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).
All lyrics (in italics) taken from the wonderful album Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By (by Lovage)
@Pavel - I'm shaking mine right back - your menu looks gorgeous too!
You are so clever.
When I saw the crazy mix of ingredients, I wondered what people would come up with - of course, beautifully shaped happy bento is the obvious choice :-)
Personally, I'm pretty sure I'd have just eaten the ingredients :-D
@Miss Whiplash - Thank you! Yes, it was obvious, heh. Most of the salmon went straight in my mouth.
@Nicky - Thank you - me too! Lovely sounding menu - do you have an email or Twitter name to contact you if you win?
Do our suggestions have to be romantic recipes? If so, why bother with a recipe? The fishes, cheese and cherries were all made for lying on an indoor picnic blanket together and feeding to each other by fingertip. And hey, all that garlic in the anchovies? If you can't eat garlic together, I'm not sure that relationship will last...
And the sauces? Uh... I'll leave that to your imagination... ;)
can you pack my lunch everyday?
Definitely going to try my hand at korokke.
My dog will get some though, she loves salmon. I hope she doesn't get too much of taste for these yummy parcels of goodness though as it will get expensive!
Particularly lovin' your sundaes. Cop a load of the mouthfeel on those, baby, as Barry White might say. Or perhaps @EssexEating.
Then I would have scarfed up all the smoked salmon on account of him not standing the sight nor smell of the stuff.
... and THAT is why I'm such a great wife.
Honestly, I do not know what I'd have done with the ingredients. I'm seriously impressed with what all of you came up with!
Actually, I do know. I'd have turned to friends and asked for help for ideas (unless that was cheating) and hoped for some more creative cooks to give me inspiration!
With the beautiful Smoked Scottish Salmon I would definitely make blinis as they are a favourite of ours, topped with crème fraiche mixed with the horseradish sauce of course.
The marinated anchovies would make a beautiful crostini, either just on their own, or made into an olive and anchovy tapenade.
The Lancashire cheese I’d serve on toasted brioche, drizzled with the Regent’s Park honey. And finally, the brandied cherries would be lovingly fed to each other whole (perhaps with some light meringues for company).
Everything in the picnic is pretty easy to prepare and light too, so after some bubbles, we might find some time for something a bit more active (wink wink).
I have no idea what I would have done with the ingredients. Probably chucked the anchovies straight onto some fabulous bread with unsalted butter and sliced shallots (a la Terroirs); sashimi up the smoked salmon in some way...maybe I'd have had a bash at making crumpets for the honey and would have chucked a slice of the cheese on them. And I would have whizzed up some of the cherries and topped up with champagne.
Although...where's my main course? This isn't a meal. Ah well, my Valentine's Day would be a day of grazing.
What a lovely wife you are :) xx
What would I do? Hmm.
I think the anchovies would have gone into anchovy and lemon butter, then that spread onto butter pastry to make pinwheels so that some of the salmon could be served on those as a canapé.
Filo would be brushed with butter and sandwiched with the tarragon jelly, then rolled up into cigars filled with the cheese. Baked until crispy and melting inside.
The rest of the salmon would have to be served as it was, just on a bed of leaves but the leaves would be dressed with a horseradish and honey dressing.
Now those cherries. Oh my. I would just have to make a couple of mini cheese cakes. Use a chocolate sponge as the base, drench that with the juices from the cherries, then add a layer of cream cheese beaten with more of the juice as flavouring and some of the cherries, chopped. Cherries on the top and then very dark chocolate grated onto it all.
Darn. Hungry now.
Blend the cheese with balanced amounts of honey and horseradish - not too much - then bake in open-topped filo parcels, placing the smoked salmon on top for the last minute to warm it. Serve the parcels with rocket and cucummber salad, dressed with anchovy, lemon juice and (hint of) dill dressing.
Smoked venison (can I add an ingredient that major?) with cherry and tarragon reduction, and some freshly baked, still warm, oaty bread. Don't want the main to be too complicated or heavy because dessert is...
Individual chocolate and cherry pudding. Then plenty of fizzy wine and giggling, and possible footsie under the table.
I think some bloody red meat is essential for Valentines.
I love to cook a posh valentine meal and this year I'm going for a bruschetta mezze, lamb kleftiko and honey cup cakes with pistachio ice cream. My man is Greek so really looking forward to it!! :-) xxx
I do have a very 'fond' memory of a Valentine's day dinner I cooked for my boyfriend...I enjoyed cooking it - I spent hours carving little hearts out of an array of vegetable, I even pan fried a heart shaped chicken breast...and the finished product was a delicious mustard chicken with dauphinoise potatoes and various greens - all lovingly shaped into cute little hearts...alas all that work went to waste as it gave my poor boyfriend food poisoning and I was banned from cooking heart shaped food. One positive light to come from this tragic tale is that my boyfriend is now my fiance!
Please let me win - then maybe I wont have to poison anyone again...
Cook the pasta, then heat with a non-stick frying pan with a splash of oil and fry the scallops for 1-2 mins until golden, then turn and cook for a further 1-2 mins. Remove to a plate and keep warm. Add the oil to the pan with the chillies, garlic and lemon zest. Gently warm through, then add the drained pasta, half the lemon juice and the rocket and season with salt and black pepper. Divide the pasta between 2 bowls and top with the scallops. Squeeze over the remaining lemon juice and grind over some extra black pepper. Et voila, the admiration of the object of your affection is assured. In short, the perfect Valentine's Day meal!
Where my other half and I are concerned, said romantic extremity will always centre around food - making horribly complex menus and then eating until we have to have a lie down in a darkened room.
This year I think it is the turn of the surf and turf gone crazy - in which I attempt to cook lobster and fillet steak, and then serve them by candlelight. Yum!
Your menu looks absolutely delicious by the way. Has made me proper hungry!
Followed by a sinful tub of Ice Cream
and washed done with some Beaujolais.
If my favourite answer wins the hamper too, then my second favourite answer will get the runner-up prize.