Food is the food of love

So An­drew has some handy hacks to make sure you’re serv­ing up some­thing spe­cial this Valen­tine’s Day

Norfolk - - DIAL H FOR HACKS - the­di­al­house.org.uk farm­yardrestau­rant.com

With the fes­tive sea­son a dis­tant me­mory and the last of your new year’s res­o­lu­tions hang­ing by a thread, the bright spot in Fe­bru­ary’s foodie cal­en­dar is the feast of St Valen­tine. And, as we know, the way to your loved one’s heart is... let­ting them hang up the oven gloves for the night.

Fe­bru­ary 14 is the day when the less pol­ished home chefs get their chance to step up and im­press their sig­nif­i­cant other with their best kitchen moves. For­tu­nately, I’m go­ing to let you in on a few im­pres­sive hacks to have your other half swoon­ing with­out you sweat­ing.

1 Can’t cook? Don’t cook! In­stead of sub­ject­ing your spe­cial some­one to the re­sults of your first fum­blings in the kitchen do some ju­di­cious shop­ping in­stead. Cured meat and smoked fish both make de­li­cious shar­ing boards. With some re­ally good bread, sauces and other nib­bly bits like pick­les or olives you can as­sem­ble an im­pres­sive plat­ter to de­ceive your date into think­ing you know what you’re do­ing with­out the risk of get­ting dumped.

2 Cook some­thing you don’t like, but your part­ner does. That self­less ges­ture is an act of pure gen­eros­ity that will get you big brownie points in the bank. If my wife made me a curry, I’d be so over­whelmed and flat­tered that I prob­a­bly wouldn’t even men­tion it’s not spicy enough!

3 Try cook­ing some­thing that res­onates with both of you like a dish from a date when you first met or a ro­man­tic hol­i­day you shared to­gether. Taste and smell are very pow­er­ful trig­gers for emo­tional mem­o­ries. But be se­lec­tive, my wife def­i­nitely wouldn’t ap­pre­ci­ate be­ing pre­sented with cur­ried lamb brains (again!)

4 If there’s one in­gre­di­ent that’s bound to spice up an evening in, it’s a fresh truf­fle and luck­ily they’re still in sea­son. Truf­fle can be grated on every­thing – try it over pasta, pizza, fish, even sushi. I had one cus­tomer at Farm­yard who asked me to grate it over his sticky tof­fee pud­ding – good man.

5 Make your main course a cen­tre­piece by shar­ing a whole fish on the bone. It looks like you’ve re­ally pushed the boat out, tastes phe­nom­e­nal but it’s the most straight for­ward way to cook fish. Sea­son, fresh herbs, but­ter and le­mon. Bosh.

Stick to the clas­sics! You sim­ply can’t go wrong with a beau­ti­fully-mar­bled steak, fresh lo­cal mus­sels or a deca­dent choco­late dessert... like a choco­late mousse.

CHOCO­LATE MOUSSE

Choco­late is al­ways a win­ner. Both my sig­na­ture desserts are choco­late – we do a miso caramel choco­late bar at Farm­yard and a gooey choco­late fon­dant at The Dial House. Both are proper crowd pleasers. My choco­late mousse fo­cuses on the qual­ity of the choco­late so make sure you buy some­thing de­cent… (Serves six)

255g good qual­ity dark choco­late 200ml milk

2 egg yolks

5 egg whites

75g caster sugar

1. Bring milk to boil and pour di­rectly on to the choco­late

2. Whisk un­til smooth and shiny

3. Add the yolks and whisk again un­til shiny

4. Whip the whites to soft peaks

5. Grad­u­ally add half the sugar

6. Whip to high peaks

7. Add the re­main­ing sugar and keep mix­ing un­til com­pletely dis­solved

8. Gen­tly fold the whites into the melted choco­late and trans­fer into serv­ing glasses or con­tainer. Chill to set.

ABOVE: Choco­late mousse

An­drew Jones, ex­ec­u­tive chef and joint owner of The Dial House, Reep­ham, and Farm­yard, Nor­wich

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