So, it’s coming up to Valentine’s Day, which means only one thing to me.
It’s the night of the year not to go out to eat.
I apologise to all those in the restaurant trade, I know you’re doing you’re best. But generally the set menus are bland or trite (not you, The Modern Pantry, loving your work).
And the worst offenders are those that rename dishes with “romantic” titles. To me, fancy pant restaurant dishes are really unlikely to say I love you, in spite of every good intention.
What would you choose then, what really says I love you? Here’s my choices:
Saturday morning toast and tea delivered to bed by MFL.
2. Chicken soup any time you’re under the weather, even if you have to heat it up yourself.
3. Anything your kids make for you.
4. A good cup of tea anyone else makes for you, just when you need it most.
5. Someone bringing you something that they remembered you liked, like when a friend arrived with a box of macarons straight from a Parisian patisserie. Or a chunk of Parmesan straight from a cheese shop in Rome.
What does it for you? What says I love you from you to someone else, or them to you?
I’ve written before about my loathing of the great pink and red tat onslaught that this time of year subjects us to, all in the name of love. For someone who loves their food as much as you love themI, and vice versa, then these are my top 10 gifts:
Start the day off brilliantly with this Perfect Breakfast Hamper from The Modern Pantry. It’s a non-London based alternative to being able to get in there to eat. And you can stay in your PJs to enjoy it. Or ditch them. Which is somewhat frowned on in the restaurant it seems.
For something a bit different on the taste front, but with an appropriate Valentine’s name and look, then how about the Raspberry Chocolate Chilli Coated Liquorice from Lakrids Love. Lots of flavours to slowly savour, and then a bit of heat kicking in at the end. Perfect. (UPDATE, sadly the raspberry is no longer available but there’s a lovely peach version been brought in).
Ok, I try to avoid the onslaught of pink, but I can make an exception for this sparkling pink vodka liqueur from Nuvo. Combining French vodka, sparkling wine and passion fruit nectar, it sounds like it could be tasty, as well as pretty.
My love of Chinese food is quite well documented, so I love the idea of these Valentine’s Day fortune cookies, whether you’ve eaten out or cooked at home. Still, my favourite fortune ever was from a misfortune cookie: there are people worse off than you in the world…just not many.
And who can resist a tin of iced biscuits? Add your own message, and be lucky if these make it to the 15th! These are delicious beauties from Biscuiteers, and they do have a gluten free option available too.
So, there are plenty of delicous, tasty and tasteful options you could go with to demonstrate your love. That, or just turn up with tea and toast as it’s a Sunday morning.
I’m very late to the party to know about Mr Lyans, who is obviously a big noise in the bartending and cocktail making world, and does sound very inventive and innovative. But my choice of one of his pre-mixed cocktails came from a random search, rather than being impressed by the name!
Now, a Rainy Day Spritz may not be the most romantic name for a drink for Valentine’s Day, but the flavours sound delicious. This is a mix of raspberry eau de vie, vermouth and rhubarb liquer and can be drunk, well chilled, straight from the fridge.
Or if you really want to blast any thought of rainy days away then you can mix it with prosecco or wine. But it’s Valentine’s Day, surely bubbles are the order of the day? It would certainly make for something different from a bottle of pink cava, and have more flavour.
So it’s probably no surprise I love this, and the breakfast it would produce (and breakfast in bed also one of my favourite things). Glass of pink fizz, possibly with a drop or two of rose mojito syrup. Tick, that’s got to start the day off well. Granola first, and then toast with the kumquat marmalade.
And then a strong coffee to get over the fizz.
Perfect start to a lazy weekend day. And not a lazy cliché in sight, just nice twists on tradition. Which is what I exactly would expect from The Modern Pantry. Perfect.
Now, the only question is who to share it with? Or possibly whether or not to share it at all!
I haven’t written a Friday Five based around Valentine’s Day for five years, so probably a good time to revisit cook books for lovers. I was interested to see if there was anything new, or possibly reprinted since then, or ones I’d missed the first time around. And seems there’s a combination of all of these!
Kama Sutra Kitchen -I’m amazed that it took till 2014 for a book of this title to come out. According to the write up, this book is designed to increase sensuality to support the proper mood while concocting aphrodisiac recipes. Let’s hope the recipes are better than the intro!
The Aphrodisiac Encyclopedia – I like the wording of this one better: Mark Douglas Hill has spent a lifetime in pursuit of foods that encourage friskiness and enhance the frisking. That makes a lot more sense, and is a lot more appealing! I like that it moves beyond the obvious oysters to things like figs, mint and mango, so probably recipes that will be incredibly tasty, even without the friskiness.
Seductive and Sinful Cooking – god, I’d be tempted to buy this one just because it looks so awful, like some awful ancient history version of a seduction cookbook. Worth looking up online and laughing at, but I’d really not seriously recommend adding this to your collection, unless it’s really your thing.
The Seduction Cookbook – this one is going back a bit, as it was published in 2004. But it was the last line of this one that made me laugh (and let’s face it, laughter is a great aphrodisiac): if all else fails, showing up naked with the dessert course should get things moving in the right direction! Besides that, the recipes sound great too, like Halibut with Orange Basil Butter and Snow Peas.
Fork Me, Spoon Me – this probably wins for worst title, and sauciest, but classy, illustrations. And then it moves onto the recipe titles…I mean, seriously? Hard tacos with hot guacamole. Hot honey nuts. Love linguine. Please…which I mean in an ironic way, as opposed to a heartfelt request. If you wanted a cheesy gift, then I would guess this is it!
For me, I still think some of my original choices are better than a lot of these, although I’d probably credit the Aphrodisiac Encyclopedia with most thorough research, so it deserves a look if only for that. But I would say any meal cooked with love and passion, that takes the object of your affection’s tastes into account is just as likely to have a positive effect than any amount of oysters and figs!
Fantastic photo by JD Hancock on Flickr. Appropriately entitled Paring, a nice wordplay for the cooks and lovers amongst us!
So having written about the oncoming Valentine’s onslaught, thought it was only fair to write about some of the good stuff. Fortnum & Mason were the first people to email about Valentine’s Day, and some of these are a little different, or completely indulgent, but not quite second mortgage level!
Fortnum’s are rightly famous for their hampers, and the Valentine’s Evening Hamper is a sweet little thing (though I could have done without the hamper being red). So, you can start the evening with a candle lit bath scented by the bath truffles (I’m guessing they’re not for eating) and then indulge in a glass of rosé champagne and some chocolates. Or all four things at the same time. This little hamper is £65, or you can go all out with the Valentines Hamper at £120.
Looking for sweet stuff that’s not too sickly/naff? Champagne Gummies are the sophisticated version of Gummi Bears, although are actually alcohol free, so you get all the flavour with none of the headaches. Or the Prince Charming Chocolate Frogs, which the website does suggest you could give to your own Prince Charming. I was thinking more along the lines if you’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs, then may as well be chocolate ones, so maybe for friends without Valentines!
And finally, there’s never an occasion when some sort of fizz isn’t acceptable, and I love this Bellini box, being rather partial to the odd Bellini myself. It’s a no fuss cocktail to put together, and there isn’t a trace of red or pink on this gift. Classy, tasty, and likely to get proceedings off to a good start. Sounds like the making of a great gift to me!
It probably can’t have escaped your notice that shops have taken on a distinctly red hue. Possibly pink as well. Ah yes, the annual love fest of Valentine’s Day approaches, and in many gift categories taste goes out the window, and inflated price tags fly in.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a completely unromantic soul, I’m just not a great lover of over-commercialised forcing of activities. If it’s love, then surely it’s love on all the other days of the year, without Hallmark telling you. Or there are other signs of love than a dozen red roses, which are completely out of season.
Seriously, I love roses (in fact seriously adore them) but on a cold February morning, 3 bunches of fresh English daffs say I love you just as much, if not more so, than some poor hot housed blooms that have cost the same as a small family car. At least you could all afford to eat for the month and the daffs would probably last longer too.
The same goes for the Valentine’s gifts. The vast majority are fairly hideous and show a distinct lack of imagination. I tend not to write about those! But I will write about the good stuff. But equally I would say it shows as much if not more love and attention to buy something you know your loved one really appreciates than something someone else thinks they should. If they have a thing for Babycham and cheese straws, then don’t get distracted by heart shaped boxes of chocolate! Thought and imagination win out every time, for gifts for foodies or any other kind of lover in your life.
As I’ve said many times, go early and with thought about the recipient, and it’s hard to go wrong.
Great photo from Anokarina on Flickr, came up on a search for “worst Valentine’s gift”. Probably would agree with that!
Romance is not really on the agenda here, but it’s coming up to that time of year when Valentine’s Day arrives before we know it. Now with the right company I am sure any food can be romantic, but if you wanted a few pointers, from hearts and flowers to something a little more saucy, then here’s a few to consider:
Romance of Food by Barbara Cartland – well, if you want hearts and flowers then surely no one could top Barbara Cartland. If you’ve read many of my posts you may know I have a thing for vintage cookbooks, and this one would definitely tick that box. The names of the dishes remind me of a particularly naff Valentine’s dinner at a Chinese in St Albans, but that’s a different story!
Seduction and Spice: 130 Recipes for Romance – well, this one sounds hopeful, given how many spices are supposed to have qualities and effects over and above just great flavour. Who knows if they work or not, but if you can pick up one of the second hand copies at under £5 then worth trying.
Two for Tonight: Pure Romance from L’Auberge Chez Francois – this looks like some serious cooking, although the titles less so. Breakfast in Bed sounds very international but Love in the Afternoon perhaps betrays the French origins of much of this. Like true love, these are not recipes to be rushed, as they are quite complex, but then isn’t love?