LOVE is in the air, or to be precise, Valentine's Day is imminent! For those who have been together a long time, it is a chance to demonstrate continued love, and for others a chance to offer oneself up for the chance of affection.
It's bonanza time for florists and chocolatiers, and a testing time for restaurateurs. Why, you ask? Well, on the 14th, 99 per cent of restaurant guests will be in parties of two and, as the day approaches, tables cannot be had for love nor money!
Tables which normally would seat six have two sitting there, causing some frustration for poor restaurateurs! However, logistics aside, I was thinking about some of the traditions connected to this day.
In some countries, a young woman may receive a gift of clothing from a young man, and if she keeps the gift, it means she will marry him. Others believed if a woman saw a robin
flying overhead on Valentine's Day, it meant she would marry a sailor. If she saw a sparrow, she would marry a poor man and be very happy. If she saw a goldfinch, she would marry a millionaire. I found no reference to vultures or buzzards though!
Back to the table question, and the fact that the phone will ring constantly for the last few days before Valentine's Day, with would-be Lotharios desperate not to be left out. I started to wonder how desperate they would be. What would they pay for a table? What would it be worth not to have to let down the object of one's desire?
So here's the deal: I have kept back one table on each sitting, and will let it go to the highest bidder! The beneficiary will be one of my favourite food-related charities, Action Against Hunger. So, a bit of fun, a donation to a good cause, and love in the air!
If you can't get a table anywhere, try this little recipe, which my friend Rick gave me!
* 200g puff pastry
* 1 beaten egg
* 25g butter
* 1 crushed clove of garlic
* 1 small leek, finely sliced
* 50g pancetta lardons (strips)
* 12 small asparagus spears
* 1 tbsp double cream
* 1 tbsp chopped tarragon
Method 1) Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200ºC.
2) Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface, to a thickness of 2mm, and cut out two heart shapes.
3) Brush with egg and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until lightly golden and risen.
4) Melt the butter in a pan and gently cook the leeks, garlic and pancetta for 10 to 12 minutes.
5) Add the asparagus and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until soft.
6) Put in the cream and tarragon, bring to the boil, and season to taste.
7) Split the hearts through the middle, retaining the shape.
8) Put the base on a plate, spoon half the mixture on top, then replace the top part of the heart and do the same with the second.
9) Serve at once with a glass of pink fizz! Results guaranteed.
Terry's tip: You may wish to substitute the pancetta with strips of smoked salmon.