Put love on the menu this Valentine’s Day with a seductively simple three-course menu from recipe writer, author and TV presenter Rosie Birkett
“Everything in this menu is designed to be low effort, so you can spend the evening focused on each other instead of the food.”
“This year, Valentine’s Day is a bit special for me because it’s my and Jamie’s first as a married couple, so we'll have a celebratory meal at home. We just got back from a trip to Paris, so we’re really feeling the French wine at the moment – I love the M&S Jura Arbois, which is so rich and buttery. We had M&S champagne at our wedding on the Kentish coast and we have one bottle left, so it would be a perfect time to crack that open.
“In fact, we always stay in. I love going to restaurants, but not on Valentine's Day – I don't want to be sitting in a room full of other couples trying hard to be romantic. I'd much rather show Jamie I love him by making a lovely dinner and enjoying plenty of bubbles in the comfort of our own home.
“I think food can be incredibly romantic. Shellfish, for example – it's just so special, and a little bit sexy, isn't it? You have to get stuck in with your hands and it gets a bit messy,
which is just the right thing when you're having an intimate meal with someone you love – that’s why I chose it to start with for this menu.
“We're both trying to eat a bit less meat at the moment, so I came up with a simple but decadent saffron risotto with caramelised cauliflower for the main course. It's loaded with butter and parmesan and laced with gorgeous golden saffron, so it still feels hugely satisfying and indulgent, especially when paired with a luscious glass of white wine.
“To finish, you can’t go wrong with pavlova or the classic combination of rhubarb and custard. The hazelnuts running through the meringue add crunch and you can make the meringue and confit rhubarb ahead and then just assemble on the night.”
Madagascan prawns with
green pistachio butter
“A combination of shell-on and shelled prawns in this super-quick starter means you still get to lick the butter off your fingers.”
Ingredients 1 pack of shell-on giant Madagascan tiger prawns
1 pack of shelled giant Madagascan tiger prawns
For the herbed butter
2 cloves garlic
¼ tsp toasted coriander seeds
1 bunch of parsley, leaves only
Zest and juice of ½ lemon
1 tbsp white wine
Salt and pepper
Watercress and lemon, to garnish
To make the herbed butter, put the pistachios, garlic cloves and coriander seeds in a food processor and blitz to a coarse crumb. Add the butter, parsley, lemon juice and zest, white wine and seasoning. Blitz until you have a green butter.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and add the prawns. Fry for a couple of minutes, until the shells are starting to colour, then add the butter. Allow it to melt slightly, then toss the prawns in the butter. Add in a slosh of water to loosen, and cook the prawns in the butter for about five minutes, or until heated through and well coated in the butter. Divide between plates and garnish with watercress and wedges of lemon. Enjoy with glasses of crisp Louis Vertay champagne.
For the cauliflower
1 cauliflower, broken down into florets; florets cut in half
Knob of butter
Pinch of cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
Juice of ½ lemon
For the risotto
1 litre vegetable stock
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, very finely chopped
250g arborio risotto rice
125ml Fino sherry or dry white wine
½ tsp saffron
50g parmesan, or vegetarian alternative, grated
Begin by caramelising your cauliflower. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil with a knob of butter, the bay leaf and a pinch of cumin seeds, over a low to medium heat. When the butter is bubbling, add the florets in, cut side down – as well as any nice leaves from the cauliflower (these are delicious and shouldn’t be discarded!). Season with salt and pepper and cook for five minutes, without moving, then squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, agitate the
florets slightly to stop them from burning, and cover with a lid. Cook for five more minutes, or until the florets are tender and steamed all the way through, then remove from the heat and keep warm while you make the risotto.
With a ladle at the ready, heat the stock in a pan over a very low heat. Melt the butter and olive oil in a separate high-sided, non-stick frying pan. Add the onion and a large pinch of salt, then cook, stirring, for five minutes until softened and fragrant but not colouring. Tip in the rice and coat in the oil and butter, cooking for a few minutes until beginning to toast. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring, until it’s absorbed. Add the saffron and begin to add the stock, a ladle at a time, stirring continually. Add more stock as it’s absorbed. After 25 to 30 minutes, all the stock should be absorbed and the rice should be creamy and al dente.
Finally, add the parmesan and stir until melted. Turn off the heat and stir in a nice knob of butter. Season and serve with the warm caramelised florets on top.
Rhubarb and custard pavlova
“Pavlova is such an indulgence and one of our favourite desserts, along with rhubarb and custard – so I've combined the two.”
For the meringue
4 medium egg whites, at room temperature
250g caster sugar
3-4 drops vanilla extract
125g toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
For the rhubarb
400g rhubarb, sliced into 1cm lengths
150g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split
Zest and juice of ¼ lemon
Zest and juice of 1 blood orange
1/2 tub of custard
300ml double cream
Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6. Line a roasting tray with baking parchment and fill with the rhubarb. Top with the sugar, lemon and blood orange zest and juice. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod in there too, throwing the spent pod on top. Cover with foil and roast for 25 minutes. Then remove from the oven.
Heat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/gas mark 3½ and line two baking sheets with baking parchment. Whisk the egg whites in a spotlessly clean bowl with an electric mixer, or in a stand mixer, until soft peaks form,
then gradually add the sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly until thick and glossy. Whisk in the vanilla extract and gently fold in the chopped nuts.
Spread a circle of meringue on each baking sheet. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes (don’t worry if the top cracks, it will still taste delightful), until they easily peel away from the parchment. Remove from the oven and carefully lift the meringues and baking parchment onto a wire rack and rest until they’ve cooled. Peel the parchment from the meringue discs and – using a palette knife – lift one onto a serving platter or cake stand.
Whip the cream into soft peaks, being careful not to over-whip, and drain the rhubarb from its syrup. Fold a tablespoon of the syrup and the custard through the cream, reserving the rest of the syrup for cocktails. Spread most of the cream and custard mixture onto the base meringue, saving some to cover the top layer. Top with half the rhubarb, and sandwich with the other meringue. Pile the remaining cream and custard mix onto the top meringue and cover with the remaining rhubarb. Drizzle with a little more syrup, and serve.