The first Valentine’s day card was sent in 1806, but the history is long and ambiguous: A priest named Valentine who married young lovers against the Emperor’s will; A man who helped Christians escape Roman prisons; An imprisoned man in love with his jailor’s daughter.
Or, the month of February could have been dedicated Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. It is the beginning of spring, and animals are swelling with fertility. White snowdrops are bursting through the ground, demonstrating nature’s cycle of death and life.
Basically, it is all about love, sex and reproduction. So do something that is inexpensive, fun, and truly appropriate for the day. Eat a seasonal meal and get in tune with all your senses:
Velvety Smooth Parsnip Soup with Crumbled Stilton
Smoked Trout with Crème Fraîche and Braised Leeks
Rhubarb Apple Crumble
2. Add 3 chopped up parsnips, 1 sprig of thyme and season with salt.
3. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, then pour over some vegetable or chicken stock.
4. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat so that it is gently simmering for 15 minutes.
5. Remove the thyme stem and puree until smooth. Pour through a fine mesh sieve and use the back of your ladle to push the soup through, back into the same pot. Re-heat, ladle into 2 bowls and crumble Stilton on top just before serving.
Smoked Trout with Crème Fraîche and Braised Leeks:
1. Buy the smoked trout locally. In Toronto, Roncesvalles is the best place to find really good smoked fish.
2. Buy crème fraîche or make it quickly:
(recipe from Chow)
- Combine ¾ cup heavy cream, ¼ cup sour cream and 1 tablespoon sugar in a small bowl
- Refrigerate for 15 minutes
- Whisk them together until soft peaks form
- Use right away or refrigerate and use within 24 hours, whisking gently before serving if required.
3. Braised leeks:
- Chop off the top part of the leek that is very green and compost it
- Split the rest of the leek down the centre, lengthwise and wash under running water thoroughly. (Leeks grow in sandy soil)
- Put the leeks flat side up in a baking dish and pour over 1/2 cup orange juice and then dot the top with knobs off butter (about 1 tbsp per side).
- Cover and put into a 350˚ oven for 15 minutes, until tender – but not mushy.
Rhubarb Apple Crumble:
1. Chop up 3 stems of rhubarb and combine with 2 chopped apples in a mixing bowl
2. Add ¼ cup brown sugar, 2 tbsp butter and a pinch of salt
3. Put into a greased baking dish
4. In a bowl, combine 1 cup all purpose flour, ½ cup cold butter and ½ cup brown sugar
5. Massage the mixture gently but quickly with the tips of your fingers until crumbs form in the size of peas.
6. Put the crumble on top and bake in a 350˚ oven until the crust is golden and the apples and rhubarb are bubbling beneath, about 20 minutes. Serve with some ice cream or whipped cream.
This sexy meal will have you happily enjoying Valentine's Day in no time (and with far less fuss than usual).