Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Valentine's Dinner

Valentine’s Day.  The day that comes once a year to let us show our loved ones how much they mean to us.  Yeah right! 

I show my love with every meal, and for his part, hubby shows his love with the countless little thoughtful things he does for me.  The cups of tea he brings me in bed after a particularly sleepless night; the middle of the winter trips to the beach when I need to top-up my mermaid blood being just two.

For Valentine’s Day though I want to make us something special, something that we’ll really enjoy.  We both really like Italian food, especially antipasto platters so I thought I’d start us off with that.  I’ll put together a pasta bake that can sit quietly in the oven while we’re making our way through the antipasto and then we can finish off with a raspberry pannacotta.  The red of the raspberries will be perfect for Valentine’s Day!  I know I ought to make the pannacotta, but I’m going to buy them this time – it’s my day too after all!

So to start with we’re going to have an assortment of antipasto – our favourite bits and pieces!

Two types of salami, Milano and Napoli
Parma ham
Sun dried tomatoes
A generous handful of rocket (arugula) scattered over my lovely olivewood board.*

For our main course, I made ahead of time the lovely beef cacciatore that we enjoyed so much recently ( ) thinking that it would be perfect as a pasta bake.  For convenience I cooked the pasta ahead of time and assembled the dish so that it could be popped into the oven when we were ready for it.  
To go with the pasta bake I thought I’d make my hubby’s favourite starter/side – asparagus wrapped in Parma ham.  I know asparagus is out of season now, that it’s been flown in from goodness knows where – but it’s Valentine’s Day and if my Valentine wants asparagus, then that’s what he’s going to get!
This is a really lovely starter or side dish and a simple assembly job.  Just wrap 3 or 4 asparagus spears in Parma ham and lay on a baking sheet.  I allow 2 bundles per person.  Once they are all on the baking sheet, drizzle with a little olive oil (garlic olive oil is nice too), especially over the tips, and then grind a little black pepper over the bundles.  Cook at 200oC for approximately 10 – 15 minutes – keep your eye on them as they will go from done to ruined in a short space of time!
For the pasta bake, that will need 30 – 35 minutes (or a little longer depending on how cold it was going into the oven) at 200oC.

*The olivewood board was something that we’d both fancied having for a while and spotted it in an Italian delicatessen when we were on our travels in Windsor last summer.  Saw it, wanted it, had to have it ...... had to carry it around with us all day too!

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