A.K.A An appreciation of Lemon; an ode to Liz; a Liz Lemon love letter.
A.K.A. Happy Anna Howard Shaw Day
Both of us are not ones for Hallmark sentiment. We’ve often forgone Christmas presents, we never remember, less celebrate, our anniversary and the two of us will sooner gift ourselves chocolate and wine before buying it for the other. Valentine’s Day is yet another example of our scarce sentimentality; we simply never celebrate it.
Last year, we happened to be in beautiful Brussels, which we affectionately know as “little Paris”, for a mid-week trip which coincided with V-Day. We aimed to eat in one of our favourite restaurants there that we’ve loved for ages and tried before, but couldn’t get a table on that occasion – being lazy, badly organised and of course un-romantic, neither of us booked a table. After a few other failed attempts at securing a table for two in other restaurants we threw sentiment quickly down the drain and happily chomped down a very romantic McDonalds meal each at 10pm. Then bought a jar of speculoos, rice crackers and a bottle of red wine and sat like two little pigs watching crap TV in the hotel room for the rest of the night. To sum us up as one of the deadly sins, we are most definitely gluttony.
In the below scenario, you are all (probably) Jack Donaghy and we will, as expected, be forever Liz Lemon.
It’s fun to indulge and entertain holidays though, and you couldn’t possibly live in the Western World without being bombarded with the marketing drives of thousands of chains during the major holidays of the annual calendar. Every year there seems to be a backlash of sorts to reclaim, or to undermine, V-Day from the singles of the world – the people who ‘dare’ to be on their own. And we say ‘Right on, Sister!’, celebrate being alone and spend Valentine’s treating and spoiling yourself.
We’ve assembled a three-course love in menu; from you to you, love you. Lovingly made by you, for you, and not one morsel for anyone to share. Starting as we mean to go on, garlic is probably the one big no-no for Valentine’s Day – above all else. It lingers on everything, not least of all your breath, and when paired with stinky cheese it packs a punch like no other. So let’s dive right in and break all the rules.
Baked Camembert with Garlic and Chilli
- 1 round of Camembert (we will leave the choice of either large or individual-sized to you)
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped into thick slivers
- a tsp or two of chilli flakes
- breadsticks, baguette, crackers or grapes to dip and dunk in
- Score the rind on the top of the cheese like you’re laying out a large game of X’s and O’s.
- Dot the garlic slivers into the grooves left after scoring, and push them almost fully inside the cheese. Sprinkle the chilli flakes on top and bake in a 170°C oven for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is oozing and liquidy… or when the smell of cheese and garlic from the kitchen is too much to bear.
- Serve instantly and dunk with chunks of day-old baguette for something really special.
Now onto the main event: typically a Valentine’s main should never be something sloppy and slurpy that results in a person’s date both hearing and seeing everything going into, or narrowly missing, one’s mouth. Hefty spice will ensure the never-ending contents of your nose run down your face, and something loaded with beans or cheese may also add musical notes during (or more likely after) your dining experience.
Liz’s homemade stew: “It’s my own recipe, where I use cheddar cheese instead of water”
So now taking all that advice and throwing it out the window, whip yourself up a burrito and apply it to face. However, in saying that, this whole Anti-Valentine’s Day, or V-Day meal for one, doesn’t have to be all indulgence and sinful, it can be fulfilling and healthy, as well as being a treat for yourself. We’ve replaced some typical burrito ingredients with healthier options, like turkey mince, brown rice and wholewheat tortilla wraps. Make this, and not only will you be kicking Valentine’s Day’s ass, you certainly won’t be piling on the pounds.
Turkey Mince burritos
For the rice
- 10og brown rice and 1.5 cups of water (there will be rice leftover)
- 1 tbsp all-spice
For the mince mixture
- 200g turkey mince
- 3 shallots and one medium red onion (or two large red onions if you wish)
- 2 bulbs of garlic
- 250g good tomato passata (we used the Tesco Organic Italian variety)
- 2 large wholewheat wraps
- a large bunch of coriander or parsley, finely chopped
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp coriander seeds and 1 tsp cumin seeds (crushed, or pre-ground if you wish)
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp cayenne (and chipotle paste and tabasco if you want some fire)
You can add cheese, sour cream, guacamole, refried beans or other fresh, crunchy, chopped veg. Make it your own. We just added a great big handful of parsley and a very finely diced red onion to a bowl with a little rapeseed oil as a dry-ish pesto to sprinkle on top of the lettuce, plus extra hot sauce on top of Patrick’s one.
- Bring a small pan, holding the rice, allspice and water, to the boil. Once at temperature, pop on a lid, reduce the heat to a steady simmer and leave the brown rice to cook for 25-30 minutes.
- Brown the turkey in a medium-hot pan in a tbsp or two of oil. Take the turkey out, then fry the onions and garlic in the same pan. Don’t worry if there is some turkey stuck onto the bottom of the pan, it will be cooked into the sauce later.
- When softened, add the spices and cook out for 30 seconds before splashing in the vinegar (this should un-stick any bits at the bottom), followed by the passata. When the sauce begins to boil, turn the heat down to fairly low and re-introduce the turkey. Add the chipotle paste and tabasco (or maybe freshly cut chillies!?) at your will, stir, then clamp on a lid and let the ingredients get to know each other for 20 minutes.
- While the two pans are on the hob chop up your lettuce and arrange your fillings for quick assembly later.
- Just before the rice is cooked, take the lid off the mince pot and spritz in the lemon juice. Bring back to the boil to reduce for a minute or two more until the sauce is thick and coats the turkey mix lusciously. When the rice is just cooked, drain and leave in a bowl to one side.
- Warm up the wraps in the microwave for 20-40 seconds before assembling your wrap, it will make them more flexible and easier to roll and stick. Begin assembly with the rice first, then meat, then extra toppings. Always assemble in the direct middle of the wrap, then fold over the left side to cover the mixture like a blanket, and roll towards the right, keeping a tight tuck on the filling and tucking in the edges in as you go along. Wrap the burritos half way with tinfoil to ensure a seamless and easy handheld munch.
For dessert, we contemplated a very lush and self-indulgent cake of some form, but that would require far too much work in the kitchen and hours spent delicately crafting or watching the oven ensuring everything goes to plan. Reclaim that time that could be spent spoiling yourself by buying it in. And this is the mother of all one-step, store-bought, delicious-tasting desserts. Frozen chocolate bars.
Frozen Bounty / Frozen Snickers
Hear us out. It’s a familiar taste, the chocolate bar, but treated like an ice-cream. It’s cold, crunchy but melts as it hits your mouth, and even better, because it’s frozen it then takes twice or three-times the time it would ordinarily take to eat, thus prolonging the pleasure. Thank us later.
We prefer Bounty and Snickers in the freezer compartment to any other chocolate bar, but do be our guest and experiment with whatever chocolate bars you fancy or have to hand and wrap up in your dressing gown, burrow yourself into the couch and put something satisfying or mind-numbing on the TV/Netflix and consider your Valentine’s Night truly well spent.