Vongole for Valentines!

Ha ha naff title of the day! For last year’s Valentine’s post we made these silly heart shaped biscuits that didn’t really work. The origami message hearts were fun too but this year I’ve gone even simpler, what with having a baby and all. Some pretty cut and stick hearts…

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Along with some heart shaped balloon cards for Lexie to colour in and glitter. Obviously I’m biased but how amazing is her penmanship? (I love the heart where she obviously couldn’t be bothered anymore on the right below.)

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We’ve also been listening to ‘love’ music (in particular this song) and I’m contemplating trying some sable heart shaped biscuits with Lexie this afternoon because sugar cookies really don’t taste very nice. For us big people I’m leaning towards having spaghetti vongole. This has become my recent favourite ‘special occasion’ recipe and we had this for my birthday in January. (We tend to cook the same recipes for important days – Christmas/New Year’s Eve or birthdays – usually crab linguine or steak and chips.)

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As my favourite blood oranges are also in season I’m dreaming about some sort of campari blood orange cocktail for the aperitif, ideally with a plate of iberico ham from Borough market. The classic campari cocktails are the negroni or, my personal favourite, the sbagIiato (which means ‘mistake’ – apparently invented when a barman added prosecco instead of gin into what was supposed to be a negroni). Both of these would be nice with a splash of blood orange. As we don’t have any gin or vermouth I’ll probably make blood orange campari spritzes. This is a take on a cocktail my wonderful neighbour used to make for me 2 summers ago. We’d sit supping these delicious spritzers with our feet in the paddling pool in our communal back garden while our little toddlers splashed around – bliss! I’ll also ask Lewis to make me his yummy chocolate mousse pots for desert.

Blood orange campari spritz

Get a glass and add a shot of campari, a shot of white wine, a shot of blood orange juice. Stir and add some ice then top with fizzy water and stir again. This can be a tall or a short cocktail. Enjoy!

Spaghetti alle vongole

  • 500g small clams
  • spaghetti (dried)
  • knob of butter
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ medium-hot red chilli, finely chopped
  • 100ml dry white wine
  • Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • Zest of ½ a lemon and a spritz of juice
  • Salt and pepper

Rinse the clams in cold water and scrub a bit. Then put in a large bowl, cover with cold water and salt generously. Leave for 10-20 mins – my family say this is to make the clams feel they are back home in the sea. Then drain and rinse well to remove any grit.

Put the spaghetti into a large pan of salted boiling water and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, put half the butter and all the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat and soften the garlic and chilli.

Add the drained clams, and turn up the heat. Pour in the wine, cover and leave for a couple of minutes until most of them have opened. Discard any that are still closed. Add the others to the garlic/chilli pan.

Drain the spaghetti and add to the pan along with the remaining butter. Toss well and leave for a minute, then stir through the chopped parsley, lemon zest and juice, season to taste and serve.

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L’amour! C’est le steak frites!

One year for Valentines we tried to be ironic and go for a curry. The joke was on us as the entire restaurant was full of heart shaped balloons and tables for two. Since then (and because I love Valentines) we stay in, have steak and chips and watch a classic movie. This year’s film was Riso Amaro which also provided the soundtrack to our evening.

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Lewis always cooks the steak ever since he attended Ginger Pig cut up a cow masterclass. He also makes the chips as per my mum’s recipe but for a change we decided to try matchstick chips! I loved them but he prefers my mums. Our usual steak of choice is rib-eye but I think I’m wavering. We had an incredible T-bone a while ago then recently a Thai ‘Crying Tiger’ sirloin that just blew me away, both challenging the rib-eye’s title as the steak of true love! Quick question: what is your favourite steak and why?

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Rib-eye steak and matchstick chips

Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 30 mins
Budget: £15-20 (£12 2 rib-eye steaks, £2 potatoes, £1.50 parsley, £1.50 green salad)

  • 2 rib-eye steaks
  • 2 peeled potatoes
  • 40g softened butter
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • Handful of chopped parsley
  • 1 or 2 chopped anchovies
  • Sunflower oil (or groundnut oil)

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Make the butters – I like garlic and parsley so add 1 clove crushed garlic and some chopped parsley to the butter and mash it all together. Lewis likes anchovy butter – exactly the same but with some anchovy as well. Put the butter on a plate ready to serve.

To fry the steak and chips it’s a simultaneous job so make sure everything is ready! For the steaks – just before frying season with salt and pepper and brush with groundnut or sunflower oil. Heat the griddle pan (or heavy bottomed pan) until it’s very hot but not smoking. For the chips – what a palaver! Peel and chop the potatoes into matchsticks (ha ha ha) 1/4 inch thick. Rinse in cold water and pat dry with kitchen towel. Get a pan of sunflower oil really hot (mum and I are 100% convinced sunflower oil is the best oil for chips/any fried potatoes). Then you are ready to fry!

Put the chips on first, lower the potatoes into the oil. Fry until golden and crispy. Because they are so thin it should take a matter of minutes. Don’t overload the pan – we did 2 batches but the first batch went a bit soggy whereas the fresh batch were crispy and super tasty – less is more!

Fry the steaks at the same time as you put the chips on. On the high heat fry for 2 mins each side (rare) or 3-4 mins (medium rare-medium). The temperature of the pan and the thickness of the steaks will affect results but that is a general guide. Once done, set aside to rest for a few minutes on a plate covered with foil while you finish the chips. When the chips are ready remove with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen towel to absorb some of the oil. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately! Put some of the butter on the steak so it melts into deliciousness. We followed our steaks with a simple green salad and some dark chocolate (usually we have Lewis chocolate mousse after steak but we didn’t make it in time). Voila – l’amour!

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