Who is Valentine anyway?
I must tell you, right from the start, that I knew nothing about St. Valentine until I came to Canada. Valentine’s day is celebrated on February 14th and was named for a saint from the third century, Valentine, who was martyred on the same day. In days gone by, an English Lady would name her knight of the year on this day.
In Denmark we celebrate Valentine’s day by creating a special letter to our “target”. This letter is artistically cut in a pattern and decorated with a flower, a snowdrop and a rhyme that goes like this: “my name is spelled with dots – take care you don’t get caught! If you guess my name, you’ll get a candy-cane”. If you get the name right you receive a heart-shaped chocolate candy and the honour to court your secret admirer. I remember my first letter. I was so scared that all of my targets would guess my name that I had to go out and buy a case of candy.
I think my own father was a hopeless romantic. He seemed to celebrate the flower-giving tradition of Valentine’s Day once a week during the winter months. He always came home with fresh cut flowers every Friday. It was a treat for the whole family to see and smell flowers in the middle of the winter. Cut flowers have become more accessible here on the island and I think it’s a great way of nurturing your dreams about your summer garden. It adds colour and life to your dining table.
As a chef, this is a fun time of the year to create a menu all in red. You don’t have to use food colouring. We’re lucky to have many vegetables and fruits that are red by nature. Today I have chosen a tomato soup for an appetizer. You can make a Bortsch (red beet soup) if you want a stronger red colour. The tandori paste (red curry) goes very well with chicken, but you can also use this spice with white fish. The taste of tandori is not very strong and you don’t need to use a lot of it. As a garnish take a red bell pepper and cut it like a heart. Serve a cranberry punch as a welcome drink and red wine with the dinner. Try dried hibiscus flowers for a tangy, deep red tea.
If you are into baking, you can create your own heart-shaped cookies, bread or candy. Here I have a great recipe for a Honey Heart. This is from Germany and is a very popular cake all year round.
All recipes are four servings
Tomato Soup with garlic croutons and chives or parsley
6 large and ripe tomatoes or canned (5 cups)
half a cup of olive oil
1 cup orange juice
1 leek, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 tsp. fine cut sage
1 tsp. thyme leaves
one quarter cup chopped chives or parsley
2 tbs. chicken soup base mix
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
In a large pot saute onions and leeks with the sage and thyme in 2 tbs. olive oil for 5 minutes. Add parsnip, tomatoes and orange juice and let cook for 15 minutes. Add the chicken soup base, mix and cook for another 5 minutes. Pure with a blender stick and serve warm with garlic croutons and chives/parsley. I like to give store-bought croutons a little extra touch of garlic. You just heat them in a frying pan with the olive oil and garlic over medium heat.
Red curried breast of chicken served with sweet potatoes and French petît Pois
4 chicken breasts
1 tbs. Pataka’s Tandori paste (red curry)
1 tbs. olive oil
one quarter cup orange juice
1 tbs. fresh cut ginger root
4 large sweet potatoes (peeled and cubed)
2 cups frozen, small sweet green peas
1 white salad onion (Spanish onion)
1 green leaf lettuce
fresh thyme or Basel leaves
Brush the chicken breasts with the red curry paste. In a skillet (one with a lid) gently saute the chicken breasts in olive oil on both sides, then add orange juice. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes. In a pot saute the onion in olive oil until translucent, add the frozen green peas, cover and let simmer for 5 minutes. You can add some fresh thyme or Basel as well. Just before serving add sliced green lettuce. In another pot cook your cubed sweet potatoes, ginger root, Basel and thyme in water for 15 minutes. Discharge the water and pure with a blender stick and add a tbs. olive oil. Serve the chicken breasts on a preheated plate with the sweet potato mix and the green peas.
Coeurs à la Crème
This classic dessert will make your heart melt. Served with raspberry sauce.
1 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
1 tbs. + 2 tsp. superfine white sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
one to one and a quarter cups whipping cream
2 egg whites
whipping cream for serving if you wish.
Whip the cream until stiff. Mix with cheese. Whisk the egg whites very stiff and fold into mixture.
Place in individual heart-shaped forms, lined with cheese cloth and let drain overnight in the fridge. If you do not have individual forms, you can use a flat sieve, lined with cheese cloth and then cut individual servings with a heart-shaped metal utensil. Make your raspberry sauce in a blender with a touch of sugar. Serve on a large plate with the heart in the centre, whipped cream on the side and the raspberry sauce partly over the heart. Most of this you can prepare in advance, the day before. This is a true Valentine treat.
3 cups self-rising flour
2 tsp. ground allspice
one third of a tsp. salt
one quarter cup clear honey
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 tbs. butter
1 egg, beaten
grated peel of one lemon
1 tbs. lemon juice
8oz dark chocolate, melted
1 egg white
one and a half cup icing sugar
Preheat oven (350F). Grease a large baking sheet with butter. Sift flour, allspice and salt into a mixing bowl. In a saucepan melt honey, brown sugar and butter. Set aside to cool. Mix in with the flour. Add the beaten egg, lemon peel and juice. Make a soft dough and kneed until smooth. Roll
the dough, not too thin and cut a heart. You can make a template out of paper. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack. Beat the egg white and icing sugar very stiff. Decorate your heart with your choice of pattern, name or a poem.