I’m running behind on this challenge but I have to say, this is the week I’ve been looking forward to most – where I get to talk about my amazing Mr. D. And as it’s exactly seven years today since Mr. D popped the question after planning the most beautiful proposal, I’d say that this post has come at the right time.
When I met Mr. D almost ten years ago, I really did think that that was going to be the first and last time I ever saw him, despite my intention to stay in contact. We lived on different continents and our lives moved in completely different directions so it seemed unlikely that we would ever meet up again. I have never been so thankful to have been proved wrong!
Being a die-hard romantic I wanted the old-fashioned eyes-meeting-across-a-crowded-room deal. I wanted popping champagne corks, symphonies, and fireworks. What I actually got was better than that: a sh**load of vodka, a hard rock band from Oklahoma, and nachos! People who hear about how met and got together think it’s like something out of a rom-com movie and I’m so glad that we have such a unique story to tell.
Admittedly since we got married, Mr. D now feels that he doesn’t have to try so hard, so things like opening car doors, pulling out my chair in restaurants and flowers are now a thing of the past! Hmmm… And don’t think I haven’t complained about it!
But one thing that hasn’t changed about Mr. D is his good heart. He has got the kindest heart out of everyone I know. He’s extremely compassionate, forgiving, non-judgemental and he treats everyone with the respect they deserve. He’s the last person you’ll ever find bitching about anyone (though I have heard him complaining about me more than a few times!) Whereas my exes were so caught up in appearances and being the life and soul Mr. Popularity, down-to-earth Mr. D. really couldn’t care less about any of that and is just intent on being his humble self. It’s an attitude I find refreshing and is one of the reasons why it’s not just me, but why my family and friends love him him as well.
I always feel that you know when you’re with the right person because they bring out the best in you and Mr. D certainly does that for me despite us being total opposites. He’s been a very calming influence on me and the fact that we are so different means that it never gets boring and we learn tons from each other.
A few of our closest friends know that last year was a very tough year for us. It was one of the most stressful and traumatic periods we’ve ever encountered in our married life and I hope we never have to go through anything like that again. But marriage isn’t always wine and roses and as someone once said, sometimes you only know the strength of a relationship when it’s been pushed to the limit and you’re being tested. I’d like to think we’ve passed the test.
Mr. D. is absolutely my best friend, the love of my life and my most favourite person. I could spend all day, every day with him and never get bored. I’m so thankful I get to call him my husband.
And I will forever be grateful to that rock band from Oklahoma!
Yay! St. Valentine’s Day is about to descend upon us – and I’m thrilled. Say whatever you like about this day but I do love everything it stands for. And what’s so great about this St. Valentine’s Day is that it falls on a Saturday so it’s more like St. Valentine’s Weekend. Even better! And I’ve definitely got into the spirit of it. Although we’d originally planned to go away this weekend, I’ve been a little under the weather so we’ll be staying at home but it most definitely won’t be boring. We’ve got the cards, the gifts, the choccies, the booze, the candles, the rom-coms, the Valentine’s Day treats and all the ingredients for a fabulous dinner. Because we were long-distance for a long time, we never got to spend St. Valentine’s Day together until after we were married, so it’s very special to us.
So seeing as you have the whole weekend to lounge around and be totally loved up, there’s no excuse not to have a long, leisurely Valentine’s Day breakfast. A piece of toast on the go just won’t do especially as (I hope) you won’t have to dash to the office. And there aren’t many things that scream romance quite like breakfast in bed which is the perfect way to start a lazy weekend. And let’s banish all thoughts of your usual fare – Valentine’s Day is a great time to try something different and indulge in heart-shaped delicacies and dainty little pastries.
So here’s some ideas to inspire you – and have you wishing every day was a breakfast in bed day!
First things first. When serving breakfast in bed you’ll need:
- A tray
- Napkins or kitchen roll
- Newspapers or magazines
- A bottle of Champers (it’s a special occasion!)
What To Serve:
- Porridge served with berries/chopped bananas, honey and cream
- Pancakes with a selection of fillings: jam, honey, peanut butter, maple syrup, Nutella etc.
- Homemade croissants with butter and jam
- French toast with berry compote
- Scrambled egg and smoked salmon bagel
- Sausage, egg and cheese bagel (Mr. D’s favourite!)
- A fry up! How often do you get to have a full English? Be sure to serve on extra large plates.
- Fresh fruit salad
- Danish pastries
- Muffins – these can be made in advance to save you from getting up early to prepare them.
- Waffles with butter, syrup and strawberries
- Steak and eggs
- Fresh fruit smoothies (my fave!)
- Eggs Benedict
- Yogurt in a tall glass layered with fruit, cereal/oats and compote/honey
- Stuffed French toast with Nutella and raspberries or mascarpone and blueberries
- Crumpets with butter and jam
- Hot chocolate made from scratch with whipped cream
- If you’re going to serve toast, make sure you prepare that last so that it stays warm.
- Likewise if you’re going to serve yogurt, get that out of the fridge just before you go up so that it stays cold.
- Make sure you have all the things you need before you go up. It’ll be annoying to run back down because you’ve forgotten the cutlery.
- Napkins and kitchen roll are a must!
- If you’re going to serve Champagne/sparkling wine along with the breakfast, make sure you pop it in the fridge the night before.
- Don’t worry about crumbs or mess. This is quality time with your other half. Enjoy!
I love the pairing of chocolate and rose as a flavour combination. It works really well and tastes divine. So you can imagine my delight when I came across some recipes featuring the two.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge chocolate fan – who isn’t? But I also really like the delicate flavour of rose – the sweet fragrance alone is deliciously tempting. It’s not a common flavouring in most parts of the world, being more popular in Asia and the Middle East. In the UK, it’s probably more commonly known for being used to flavour Turkish delight and rose creams. However in the Far East where my mum comes from, it’s used to flavour a whole variety of sweet things including cakes, biscuits, ice-creams, jams, jellies, milk puddings and drinks. One of my favourite drinks is a rose milkshake made with a delicious rose syrup. My mum prefers to dilute the syrup with water to make a type of rose squash.
I’m not surprised that it’s not as popular here in England as it’s a very difficult flavouring to get right: too little and you won’t be able to taste it; too much and it will taste as though your food has been laced with air freshener! It’s got to be spot on. But when you get it right it’s just like the flower itself – beautiful.
So I found three gorgeous recipes which combine both chocolate and rose together. They’d be perfect for Mother’s Day, St. Valentine’s Day, romantic meals – any occasions in which roses and chocolates are synonymous. But of course you can make them any time you want simply because they look and impressive and taste amazingly good!
CHOCOLATE WHOOPIE PIES WITH ROSE MARSHMALLOW FILLING
- 60g – 2¼ oz unsalted butter diced plus extra for greasing
- 120g – 4¼ oz golden caster sugar
- 1 medium egg
- 20g – ¾ oz cocoa
- 125g – 4½ oz plain flour
- 1 rounded tsp baking powder
- pinch sea salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 tbsp milk
- 1 medium organic egg white
- 75g – 3oz white caster sugar
- 1 tbsp sieved fresh orange juice
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- 5 pink marshmallows halved
- pink food colouring optional
- Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
- Butter two baking sheets.
- In a food processor, cream together the butter and sugar until well blended, then incorporate the egg.
- Sift together the next three cookie ingredients and add to the mixture followed by the remaining cookie ingredients.
- Mix until well combined.
- Drop rounded teaspoons of the mixture on to the baking sheets spaced about 7cm l 2¾ in apart to allow for spreading.
- Bake until just risen and firm without crisping at the edges – they should be soft and slightly cake-like in texture.
- Loosen them immediately with a spatula and leave to cool.
- If not assembling on the day store in an airtight container.
- Place the first four filling ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk using an electric hand-held whisk until combined.
- Set the bowl over a pan containing a little simmering water and whisk the filling at high speed for 5 minutes or until thick and moussey.
- Add the marshmallows and stir for several minutes until beginning to melt.
- Then whisk until smooth and combined, adding a little food colouring if wished to achieve your desired shade of pink.
- Remove from the heat.
- Sandwich the cookies in pairs with about a teaspoon of the filling, matching the top and bottom sizes as evenly as possible.
- Set aside for an hour for the filling to set.
CHOCOLATE AND ROSE PETAL JAM VICTORIA SPONGE
Makes 1 x 20cm (8″) cake
- 225g (8oz) diced unsalted butter
- 200g (7oz) golden caster sugar
- 1 tbsp golden syrup
- 200g (7oz) self-raising flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 25g (1oz) cocoa sifted
- 4 medium eggs
- 100ml (3 ½ fl oz) milk
FILLING & TOPPING
- about 125g (4 ½ oz) rose petal jam or good quality pink or red jam of your choice
- 350ml (12 fl oz) double cream
- pink food colouring optional
- Butter a 20cm (8in) loose-bottom cake tin at least 7cm (2 ¾ in) deep.
- Heat the oven to 190C/170 C fan oven/gas 5.
- Place all the cake ingredients in a food processor and cream together, about 3-4 minutes, until completely smooth.
- Transfer the mixture to the cake tin, smoothing the surface.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Run a knife around the cake and leave to cool in the tin, then turn out.
- For the filling, work the jam in a bowl to loosen in slightly.
- In another bowl, whisk the cream with a couple of drops of pink food colouring until just starting to form soft peaks, taking care not to let the cream turn buttery.
- Slit the cake horizontally into three layers using a bread knife.
- Spread the bottom layer with half the jam, and then half the cream. Repeat with the middle layer using up the remaining jam and cream and set the top layer of cake in place.
CHOCOLATE ROSEWATER MOUSSE
- 125g – 4½ oz dark chocolate about
- 70 per cent cocoa broken into pieces
- 2 medium organic eggs separated
- 25g – 1oz caster sugar
- 100ml – 3½ fl oz double cream
- few drops rosewater to taste
- Gently melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan containing a little simmering water.
- Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until stiff using an electric whisk, then sprinkle over the sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking well with each addition until glossy.
- Fold the egg yolks into the whisked whites.
- Flavour the cream to taste with rosewater and fold into the chocolate in two goes.
- Now fold in a third of the egg mixture to loosen it, and then the remainder in two goes.
- Spoon or pipe the mousse decoratively into dessert dishes or glasses.
- Cover and chill for several hours or overnight.
Every thing red, heart-shaped and fluffy has been removed from shop shelves. St. Valentine’s Day is officially over. And so it would seem is the romance…
St. Valentine’s Day has always been one of my favourite occasions. I’m a born-romantic and not afraid to admit it. I live, eat, drink, breathe, sleep and dream love and romance so naturally I love everything that St. Valentine’s Day stands for. Even when I was single, I thought St. Valentine’s Day was pretty awesome and couldn’t wait for the day when I’d be able to share it with someone super special.
For me, this has most definitely been the best St. Valentine’s Day ever and I’m so sorry it’s over. In fact it hasn’t been St. Valentine’s Day so much as St. Valentine’s Weekend! But then we’ve had a reason to go totally overboard – after five years, we finally got to celebrate our very first Valentine’s Day together and Mr. D. really went all out for this very special occasion. We’ve celebrated every other holiday together but never Valentine’s Day due to us being long-distance for so long or having to work in different parts of the country. And I have to say Mr. D. spoilt me rotten!
But at a risk of sounding as though I’m bragging (I suppose I am!) I’ve been very blessed with my gorgeous hubby. He’s never been lacking in the romance department. Right from the beginning he won me over with his romantic gestures. The romance usually fades the longer you are together but I’m thrilled to say that that hasn’t happened to us (yet!)
But the other day a very apologetic Mr. D. said that he was sorry for not being romantic enough.
“How are you not romantic enough?” I asked.
“Well, I used to buy you flowers quite a lot when we were dating,” he said, ” I hardly ever do that now. I should be buying you flowers every day.”
“Oh please! I don’t need you to bring me flowers every day… and it’s probably just as well. I’d probably wonder what you’d done wrong!”
However, there’s a down-side to Valentine’s Day which takes the sheen off the rose-tinted view of my favourite holiday and some people are really squeezing the romance out of the most romantic day of the year.
I hate the fact that like Christmas, it’s become so commercial and is all about consumerism. Forget greeting cards, it’s more about credit and debit cards. Everyone knows that come 14th February, flowers, chocolates and dining out costs almost twice as much as it normally would – if not more. But for men who have forgotten the significance of 14th February until it it’s almost too late these little love tokens are exactly what’s needed to help them avoid a fate worse than a spell in the doghouse. I’ve seen their fearful and panicked expression while in Hallmark:
“Quick!Quick!” they would pant, ” I forgot what day it was. Show me what you have. Show me what you have before she kills me!”
Sad but true. But even sadder is that come 15th February everything will return to normal again – until next Valentine’s Day when romantic gestures are called for – or else…
And that’s exactly what my problem with Valentine’s Day is – the belief that you only need to be romantic for one day out of three hundred and sixty five and then for the rest of the year you don’t have to bother. Maybe it’s because notions of romance are equated with heavy spending. After all, weekends away, roses, champagne and the finest quality Belgian chocolates don’t come cheap. But who says gift-giving is what romance is all about? Does a generic teddy bear holding a red heart with a cheesy message emblazoned across it or a pair of um, fluffy, red handcuffs prove that you’re loved and desired? Well each to their own but give me little doses of sweet and adorable every day over shop bought madness once a year.
But the truth is, despite my love of St. Valentine’s Day I really don’t need the biggest chocolate box in the shop because Mr. D. does the loveliest little things for me every day and really is the most romantic man I know. He’s more than happy to cook dinner or do the laundry when I’m ill, tired or just plain lazy. He’ll take the same route as me to get to work even though it’s a longer journey for him just so that he can spend more time with me. He phones me as soon as he gets out off work for no other reason than he wants to hear my voice. Basically if there’s anything he can do to make my life better, easier, or happier, Mr. D. will have done it already! I really am a lucky lady and the things he does for me means more to me than flowers that are going to wilt and die or giant teddy bears which will take up space and collect dust.
So the moral of the story is that love is for life and not just for Valentine’s! As much as I love St. Valentine’s Day, it’s important to remember that it’s the icing on the cake – not the chocolate sponge itself! Romance doesn’t come wrapped in cellophane with a big red bow unlike many of the products at the gift shops; it comes from the heart (hence the little heart shaped symbols you see during Valentine’s Day!) So to make sure you’re prepared for next year, remember that it’s the little every day things you do that make St. Valentine’s Day so amazing.
St. Valentine’s Day is about to descend upon us very soon and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s definitely one of my favourite holidays and it means all the more to me because I couldn’t wish for a better Valentine than Mr. D. And this St. Valentine’s Day will be very special indeed…
I’m a sucker for a romantic meal and having the kind of sweet tooth that keeps my dentist in employment, I can safely say that the dessert course is my favourite. But for such a special occasion it has to be a very special dessert – tinned fruit salad with vanilla ice-cream just won’t do! For St. Valentine’s Day, it has to be a dessert that screams love and romance from the rooftops.
So I’ve picked my top five romantic Valentine desserts which I think are the perfect finale to a St. Valentine’s Day meal. So why not make one of these for your beloved on Friday? And if you can’t make up your mind, why not make all five!
1. WHITE CHOCOLATE AND RASPBERRY CREME BRULEE
Who couldn’t love crème brulee? Lashings of creamy custard with a crisp caramelised topping. I often say that dessert isn’t dessert unless it’s chocolate. And as chocolate is known for having aphrodisiac properties, that’s just the perfect excuse for creating this classic pud with a twist. White chocolate, raspberries and crème brulee – could there be a better culinary combination?
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 6 (3 each! perfect!)
- 7oz /200g white chocolate
- 5 large egg yolks
- 3 oz/75g caster sugar
- 1 ½ cups/350ml double cream
- ½ cup/125ml milk
- 9 oz/250g fresh raspberries
- Put the eggs, chocolate and sugar into a large heatproof bowl.
- Heat the cream and milk in a saucepan until just boiling, then slowly pour over egg mix and whisk over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water, until thick.
- Place in the fridge to cool completely. Divide 3/4 of the fresh raspberries between 6 individual ramekins (3″x 2″ deep, or 5″ x 1″ individual dishes) and spoon the brulée mix over smooth over with a palette knife.
When ready to serve evenly sprinkle the surface of the brulée with a thin layer of caster sugar and blow torch, or place under a hot grill until golden brown. Repeat until you have a thick, golden and hard surface.
Decorate with the remaining raspberries and a sprig of mint.
2. CHERRIES IN RED WINE
An unusual dessert but it’s still got that Valentine vibe going on. Red wine and red in colour for passion – what more could you want! Can be serves with sweet, vanilla flavoured whipped cream.
- 425ml red wine
- 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
- 100g demerara sugar
- 500g cherries
- Tip the wine into a medium pan, then add the vanilla pod to the pan with the sugar. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar has dissolved.
- Stone the cherries if you want, or leave them as they are. Add to the pan and cook gently for 6 mins. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Increase the heat, then boil the liquid for 8-10 mins until slightly syrupy. Pour over the cherries and serve warm or cold in glass bowls.
3. MARBLED ROSE CREAM
Roses are to Valentine’s Day what tinsel is to Christmas – you just can’t have one without the other! This fruity pud is flavoured with rosewater – one of my favourite flavourings. I found this recipe in the National Trust’s Traditional Puddings by Sara Paston-Williams.
- 250 gr raspberries
- 75 gr castor sugar
- 7 ml cold water (a good dash)
- 150 ml double cream
- 7 ml rose-water or Kirsch (a generous dash)
- sprig of mint
- glitter sugar, chocolate flakes or other topping
- First, put half the raspberries into a saucepan with 2/3rds of the sugar (50 grs), bring gently to the boil and continue to simmer until a pulp. Push through a sieve and allow to cool.
- Whip cream until thick and add the remaining castor sugar gradually. Reserve a few of the remaining raspberries to decorate. Mash the rest and mix with the whipped cream very thoroughly, then add the rose-water or Kirsch.
- Then add the cooked raspberry pulp, stirring just enough to give a marbled effect.
- Pour into a glass bowl (or bowls) and chill for at least three hours in the fridge.
- Add the mint sprig and decorate with the raspberries and glimmer sugar or chocolate flakes.
4. OUEFS A LA NEIGE/SNOW EGGS/FLOATING ISLANDS
Whichever name you decide to use, I absolutely adore this dessert. It combines soft, marshmallowy meringue with creamy crème anglaise and caramel. It looks so pretty and tastes divine. Crystalised rose petals can also be added for even more prettiness.
- For the crème anglaise, heat the milk and vanilla seeds in a saucepan over a medium heat. Simmer for 4-5 minutes.
- Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl.
- Pour the hot milk mixture onto the eggs and sugar, a little at a time, so the eggs do not start to cook, whisking continuously until smooth and creamy.
- Return the mixture to the saucepan and place the pan over a medium heat and stir continuously for 4-5 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl, leave to cool and then refrigerate.
- For the poaching liquor, combine the milk and 500ml/18fl oz water with the sugar in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- For the meringue, using an electric hand whisk, whisk the whites in a bowl until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed, but the mixture should not look too dry. Add one tablespoon of the sugar to the egg whites, and continue to whisk until the mixture comes back to stiff peaks. Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time until it has all been used, and the meringue is thick and glossy.
- Using a serving spoon dipped in cold water, shape big quenelles of the meringue and gently poach in the milk and water solution, turning after 4-5 minutes to ensure they are cooked on both sides. Make sure the liquid doesn’t boil or the meringues will puff then collapse. When fully cooked, gently place on a wire rack to drain.
- For the caramel, pour the sugar into a clean pan. Melt the sugar slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon over a low heat until the sugar turns a dark copper colour. Remove immediately from the heat to ensure the caramel does not burn.
- Pour the caramel over the meringues. When set, take the caramel-covered meringues off the tray and serve in a generous pool of the crème anglaise.
5. CHOCOLATE FONDUE
I absolutely love love LOVE chocolate fondue and in my opinion it was just made for St. Valentine’s Day. It’s delicious, chocolatey and designed to be shared – could anything be more romantic? It’s also so easy to make and you can choose the dippers you like most.
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 3 (4-ounce) semisweet chocolate bars, chopped
- 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur or other flavoured liqueur
Assorted cookies, pretzel sticks, fruit, marshmallows
- Microwave whipping cream and chocolate in a microwave-safe glass bowl at HIGH 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Stir in liqueur.
- Transfer to a fondue pot; keep warm, stirring occasionally. Serve with cookies, pretzels, fruit, and marshmallows.
Happy St. Valentine’s Day!