A Valentine's recipe you'll simply love

Written by Androulla Derbyshire on .

Androulla DerbyshireAndroulla DerbyshireIn the first of a series of exclusive recipes for Marlborough News Online, Androulla Derbyshire of Culinary Capers has devised an easy-to-cook Valentine's Day meal.

“This menu is simple to prepare and most of the menu can be made in advance allowing you to be relaxed and enjoy your Valentine's Day meal without feeling flustered and running in and out of the kitchen,” says Androulla.

“The recipes given here serve two but you can always increase the quantity if you are serving more people.”

Asparagus wrapped in Parma hamAsparagus wrapped in Parma hamStarter

Asparagus wrapped in Parma ham

12 asparagus spears

12 slices parma ham

olive oil, balsamic vinegar and parmesan shavings to serve.

Prepare the asparagus by washing it and snapping off the woody ends. You can do this by just bending the asparagus stalks at their base and they should just snap off where the stalk is woody.

Blanch the asparagus stalks by plunging them into a pan of boiling, salted water for 2 minutes. Drain the asparagus in a colander and allow them to drain and cool.

When the asparagus has cooled wrap each spear in a slice of parma ham. Place on a baking tray.

You can prepare this stage in advance and put aside until you are ready to cook.

When you are ready to cook the asparagus preheat the oven to Gas 6, 200 degrees centigrade. Drizzle the asparagus with some olive oil and season with pepper. Place in the oven for about 15 minutes until the ham is crisp and the asparagus is tender.

To serve sprinkle the asparagus with a little more olive oil, some balsamic vinegar and parmesan shavings.

Greek style spiced beef served with tagliatelleGreek style spiced beef served with tagliatelleMain course

Greek style spiced beef served with tagliatelle

This is a Greek inspired dish. It is really easy to make and if you make it the day before the flavours improve and all you have to do is make some pasta.

400g lean beef braising steak- cut into 2" cubes

2tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic- thinly sliced

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 wine glass red wine ( about 4-6 floz)

1 cinnamon stick

4 whole cloves

1 bay leaf

Heat the oil in a casserole pan and fry the garlic cloves over a gentle heat until theyare fragrant and soft but not brown.

Add the beef and quickly brown it all over.

Add the red wine and allow to come to the boil. Add the tinned tomatoes, bay leaf and spices and season with salt and pepper.

Allow to come back to the boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer and allow to cook slowly for about 2 hours until the beef is really tender.

If you are making this in advance allow the beef to cool and place in the fridge.

The next day remove from the fridge about an hour before you wish to eat and reheat for about 20 minutes until it is hot all the way through.

Serve with some pasta - I have mentioned tagliatelle but any pasta is good.

Serve sprinkled with grated parmesan and a lightly dressed rocket salad.

Spice chocolate potsSpice chocolate potsDessert

Spiced chocolate pots

These little chocolate mousses are quite rich so only a small serving is required. I serve them in little coffee cups and saucers. These are best made the day before to allow them to set properly overnight.

I have used a good quality ready flavoured chocolate with orange and ginger but you can use any chocolate you like flavoured or just plain as long as it is about 70% cocoa solids.

100g good quality chocolate ( flavoured or plain)

1 tbsp water

1 tbsp golden syrup

2 eggs separated

Place the chocolate, broken into small pieces into a bowl over a pan of simmering but not boiling water. Add the tablespoon of water and the golden syrup and allow to melt.

Meanwhile whisk the egg whites until stiff.

When the chocolate mix has melted remove from the heat.

Allow to cool slightly and then beat in the egg yolks.

Fold the egg white into the chocolate mixture until it is thoroughly incorporated.

Place the mousse into small ramekins, coffee cups or other small dishes of your choice and place in the fridge to set overnight.

Serve with some crisp sweet biscuits on the side.

Marlborough-based Culinary Capers offers one-to-one coaching to people who'd like to learn to cook, or want to improve their skills. Unlike traditional cookery schools, Androulla visits the homes of clients to teach them cooking skills with their own equipment and based around their own dietary requirements and tastes. 

For further information and more free recipes log on to www.culinarycapers.co.uk