What easy but awesome dishes would you recommend for Valentine’s Day?
As Lara Lee, author of Coconut & Sambal, aptly points out, “Valentine’s Day falls on a Monday this year, so it’s all about doing as little dishes as possible. The solution? Spice it up with a Thai green or red curry. “I explored the world of good curry pastes, which you can buy in Asian supermarkets,” says Lee, who favors the brands Mae Ploy, Maesri, Pantai, Nittaya and Lobo. “Fry it in a little oil, add a few cans of coconut milk, protein and vegetables of your choice, and voila! – you have a curry. Lee, however, “pimps up the dough,” adding a few leaves of makrut lime (“I always keep a jar of that in the freezer”), bruised lemongrass and chopped ginger. “It can then simmer while you sip wine and listen to Kenny G.”
Sharing food like meze is a good solution, says Ravinder Bhogal, chef/owner of Jikoni in London. “I also love seafood, especially scallops. They only take a few moments to cook or try them dried in a ceviche. Emily Scott, chef-owner of Emily Scott Food in Watergate Bay in Cornwall, is also #teamscallops, which she frys before topping with a classic beurre blanc. “Make it a main dish by serving it with new potatoes and green vegetables, or, if it’s for a starter, some good bread.”
A big pot of “comforting but delicate” fish stew will make your night (or any night, for that matter) special, adds Scott. Although it might seem a bit wacky for a Monday, you can always prepare the base (finely chopped onion and fennel, garlic, tinned tomatoes, a good pinch of saffron and fish or vegetable stock) the day before. “Then all you do in the day is cook whatever fish you want – mussels, clams, prawns, gurnard – in this sauce.” Oh, and knocking down a saffron aioli (“or cheat and buy mayonnaise”) to spread on the side crostini.
Mussels and clams are also perfect partners for linguine, says Bhogal: “You may still have your Lady and the Tramp moment.” More spaghetti can be found in puttanesca, which Scott notes earns bonus points for being red. Heat olive oil in a saucepan, then “add canned cherry tomatoes with a few finely chopped cloves of garlic, capers, oregano, chili flakes or half a finely chopped red chili pepper diced, black olives and anchovies”. Froth, stir in the cooked pasta and serve with finely chopped parsley.
Valentine’s Day is, of course, a foodie’s friend. “I love making jelly,” says Bhogal, who suggests a rhubarb and custard number. “Gorgeously pink, like a just-spanked butt, with a shot of liquor in it to keep it cheerful yet grown-up.” Fortunately, this can also be done in advance. The same goes for chocolate mousse or old-fashioned pannacotta, which Scott serves with halved figs, sprinkled with sugar and caramelized under the broiler. “And things dipped in chocolate are always good, aren’t they?” And as easy to do for two people as it is for one person, because, says Scott, “cooking something with love for yourself is also very important”.