling. Slice off the tops and scoop out the flesh with a small spoon to make enough space for the filling. Do this carefully so as not to damage the tomatoes.
Wash and drain the spinach well. Lightly dry-roast the sunflower seeds to release their full aroma. Place all the ingredients (except the tomatoes) in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the water if necessary; the pesto should be liquid enough to be easily spooned or piped into the cored cherry tomatoes.
Fill each tomato carefully and serve immediately on fresh lettuce and seed sprouts, if desired.
If in season, use wild garlic (bear’s garlic) instead of spinach for a beautiful aroma and an even more fluorescent green colour! Other soft greens and herbs work well, too. Also, you can use almonds, pine nuts, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, cashews and any other nuts and seeds instead of sunflower seeds to make this pesto.
The Vegan Pantry by Dunja Gulin is available here.
cod fillets with lemon & thyme crust & bean & chorizo stew
I’m not going to lie; this isn’t a whip-it-up-while-the-ads-are-on kind of dish, but the results are well worth the effort and mess inherently involved in breadcrumbing anything. My advice? Prepare the beans a day or two in advance – they’ll only get better, and it’s one less thing to worry about on the night.
For the stew
3 tablespoons olive oil
120 g/41/2 oz. cooking chorizo, cubed
2 red onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 red (bell) pepper, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
a sprig of fresh rosemary
1 x 400-g/14-oz. can butter/ lima beans
200 ml/3/4 cup vegetable stock/broth
For the fish
100 g/scant 11/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (see method)
leaves from 3–4 sprigs fresh thyme
grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
30 g/1/4 cup pine nuts
2 skinless cod fillet pieces, approximately 200 g/7 oz. each, as thick as possible
flour, for dusting
2 eggs, lightly beaten
sea salt and freshly ground
2 lemon wedges, to serve
a food processor (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) Gas 6.
For the bean stew, heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Fry the chorizo until crisp and its aromatic oil has been released. Remove and set aside for later.
Add the onions, garlic, pepper, fennel, celery and rosemary sprig. Fry over mediumhigh heat, stirring regularly, until the onions are beginning to brown – about 10 minutes.
Add the butter/lima beans and their juice (this helps to thicken up and flavour the stew). Add the stock/broth at the same time. Cook over high heat for 10 minutes, or until some of the liquid has reduced. Remove from the heat and add the fried chorizo.
For the fish, if you haven’t got a food processor, use ready-made dried breadcrumbs. If you have got one, get some crusty white bread and break it up into small chunks. Pulse in the processor until you have large crumbs about the size of a large snowflake. Mix the fresh or dried breadcrumbs with the thyme leaves, lemon zest, pine nuts and season with salt and pepper.
Get three bowls ready. Add some flour to one, the eggs to another, and the breadcrumbs to the last one.
The idea with the breadcrumbs is to substitute a breadcrumb crust for the cod’s real skin, so you only want to breadcrumb one side of the fillet. Press one side into the flour, then the eggs, and finally the breadcrumbs. Push it down firmly so that as many breadcrumbs as possible stick to the cod. If it looks like you haven’t got a good crust, just dip it back into the egg mixture and the breadcrumbs once more.
Warm a non-stick, ovenproof pan over medium-high heat. Heat a good splash of olive oil and fry the cod, crust-side down, for a couple of minutes, or until it has just started to brown. Turn the cod over and put the pan in the oven. Cook for a further 10–15 minutes.
If the crust looks like it’s getting too brown, just cover it loosely with some foil.
Serve the cod with the warm bean stew and a wedge of lemon.
Friends Around the Table by Accland Geddes is available here.
For these gorgeous cookies, you will need to follow the classic cookie recipe below then head on to this short video where Charlotte White will show you how to decorate them!
I like to think of this recipe as going back to a time when ingredients were measured proportionally – half fat, half sugar, then an equal amount of flour and an egg and you’re good to go!
200 g/1 stick plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
200 g/1 cup golden caster/raw cane or regular granulated sugar
1 large egg
choice of flavourings: for vanilla cookies add the seeds from 1 vanilla bean; for chocolate cookies add 50 g/6 tablespoons cocoa powder; for lemon cookies add the grated zest of 1 lemon
400 g/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons plain/allpurpose flour (reduce this amount by 50 g/6
tablespoons if making chocolate cookies), plus extra for dusting
a non-stick rolling pin
a 5-cm/2-inch (heart-shaped) cookie cutter
a baking sheet lined with baking parchment
makes 12 cookies
Begin by creaming together the butter and sugar in a freestanding mixer. Allow for 3 minutes of beating to ensure that they are fully combined. You can do this by hand but be prepared for a workout.
Add the egg and beat until incorporated, then add your desired flavouring and beat in.
Add the flour and beat until the mixture forms a ball of dough. Remove the dough from your mixer and wrap tightly in clingfilm/plastic wrap. This will need to chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before you use it and you will need the dough to be cold as you roll it out. You can make your dough up to 1 week in advance.
When you are ready to bake your cookies, preheat your oven to 180ºC (350ºF) Gas 4.
Roll out your dough on a floured surface, using marzipan spacers placed on either side of the dough to give you an even thickness. Don’t be tempted to knead your dough to warm it up – you will need to work hard to flatten it, but the dough needs to be cold for the cookies to hold their shape.
Cut out 12 cookies using the cookie cutter and lay these on the baking sheet. Put the baking sheet in the fridge for 10 minutes to chill the cookies before baking.
These cookies will take around 10 minutes to bake in the preheated oven and are ready when they are golden brown and firm. Allow them to cool completely on a wire rack before storing in an airtight container. You can store them for up to 2 weeks, if you can resist them!
Burlesque Baking by Charlotte White is available here.
Happy Valentine's Day everyone, whether you're cooking, eating out, watching a movie or doing nothing at all, we hope you have a lovely time!