Saturday, March 29, 2014


Valentine’s Day, a day for romance and surprising loved ones with something special. I did a bit of research about the history of Valentine’s Day and found that a certain Roman Emperor by the name of Claudius II,  who lived in the 3rd century decided that single men make better soldiers than married men. He came up with the idea to outlaw marriage for young men. That sounds like a pretty unreasonable idea to me but in these kinds of unfair sounding measures there is always help on the way.

Luckily for those poor young soldiers there was a priest by the name of Valentine who dared to take the risk and married young couples in secret. The Emperor figured out that this was happening and decided that the priest should be executed. A true sad story, but romantic also in a way, the priest was later given Sainthood and February 14 was declared St Valentine’s day by Pope Gelasius at the end of the fifth century. Many other romantic sounding stories have been written about Valentine’s Day but I could not find anything of interest about food becoming a part of the Valentine’s Day celebrations. Many stories about all the cards we send each other and how that all started, but where did the romantic dinner come from? I honestly do not know. What I do know is that organizing a romantic dinner for two is a great idea. I like the whole dinner idea a lot better than a bunch of roses. Stick to the roses but do not make them the centre piece of your Valentine celebrations. A romantic dinner for two should however be for two, not the two of you at a small table in a crowded restaurant. Dinner for two is dinner for two. February 14 falls on a Friday this year and if you are a hard working person, that can be just the most inconvenient day of the week to prepare a nice dinner for two. So I thought, let me help you a little bit.  If there is one thing that you do not want to happen on a day like Valentine’s Day it must be that something goes wrong with your planned dinner. I mean, you are all set, getting in a romantic mood and just when you are about to turn on the soft music …. you got it, that burned smell from the kitchen.    How do you avoid this from happening? First of all, make sure that all your cooking preparations are ready. Second, avoid a menu that requires you to spend half of the evening in the kitchen. You may end up with a dinner for one that way. A warm salad with smoked meat, e.g. duck breast, sounds like a nice starter. Then pan seared salmon with a fine type of pasta, e.g. linguine, cherry tomatoes, olives and broccoli florets and for dessert, Panna Cotta. Nice dinner. Now the execution:  You can make this whole recipe in advance. You just need to heat it up for a few minutes, except for the dessert of course.   

For the salad you will need: ½ Nos Green Bell Pepper, ½ Nos Yellow Bell Pepper, ½ Nos Red Bell Pepper, 1 Nos Shallot, ½ Nos Green Courgette (Zucchini), 100 Gr Smoked Duck breast (sliced), 100 Gr Soft goats cheese (Chèvre), Bunch Alfalfa sprouts, Dressing: 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, ½ Tsp Dijon mustard. Method: Mix the dressing ingredients, season with salt and pepper. Store in a container until use. Slice the bell peppers in strips. Cut the shallot in half and then into thin slices. Cut the zucchini lengthwise and then into half round slices. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a skillet, add the shallots and fry a few seconds, add the bell peppers and zucchini. Fry for half a minute. Add a little salt and pepper and remove from the pan onto a piece of kitchen paper towel. Leave to cool. When the mix has cooled the ingredients should be crunchy. Place the mix in a vacuum bag and vacuum seal. Keep chilled. Slice the duck breast thinly at a 45 degrees angle, vacuum seal in a separate vacuum bag and keep chilled.

For the main course you need:200 Gr Dry linguine1 Small bunch broccoli (cut into small florets)1 Nos shallot (cut into slices)8 Nos black olives (de-seeded)5 Nos cherry tomatoes (halved)2 Nos bone-less, skin-less, salmon steak (170 Gr each)1 Small bunch basil leaves (half chopped and the other half for garnish)Salt, pepper, olive oil

Method:Bring 2 liters of water to a boil in a 4 liter sized pot. Add some salt and cook the pasta as per the cooking instruction on the packing. Rinse cold, drain, sprinkle a bit of olive oil and mix, this is to stop the pasta from sticking together. You have about 400 gr of cooked pasta now.   Heat 2 Tbsp of oil in a skillet, add shallots and the broccoli and fry at medium heat for 2 minutes.Add the olives and cherry tomatoes and mix.Add enough of the pasta for 2 portions, add the chopped basil leaves and mix well, season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.When the pasta has cooled, place it in a vacuum bag, vacuum and keep chilled.Heat 2 to 3 tbsp olive oil in a skillet.Season the salmon steaks with salt and pepper and fry the steaks for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.Remove from the pan, drain the steaks on a paper towel and cool.When the steaks have cooled down, place them in a vacuum bag and vacuum seal without squashing them. Keep chilled.

For the dessert you need:2 cups (1/2 l) heavy cream (or half-and-half)1/4 cup (50g) sugar1 teaspoons vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise1 packets powdered gelatin (about 4 1/2 teaspoons)3 tablespoons cold water250 gr frozen mixed berries100 gr sugar¼ cup rum

1. Heat the heavy cream and sugar in a saucepan.  Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.(If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the bean into the cream and add the bean pod. Cover, and let infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the bean then reheat the mixture before continuing.)2. Lightly oil four custard cups with neutral-tasting oil.3. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.4. Pour the very warm Panna Cotta mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.5. Divide the Panna Cotta mixture into the prepared cups, then chill them until firm, which will take at least two hours (but I let them stand at least four hours).  You can also pour the Panna Cotta mixture into wine goblets so you can serve them in the glasses, without unmolding. Step 6 is then also not necessary. 6. Run a sharp knife around the edge of each Panna Cotta and unmold each onto a serving plate, and garnish as desired.Boil the mixed berries with a few tablespoons of water, 100 gr sugar and the rum for 5 minutes. Leave to cool.So, everything is all done and ready to go.The only thing left to do is to make a pot of hot water on Valentine’s Day.Make sure your water is not boiling but in the region of 190 F or 90 CelsiusAdd the vegetables for the salad to the water for 4 to 5 minutes.Remove from the bag, divide them over two plates, crumble the cheese over the vegetables, top with the duck breast slices and garnish with the alfalva sprouts. Sprinkle some dressing over the dish and serve.  Do the same with the main course. Heat both bags 4 to 5 minutes in the hot water. Divide the pasta over two plates, top each plate with a salmon steak and garnish with a few basil leaves.

And your dessert, well that should not be a big thing anymore I think.Enjoy your Valentines Day.  
Written for PMG by: 
(Professional Chef) 
Marinus Hoogendoorn
Culinary expert in recipe development