VALENTINE’S Day is now less than a week away. As soon as the shops closed on Christmas Eve the festive decs were wheeled out of one door and the hearts, fake red roses, Champagne chocolates and teddy bears were rolled in the other.
But every year Valentine’s Day still manages to creep up on me. I’m the idiot running around on February 13 at 5.30pm looking for a card and present.
I daren’t think what would happen if my missus woke up on Valentine’s Day and there was no card or gift. I’d probably be sleeping in the car for the foreseeable.
I’m a bit of a Valentine’s Grinch. Some people are all bah humbug about Christmas. Well, I feel the same way about February 14.
I think it’s a bloke thing. Until I met my wife, February 14 was a big no-no as far as I was concerned – just another day for the shops to push a load of over-priced schmaltz.
The only cute soft toys I want to get anywhere near are those littering the floor of my young daughters’ bedrooms.
But I can’t deny that Valentine’s Day is a fantastic excuse to enjoy a great meal – as if you need one! It’s the ace I have up my sleeve.
As a chef at one of the region’s top restaurants, I can always be trusted to come up trumps in the kitchen and a romantic meal is a great way to charm yourself back into your loved one’s affections if, like me, the thought of being faced with a shop full of tired and cheesy Valentine’s cards brings you out in a cold sweat.
Cooking for your loved one is an intimate and immensely romantic gesture, even if it does mean spending time in the kitchen. Think about it. What could be more pleasurable than making the effort to cook for someone you care about?
And if they care about you, they will love the fact that you have made the effort.
But effort doesn’t have to mean going over the top with a full menu of lovers’ foods like oysters, asparagus, truffles, caviar, Champagne and chocolate.
Perhaps it’s because I spend all my time working in a kitchen, but when I’m off-duty I like to keep it simple.
If you want to get out of the house and skip the washing up, here at Food Social we’ve pulled together a very special and sophisticated menu for the big night that includes, among other dishes, twice-baked Northumbrian cheese soufflé to start, a sharing main course of marinated rib of beef for two and an indulgent hot chocolate fondant, banana parfait and peanut brittle for dessert.
But for me, a Valentine’s night at home with the kids safely despatched to their grandparents calls for food that is quick and easy to prepare – and it needs to strike a balance between simple, seasonal flavours and extra special touches.
I hope Donna isn’t reading this as I want our Valentine’s Day meal to be a surprise.
But rather than oysters, I’ll be going for a shellfish cocktail using in-season crab, mussels and langoustine from North Shields Fish Quay for a real flavour of the sea. I’ll probably follow this with steak and a bottle of juicy red wine and round the meal off with something light and chocolatey like a mousse, fondue or Food Social’s moreish white chocolate and cardamom crème brulee.
I’m not convinced chocolate is an aphrodisiac, but it has become an essential Valentine’s Day ingredient, more for its perceived than actual effect. Any food carefully prepared can be romantic. The great thing with this menu is that the seafood salad and the dessert can be made in advance and the steak takes just a few minutes to cook.
This takes some of the pressure off your date night in.