Ah yes, that most controversial of days has come around again: Valentine’s Day. For those in a couple, it’s a chance to celebrate and toast their relationship; for the singles, though, it’s always a bit of a thorn in the side!
We thought we’d do something different for Valentine’s Day this year; to make things easier (for couples and a group of singles!) we have planned out a three-course meal that you can prepare for your other half/friend! No need to think about what meal to surprise them with on the evening of the 14th; we’ve taken all of the planning out of the equation. All you need to do is shop the ingredients and get to work!
Having a nice meal in can be much preferable to a meal out. Everyone does a meal out; how many people have a cozy night in, with the person you love most in the world making you a special dinner? It can also be much more cost-effective!
You’ll find below a delectable three-course dinner, beginning with a light avocado salad, a simple chicken dish in the middle and a divine chocolate dessert to round out the meal. Your significant other/friend will love the effort you made into creating this stunning meal for them.
Just remember: it’s supposed to be fun! If it doesn’t come out 100% perfect, they’ll still appreciate the effort and you’ll still both have a wonderful night-in.
Why not start off the evening with a nice mocktail? If you’re having wine with your meal, it would be a nice touch to start things off with a light but still delicious drink.
We recommend an Apple Mint Chill from our Bartender’s Guide to Mocktails book: a sweet and refreshing beginning to the meal.
APPLE MINT CHILL
4 tsp elderflower cordial
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
125 ml/4 fl oz cloudy apple juice
6 fresh mint leaves
3 1/2 tbsp soda water
fresh mint sprig, to decorate
1. Fill a highball glass with ice cubes and add the cordial, lemon juice and apple juice. Stir well to mix.
2. Bruise the mint, add to the glass and stir again.
3. Top with soda water, garnish with the mint sprigand an apple fan and serve immediately.
AVOCADO HERO SALAD
THIS SALAD IS FULL OF GORGEOUS TEXTURES, JUXTAPOSING CREAMY AVOCADO WITH CRUNCHY ASPARAGUS TIPS, AND IS RICH IN MONOUNSATURATED FATS, SOLUBLE FIBRE AND VITAMIN E.
85 g/3 oz dry green peas suitable for sprouting
85 g/3 oz whole quinoa seeds suitable for sprouting
70 g/2½ oz baby spinach
70 g/2½ oz baby asparagus tips
16 baby plum tomatoes
30 g/1 oz fresh watercress
2 ripe avocados, stoned, peeled and sliced into bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp raw pine nuts
8 fresh basil sprigs
½ tbsp cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
½ tbsp raw wine vinegar
2 tsp raw honey
1 tsp stoneground mustard
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp pepper
1. To sprout the peas, put them in a wide-necked glass jar and soak them overnight in tepid water, covered with muslin or a similar material. In the morning, drain and rinse the peas and fill the jar with fresh water. Drain and rinse the peas twice a day for 5 days, until they have sprouted. Rinse and drain to use.
2. To sprout the quinoa, use the same method as the peas but soak them for only 4 hours. They will sprout in about 2 days.
3. Arrange the spinach, all but four of the asparagus tips and the plum tomatoes in two serving dishes with most of the watercress.
4. Arrange three quarters of the avocado slices in the dishes with the remaining watercress and the sprouted peas and quinoa. Sprinkle three quarters of the pine nuts on top.
5. In a small bowl, mash the remaining avocado with the remaining pine nuts, six of the basil sprigs and the half-tablespoon of olive oil until you have a rough purée.
6. Make the dressing by thoroughly combining the ingredients in a small dish. Spoon most of this over the salad.
7. Finish the salad by arranging two asparagus tips in the centre of each dish, followed by half the avocado purée and a basil sprig. Drizzle over the rest of the dressing to serve.
From Bountiful Bowls.
CHICKEN ESCALOPES WITH CHERRY TOMATOES
SERVES: 4 | PREP: 15 mins | COOK: 25 mins
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts,
weighing about 500 g/1 lb 2 oz
1 egg, beaten
100 g/3 1/2 oz wholemeal panko
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp groundnut oil
40 0 g/14 oz cherry tomatoes on the vine
200 g/7 oz baby leaf salad
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1. Diagonally slice each chicken breast in four lengthways to make 12 escalopes. Place each escalope on a chopping board and pound it a few times with a rolling pin to a thickness of about 1 cm/1/2 inch.
2. Put the beaten egg in a shallow dish and put the breadcrumbs in a separate shallow dish. Stir the thyme and oregano into the breadcrumbs until combined.
3. Coat each escalope in egg, allowing the excess to drip off. Dip into the breadcrumb mixture, turning to coat, then transfer to a large plate.
4. Heat the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan. Add the escalopes, in batches, and cook over a medium heat for 4 minutes on each side, or until the breadcrumbs are golden and the escalopes are cooked through, with no sign of pink when you cut into the middle of one of them.
5. Meanwhile, preheat the grill and grill the tomatoes on the vine until warmed through but not collapsed.
6. Serve the escalopes with the grilled tomatoes and the baby leaf salad, drizzled with the balsamic vinegar.
MAKES: 6 | PREP: 45 mins, plus chilling & cooling | COOK: 45 mins
25 0 g/9 oz plain flour, plus extra
pinch of salt
50 g/1 3/4 oz caster sugar
140 g/5 oz butter
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
375 ml/13 fl oz single cream
35 0 g/12 oz plain chocolate, 70%
cocoa solids, broken into pieces
5 egg yolks
55 g/2 oz caster sugar
2. tbsp water
sea salt flakes, to decorate
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. To make the pastry, put the flour, salt, sugar, butter, egg and lemon rind into a bowl and
mix together. Roll the pastry into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
2. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface, then use a 10-cm/4- inch round cutter to stamp out six rounds. Use them to line six
tartlet tins, then line with baking paper and fill with baking beans. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then remove the beans and paper and bake for a further 10 minutes.
3. To make the filling, heat the cream in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water, then add the chocolate and heat until melted. Remove from the heat and leave to stand until cooled to room temperature.
4. Put the egg yolks, sugar and water into a separate heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water and heat, whisking constantly, for 8–10 minutes until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat, stir into the chocolate mixture and beat with a handheld electric mixer for 5–6 minutes.
5. Pour the filling into the pastry cases. Carefully transfer to the refrigerator and chill for 2–3 hours, or until the filling is firm. Serve chilled, decorated with sea salt flakes, if using.