As the American poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson put it "All mankind loves a lover." And Valentine’s Day (14 February) is the recognized time to send special greetings to a sweetheart usually in the form of a card, chocolates, flowers or bubbles. Dining out has also become a fashionable way to celebrate. But, a special meal — prepared with love in your own kitchen — is a real winner.
There are many stories relating to the origin of St Valentine’s Day. Some trace it to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia. The early Christian church had at least two saints named Valentine. Some link it to the old English belief that birds chose their mates in mid-February. One early custom was for women to place their names in a ‘hat’ and the woman whose name was drawn by a man became his Valentine and he wore her name on his sleeve.
In Canada and the United States, parties and dances are held to celebrate Valentine's Day. In Denmark men send letters or rhymes to their sweethearts but do not sign their name. Instead they put a dot for each letter of their name.
Interestingly, Valentine's Day just keeps on growing in popularity. Latest estimates put the number of cards being sent worldwide at over one billion.
CRAB CAKES WITH GLAZED PEACHES
Garnish with herbs and flowers.
Crab Cakes: 170g can crab meat, drained
2 tablespoons each: finely diced red capsicum, sliced basil, panko bread crumbs
1/2-1 teaspoon finely diced chilli
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small egg, beaten
Coating: spray canola oil
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Peaches: 2 ripe peaches, halved, stoned and peeled
1 teaspoon butter
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons maple syrup
Discard any crab shell. Place the crab in a bowl and combine with the remaining ingredients for the cakes. Using a mould form into 2 crab cakes about 7cm in diameter Spray with canola oil and dust in the panko crumbs. Chill for at least 30 minutes
Slice the peaches. Sizzle in the butter in a small pan. Add the lemon juice and maple syrup and reduce, until sticky.
Preheat the oven to 180°C fan bake.
Place the crab cakes in a lightly oiled oven pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden and hot.
Great stacked on a small round of cooked sushi rice with the glazed peaches on the side. Serves 2.
RASPBERRY HEART TARTS
These are great to share with your friends at work. Or serve topped with a scoop of ice cream for dessert. Bought pastry cases could also be used. Use half a sheet of ready-rolled short pastry for the hearts. Ensure the pastry is kept as cold as possible.
400g sweet short pastry
3/4 cup raspberry jam
Lightly grease a 12-hole tartlet pan. Roll the pastry to about 7mm thickness. Cut into 12, 10cm rounds and gently press the pastry into each tartlet hole. Chill for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the offcuts into heart shapes using aspic or biscuit cutters.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Bake the shells for 15 minutes. Fill with the jam and decorate with the heart offcuts. Continue baking for another 15 minutes or until the jam is bubbling. Makes 12.
ZESTY SMOKED SALMON
Serve as a starter or double the recipe and serve as a main together with hot crusty bread.
Dressing: finely grated rind 1 lime
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 small clove garlic, crushed
dash tabasco sauce or similar
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped coriander
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
Salad: 1 cup watercress leaves
6 slices smoked salmon
Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing — except the tomato. Carefully stir in the tomato.
Crisp the watercress leaves in the fridge.
To serve, pile the watercress in the centre of two serving plates and top with twists of salmon.
Drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately. Serves 2.