It's Christmas time, and I while away many a lunch hour in Leadenhall Market, admiring the turkeys on display at the Butchers and staring wistfully at the treats on the Comptoir Gourmand stall, when I notice the ultimate in glossy food p0rn appear in a number of establishments - namely the Forman & Field mail order catalogue.
You are the bitter, I am the sweet
You are the griddle, I am the meat
You are the trick, I am the treat
You are the circus, I am the freak
I pop one into my bag and then spend the evening circling all the things I want to get, before realising I can't really see any of it any more because of all the marker pen.
Anyway, Forman & Field puts an end to my choice paralysis by asking if I'd like to take part in a challenge called the Forman's Love Cook-Off.
The aim is to see which of a number of blog types can come up with the "best" Valentine's Day menu using a mystery box of Forman & Field goodies.
Of course I say yes, so a few days later, said mystery box arrives. I rip it open to find a rather motley crew - it contained:
- H. Forman & Son Royal Fillet of Smoked Scottish Salmon
- Formans Marinated Anchovies with Garlic
- Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire Cheese
- Moniack Castle Horseradish Sauce
- Plantation Cottage Tarragon Jelly
- Formans Brandied Cherries
- Regent’s Park London Honey
Moreover, this challenge is about Valentine's, and I can't think of anything more romantic (at least food-wise) than making a packed lunch for your loved one to take to work, open up and be reminded of you.
Yes kids, I'm talking bento. Specifically My First Bento.
These may all be traditional British products, but they don't have to be used in traditional British ways.
So the salmon is sliced into sashimi stars, but is also turned into korokke - the Japanese version of croquette and a typical bento item. I add the anchovies for some sharpness and zing, and the horseradish sauce for a little heat. It works brilliantly - crisp morsels of umami goodness.
Licking your greasy spoon
Jukebox playing my tune
Making out in your room
Blowing up your balloon
- 100g lightly-smoked salmon
- 4 garlic marinated anchovies
- 1 egg
- 200g panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp horseradish sauce
- 1 tsp furikake seasoning
- Enough oil for deep-frying
Mince the salmon and the anchovies and then mix thoroughly with half the panko and all of the rest of the ingredients.
Form into 2 inch long croquette shapes and roll each croquette in the remaining panko.
Deep-fry no more than four croquettes at a time for a couple of minutes and then drain on kitchen paper.
My finished bento for my husband - smoked salmon stars, sugar snap peas, heart shaped onigiri, salmon korokke, heart shaped egg, cherry tomatoes, all on a bed of sushi rice sprinkled with black sesame seeds.
Happiness is hard to come by
But I've had my fair share
The satin sheets, the lemon peels
The minor keys, the major pills
I figure the Lancashire cheese is surprisingly delicate, so as soon as I finish popping the brandied cherries in my mouth, I decide to make my beloved a spin on a traditional cheesecake.
I'm not really one for desserts, but my husband has a sweet tooth and the way to a man's heart is well known, so I'm determined to come up with something special as a Valentine's bonus.
The tarragon jelly is sweet with a hint of aniseed so I work this into the biscuit base. The herbiness complements the lime zest in the cheesecake topping.
For the base
- 8 digestive biscuits
- 1 tbsp melted butter
- 1 tbsp Regent's Park honey
- 1 tbsp tarragon jelly
- 25 brandied cherries
- 2 tbsp lovage cordial (optional)
- 150 ml double cream
- 25g Kirham's Lancashire Cheese, finely grated
- 1 tbsp agar flakes or 1 gelatin sheet
- 3 tbsp Regent's Park honey
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Zest of 1 lime
Reserving two of the cherries, stone and destalk the rest and blend these with 2 tbsp honey, the lovage cordial if using, and a little of the cherry brandy until it turns into a sort of compote.
Dissolve the gelatine/agar in a little hot water. Whip the cream till stiff, then beat in the grated cheese, gelatine, sugar, lime zest and vanilla extract.
Layer half the cream mixture into the glasses. Then split the cherry compote between them.
Finish with the rest of the "cream cheese" and top with the reserved cherries.
Finally, warm the last tablespoon of honey and drizzle all over the cheesecake sundaes.
So that's what I did using all the ingredients in my mystery box from Forman & Field for the Forman's Love Cook Off.
Meemalee's Valentine's Day Menu
First course (for work)
a Bento of Salmon Sashimi Stars, and Salmon, Anchovy and Horseradish croquettes so the seduction starts while we're apart (heh) ... actually I've had all the bento paraphernalia for a while but not got round to using it, so this was well overdue ...
Second course (for play)
... and he comes home to a light but luscious Lancashire Cheesecake and Honey Sundae with cherry compote on a tarragon biscuit base.
Pardon me sir
Is this seat taken
I overheard you say
Not stirred but shaken
And I could really throw one back
Such a thirst doesn't always permit
So, if you would sir
A stiff one is my specialty
** WIN A FORMAN & FIELD HAMPER **
What would you have done if you'd taken part in the Forman's Love Cook Off?
Leave a comment telling me what your favourite romantic recipe or Valentine's menu would be (and your email address or Twitter name) by midday on Wednesday 9th February.
One of you will win a £60 hamper stuffed full of Forman & Field goodies delivered in time for the day of lurrve itself (UK only).
My favourite answer will win a small mystery prize from my vast and unwieldy bento accessory collection (Worldwide).