A three-course no-fuss Valentine’s feast for the whole family
Everyone can help to make this Italian-style dinner, including the kid-friendly tiramisu
The three-course Valentine’s feast
I always feel a little disillusioned going out for a romantic meal on Valentine’s Day. The food is overpriced and the tables are filled with over-eager young folk trying to impress in the hopes of a smooch at the end of the night. When you’re in a long-term relationship with kids you don’t really need Hallmark to tell you that you love each other.
Nevertheless, I do like to mark the occasion with all the family together, especially the younger ones. Getting kids involved in creating a Valentine’s feast gives them a sense of belonging, security and a huge feeling of accomplishment at the end. You can start by giving them simple tasks, such as setting the table. If they have made a little card at Montessori or school, make that the centrepiece (being mindful of candles). Think of the sense of pride when they see how we appreciate their art work.
When it comes to food prep, never underestimate what a young child can do. My five-year-old Lily-Mae loves to cook, whether it’s peeling garlic, tearing parsley or rolling meatballs. And this three-course meal is a great one for little helping hands, finishing with a child-friendly tiramisu made with hot chocolate instead of espresso. Delicious!
Family is where life begins and love never ends, so what better way to celebrate Valentine’s than with a feast together?
A FAMILY VALENTINE’S FEAST
This three-course meal is easily prepared with no-fuss ingredients, and is budget friendly to boot.
You will need a saucepan with a lid, a mini-muffin tin, a shallow dish and two large mixing bowls. My meatballs are cooked in a mini muffin tin, so no standing over the frying pan.
You may want to start by prepping the dessert as this needs to chill for an hour before serving.
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
4 mini baguettes
4 garlic cloves
A bunch of fresh parsley
50g cheddar cheese, grated
Preheat the oven at 180 degrees.
Make the garlic butter by peeling and crushing the garlic cloves, snipping the fresh parsley and mixing them all into the butter.
Cut the baguettes in half and spread on the garlic butter generously.
Sprinkle the grated cheddar on top, then bake them in the oven for 15 minutes.
SPEEDY MEATBALLS IN MARINARA SAUCE
For the meatballs
500g pork mince
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp dried oregano
For the marinara sauce
400g carton of passata
2 garlic cloves
1 red pepper
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
Grate one of the onions and add it to a mixing bowl along with the pork mince, crushed garlic and oregano.
Get your hands stuck in and mould the mince into 12 meatballs.
Put the 12 balls into the muffin tin, one in each hole.
Place in the oven on the middle shelf and cook for 25 minutes.
Next for the sauce. Chop the other onion and the red pepper, and crush the garlic.
Heat a little olive oil in the frying pan over a medium heat and add in the chopped vegetables and garlic, cooking until softened.
Add the passata, tomato puree, balsamic vinegar and herbs. Season with a little salt and pepper.
Turn the sauce down to a low heat and cover with a lid letting it bubble gently for 20 minutes.
Add in your meatballs and serve with a pasta of your choice.
Tip: You can leave the sauce chunky, but if you want to hide the veggies from your children, simply blend it with a hand blender before adding the meatballs.
16 lady fingers (also known as boudoir or savoiardi biscuits)
200ml hot chocolate, made with milk and hot chocolate powder
250ml double cream
2 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
40g good-quality chocolate
Put the cream, mascarpone, vanilla essence and icing sugar into a large bowl and whisk until you have the consistency of whipped cream.
Lay out the lady fingers in a shallow dish then pour the hot chocolate over them so they are nicely soaked but not too soggy.
Once they are ready, take four serving glasses and put two lady fingers at the bottom of each. Scatter with raspberries and top with your mascarpone mixture.
Repeat this step to give a nice layered effect, finishing with a layer of the mascarpone cream.
Dust each one with a little cocoa powder and, for an extra flourish, grate your chocolate on top. Finish off with a raspberry.
Chill for an hour before serving.