Blogger Anna Barnett @annabarnettcooks shares her recipes for Valentine’s Day romance, from brunch and a fizz cocktail to a delicious, fuss-free dinner
“When it comes to celebrating Valentine’s Day, I steer away from any grand gestures and simply focus on cooking up a feast for us at home”
For food writer Anna Barnett, no week is the same. “Life is very varied and hectic,” she says. “I write recipes for the London Evening Standard, host events and run cookery classes – which keeps me very busy.” Which means that, come Valentine’s Day, staying in and cooking is a far more attractive option than braving a packed-out restaurant. Our special Valentine’s Dine In menu – which runs in store from 12 to 16 February and includes a starter, main, side, dessert, prosecco and chocolates – is just the thing for a fuss-free night in.
That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t feel memorable, however. “I let the little touches speak for themselves, making an extra effort with the drinks and table settings so everything looks a little more special,” says Anna. “The dog will be there patiently waiting for scraps, and my husband and I will spend the night dreaming up our next adventure while sipping cocktails, which he loves to take charge of.”
For a drink to kick off her Valentine’s celebrations, Anna has created a
blood orange cocktail with our Delacourt rosé brut champagne. “I love to cook with seasonal produce and as soon as blood oranges come in, I try to weave them into as many dishes as I can – including drinks. The addition of black pepper and delicate basil helps balance their sweetness in this easy cocktail,” she says.
Anna’s sourdough platter with a kaleidoscope of toppings, meanwhile, is perfect for those getting together with friends and family for Valentine’s Day – though you could easily scale it down to serve two. “If Valentine’s isn’t your thing then it’s the perfect excuse to indulge your best friends with a fabulous ‘gal-entine’s’ brunch,” says Anna. “When I have guests over, I like to prep as much as I can in advance, and make sure there’s something to feed everyone. I often use serving platters, too, so people can help themselves.”
Blood orange, black pepper
and basil fizz cocktail
“This vibrant but not overly sweet cocktail combines spicy black pepper, delicate basil and blood orange with Delacourt rosé brut champagne. You’ll definitely want to go back for a second round”
350ml Delacourt rosé brut champagne, chilled
100ml freshly squeezed blood orange
A sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper
A handful of fresh basil
Combine the chilled champagne, freshly squeezed blood orange and black pepper.
Gently fold and break the basil, reserving a couple of leaves to garnish, then wipe the rim of each champagne flute with the basil to scent the rim. Pour in the champagne and blood orange mixture and garnish with a fresh basil leaf or two.
Valentine’s Dine In menu
“These super-simple but impressive dishes take away prep time and washing up, keeping the focus on the romance, rather than the cooking”
Pick up our Dine In menu in store this Valentine’s Day, which includes a starter, main, side, dessert, bottle of fizz and chocolates. Anna went for the coquilles St Jacques to start, then sirloin steak with heart-shaped butter and fat chips cooked in beef dripping. For pudding, it’s our chocolatey heart-shaped desserts.
“The coquilles St Jacques never fail to impress, and they’re served in scallop shells so you can transfer them straight to the oven,” she says. “They are seriously creamy, with generous scallops poached in a rich sauce.
“I’m someone who saves eating meat for those special occasions, so steak and chips is the perfect indulgence for me. Prior to cooking it, allow your steak to come to room temperature. Season it generously, then heat a
griddle pan until it’s almost smoking. For a medium-rare steak, I’d allow it to cook for around 30-40 seconds before flipping.
Repeat, then repeat once more, changing the angle of the steak so you get a criss-cross charring. Finish by placing the herby butter on top and allowing to rest for 5 minutes.”
Since the food is fuss-free, Anna goes all-out with the table styling: “I make an extra effort so the evening feels special. Laying the table, using linen napkins, lighting candles and adding a little herb garnish to our place settings.”
Pick up our special Valentine’s Dine In, 12-16 February in store.
Brunch sourdough platter
“I’ve shared quantities to make up to one of our large crostini per topping, but you could easily scale this up to feed a crowd”
A loaf of M&S signature sourdough, sliced
For the toppings
3 tbsp ricotta
A small bunch of grapes, roasted until blistered
5 blackberries, halved
A handful of cherries
4 large slices of brie
10 cherry tomatoes on the vine, roasted until softened
A handful of fresh parsley
3 slices of serrano ham
¼ green chilli, finely diced
6 tbsp cream cheese
2 slices Speybay oak-smoked salmon
3 king prawns
A handful of fresh basil
1 tsp lumpfish caviar
Half a mango, diced
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 slices goats’ cheese
1 passion fruit
Drizzle the sourdough with a little olive oil and toast until golden.
For roasted grapes, berries and cherries with ricotta, spoon over the ricotta, roasted grapes, berries and cherries then finish with sea salt and black pepper.
For Roquefort with ham and chilli, roughly spread the Roquefort over the toasted sourdough. Add the serrano ham and green chilli, then season.
For cream cheese with caviar, salmon, prawns and apricot, heat a griddle until almost smoking hot, drizzle the apricots with a little oil then griddle for 2 minutes. Spread a large slice of sourdough with cream cheese then stack with the griddled apricots, salmon and prawns. Season and finish with fresh basil and a small spoonful of caviar.
For cream cheese with mango and thyme, spread toasted sourdough with cream cheese, then scatter over the diced mango and finish with the thyme leaves and a little seasoning.
For goats’ cheese and passion fruit, place your sliced goats’ cheese over toasted sourdough, and scoop out the passion fruit on top. Finish with thyme and a little black pepper.
Editor: Heather Taylor / Photographer: Anna Barnett