Make dining at home a special occasion this Valentine’s Day

Paul Flynn: A three-course celebratory feast of scallops, lamb and mascarpone mousse

Coquilles St Jacques, smoked paprika and rosemary butter. Photograph: Alan Betson

Coquilles St Jacques, smoked paprika and rosemary butter. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

I’m a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to Valentine’s Day. It isn’t the case that I’m not a romantic. My wife, Máire, who corrects my appalling punctuation before my articles wing their way to Dublin, might disagree though.

It could be that I’m just on the wrong side of 30 and don’t like to be told when I should get all loved up. It’s all so, well, forced. Call me a cantankerous old goat; you might be right.

People would always say to us on Valentine’s Day, “You must be so busy tonight?” We would always reply: “We are, it’s great.” In truth, Valentine’s night is one of the quietest nights of the year, in the literal sense. Furtive, uncomfortable boys bring in their girls. Tables of four and six give way to two tops. The restaurant is hushed because of the diminished capacity and the nervous disposition of the diners. For the most part, the boys just want to be in the pub. This year we will miss them. The glamorous girls brought sparkle to the restaurant. We could all do with more sparkle these days.

For those of you who do want to make the night special, I’ve come up with a dinner you might like to try. There’s a little bit of extra effort to do all three recipes but it’s a project well worth doing. Who knows what may come of it? My own future was bonded through food and my wife is still putting up with me all these years later.

So, to start, baked scallops in the shell with a rim of mash and some luxurious smoked paprika butter. How very seventies. You will have to see if your fishmonger can get some scallop shells for you. Otherwise use shallow ramekins. If you can’t get scallops, use large raw prawns instead, four per person.

Lamb Shanks, soft polenta, cabbage and anchovy. Photograph: Alan Betson
Lamb shanks, soft polenta, cabbage and anchovy. Photograph: Alan Betson

For main course, luxurious, melting lamb shanks with buttery polenta laden with Parmesan. Who wouldn’t succumb? The anchovies are optional and interesting, be brave, it’s a classic combination.

Mascarpone mousse, sticky grapes, frosted almonds. Photograph: Alan Betson
Mascarpone mousse, sticky grapes, frosted almonds. Photograph: Alan Betson

For dessert, try my light and airy version of a cheesecake. You can assemble this in advance and put the almonds on at the end. It will finish the night with a twinkle. 

Recipe: Coquilles St Jacques, smoked paprika butter

Recipe: Lamb shanks, polenta, cabbage and anchovy

Recipe: Mascarpone mousse, sticky grapes, frosted almonds

 

 

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