Another Valentine’s Day over. Maybe it was because it fell on a Friday, but I don’t ever remember so much build up to the day – everyone seemed to be talking about it, photographing it and thinking about it for weeks. All of this suits me fine – I happen to really like Valentine’s Day, done a certain way. I like the colours and the cards and all of the things that appear in the shops. I like seeing men in M&S anxiously scanning the back of containers and cardboard sleeves for cooking instructions. I like the practical-looking couples that brave the madness of the tills at 5.30pm together, trying to pretend that it’s not a big deal, that they’re only buying the €28 meal offer because it’s good value, because of the bottle of wine, because the steaks look so good.
Most of all, I like the self-deprecating recipe specials that appear in the papers in the weeks beforehand. Like Easter, Valentine’s Day is a great time of the year for mining recipes and ideas from the lifestyle sections, which are forced to go into overdrive for the fortnight that’s in it. While these recipes can be of varying quality (one Sunday supplement featured oysters and tiramisu in theirs – grim), most are pretty good and, after the author has got the anxious justification out of the way, merely provide a series of useful cut-out-and-keep recipes for slightly more special meals, either for two or for more.
Some do more than that. Rose Prince, writing in The Telegraph on the subject of Valentine’s, noted, “It is nicer, surely, to play down the silliness of the whole thing and gift a little meal with a glass of something lovely at home. Make a pizza and tear it apart together. Satisfy your love of spice with a rose-harissa scented grill, or delight in the texture of salmon with crunchy radish. Jointly anticipate the delicious airiness of a passion-fruit soufflé while waiting for it to rise in the oven. This is how I will be having my Valentine’s dinner.”
All of which sounds pretty amazing, I’m sure you’ll agree. However, I’m already looking forward to next year’s Valentine’s day recipe sections, as my guess is that since it falls on a Saturday, there will be dinner and brunch suggestions in the papers. These sour cherry and walnut granola bars go some way to filling that gap till February 14 next year. Another way to fill it is to watch Her in the IFI (impossibly beautiful) or to go to Bibi’s on Emorville Avenue in Portobello for the most romantically gorgeous breakfast this side of 2015. Happy Valentine’s Day.
SOUR CHERRY & WALNUT GRANOLA BARS
These come out somewhere between a flapjack and a granola bar: crunchy and chewy at the same time, and crucially, not too sweet. The sour cherries make them really special, but you could use any fruit and nut combo – apricot and pistachio would be wonderful too.
140g soft brown sugar
1.5tbsp honey (I used walnut honey)
180g rolled outs
80g sour cherries
Pinch of cinnamon
Drop of vanilla extract
About 180g of a mixture of sunflower seeds,
chopped walnuts, linseed, coconut, sesame seed….
Preheat oven to 170 degrees celsius. Melt butter, sugar, vanilla extract and honey in a saucepan. Combine the dry ingredients and pour the melted butter mixture over it. If it seems very wet, add a cautious shake of coconut. If it seems a little dry, add a touch more honey. You’re looking for a mixture that is almost holding together with no floury oats remaining. Pack the mixture into a parchment-lined 20 x 20 tin. Compact it several times with all your strength and a spatula. Bake for 30 mins, or until it’s golden brown and filling the house with a great real-estate smell. Let it sit for a minute when you take it out of the oven. Cut it into rough rectangles with the edge of a fish slice. Compact it again and leave to cool for a further 30 minutes – this part is important. Re-cut the rectangles and store in an air-tight tin.
Bibi’s for breakfast: two extra hot cappuccinos; sourdough toast; butternut squash and crème fraîche poached eggs with harissa and homemade sausage rolls with coleslaw
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