I would never have picked my husband as a romantic when I first met him. But shortly after we were married I was going through some drawers when I pulled out an old Valentine’s card, still in its envelope.
Until that day I had never known who could possibly have sent it. It was signed “from an anonymous admirer” but the postmark was from Waipukurau and I didn’t know anyone who lived in that part of the country.
So here I was, looking at the card, when my husband, a man I had first met some 15 years earlier, says “I sent you that. I was driving through Waipuk and posted it there.”
Well you could have blown me over! I’ve never had a card from him since, but that is no matter.
For my part, I like to pull out the stops and make a special dinner just for the two of us on Valentine’s Day each year.
The writer MFK Fisher, she was at all times the ultimate seducer, once wrote a brilliant essay titled How to UnSeduce, which provided guidelines for discouraging an amorous suitor…
I myself, imagining one man I would like to woo, can easily invent a menu that would floor him like a stunned ox, and turn him, no matter how unwittingly on his part, into a slumberous lump of masculine inactivity. It is based on what I already know of his physical reactions, as any such plan must be. I would serve one too many martinis, that is, about three. Then while his appetite raged, thus whipped with alcohol, I would have generous, rich, salty Italian hors d’oeuvres: prosciutto, little chilled marinated shrimps, olives stuffed with anchovy, spiced and pickled tomatoes – things that would lead him on. Next would come something he no longer wanted, but could not resist, something like a ragout of venison, or squabs stuffed with mushrooms and wild rice, and plenty of red wine, sure danger after the cocktails and the highly salted appetizers. I would waste no time on a salad, unless perhaps a freakish rich one treacherously containing truffles and new potatoes. The dessert would be cold, superficially refreshing and tempting, but venomous: a chilled bowl of figs soaked in kirsch, with heavy cream. There would be a small bottle of a Sauterne, sly and icy, or a judicious bit of champagne, and then a small cup of coffee so black and bitter that my victim could not down it, even therapeutically. All of this would be beautiful fare in itself and in another part of time and space. Here and now it would be sure poison – given the right man. I would, to put it mildly, rest inviolate. What a hideous plan. . . .
You need food that can effortlessly appear, without any chance of overcooking or any last-minute fussing. A prep-ahead kind of meal really, because unless you like the idea of cooking kitchenside together, you don’t want to leave the person you are entertaining twiddling their thumbs while you toil away in the kitchen.
For starters you might like something simple but impressive like my Salmon and Avocado Towers. Form the mixture into the moulds on serving plates and keep them in the fridge until the last minute. To serve them you just need to remove the moulds – so easy and really impressive.
If the love of your life doesn’t like seafood then a Caesar Salad is a safe bet (leave out the anchovies in the dressing if they're really fussy). Have the salad ready in the bowl with the croutons on one side, then toss and dress just before serving.
For a main course I never want to be stir-frying or cooking pasta or risotto – there’s just too much timing involved. Something that can be quickly roasted in the oven removes all the stress.
My Lamb Medallions with White Bean Puree is one of those recipes that looks and tastes like something you would enjoy in a five-star restaurant, but it’s unbelievably easy to make. I’ve got a great little video here so you can get the gist of this before you head to the kitchen.
Or you might prefer my Pistachio-Crusted Lamb Loin Fillets with Beetroot Confit – another stunning restaurant-style dish (see the video here).
And to finish (or serve as dessert with coffee) whip up my Pistachio and Cherry Chocolate Slice. It’s such a brilliant recipe and you can change out the fruit and nuts as you prefer – instead of using pistachios and dried cherries you might like to try hazelnuts and dried apricots or dried cranberries and almonds.
To drink, it’s hard to go past bubbles, but if that’s not your thing then a menu like this works well with a nice buttery chardonnay or a fruity central Otago pinot noir.
Here’s a toast to Cupid!