I was looking for some St Valentine day inspiration on Internet and was surprised with the number of blogs slating the occasion. It usually starts along the lines "too commercialized", "one should love and care about their dear ones everyday" etc etc and then...the post ends with something like "nonetheless, here I share a St Valentine recipe with you" :) Of course, they don't want to miss all this St Valentine's visitors traffic, but, no no no, they are not "commercializing" it, they are just hypocritical about it ;)
I actually think that the more occasions we have the better. And with all the routine around us, we need everything that can help to pull us out of it, including shops windows screaming at us with "Stop! This holiday is on the door, what have you done to make it special today!" Human beings are lazy by nature and all these "we love each other everyday", in my opinion, in 80% of cases translate into "I am just too lazy/busy/greedy to buy a card and flowers for you or prepare a special romantic evening". I myself, sometimes, would greatly appreciate someone pulling me from the sofa by the ear and kicking me out of the door to have this special occasion celebrated. Well, with twins, now, even time on the sofa looks like a special occasion :), but I can still manage to do a romantic dinner for a man I love! And "romantic" doesn't not necessary mean candles and rose petals, I would define it as just going an extra mile to make your loved ones smile!
Well, my granddad used to say "A way to a man's heart goes through his stomach"! And my man loves his meat and everything that is sweet! So, if some of your loved ones are similar to him, I can suggest the following two recipes which might require a bit of time investment but look "special" and taste good too!
A Medley of Meat Roulades with Prunes, Camembert and Walnuts served with Heart Shaped Duchess Potatoes and Shallots Chutney
- 4 pork boneless chops or shoulder steaks
- 4 chicken breasts
- 200g of prunes
- 60g of walnuts
- 125g of Camembert cheese
- Condiments: salt, black pepper, smoked paprika
- Sauce: 3 Tbsp honey, 3 Tbsp mustard, 3 tbsp of soy sauce, 100g mayo, 200ml plum wine (optional for those who like wines in dishes and more intense taste, but can be replaced with boiled water), 200ml of boiled water
- For potatoes: 700g of frozen mashed potatoes (or you can make it from scratch), 2 eggs, smoked paprika
- For chutney: 200g of shallots, 90g pancetta and all the juices from the prepared meat (or you can buy any prepared chutney you like: mango, onions etc)
- Pound meat with a meat mallet. Don't forget to put the steaks into a sandwich bag or between two layers of cling film - this way you will save the kitchen from all the tiny drops of the meat juices with the potential to grow bacteria etc. You will need to pre-cut the chicken breasts to "widen" their surface into some sort of heart shapes - just don't cut entirely through and "open" the slices out. Chicken meat is not as elastic as pork, so if you are a cooking novice you might consider sticking to pork chops only.
- Season each piece with salt, pepper and paprika.
- "Load" each meat piece with the staffing - 2-3 prunes (depending on the size of your chops/steaks), small piece of Camembert and some coarsely chopped walnuts.
- Roll the meat into roulades and secure with the cooking string (you can use toothpicks, but it's a bit more trickier and not that secure).
- Seal the roulades by browning them in the frying pan. Afterwards you can remove the string because by this time the roulades should keep their shape.
- Transfer the roulades into the baking tin and cover with the sauce for which you just really mix all the ingredients together. For the tender and juicy meat cover the tin, for more "crustier" and caramelized version you can leave the tin uncovered. Bake at about 190C for about an hour.
- While the meat is in the oven, you can prepare the potatoes. Mix mashed potatoes with paprika and one egg. Because I am using a ready made mash, it's already seasoned. So, don't forget to season it, if you prepare one from scratch. Using an icing bag, pipe the potatoes in heart shapes into the tin lined with the baking paper. Bake in the oven for around 20 min at 190C (you can do this together with meat). Pull the potatoes out and brush them over with the egg wash (egg with a bit of water or milk). Then, put them back into the oven until they get this lovely golden color.
- For the chutney, fry pancetta with shallots until golden and then add the juices from the meat. Leave simmering to reduce the liquid until the wooden spoon will be leaving clear marks behind on the frying pan.
- Cut both pork and chicken roulades and arrange on the plate. Add potatoes and finish each heart with a spoon of chutney. If you still have some time, some crispy salad will go well with this dish too!
And for the dessert may I suggest the following roll. No-bake cheesecake might not be for everyone, but my husband likes "as much of sweet cream as possible and very little dough". For simplicity, I decorated the roll in various abstract shapes of different cacao shades, but you can go ahead and have fun with drawing whatever your heart desires in whatever color you want. Also, please, note that this recipe uses 2 raw egg whites, if you are afraid to eat uncooked eggs, please, use pasteurized egg whites. I adopted this recipe for a busy mom, so contrary to other recipes on Internet it doesn't require different types of dough, separate egg whites whisking for the dough and minimizes multiple pots juggling and cleaning, so the result might not be "by the book" but good enough for me and my loved ones :)
A Patterned No-Bake Cheesecake Roll
- 5 eggs (3 eggs +2 yolks for the dough and 2 egg whites for the cheesecake)
- 1 cup of fine sugar (1/2 for the dough and 1/2 for the filling)
- 1/2 cup plain flour
- 300 g cream cheese
- 200 ml double cream
- any powder/crystal mix fruit jelly of any brand (the amount of jello should call for 500ml of liquid)
- food coloring (cacao in this particular case) + 1 tsp of oil+ additional flour for the "drawing" mixture
- vanilla and lemon juice
- Whip 3 eggs + 2 egg yolks with 1/2 cup of sugar and vanilla until fluffy and double in size. Then, carefully, add 1/2 cup of flour and mix it in at the lowest setting of your mixer for no more than 10-15 seconds. Take away about 5 Tbsp of the mixture into another mixing bowl (you might need more or less depending on the pattern you have in mind). This will be used for the drawing pattern.
- Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil into the drawing mixture and the food coloring of your choice. Then keep adding plain flour until the mixture is of a "writing" consistency and keeps its shape. Since I was using cacao, it required less flour. Also, because I was using two shades of cacao mixture, after I drew the smaller circles of lighter shades, I added more cacao for bigger darker shapes.
- For the drawing, please, use the thinnest writing nozzle of your icing syringe or bag. I used a special silicone baking mat for my roll, but you can use greaseproof baking paper with the pattern printed from the Internet or drawn by hand underneath it. Because the baking paper is transparent it will be absolutely fine. Now, I would recommend practicing on a small piece of paper before approaching your main "project", depending on the size of your nozzle and how runny your dough is, you will need to figure out how far from the actual border of your shapes you should draw. If you draw exactly on the lines and your nozzle it too big or dough is too runny, your shapes might loose their intended form.
- After you are finished with "the art" piece, place it for about 15 minutes into a freezer. Then pour all the remaining egg sponge mixture above and bake at 190C for about 20 min. But, please, check not to overbake. The moment the toothpick is going out of the bake completely dry - pull the sponge out. Let it rest for about 5-10 min but then roll it while it's still hot and flexible. Leave it to completely cool down in a rolled shape.
- For the filling prepare a jello mixture as per your brand instructions but instead of 500 ml of liquid required add only 100 ml. I used a cherry flavored Dr Oetker. While it's still hot add the cream cheese there.
- In a separate bowl whisk 2 egg whites with 1/2 cup of sugar and some lemon juice until peaks formed. Mix egg whites with the cheese and jello mixture. Add whipped double cream there at the end.
- Pour the mixture into 1 litre plastic bottle with the narrow part cut off. I used the one from Fiji water, but you can use any 1 L really. You should have still some of the mixture left, don't dispose it and leave at the room temperature - you will use it as a "glue" between the sponge and the cheesecake. Put the bottle into a plastic bag and leave in a freezer for about 30 min. After the cheesecake is set, cut the bottle off and put the cheesecake on the sponge which had been spread with the remaining mixture at room temperature. Roll the cake together and leave in the fridge (not freezer) for another 30 minutes.
- Cut the "ugly" bits from each side of the cake out and you have your own piece of the baking art ready!
- Don't get scared by the detailed instructions, indeed the cake is really easy to prepare and I managed to do it in between the twins feeds and laundry washing! I am trying to cut the sugar content in my bakes, so this version is not overly sweet but you can add more into the cheesecake mixture for sweeter tooth, just remember that jello mixtures are sugared too and double cream has certain sweetness to it as well.