Friday Focus: Valentine’s Day Special

 

If French is the language of lurve(!), does that mean that French cuisine is the food of love? I’d be tempted to say yes, but I am biased J

 

Nevertheless, I’d like to share the following menu with you on this lovely Valentine’s Day:

 

Starter:Vichyssoise

 

Main course: Boeuf Bourguignon

 

Dessert:Macarons aux Amandes

 

 

 

3 lovely, yet simple, French dishes to cook for your sweetie. And if you’re single? Well then, you’ll have the almond macaroons all to yourself J

 

So whether you’re spending this Valentine’s Day with your beloved, with great mates or as a fabulous singleton, I hope you enjoy the following recipes. They are sure to please and comfort if they are made with love. Have a lovely Valentine’s Day everyone!

Starter: Vichyssoise (Chilled Leek and Potato Soup)

 

Serves 4 –

 

20g butter

 

2tbsp olive oil

 

3 small leeks (white and light green part only), finely sliced

 

1 medium onion, chopped

 

2 large potatoes, peeled and diced

 

Splash of white wine

 

400ml vegetable stock

 

250ml milk

 

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Natural yogurt and chopped chive to garnish

 

1-      Put the oil and the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat. Once the butter has melted, add the onion and leek. Cook until soft (approximately 10 minutes), stirring occasionally.

 

2-      Increase the heat to medium and add the potatoes, white wine and stock. Bring back to the boil then lower the heat and simmer gently until the potatoes are soft (approximately 20 minutes.)

 

3-      Purée the soup until smooth using an immersion blender. Add the milk and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place in the fridge to chill before serving.

 

4-      Serve with a dollop of yogurt for garnish and a sprinkle of chopped chive.

 

(Sandra’s note: please note that, although it is traditional to serve the Vichyssoise chilled, it is perfectly delicious served hot – and, considering the awful weather we’ve been having, I wouldn’t blame you if you chose to do so!)

 

 

Main course: Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef and Vegetables Stew)

 

Serves 4 –

 

800g beef, cubed

 

3tbsp oil

 

½ tsp thyme

 

¼ tsp salt

 

½ tsp pepper

 

3tbsp plain flour

 

3tbsp brandy or cognac

 

3 medium carrots, peeled and cut in large chunks

 

4-5 medium mushrooms, cut in large chunks

 

1 large onion, quartered

 

300ml beef stock

 

600ml red wine

 

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in large chunks

 

1-      In a very large saucepan, heat the oil over high heat and fry the cubes of beef until browned and seared on all sides (you may need to sear the meat in separate batches, depending on the size of your saucepan.)

 

2-      Lower the heat to medium and add the thyme, salt, pepper and flour. Cook for a further minute.

 

3-      Pour the Cognac or Brandy in the saucepan and deglaze the pan (which is basically use the alcohol to help scrape the attached brown bits from the bottom of the pan; this is where all the flavour is!)

 

4-      Add the carrots, mushrooms and onion to the pan and pour the beef stock and red wine. Bring back to the boil and lower the heat to low. Cover the pan and simmer gently for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

 

5-      After 2 hours, add the potatoes and stir to ensure they are covered by the liquid in the pan. Simmer for a further 30-40 minutes, until the potatoes are soft.

 

6-      Adjust the seasoning if needed and serve with a sprinkle of parsley.

 

(Sandra’s note: The addition of potatoes at the end of the cooking time is not traditional for a Boeuf Bourguignon, but I love preparing mine like this. Not only do the potatoes help thicken the red wine sauce, but it also means that you do not have to serve a separate side dish. That means less washing up at the end of the day!)

 

 

 

Dessert: Macarons aux Amandes (Almond Macaroons)

 

Makes 12 macaroons –

 

120g ground almonds

 

140g caster sugar

 

¼ tsp almond essence

 

¼ tsp nutmeg

 

2 egg whites, lightly beaten (to loosen them up a little bit)

 

12 whole almonds

 

1tsp icing sugar for dusting

 

 

 

1-      Preheat your oven at 180C/160C fan. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper or use a silicon lining mat.

 

2-      Put the ground almonds, sugar, almond essence and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl. Add the egg whites little by little and mix until you form a soft dough (you may not need to use all the egg whites.)

 

3-      Wet your hands to stop the dough from sticking and shape it into 12 walnut-sized balls. Place onto the baking sheet.

 

4-      Press one of the whole almonds into each of the dough balls, flattening them slightly. Dust lightly with the icing sugar (the easiest way to do this is by putting 1tsp icing sugar in a small sieve and shaking it gently over the macaroons.)

 

5-      Bake the macaroons for 12 minutes, until golden on top. Transfer them to a wire rack after 5 minutes to cool completely.

 

By the way, those recipes don’t have to be for Valentine’s Day only. They are perfect for any dinner party as you can prepare a lot in advance, leaving plenty of time to enjoy your party and your guests!
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