Lovin’ spoonfuls

Valentine’s Day can be an opportunity to celebrate culinary as well as romantic attachments


Valentine’s Day. Yes, it’s coming up to that time of year again. I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s all a bit too tidy and twee, so if I were Minister of Holidays I would wave a magic wand and replace Valentine’s Day with a day to celebrate delicious food.

It would be a day for celebrating all sorts of culinary attachments, without a whiff of flowers (except edible ones), cuddly toys (unless they were marinated and grilled) or cloyingly sweet cards (if they contain really good chocolate and a useful recipe, then okay).

You could invite family round for a rocking good brunch or, if that notion brings you out in a cold sweat, get your closest mates over for board games, tapas-style food and cocktails.

But sometimes I appreciate that you do want to do something, just the two of you, and that “something” happens to be sharing a tasty meal. So it’s essential that you’re not kept hovering at the stove all evening and therefore more than the desired two feet (or less) away from your loved one.

While it can be fun to have more than one course, I don’t often go as far as three, usually because it can send people into a food coma – not the desired result if searching for romance.

My recipes this week are tasty enough to be served on Valentine’s Day, but work equally well for a midweek supper with some pals. The crostini are the perfect late-winter starter – the creamy, flavoursome puree is the perfect foil for the crunch of baguette and oven-crisped kale (or, as here, cavolo nero).

Most readers will know I am a big fan of tinned beans but, in this case, I must insist you use dried cannellini beans and cook them in just enough water, as per the recipe. This method ensures a creamy bean that is far away from the water-logged ones you get in cans – which, although they are perfect for some recipes, simply won’t do for this one. The white beans are the star of the show and the sublime texture you’ll get in this recipe cannot be found in a tin.

The chicken and red cabbage main course is a bit different, and surprisingly easy to prepare. The cabbage can be done beforehand and heated up, and the chicken goujons can be breaded and ready to go in the oven as you sit down to your starter. No deep-fat frying is required, which is always a plus – no one wants to look shiny and frazzled at the start of a hot date – leaving you time to chat and have a glass of wine.

Now that’s my idea of romantic.

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