Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A St. Valentine's Day Celebration or a Really Good Sunday Meal with recipes

A photo of a photo of Robin and Gary on the Day of their wedding surrounded by other bits

We (myself and the Wonderspouse) celebrated Valentine's Day at home this year. We don't usually go out on Valentine's Day anyway, as that way madness lies. But we do try to do something afterwards. Unfortunately the 'age of austerity' has hit the Dalton household hard.

To be honest, the Wonderspouse is not a huge fan of Valentine's Day. He sees it as a fabricated holiday at best and at worst a reminder of too many holidays spent alone.  However, I recently read that our customs originated in Rome,

“when willing young maidens wrote their names on slips of papyrus, put them in a box, shook them up, and let young men pull out the names of their valentines. The young people then spent the day together as companions, and Gods and Goddesses only know what great adventure came of it all – romance, marriage, or just a day to remember. The names were equally matched by both sexes so nobody had to go home alone after the drawing.

Records in England go back to 1479 of girls writing letters to their valentines, when the custom of drawing names was no longer in use and youth simply sent letters to each other with their feelings expressed inside. In the 1880s , lace, hand painted satin, ornaments, birds, baskets, ribbons, and cupids were added to letters, and rhymes and perfume followed.” ~ from The Grandmother of Time: A Women's Book of Celebrations, Spells, and Sacred Objects for Every Month of the Year by Zsuzsanna E. Budapest

As for me... Well, I see it as a day that we, as a society, have, amazingly, managed to set aside to celebrate and pay homage to love. Not just romantic love, but love of humankind, the love of and for our children, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, that strange lady who lives a little further down the block, etc. And just perhaps to set aside a moment to allow ourselves to hope, to believe, that all we really do need is Love (thank you, once again, to The Beatles).

So on Sunday we drank a little wine, cooked a fabulous meal, exchanged cards and just generally enjoyed each other's company.

Gary experimented and came up with the perfect au Gratin potatoes or cheesy Dauphinoise depending on your frame of reference and we both worked on one of our favourite Delia recipes for roasted salmon. We added a little bit of asparagus with butter and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. It was a lovely meal. In fact, it was such a lovely meal that I have included the recipes:

Roasted Salmon Fillets with a Crusted Pecorino and Pesto Topping

This recipe, invented by my good friend Lin Cooper, started life under the grill, but now, in my attempt to more or less eliminate the grill, I'm happy to say that it cooks very happily and easily in a high oven.

One word of warning, though: it works much better with fresh pesto sauce from supermarkets than it does with the bottled kind.” ~ Delia Smith

I should warn you that we pretty much throw the recipe out the window when it comes to the amount of pesto sauce, cheese and breadcrumbs (we love pesto and cheese and use as much as is reasonably possible). ~ robin

2 x 5-6 oz (150 – 175 g) salmon fillets, about ¾ inch (2 cm) thick, skinned
1 rounded tablespoon finely grated Pecorino cheese
2 level tablespoons of fresh pesto sauce
juice of ½ lemon
2 level tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs
salt and freshly milled black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 8, 450°F (230°C)

You will also need a baking tray measuring 10 x 14 inches (25.5 x 35 cm), covered in foil and lightly oiled (we use olive oil).


Begin by trimming the fillets if needed, and run your hand over the surface of the fish to check that there aren't any stray bones lurking. Now place the fish on the prepared baking tray and give each one a good squeeze of lemon juice and a seasoning of salt and pepper.

Next, give the pesto a good stir and measure 2 (or several) tablespoons into a small bowl, mix one-third of the breadcrumbs with it to form a paste and spread this over both fish fillets. Then, mix cheese with the remaining breadcrumbs and scatter this over the pesto. Finish off with the remaining cheese.

Now place the baking tray on the middle shelf of the oven and cook for 10 (I usually end up cooking mine a little longer, but that probably has more to do with my oven and less to do with the actual recipe) minutes, by which time the top should be golden brown and crispy and the salmon just cooked and moist.

So simple to make and extraordinarily delicious.  Delia suggests serving it with steamed potatoes. We serve it with fresh asparagus and Gary's au Gratin Potatoes.

Gary has been working on this recipe for some time now. It's a combination of a recipe by Delia, Jamie, this incredibly interesting man from the Carolinas who has cooking videos on the web (Dave Can Cook) and, of course, his own expertise.

Gary's au Gratin Potatoes

Gary's au Gratin Potatoes


6 Medium Potatoes (2 – 2.5 lbs) 1 kg.
200 g Gruyere Cheese grated
200 ml Double cream
200 ml Whole Milk
25 g / 1 oz unsalted butter
1 clove garlic
1 medium onion


Preheat oven to gas mark 2, 300°F / 150°C

Peel potatoes and parboil 10 – 15mins

Drain and cover with tea towel for 10mins, then slice 1/4” / ½ cm thick

Thinly slice onion

In a buttered baking dish layer potatoes followed by a layer of sliced onions and continue to top of baking dish

Combine milk, cream, garlic and nutmeg in a saucepan, stirring occasionally to simmer and then season with salt and pepper

Gradually add ½ the grated Gruyere into the sauce until it thickens

Pour cream sauce over the potatoes

Sprinkle rest of the cheese on the top

Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until golden on top.

Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.  ~Zora Neale Hurston

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