Words: Meryl Cubley
His ‘n’ Hers Cocktails
“Black Pearl Necklace” (Collier de Perles Noires) – iced vodka with caviar (excites nerve cells)
Oysters Rockefeller (Huitres Rockefeller) – oysters (THE natural aphrodisiac) poached in Champagne (generous and fun) served in the half shell on a bed of spinach (iron for strength & stamina) draped with a Pastis Cream Sauce (aphrodisiac licorice and aniseed flavours, soft and velvety eaten with your fingers).
Pan-Fried Seabass (soft, light and moist) with Sautéed Fingerling Potatoes, Buttered Spinach (iron for strength and stamina) and a Vanilla Butter Sauce (sexy).
Délice au Chocolat with Strawberries ‘n’ Cream Ice Cream (Délice au Chocolat avec Glace à la Fraise et Crème) – rich chocolate ganache (stimulating) on a hazelnut (vitamin E a natural Viagra) & chocolate base with strawberry (aphrodisiac) ice cream (silky texture and mouth-cooling properties).
Fennell, Vanilla & Lime Mini-Mallows (Petites Guimauves au Fenouil, à la Vanille et au Citron Vert) (squidgy, squelchy, sexy!)
Black Pearl Necklace:
Pour two shots of cold top quality vodka and spoon in some caviar. Add a twist of lemon and consume with drinking arms entwined!
- 6 fresh oysters
- 2tbsp Pernod
- 150ml double cream
- large handful fresh spinach
- pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
Shuck the oysters using a purpose made oyster knife protecting your hand with a folded tea towel. Retain the bottom (deeper) shell.
Drop the oysters into a small saucepan and, using a fine sieve, strain their juices over. Bring to a bare simmer and immediately remove from the heat. Remove oysters to a sheet of paper towel.
Add the Pernod to the oyster liquor and simmer until reduced by two thirds. Add the cream and reduce by half. Check the seasoning – it should be rich and slightly salty.
Blanch the spinach in boiling salted water for one minute, then drain well on a clean tea towel. Chop finely. Loosen the chopped spinach with a teaspoon or two of the sauce and add a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg.
Pre-heat the grill to high (red hot).
Bed a portion of chopped spinach into the half oyster shell and place a poached oyster on top. Cover both oyster and spinach with a generous helping of sauce, then place high up under the heat. Grill for no more than a minute, or until the sauce has taken on the colour of hot buttered toast.
Allow to cool for a minute (you don’t want to burn your date’s lips!) then consume with gleeful anticipation of the wonders ahead.
Seabass with Vanilla Butter Sauce
- 200ml reduced fish stock
- 50ml good quality dry white wine
- 1 tbsp Noilly Prat (Vermouth)
- seeds of a vanilla pod
- 1 tbsp crème fraîche
- 50g unsalted butter cut into 1cm cubes
- 1 ripe plum tomato
- 1 tsp fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 6 fingerling or pink fir apple potatoes
- 2 large handfuls fresh spinach leaves, rinsed and stalks removed
- 4 small seabass fillets, pin-boned but with skin on
- olive oil
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
Sauce: Put the fish stock, dry white wine and vermouth in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer and allow to reduce by a third. By this time the alcohol will have been driven off, so you can now whisk in the vanilla seeds and crème fraîche. Reduce a little more.
Taste the sauce – it should be deep, intense, highly aromatic and have a good vanilla flavour. Season with sea salt – no pepper – then turn off the heat and put a lid on to prevent a skin forming.
Garnish: Cut the tomato into quarters, remove the seeds and pulp, then dice. Roughly chop the parsley. Reserve.
Boil the potatoes until just cooked, then drain. Slice in half length-wise. Bring a frying pan to medium high heat and sauté the potatoes in a dash of olive oil and a little salt.
Fish: While the potatoes are browning, heat the grill to its maximum setting. Lightly oil a baking tray, then lay the seabass fillets in it, skin-side up. Smear the skin with a little oil, then season lightly with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the tray right up under the grill – about 5cm away – and watch as the skin begins to bubble and turn brown. Grill the fillets for about two minutes, watching them like a hawk.
Take the tray from under the grill and test the fish for ‘doneness’ by pressing lightly with your finger. They should be perfectly cooked when the flesh is soft, but still has a little springiness. Alternatively you can cut into one and have a look inside – it should still be slightly under-done. Set aside – it’ll continue to cook while you assemble the dish.
Spinach: In a medium pan over a gentle heat, toss the spinach with a little oil, some salt and some pepper. Drain on some kitchen towel.
Reheat the sauce, whisk in the butter until emulsified. Check the seasoning, then throw in the diced tomato and chopped parsley.
Arrange the potatoes and spinach on four warmed serving plates, then top each with two fillets of seabass. Spoon the sauce around and serve.
Délice au Chocolat
This is much easier to make using the quantities below (which makes too much for just a loving couple), but is also a great dinner party dessert because it can be made in its entirety a day or two in advance.
Serves 4-6 (but that’s way too many for Valentine’s!)
- 50g dark chocolate, roughly broken
- 50g hazelnut paste (or Nutella)
- 75g Pailette Feulletine (or Rice Crispies or Cornflakes)
- 2 large (or three medium) free range eggs
- 500ml double cream
- 350g 70% cocoa solids chocolate, roughly broken
For the Croquante base: gently melt the chocolate and Nutella in a heatproof bowl set over a pan containing 1cm of barely simmering water (it is important not to let the bottom of the bowl come into contact with the water or the chocolate will overheat and may curdle). Stir occasionally until smooth.
Gently, but thoroughly, mix in the Pailette Feulletine. Spread over the base of a 20cm loose-bottomed tart tin to a depth of 5mm. Place in the fridge to chill and set.
For the Délice filling: place the eggs in a heatproof bowl and whisk briefly to break up. In a saucepan, heat the cream to a rolling boil, then pour straight onto the eggs whisking constantly until slightly thickened to a smooth thin custard. Add the broken chocolate to this custard and stir until seamlessly combined and smooth. Pour over the base layer in the tart tin, level the surface with a spatula – or shake cheffily – and place in the fridge until set (about two to three hours).
To serve: loosen the Délice from the tin with the aid of a cook’s blowtorch or hot tea towel and remove. Cut into six or eight portions and serve.
Meryl Cubley is a journalist and writer based in Cardiff, Wales, specialising in social trends and culture, feminism and women’s issues, sexual health and wellbeing, travel and lifestyle, the environment and business. With a wealth of editing experience, Meryl also enjoys a successful freelance writing career and has written for titles as diverse as Grazia, Red, Marie Claire South Africa, Scarlet, Your Healthy Living, The Guardian and The World Class Series. A regular interviewer of celebrities Meryl has interview skills that are first class – and discreet. She has also appeared on television discussing her thought-provoking, fresh, and unique articles. Meryl is also a writer with Ustar Novels (under the pen name of Sylvia Hadcliffe) publishers of personalised literature.