Valentine’s Day Cooking Tips From Michelin-Star Chefs
Mr Ollie Templeton’s crab tagliatelle at Carousel. Photograph by Ms Hannah India, courtesy of Carousel
If the way to their heart is through their stomach, look no further.
Like it, loathe it, or be ideologically opposed to it, there’s no harm in doing something that you usually wouldn’t for your other half on Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t necessarily mean breaking the bank at Tiffany or buying a dodgy card; a gesture as simple as cooking a good meal is more thoughtful and effective than throwing money (or meaningless slogans) at the situation. To make a good meal great, we asked five of the UK’s best chefs what they’ll be serving on 14 February and how to re-enact their Michelin magic at home.
Perfect roast chicken and rose chocolate to finish
“For me, it’s always caviar to start,” says Mr Tom Sellers. “Then I’ll make a simple, perfect roast chicken with a few light sides, but nothing too complex – you don’t want to be in the kitchen all night slaving away. Finish dinner with chocolate. I have just put chocolate infused with rose on the menu at Story for Valentine’s as they go together so beautifully. Make sure you plate it with love, too.”
How to make it
For the perfect roast chicken, the trick is to make sure the bird is at room temperature before you slide it into the oven. Take it out of the fridge at least an hour before you start cooking. Crank the oven up to 220ºC and roast for the first 10 minutes at a high heat to guarantee super crispy skin, then continue to cook at 180ºC for the duration, depending on its weight.
Adding rose to your chocolate doesn’t have to be complicated. Buy some rose water and simply splash a couple of drops into a chocolate sauce. Don’t get overzealous: you don’t want to be biting into a bouquet.
“If I were to cook a dish for a special someone, it would undoubtedly be my bucatini with ’nduja butter, stracciatella and mustard powder,” says Mr Ollie Templeton. “Why? Because I’ve been playing around with a shed load of pasta ideas recently and this was fantastic. Good enough to woo anyone.”
How to make it
While Mr Templeton makes his own bucatini (basically fat spaghetti with a hole through the middle), it’ll taste almost as good with a good quality supermarket dried pasta (such as De Cecce). ’Nduja is a supremely delicious spreadable sausage native to Italy. It melts into pasta sauce like a dream, so chop some tomatoes and garlic, fry gently and toss in some ’nduja and wait for it to melt. Then top with some stracciatella cheese (a fine-quality buffalo mozzarella works just as well) and a sprinkling of basil leaves for a dish worthy of a chef.
Spice things up
“To win my partner Penny’s heart on Valentine’s day, I always chop up a massive Thai papaya salad as it’s her absolutely favourite,” says Mr Simon Rogan. “She’s always loved raw veg and its always Thai on the menu when we cook at home (or call on a takeaway). We love the intensity of Thai dressings – they pack in bundles of flavour without excess fat. We’ll be washing it down with a G&T or two, or maybe even a Thai-spiced Bloody Mary to continue the theme.”
How to make it
Thai food is all about the prep and a papaya salad – or som tam – is no different. Chop a handful of cherry tomatoes in half, a couple of red chillies (one if you’re anti-heat), six chopped green beans and half a grated papaya (most big supermarkets sell them now) and toss together. The real joy is in the dressing. Grate a clove of garlic, a thumb-size piece of ginger and juice two limes and grind it all in a pestle and mortar. Add a sprinkling of sugar (palm sugar, if you’ve got it), a splash of fish sauce and splash of soy. Douse the veg, give it a toss and leave it to sit and soak up the flavour. Chop a bunch of mint and handful of Thai basil then sprinkle on top. Serve with grilled chicken skewers to complete the look.
A light take on a classic
“I’d prepare chicken champignon as it was the first dish I ever cooked for my wife, Amanda,” says Mr Sat Bains. “It’s a favourite for the both of us and serves to remind us where we came from.”
How to make it
Chicken champignon – or chicken in a mushroom sauce – is simple to make and doesn’t have to be laden with cream. Fry some chicken thighs until they’re browned (about 8 minutes) and set them to one side. Fry a chopped onion in the same pan for a few minutes, then add a clove of chopped garlic. Add a handful of your favourite kind of chopped mushroom (we like chestnut) until they’re golden. Slosh in about 250ml of chicken stock and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. As you’re ready to serve, stir in a couple of tablespoons of crème fraiche. Garnish with chopped parsley. Light, tasty and fit for a queen.
Fail-safe roast lamb
“This year, I’ll be cooking cured trout with blood oranges and fresh almonds to start, followed by slow-roast lamb with grilled and pickled roses,” says Mr Jeremy Chan. “The blood oranges and roses work superbly in a Valentine’s colour scheme. Roast lamb is perfect on any day of the year.”
How to make it
Our fail-safe method for perfect, fall-off-the bone lamb? Buy a half shoulder with the bone in (it’ll be more than enough for dinner a deux with plenty of leftovers). Make about 20 incisions in the lamb and stud with rosemary leaves, anchovies and garlic. Put some chunks of carrot and celery in the bottom of a roasting tray. Lay the lamb on top so it’s not touching the bottom of the tin and pour in 200ml white wine vinegar and 200ml water. Wrap it tightly with two layers of tin foil. Slide it into a 200ºC oven for four hours and don’t touch it until then. Give it 20 minutes’ resting time on a chopping board and you’re ready to wow. We’d serve ours with some flatbreads and pickles for DIY kebabs, but it works just as well with a fresh salad and couscous.