For the food of love!

Want to whip up the perfect meal for your Valentine? Here are a few suggestions that will help you dish out the best spread

Indulge in lots of berries this Valentine's Day.

Romantic, mushy, cheesy, classic — whatever your take on a traditional Valentine’s Day meal is, it is here to stay. When it comes to matters of the heart on a platter, few people veer away from the classic components. Think berries, chocolate, the clicking of the champagne flute… it’s all unabashedly lovey-dovey going by our survey. We spoke to a bunch of chefs and they all agree that a romantic V-day meal must be largely sweet with a (very) generous dash of red. Also, non-fussy. Which means, not too many items — the spread should be simple and light.

Berries all the way

For celebrity chef and TV host Sarah Todd, the ingredients are clear. “They must be red and brown. So chocolates and berries it is,” says Sarah. Strawberries, in particular, are a favoured ingredient because of their rich colour and appearance. But that’s not the only reason. Chef Rajat Chandna informs, “Strawberries are also a symbol of Venus, the Roman goddess of love.” Cranberries, raspberries and cherries are the other crimson favourites that could elevate a Valentine meal.

Chef Ashish Joshi, however, believes that red, white and pink in totality make for the most visually appetising romantic meal. “White signifies purity of love. So, fresh dairy products such as cheese, macarons, yoghurt-based dips and chocolate & cream paired with fruits is a great combination. Besides, they act as a great aphrodisiac, too.”

The idea is largely to keep things simple, fresh and light. So, a salad is a natural choice. A Greek salad, in particular, is a good idea for its wholesome quality. Or a spaghetti aglio e olio with lots of fresh veggies such as broccoli, beans, carrots, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, etc. You could add a light tomato soup to the mix with a nice dollop of cream and some fresh crushed herbs to elevate the visual appeal. One could play around with the cream to add a personalised touch to the soup.

Go fancy!

But for those wanting to add a little more zest, Chef Rajat adds, “One could have a grilled duck breast with strawberry and red wine sauce for the main course or balsamic-glazed strawberry to start the meal.” For Sarah, it would be, “A herb-crusted lamb rack with a beetroot puree, followed by a chocolate lava cake with berry sorbet.”

Chef Ranjan suggests starting simple with chilled asparagus soup, then moving to grilled chicken with strawberry compote and roasted baby potatoes. And finally, completing this royal romantic feast with strawberries served with a side of fresh cream and chocolate sauce. For those of you who want to take a slightly less traditional route, a live barbecue outdoors in the nippy February evening is a great idea. And of course, to wash that down, nothing like a bubbly, wine or better even, a sangria. Choose the sweetest of seasonal fruits and you’ve got yourself a yummy drink.

Herb-crusted rack of lamb
Herb-crusted rack of lamb

Whatever your choice of food, plating is paramount on this day. Apart from appetising, the food must be visually appealing, too. Here’s how Chef Ranjan does it. “There are many ways to add love to a dish by plating it. One of my favourites is playing with the colour red. You could do this by adding strawberries and other berries to the base. Secondly, utilising a heart-shaped mould to serve the food.”

If you are someone who can’t wait until the end of the day to express your love, then breakfast is a great idea and a little off the beaten track. Start your day with a relaxed breakfast in bed. A classic choice for most is fried eggs or sunny side up. Use a heart-shaped mould to either shape your toast or crack the egg into. Or toss some fluffy pancakes with a generous sprinkling of castor sugar and a side of honey, chocolate or maple syrup. Plate it with a side of berries again with a chocolate dip if you’re up for a sweet meal.

Last but not least, make a luxurious cuppa tea with lemongrass, mint, ginger, etc. For the coffee drinker, make a frothy cup with some hearty artwork carved with a toothpick or some such. And, of course, it wouldn’t hurt to add a little rose or lily to the tray while you’re at it. Few things jumpstart one’s day like a pampering breakfast in bed, so this is our favourite!

Last and very important, ensure that you set the mood right. Prepare a playlist that you and your partner enjoy, throw in a few flowers in the background, light a few scented candles and voila! A happy Valentine’s it is!

RECIPE

Raspberry Bavaroise with Rose Gelato

Raspberry bavaroise with rose gelato
Raspberry bavaroise with rose gelato

Ingredients

500 ml raspberry puree

200 ml milk

5 egg yolks

50 gm castor sugar

5 leaves gelatin

250 ml double cream

Method

Bring raspberries and milk to a boil.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until thick sabayon forms.

Pour the boiling mix onto this and whisk well.

Return to the heat and cook till it thickens.

Melt the gelatin into this, then pass through a fine sieve, leave to cool in the fridge.

Whisk the cream to soft peaks.

Once the raspberry mix has started to set, fold it into the cream. Pour into the moulds and set in the fridge.

Rose Gelato

Ingredients

Rose petals from 3 roses

½ cup milk

3 ½ cups heavy cream

1 cup granulated sugar

6 egg yolks

¼ cup rose water

3 drops red food colouring (optional)

Method

Wash the rose petals in cold water and pat dry.

In a heavy, non-reactive saucepan, place petals of 2 roses, milk, cream, and ½ cup of the sugar.

Place over medium heat and heat to just under boiling.

Let the mixture steep for about a half hour to infuse.

Combine the egg yolks and the remaining ½ cup of sugar in a mixing bowl. Whisk until thick and pale yellow. Bring the rose/cream mixture back to a near boil and whisk ¼th of the warm mixture into the egg and sugar mixture. Then pour all of the egg mixture into the rose milk and place over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Strain into a bowl and chill on ice. Pour into the ice cream maker and freeze & then churn it. Transfer the finished ice cream into a bowl and adds the torn petals from the remaining rose. Fold into ice cream and pack into a freezing container.

Courtesy: Siva Kumar, pastry chef, ibis and Novotel Bengaluru Outer Ring Road

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For the food of love!

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