Tuesday, 8 February 2011

An easy menu for a relaxed St.Valentine's Day

The Pink Lovely, aged 7 is already in a state of high excitement that she will undoubtedly receive at least two St. Valentine's Cards. I saw in the post office yesterday, two for the price of one....this astonished me as I presumed that most people only send one card to their dearly beloved or  possibly to the most recent hot-date! I wondered who takes up this offer and now I know............ I have seen little envelopes with hearts on, hidden around our house and so I presume that these will be offered on a tray with a delicious, if unspeakably early breakfast! But maybe, they are for a sweetheart class mate? We shall see....
Gorgeous flowers abound and romantic dinners are enjoyed all over the world but it is not always possible to go out if you have children, so here is an easy menu to enjoy making at home.  Once the little treasures are safely asleep then you can enjoy the rest of the evening in the sure knowledge that the food is prepared and ready for a few last minute attentions with a glass of something you enjoy in your glass.  Tweeting away the other day, I was delighted to receive a request from THE FOOD BEAT to conjure up a St. Valentine's Day main course.  So I have decided on something quick and easy but slightly fun and different. An inexpensive starter and pudding to make up for an expensive main course. The menu is not too rich but it can either be prepared earlier in the day or when you get back from work. So, The Food Beat, I hope you enjoy your dinner and have a lovely evening.

Smoked Mackerel and Tomato Pots
Serves 4 (keep two for the next day!)
2 fillets (about 200g) skinned smoked mackerel in crushed peppercorns
(for a milder taste use plain smoked mackerel and season with your own quantity of  freshly ground black pepper)
12 mini vine tomatoes, halved
125ml organic or local double cream or thick Jersey cream
(you can use Elmlea light for those who prefer less fat or St. Helen's Farm goats' double cream/ soya dream for those who cannot take dairy)
A sprinkling of cayenne pepper
2 oven-proof china pots (very large ramekins or mini-gratin/pie dishes, failing this use 4 little ramekins)
Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/400F/Gas6
Break up the mackerel into bite-size pieces and arrange haphazardly with the tomato halves in each  china dish. Pour the cream over the mixture and sprinkle with a dusting of cayenne. Chill until needed.
Bake the mackerel for about 20 minutes or until hot and bubbling and serve with warm breads.

Steak with Parmesan and Mushrooms
Serves 2-4
680g middle cut fillet beef
crushed black peppercorns
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
255g mixed mushrooms (wild and cultivated), sliced
2 tablespoons sherry or Madeira
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon full fat crème fraiche or dairy-free Tofutti Sour Supreme
1 free range egg yolk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan or dairy-free Parmesan substitute
Trim the fillet and roll in the fresh peppercorns. Warm one tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and sauté the meat until it is browned on all sides.  This might take about 10 minutes if you like it medium rare.  Leave it to cool on a wire rack over a plate.  Add the remaining oil to the pan, add the onion and cook gently until soft. Stir in the garlic and mushrooms. Increase the heat and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the sherry.  Cook for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms are soft and the liquid has been absorbed.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and leave to cool. Stir the crème fraiche or Sour Supreme into the cold mixture with the egg and parsley, cover and keep chilled until needed. Wrap the meat tightly in clingfilm and chill until 15 minutes before eating.
Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/400F/Gas6
Unwrap the beef and cut into 4 even-sized pieces. Place them on a lightly greased baking tray or oven-proof dish. Spoon the mushroom mixture over the top of each one, flatten slightly and sprinkle with the grated cheese.  Cook for about 8 minutes until the tops are golden and bubbling and serve.
Any leftovers can be eaten the next day in a sandwich! Yum......

Passion Cakes with Passion Sauce
Serves 2-4
4x Heart-shaped tins/baking moulds are available from good cook shops or department stores. Line them with non-stick paper
60g ground almonds
30g Doves Farm gluten free plain flour or organic plain flour, sifted
2 large free range eggs, separated
75g caster sugar
1 teaspoon bitter almond extract
Flesh and fruit of 6 ripe passion fruit (the more wrinkled they are the riper)
Sprinkling of sifted icing sugar
Juice of 1/2 small lemon
4 tablespoons Archers Peach Schnapps or other similar liqueur
Preheat oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/Gas4
Mix the ground almonds with the flour in a bowl. In the food processor, beat the egg yolks and sugar with the almond extract until pale and thick. Scrape the mixture out of the food processor and stir into the flour.        Quickly slice open 2 of the passion fruits, scoop the filling out and into the flour mixture. Beat the egg whites into soft peaks and fold into the passion fruit mixture.  Divide between the prepared heart moulds and bake for about 15 minutes until golden and springy to touch.  Leave them to cool slightly before turning out onto a wire rack. (Store in air-tight container until needed later in the day).

Wishing absolutely everyone who reads this blog a peaceful day and a contented evening, wherever they are and what ever they are doing.

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