Recipes ideas for Valentine’s Day

Honeycomb baked Alaska.   Picture: Robert Perry
Honeycomb baked Alaska. Picture: Robert Perry
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I would never stop you from booking a table in a nice restaurant this Valentine’s Day. However, an alternative is to create one of my choice of two shareable main courses and cook at home. Just make sure to find time to sit down and eat. After all, you don’t want the romance to be destroyed because you’re hot and bothered and in the wrong room.

I guess anything that is slightly exotic or messy could be considered an aphrodisiac, but that sensation won’t work if you try to feed your partner an oyster that he won’t really like, which is why I’ve chosen such crowd-pleasing options.

A good trick is to keep one dish simple, and impress with the other. For pudding, there’s always the cliche of chocolate-dipped strawberries, but they’re not in season, so opt for something tropical, like pineapple or mango instead. Or, blow their socks off with my Baked Alaska.

The whole point of doing something at home is to have an intimate dinner. That wouldn’t work for me as, nowadays, I would have to be eating at 10pm if I wanted the kids sleeping and the pups not hanging about looking for the odd morsel. Hopefully you’ll have better luck.

ROASTED FIVE SPICE PORK BELLY WITH SCALLOPS AND SWEET POTATO SLAW

As with most clever cooking, this dish is all in the preparation. If the pork belly has two hours in the fridge, that’s okay, but 24 hours is magic and will make all the difference.

Serves 4

1 Rub the pork with the five-spice and sea salt then leave, uncovered, in the fridge for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.

2 When ready to cook, heat the oven to its maximum setting. Lay the pork on a rack over a roasting tin, making sure the skin is exposed. Roast for 10 minutes before turning down the heat to 180C/fan 160C/Gas Mark 4, then cook for a further 90 minutes.

3 Have a look at the pork – if the skin isn’t crisp, turn up the heat to 220C/fan 200C/Gas Mark 7, then cook for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to rest on a board for at least 10 minutes.

4 Once the belly is resting, heat a heavy-based pan until hot. Rub the scallops with rapeseed oil and lightly season with salt and white pepper, then sear in the pan until golden on both sides.

5 Toss the sweet potato, chilli, ginger, garlic, chives, red onion and coriander together and scatter over a serving board or large plate. Lay the pork belly on top of the slaw and place the scallops on top of meat, then serve.

SCOTCH BEEF RIB STEAK, GRILLED MUSHROOMS, VINE TOMATOES, HOMEMADE CHIPS AND GARLIC BUTTER

This can also work as a brilliant sharing platter. Get yourself a meat thermometer as it takes the guesswork out of the steak being cooked the way you love it. The other elements of this dish can be done in advance - slow roast your tomatoes for a sweeter richer flavour, and brush your mushrooms with some oil and seasoning so they can be popped in the oven when needed. The garlic butter can be stored in the freezer to slice on demand.

Serves 2

1 Take the steak out of the fridge at least 15-20 minutes before cooking.

2 Pre-heat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark ?. Put the tomatoes and mushrooms on a roasting tray, then turn the oven down to 120CGas Mark ?/.

3 Slightly soften the butter and season with salt, pepper, garlic and chives.

4 Tip the butter onto a piece of greaseproof paper, roll it into a cylinder shape and place it in the freezer until required.

5 Cut the potatoes into chips - fat or skinny, depending on how you like them.

6 If you have an electric fryer then use this for your frites. Cook at 140C/Gas Mark ? then remove with very little colour. Place to one side.

7 Heat the pan for five minutes. Rub the steak with cinnamon, salt and pepper then lay it in the pan.

8 Allow at least 3-4 minutes cooking time overall. Here are the temperatures you need - for rare, 40C; medium-rare, 45C; medium, 60C; medium-well, 65C; well done, 70C. Make sure to let the steak rest.

9 Put the chips back into deep fat frier for double cooked deliciousness at 180C/Gas Mark ? until they are crisp. Place in a bowl.

10 Add the garlic butter to the steak. Serve everything on a large board.

HONEYCOMB BAKED ALASKA

This one will have to be served with two large spoons. It’s a very indulgent pudding that is best enjoyed with hot chocolate sauce and cold crunchy ice cream. You don’t need a card and flowers if you’re making this - just send a text saying “dinner at mine 7.30pm, be prompt”.

Serves 4

1 Slice a thick piece of Swiss roll, lay flat, sprinkle with crushed Crunchie and spoon a large scoop of ice cream on top. Smooth it out until it looks like an upside-down cone, with a slightly rounded top. Sprinkle the remainder of the crushed Crunchie around the sides.

2 Pop into the freezer while you whisk your egg whites to a soft peak, then add sugar slowly until they create a firmer peak. Using a piping bag and a plain nozzle, pipe on top of the Swiss roll, from the bottom all the way up and round, until it resembles a bee hive. Make sure there are no gaps.

3 Put in the freezer until required.

4 To make the dark chocolate sauce, bring the cream to the boil, whisk in the broken dark chocolate and stir until melted. Keep warm.

5 Once ready to serve, remove the Baked Alaska from the freezer and either blow-torch the surface until golden, or pop it into a hot oven until golden brown. Serve immediately with the sauce on the side.

ROASTED FIVE SPICE PORK BELLY WITH SCALLOPS AND SWEET POTATO SLAW

As with most clever cooking, this dish is all in the preparation. If the pork belly has two hours in the fridge, that’s OK, but 24 hours is magic and will make all the difference.

Serves 4

1 Rub the pork with the five-spice and sea salt then leave, uncovered, in the fridge for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.

2 When ready to cook, heat the oven to its maximum setting. Lay the pork on a rack over a roasting tin, making sure the skin is exposed. Roast for 10 minutes before turning down the heat to 180C/fan 160C/Gas Mark 4, then cook for a further 90 minutes.

3 Have a look at the pork – if the skin isn’t crisp, turn up the heat to 220C/fan 200C/Gas Mark 7, then cook for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to rest on a board for at least 10 minutes.

4 Once the belly is resting, heat a heavy-based pan until hot. Rub the scallops with rapeseed oil and lightly season with salt and white pepper, then sear in the pan until golden on both sides.

5 Toss the sweet potato, chilli, ginger, garlic, chives, red onion and coriander together and scatter over a serving board or large plate. Lay the pork belly on top of the slaw and place the scallops on top of meat, then serve.

SCOTCH BEEF RIB STEAK, GRILLED MUSHROOMS, VINE TOMATOES, HOMEMADE CHIPS AND GARLIC BUTTER

This can also work as a brilliant sharing platter. Get yourself a meat thermometer as it takes the guesswork out of the steak being cooked the way you love it. The other elements of this dish can be done in advance – slow roast your tomatoes for a sweeter richer flavour, and brush your mushrooms with some oil and seasoning so they can be popped in the oven when needed. The garlic butter can be stored in the freezer to slice on demand.

Serves 2

1 Take the steak out of the fridge at least 15-20 minutes before cooking.

2 Pre-heat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4. Put the tomato and mushrooms on a roasting tray, then turn down the oven to 120C/Gas Mark ½.

3 Slightly soften the butter and season with salt, pepper, garlic and chives.

4 Tip the butter onto a piece of greaseproof paper, roll it into a cylinder shape and place it in the freezer until required.

5 Cut the potatoes into chips – fat or skinny, depending on how you like them.

6 If you have an electric fryer then use this for your frites. Cook at 140C/Gas Mark 1 then remove with very little colour. Place to one side.

7 Heat the pan for five minutes. Rub the steak with cinnamon, salt and pepper then lay it in the pan.

8 Allow at least 3-4 minutes cooking time overall. Here are the temperatures you need – for rare, 40C; medium-rare, 45C; medium, 60C; medium-well, 65C; well done, 70C. Make sure to let the steak rest.

9 Put the chips back into the deep fat fryer for double cooked deliciousness at 180C/Gas Mark 4 until they are crisp. Place in a bowl.

10 Add the garlic butter to the steak. Serve everything on a large board.

HONEYCOMB BAKED ALASKA

This one will have to be served with two large spoons. It’s a very indulgent pudding that is best enjoyed with hot chocolate sauce and cold crunchy ice cream. You don’t need a card and flowers if you’re making this – just send a text saying “dinner at mine 7:30pm, be prompt”.

Serves 4

1 Slice a thick piece of Swiss roll, lay flat, sprinkle with crushed Crunchie and spoon a large scoop of ice cream on top. Smooth it out until it looks like an upside-down cone, with a slightly rounded top. Sprinkle the remainder of the crushed Crunchie around the sides.

2 Pop into the freezer while you whisk your egg whites to a soft peak, then add sugar slowly until the peaks become firmer. Using a piping bag and a plain nozzle, pipe on top of the Swiss roll, from the bottom all the way up and round, until it resembles a bee hive. Make sure there are no gaps.

3 Put in the freezer until required.

4 To make the dark chocolate sauce, bring the cream to the boil, whisk in the broken dark chocolate and stir until melted. Keep warm.

5 Once ready to serve, remove the Baked Alaska from the freezer and either blow-torch the surface until golden, or pop it into a hot oven until golden brown. Serve immediately with the sauce on the side.

SHOPPING LIST

MAIN COURSE

500g piece boned pork belly, skin on and scored, ask the butcher for the thin end

2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder

6 shelled scallops (remove from the fridge for 10 minutes prior to cooking)

1 sweet potato, peeled and finely shredded or julienned

1 red chilli, finely chopped

juice of 1 knob of fresh ginger

½ clove garlic, crushed

4-5 chives, finely chopped

¼ red onion, finely sliced

3-4 stems coriander, 
finely chopped

1 tbsp Summer Harvest rapeseed oil

2 tsp sea salt

pinch of white pepper

MAIN COURSE

500g cote de beouf steak from the butcher (this will be plenty)

½ tsp ground cinnamon

2 Portobello mushrooms, oiled and seasoned

1 large stem vine tomato, 
oiled and seasoned

4 cloves garlic, crushed

4 stems chives, finely chopped

150g butter

sea salt and ground black pepper

2 large Rooster potatoes, par boiled for 10 minutes

a heavy-based pan, cast iron 
if you have it

DESSERT

1 tub of honeycomb 
ice-cream

1 bar of honeycomb 
(a crushed Crunchie 
bar will do if you can’t find any)

1 shop-bought vanilla Swiss roll

150g dark chocolate

100ml whipping cream

3 egg whites

3oz caster sugar

a cook’s blow-torch is great and quick for this dish, but a very hot oven will do