Monday, 31 January 2011

The Forman's Love Cook-Off: An indulgent menu for one and a give away!

Let me make something crystal clear: I hate Valentine’s day.

I hate it with a passion.

I swear this has nothing to do with the fact that I’m currently single (yes, boys, form an orderly queue), but with the fact that I’m baffled by the concept that you should do something special with a loved one only once a year.

And don’t get me started on the cheap cuddly toys, the plastic hearts, the bad set menus… Bleurgh!

You can ask the ex (let’s call him “BlondeBoy”): I was never one for V-Day. 3 years together and the only attempt he ever made was on our first Valentine’s together. He got the picture pretty quickly.

To be fair to him it was all very cute: we had been together for only a week and we were butt-ass poor uni students and he just turned up to pick me up at work with a rose. It wasn’t one of the cheap ones from the old gipsy man selling them on the pavement outside the bistrot either!

But that’s all I remember about it… We probably proceeded to join our friends at the pub and spent our money on cheap beer and wine and tequila shots.

Bless young love.

But, yeah, we never really made an effort to go out of our way on V-Day or spend the money we had on over-priced bad restaurant food. We spent a lot of time cooking together, though, but not just on “that day”.

We just shared a great love of food and cooking and treated ourselves to home cooked meals that were far above the average of the usual student fare.

Of course we had a lot of the old Zinger Tower meals, he introduced me to bubble & squeak from a tin and we feasted on baked beans with tinned sausages, but we also had the decency of preparing nice things for each other - Pasta with octopus and red wine springs to mind.

So when the good folk from Forman & Field got in touch to ask me if I wanted to take part in their Forman’s Love Cook Off I had to think about it – What could I bring to the table that wouldn’t fall into the usual February clich├ęs that I hate so much?

Here’s the thing: when BlondeBoy and I broke up I was a little lost.

After 3 years of being in a relationship in which 95% of what I did involved my other half I didn’t know what to do with myself. We had spent so much time together and I just wasn’t used to being alone.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t depressed crying in bed for weeks: I just really didn’t know anymore what to do as a single girl.

But that changed pretty quickly and I started cooking for myself. A lot. And that did the trick.

I now look forward to evenings home alone when I can spend hours in the kitchen preparing a slap-up, 3-course meal all for myself.

I like cooking for friends and family too, but the meals I cook for myself always seem to taste better. An indulgence that I’m realising more and more people are taking up.

And so my “Love Meal” is not a V-Day one and I haven’t cooked it for another half.

It’s a Love Meal from me to me, because, you know, I deserve one.

I really enjoy nibbling and having a glass of wine whilst I cook so the marinated anchovies with garlic I found in my mystery box where just the thing I needed – Plump, flavoursome and fresh.

Aperitivo bliss at its best.

I then swiftly moved on to a savoury “crostata” of tarragon jelly topped with slices of the most amazingly delicate Royal fillet smoked salmon I have ever tried.

The pastry was a savoury adaptation of Italian "pasta frolla" - All lemony and peppery.

To give it a little colour I added a baby spinach salad to the side with Dijon and shallots dressing.

Ooooh, yeah!

My main was made of slow roasted pork belly with a white wine and horseradish gravy unceremoniously plonked over a bed of “risi e bisi” that enjoyed the addition of shredded little gem lettuce because I like green and, well, lettuce made my risotto look greener and more fun.

And last, but not lease dessert: ricotta whipped with Regents Park honey and cream, topped with warm brandied cherries and a balsamic reduction.

Not too shabby for a “I love me meal”, eh?!

And the best part is that now I get to give you all the chance to make a “love meal” too – Leave a comment by 8th February on what your favourite recipe or menu would be to show some love (whether it is just to yourself, your other half or a good friend) and you will be entered in a draw to win a hamper full of Forman & Field goodies.

Not too shabby either and I won’t even judge you if you choose to use it on “That Day”

Enjoy lovers!

P.S. All detailed recipes are available upon request - I figured that writing them all down in the one post would have caused everyone narcolepsy!

P.P.S BlondeBoy is off to Argentina on Thursday to teach English - Good luck and be good! *waves handkerchief*


Pavel said...

Looks amazing, well put together me dear!

Kavey said...

The thing I dislike most about V day is how many people seem to use it as an excuse not to "have to be" romantic at any other time of the year, as if being romantic is a dreadful thing to be accused of and a huge chore. For me, a few formulaic actions on a single day of the year does NOT romantic make.

When cooking for friends, it's got to be about sharing, friendship, fun and what they like. So it would probably be a huge, huge pan of a simple Thai curry (probably a massaman) made from a Mae Ploy paste and my favourite, non-authentic ingredients. Or perhaps a few large pans of Indian curries, using my mum's recipes. These are the kind of things I'd do for a meal for others.

Catherine said...

Very nice indeed.

I can't bear Valentine's day either - who wants prescribed romance? Not to mention all that red and pink makes my eyes hurt.

If I was going to make a meal a deux for me and OH though, it would contain the kinds of things not usually recommended for a romantic night. Lots of garlic (he's a garlic fiend), so perhaps mini versions of Ottolenghi's caramelised garlic tart to start with. Then perhaps a garlic/saffron rich version of moules mariniere, with, of course some frites on the side. My OH doesn't really do dessert, but loves ice cream - current favourite, my very own banana, with a salted rum caramel running through it - he eats all the ice cream and I dig out all the caramel ;-)

meemalee said...

Ooh pork belly FTW!

Also, that crostada looks gorgeous ... damn you, lady :)

Rachel at Catalan Cooking said...

Oh please send me the recipes, especially the crostata and salmon. It all looks amazing

Miss Whiplash said...

I thought the whole point of V day was to provide an opportunity to send (preferably anonymous) messages to the object of your affections, not to sell things to existing couples!
As such, if I was less married and on the market for seduction, I'd cook some kind of eyewateringly hot curry, jammed full of aphrodisiac red chillies - am pretty sure that would do the trick :-)
Of course, since that's not at all the case, I shall perhaps do the same for my lovely husband... Though, as you say, no need to wait for V day for that...

The Grubworm said...

Oh boy that crostata looks luscious. I'd defintiely have that for taht or any other day. It looks beautiful and sounds very very tasty. Good job!

Gin and Crumpets said...

That is a good looking Love Meal for one – you had me at nibbling on the anchovies while you cooked. Presumably with a gin-based cocktail in hand? Or perhaps that's specific to me.

As I am about as sophisticated as a toddler, I still think the best, most romantic meal you can ever make is smoked salmon and brown bread, followed by steak and chips and chocolate mousse. That's right, a provincial hotel menu from the late 1960s is my idea of seduction. This could go some way to explaining why I am single.

Cooking Fairy said...

This looks beautiful my dear. I especially love the cherry dessert. Romantic foods, I love cooking mussels, always followed by steak, and something with chocolate for dessert. This valentines day; maybe i'll have a go at cooking a 3 course meal with foods which are pink and red...... :-)

Food Urchin said...

This is the fourth #formanslovecookoff post I've looked at and I am getting proper annoyed now, this all looks soooo good.

Carla, there must be 'someone' out there who you could share this beautiful meal with?

Dan said...

Lovely menu Carla. Really like all of it really :)

Mairi@Toast said...

That menu sounds amazing! And being a single girl too, good to know there are others out there that love to cook for one! It can be such a perfect Saturday night in with a very good glass of vino and a movie!
My perfect menu some sort of fresh seafood, homemade pasta with a decadently creamy sauce and maybe tarte au citron with a good dollop of homemade ice cream...or a raspberry sorbet. That is making me hungry just thinking about it!

Ute@HungryinLondon said...

I hate Valentine's Day too. We don't have it in Austria and I couldn't believe it when I moved to London. This obsession! and all these pink hearts. and overpriced set meals with even more hearts. I think it's sickening. And if you don't get flowers sent into work (INTO WORK!!!!) this means major crisis. No No, I am with you on a lovely meal for one. Boycott Valentine's Day!

LexEat! said...

I love the idea of cooking something beautiful for one. Eating alone should be enjoyed! And yet I end up munching on a bowl of cereal if it's just me.

Your salmon looks gorgeous and I love the dessert in the tea cup.

Good luck!

Marina said...

Ever since my partner stopped being a vegetarian, the menu for Valentine's Day has consisted of some kind of steak - the biggest, best cut we can afford for the two of us, grilled in a cast iron pan until medium rare. It's always done at home, as well, as there's nothing I hate more than eating around a bunch of couples all trying to be more romantic than the others!

Becci said...

Love the "love me" menu.

As I do literally all the cooking in the house (and I mean all - I cook every day without fail), I love to be indulged with a day off. I don't care what that means, but I don't want to lift a finger. The best v-day meal ever was when Sven actually cooked for me: he did surprisingly good calamari, followed by a shockingly over-reduced sauce with pasta. He even made dessert (well, made might be overstating it somewhat: poached pears with ice-cream). It wasn't the best meal ever, but he COOKED I tell thee. I never thought I'd live to see the day.

rhisfoodieworld said...

I think me meals are great, my favorate me meal is macaroni cheese, very simple yet so comforting. Like a hug with extra cheese (I'm a cheese addict!). I think valentines meals four couples should be something that is special to the couple be that something posh or just a burger. It's the sentiment not how much you spend.

Francesca said...

I think it's safe to say that this is my favourite of all the menus. Nibbling anchovies? YES! Tart to start? YES YES! Pork belly...Oh. God. Yes. And then a cup of cream with boozy fruit?

I'm IN.

Re my valentine's menu, it's probably doesn't work as a menu, bit I would want a salad to start with chicken livers and crumbled up crispy bacon. Then a very slowly roasted shoulder of lamb or a roast duck with a red wine and redcurrant jelly gravy. I can't decided between roasties or dauphs. Pudding may be pannacotta or a chocolate fondant or sticky toffee pudding... YUM.

Karolina said...

Belly pork looks delicious, I love this cut. Never had brandied cherries, very intriguing.

We don't celebrate Valentine's day with my partner, it actually makes us quite sick seeing all those hearts and stuff around, but nevermind. We try to have romantic dinner, candels etc every weekend if we are at home. However, my menu for such dinner would be (and possibly next weekend I wil lmake it):

Celeriac and truffle oil soup with some sourdough grilled bread – celeriac is famous for being an aphrodisiac. ;)

Slow roasted lamb (classic way – lots of thyme, rosemary, good quality olive oil, garlic, red wine and some seasoning), butterbean puree, muscovado glazed mini carrots.

Chocololate and gorgonzola fondant as we both love chocolate and cheese and there is no time to loose after dinner, so rather eat chocolate pudding and then selection of cheese we prefer to have it in one go and focus on more interesting things. ;)

Thanks for this opportunity and all the best!

souperior said...

As much as I love the idea of a romantic dinner cooked by hubbie, it aint never gonna happen. Therefore (as I’m damned if I’m doing it on that day as well as every other!), my idea of a romantic meal would be a selection of yummy deli items, eaten with fingers, whilst curled together up on a rug in front of a warm fire

Monnie Mon said...

Love the 'love me' meal! The pork belly looks particularly amazing *drool*...

For valentine's I've never been into the whole formal restaurant outing. Surely you shouldn't have to pay inflated prices to show someone you love them! Besides, it's much more intimate being at home, in a cosy wine bar or (if you are lucky enough to live somewhere warm!) outdoors enjoying picnic. So I opt for a romantic cheese plate with olives, sundried tomatoes, salad, crusty bread, pickles for him, smoked salmon for me, all washed down with a bottle of red wine.

Applepie22 said...

This has to be love of food,
The anchovies need to be crisped either by baking or rolling in beaten egg and deep frying to be accompanied by strips of pitta bread, slices of tomato and cucumber to be dipped in the tarragon jelly and yogurt with a teaspoon of horseradish sauce stirred in.

rhisfoodieworld suggested macaroni cheese and I thought why not indulge and add macaroni sized pieces of smoked salmon to the macaroni cheese before baking
to enjoy with a red cabbage coleslaw.

The cherries are crying out to be covered so I'd dip them in melted chocolate and sprinkle with grated nuts before using them to decorate the swirls atop a honey mousse,
and forget convention, I'd wash it all down with clamato