Whatever you get up to on Valentine’s night (and truly, I’d rather not know) my guess is you’ve got better things to do than spend it slaving over a hot stove. So this is an unashamed cheat’s menu for you to romance your loved one with the absolute minimum of effort. Needless to say, buy only the very best ingredients.
100g (3 1/2 oz) best quality (i.e. wild or, at the very least, organic) finely sliced smoked salmon
30g (1 oz) jar of caviar or a caviar substitute
A packet of miniature blinis
3 heaped tbsp crème fraîche
A little finely grated lemon rind
Mix the crème fraîche with a little finely grated lemon rind (Go easy. You don’t want it to be too lemony.) Arrange the smoked salmon artistically on the blinis, top with a blob of creme fraiche then spoon over a little caviare. That’s it.
Strictly this dish is best made from scratch with a live lobster but butchering a lobster doesn't strike me as the perfect prelude to a night of seduction.
1 medium to large cooked lobster
60g (2 1/2 oz) butter
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
Juice of 1 small lime (about 2 tbsp)
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
14-16 basil leaves, finely shredded
Salt and cayenne pepper
Place the lobster, underside downwards on a chopping board and cut through it vertically with a large sharp knife. Carefully remove the white meat from the tail and remove the long thin membrane near the back. Remove the claws and crack them with lobster crackers or hit them smartly with a mallet. Carefully remove the meat, breaking it up as little as possible. Pick out any remaining white meat from the shell, scrape out the rest and discard. Cut the meat into largeish chunks.
Carefully transfer the empty shells to an ovenproof baking dish and reassemble the lobster meat in the shells. Preheat the grill. Melt the butter gently in a saucepan, stir in the garlic, lime juice and ginger and cook for a minute. Add the basil and season with salt and pepper. Spoon carefully over the lobster then place the baking dish under a hot grill for about 4 minutes until you can hear it begin to bubble. Serve with a rocket salad and chips or new potatoes.
Those of you who’ve never tried frozen vodka may be amazed to discover that it doesn’t actually freeze if you put it in the freezer. But it becomes wonderfully cold and syrupy. This looks fantastic in frozen martini glasses. Leave them in the freezer compartment until you’re ready to serve up (or if there isn’t room fill them with ice and a little water then pour it out and dry them just before you spoon in the sorbet.
A 'frozen' bottle of vodka (keep in the freezer compartment until you need it)
A carton of good quality lemon sorbet
Take the sorbet out of the freezer and put it in the fridge about 20 minutes before you plan to serve it to make it soft enough to scoop. Spoon out a couple of generous scoops and place them in each frosted glass. Pour over 2-3 tbsp of frozen vodka. Await gasps of admiration.
* You can obviously make this with other sorbets. Raspberry goes well with vodka too
What to drink:
Quality rather than quantity is the name of the game on Valentine's night (you don't want to end up snoring . . . ) One good bottle of Champagne will see you through the first and second courses and the dessert contains its own alcohol. If you prefer, however, you could drink Champagne with the blinis and switch to a good white burgundy or top quality Chardonnay with the lobster.