Doing something special and romantic for Valentine’s Day can be a tricky business. Going out for dinner is the obvious choice but restaurants get so busy on the 14th that it’s unlikely to be a very intimate experience. I remember taking telephone bookings when I worked in French Living. The set menus were always carefully developed by the chefs and the waiters would arrange the whole dining area into a sea of tables for two, but I never liked having to tell customers that; yes, they could have a table at 7.30pm but we would need that table back again by 9pm. It seemed so sad to cut their evening short, but the demand was so great there was nothing else to be done.
So, let’s say eating out is off the agenda, what about eating in? It’s cosy, it could be cheaper than a restaurant and the menu can be whatever your imagination and culinary skill will allow! If you do choose to stay in and can’t decide what to make I’ve written a three course Valentine’s Day menu for Great British Chefs so do have a butchers by clicking here.
But, if spending more than 20 minutes in the kitchen fills you with dread or there are simply too many distractions at home, like pets, kids or a half painted living room then there is a third option – Cooking without a Kitchen!
This Valentine’s Day (which for the purposes of my own publishing deadlines actually took place on Sunday the 3rd of February) was spent on the south bank of the River Thames, just round the corner from the Golden Hinde and Southwark Cathedral. We unpacked a small shopping bag of goodies and prepared the meal then and there. We didn’t have a table but the wall worked fine and the views over London were just as good as any fancy restaurant. There was no rush because no one needed the space before or after us and there were hardly any distractions, oh except one guy who tried to sell us pebbles he’d found in the river but that was quite funny.
Mint Tea Couscous with Artichokes & Prosciutto
1 small bag of pea shoots
1 small bag of couscous
1 punnet or jar of chargrilled artichokes in olive oil (from the deli or similar)
4 slices of prosciutto
1 takeaway cup of peppermint tea (buy this from a coffee shop as near to your picnic spot as possible so it stays hot)
2 plastic, wooden or paper plates
1 plastic bowl
1 plastic measuring cup (can be any travel cup or mug really)
Mini salt and pepper shaker (optional but nice)
2 plastic spoons, or forks (or sporks!)
1) Using the measuring cup put 1 cup of couscous into the plastic bowl. Measure out about 1 and a half cups of the hot mint tea and pour over the couscous. Cover the bowl with one of the plates and leave to sit for about 5-6 minutes to let the couscous absorb the tea.
2) Sip the rest of the mint tea while you wait.
3) When the couscous is ready, fluff it up by breaking up the clumps of grains with a fork and mix in some of the oil from the artichokes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4) Pile the pea shoots onto each of the plates, then add the couscous. Top with the artichokes and the slices of proscuitto and serve to your loved one.
Happy Valentine’s Day xxx