Be my Valentine - Fun Food, Love.Gin & Dining In

Monday 9 February 2015
"The way to a man's heart is through his stomach" No matter how you look at it, food and love are inextricably linked. There are certainly plenty of quotes to be found on the subject 

"There is no love sincerer than the love of food." George Bernard Shaw
"Cooking is like love: It should be entered into with abandon or not at all." Harriet van Horne
"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." Virginia Woolf
"People who love to eat are always the best people." Julia Child

Whether you are feeling slushy and romantic with a special someone or simply love good food, I've got some seasonal Valentines ideas to share.

Firstly the fun ones. I've made all of these over the past few years. My husband is indeed a very lucky man. More quirky and cute than outright romantic. Fruity messages included: I love you Berry Berry much, I'm going Bananas over you, Orange you glad you're my Valentine, We make the perfect Pear and You're the Apple of my Eye. Next up - Hotdog and Cheese Hearts. Nothing quite says true love like processed meat. Brie My Valentine was last year's sentiment stamped out with alphabet cookie cutters on heart shaped brie. Carefully sliced Cherry Tomatoes combine to make the perfect love heart. Romance and one of your five a day.

2015 is the Scottish Year of Food and Drink. The aim of the Year is to mark, highlight and promote Scotland’s abundant, quality produce to both locals and visitors. Each month has a different theme. February is of course "Food of Love". Looking forward to March, the theme is Brewing and Distilling. That gives two whole months to enjoy the recently launched Love.Gin from Eden Mill Distillery and Brewery in St Andrews. Limited edition of only 2,400 bottles. Available online and from specialist bottle shops.

And the verdict? It's lurvely! Very mellow and easily drinkable. Slightly fruity - think berries/rhubarb. Went down very easily. Problem with the solid bottle is that you can't see how much (or how little!) is left!
The official tasting notes are as follows:
Key Botanicals - Juniper, coriander, angelica root, Hibiscus, Rose petal, Elderberry, Rhubarb Root, Marshmallow root, Goji Berry, Raspberry leaf.
Nose - Soft subtle juniper on the nose, touch of warm spiced berries - strawberry, raspberry. Sweet vanilla and green fruits - green apple and pears. Finishing with very delicate citrus pink grapefruit and drop of rose water at the very end.
Taste - Taste of strong warming spirit, (gin) juniper and rhubarb spice that quickly becomes very mellow, soft and sweet - very ripe berries at first, freeze dried strawberries, raspberries with the sweet vanilla, rhubarb and custard (sweets) notes returning and finishing with green apple citrus and hint of rose water

If the forced romanticism of a eating out on Valentine's Day isn't for you, why not cook up a storm at home? I've got a delicious recipe courtesy of Marks & Spenser to share with you. We enjoyed it as a romantic family meal for four. Long gone are the days of dining a deux. Wonderful flavours, looks very impressive but is actually very straightforward to make. I can definitely see me adding the baked plums with star annise, port and soy sauce to other dishes and the fried ginger matchsticks which were sprinkled on top provided a real kick to the tastebuds. Light on calories too.

Duck Breast & Plum Salad

Ready in 30 minutes, Serves 4

Reproduced with permission of Marks & Spencer


2 tbsp olive oil
4 duck breasts, skin removed
8 plums, halved and stoned
1 star anise
3 tbsp port
2 tbsp soy sauce
125g rice noodles
Thumb-sized piece root ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
½ x 25g pack fresh coriander, leaves only
½ x 25g pack fresh mint, roughly chopped
4 handfuls rocket leaves

Heat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius / 375 degrees Fahrenheit / gas 5 (170 degrees Celsius for fan ovens). In a small, ovenproof frying pan, heat 1tbsp of the oil. Season the duck breasts and fry for 2 – 3 minutes each side, until starting to brown. Transfer to the oven for a further 15 minutes, then remove and set aside.
Meanwhile, sit the plums, cut side-up, in a small roasting tin with the star anise. Drizzle over the port and soy sauce. Roast for 10 – 15 minutes, adding a splash of water to the tin if it becomes dry. Set aside.
Cook the noodles according to packet instructions, then drain and refresh under cold water. Heat the remaining oil in a small frying pan and fry the ginger for 2 minutes, until golden. Drain on kitchen paper.
Toss the noodles with the herbs and rocket. Divide among 4 serving plates and add the plums. Slice the duck breasts and arrange on top with the fried ginger, then spoon over any pan juices from the plums.

Per serving:
334 calories, 14.9 fat (3.5g saturated), 196g carbohydrates, 11.7g sugar, 2.9g fibre, 28.6g protein, 1.52g salt

If cooking from scratch is a step too far its definitely not a cop out to go for a M&S Valentine's Day Dine in for Two deal. #Valendinein This offer runs from 11th - 16th February and includes Starter, Main, Side, Desert, Plonk and Choccies. I honestly couldn't fault our meal, tasty, decadent and fantastic value for money. Only problem is knowing what to choose from all that's available. We opted for Coquilles St Jacques, Fillet of Beef Wellington, Pea, bean & Veg Layer, Posh Profiterole Stack, Cava Rosado and Chocolates. The full listing of items included in the offer is available here. I think we might have to do it all over again before the 16th.

I'm going to end with an other food and love quote. This one comes from the inimitable Dolly Parton. "My weaknesses have always been food and men—in that order." 

Disclaimer : M&S provided me with a £20 Valentine Meal Deal and recipe ingredients. Eden Mill provided a bottle of Love.Gin. All views expressed are my own.

Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage
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  1. The duck and plum breast combo sounds like a really fab idea for Valentines day.

    1. It was unbelievably tasty and actually really easy to make. Exactly the kind of dish I love.

  2. That Duck Salad sounds divine but I'd take the meal deal any day over cooking on Valentines Day:-)

    1. Cooking on Valentines Day doesn't bother me. I'm not all that keen on the idea there being one special romantic day in a year. Saying that I wouldn't say no to a meal deal!

  3. I've made a beeline for the M&S Valentine's Day deal - it's mostly a winner! I've yet to try duck breast in a salad but the plums and duck breast are a great combo and you've made a sterling job of that delicious salad.

    1. It's such a good deal, beats splashing out on an overpriced restaurant #ValenDineIn

  4. Oh I love your hotdog and cheese hearts and cherry tomato hearts! What a cute idea. Love the sound of the duck and plum salad recipe, thank you

    1. I can't resist a cute food idea. Wonder what else I could use to make hearts with?

  5. So many lovely ideas for Valentine's. Your salad sounds delicious.

    Thanks for joining in with #FoodYearLinkup and thanks for the extra dates for the calendar I'll be adding them all for next month's update.

  6. Duck and plum-perfection! Thanks for linking up to #tastytuesdays x


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