Once, my friend decided to introduce me in the following manner:
“And this is Dave. He is continental and, therefore, always late.”
So, to keep with tradition, I have decided to delay my Valentine’s Day posting. Also, the sign of good blogging is your being able to provoke a reaction. And what better way to get a reaction than to remind people of how miserable Valentine’s Day makes them just when they thought the coast was finally clear?
Right, so this year the dreaded 14/2 was special for me because it was my first non-single Valentine’s Day (it only took me 21 years to jump that hurdle)! Rather than going for the roses/card/chocolate cliché (well, I kind of went for chocolate…) I decided to go all out and make a pretty snazzy meal for two.
Before this goes further, I would like to remind my readers that student food standards are in effect at the moment and, hence, anything that doesn’t use baked beans can be considered pretty darn snazzy.
My offering to cupid took the form a three course meal which was completely home made. And it only took me five hours! Firstly, we had a butternut squash, spinach and feta cheese tart; then we had a lemon and thyme roast chicken with roast vegetables (not risqué enough? Too bad!); and, finally, for my pièce de résistance (why is it even called that?), and chocolate ganache tart with a mixed berry compote underbelly (I have no idea what the culinary terms for these are…).
Let’s start with the savoury tart. My little obsession with tarts began when I decided to emulate a pumpkin savoury tart from here. Long story short, I took the pastry recipe from there and filled it with roast cubed butternut squash, heavy-on-the-garlic spinach and feta cheese. It could have been a meal in itself.
The chicken was prepared fairly plainly. Yes, a student cooking a whole chicken! Are you that surprised? Firstly, I stuck a knife between the skin and the meat and kind of shove it around so I could separate the two. I then went nuts and just shoved a bunch of salt and pepper there, as well as a few sprigs of thyme. It made sense in my head. The parts where I could not find an entry point for the knife (like the thighs), I just rubbed the surface with salt and pepper.
Next came my absolute favourite part: the lemon suppository. I cut the ends off the lemon and (gently) stab a knife through it a few times (it makes sense to me, okay?) and shove it inside the bird’s ribcage.
This was all then roasted for a miscalculated amount of time, alongside some potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and parsnips. Pretty standard, really.
Finally, came the absolute pride of my night (date? What date?): the chocolate tart. The best part of this is the fact that I took bits and pieces of different recipes and made my own. I wanted something that, above all, required no baking; I was going to spend enough time in front of the oven with the tart and the chicken. I’m also proud of this recipe because I got to use the syrups I made as by-products to my jam. So here it is:
Chocolate Tart Extraordinaire
(aka I’ll become diabetic, but it’ll be worth it)
- 200 g digestive biscuits
- 50 g white sugar
- 115 g butter, melted
Crush the digestive biscuits—this can be done by using a food processor or, if you’re stressed out, by putting them in a freezer bag and hitting it with a rolling pin (for added Valentine’s Day effect, imagine your ex’s head in there).
Pour the crushed biscuits into a bowl and add the sugar.
Once the butter has completely melted, add it to the biscuit/sugar mixture and stir until it’s all butterwet (I’m coining that word!). Pour it all into your pie tin and spread it through all the bottom and a bit up the sides.
Refrigerate it to help it keep shape.
Mixed berry compote
- ~200g frozen mixed berries
- a handful frozen cranberries
- a drizzle of strawberry syrup (optional)
Heat up a pan and add the frozen berries.
Once some of the melt juices start to seep out, drizzle them with some strawberry syrup and add a sprinkle of sugar (white, brown, moscavado… whichever you fancy).
Keep things hot and stirring until the sauce is really thick.
Pour the compote into the pie crust, let it cool, then shove it in the refrigerator so it’s nice and cold.
This is basically the stuff truffles are made of, only this time, it’s in a tart.
- ¼ tsp each cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg
- 3 small red chillies (no bigger than a pinky finger)
- 300 g dark chocolate (I used 75% cocoa) in chunks.
- 150 ml heavy cream
- ~100 ml orange syrup (optional)
Remove the seeds from the chillies and slice them. Put them together with the cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger—you can use more spices if you so wish. I just kept this light for safety.
Wash your hands. Seriously. I had a lecture after doing this and, because I casually brushed my fingers against my lips and nose, spent ¾ of that lecture in pain. You know it’s bad when breathing hurts!
In a sauce pan, slowly heat up the cream. Add the spices and syrup.
When the cream is almost boiling (read, simmering), lower the heat to a minimum and add the chocolate. Stir until all the chocolate is melted and is glossy.
Pour the chocolate mixture directly into the pie crust.
Let it cool and then refrigerate for a few hours before serving.
Be blown away by its deliciousness and laugh as your date suddenly finds out it’s spicy chocolate (got to get my kicks somehow).