Guest blog from Jane Hughes – The Vegetarian Magazine Editor
If you’re hoping to impress a special somebody this Valentine’s Day, serving up the right combination of food and wine is crucial. In the heady early weeks of a new love affair, the topic of food doesn’t always arise, and that all-important Valentine’s dinner might be the first you cook for your loved-one. Have they mentioned that they are eating meat-free meals regularly, or avoiding wheat? Perhaps not, but better safe than sorry…
Meat-free meals are a sensible choice for the big night. Nobody wants to end up bloated and sluggish! Choose a light dinner that will be fun to eat, deliver some energy and look pretty on the plate.
My first recommendation is a salad of roasted asparagus, topped with protein-rich Macadamia nuts and tangy feta cheese. Asparagus is often considered to be an aphrodisiac, and if the mood is right, feeding each other can be very sensual! Pair this with a bottle of Meinklang Pinot Noir Frizzante Prosa, a fresh pink organic sparkling wine from Austria, which is suitable for vegans. It’s refreshing and fruity, and only 10.5% ABV so you won’t get carried away while the night is still young!
Dessert is the best part of any meal, so why not cut to the chase and serve a decadent slice of chocolate tart? Everybody knows that chocolate is the food of love! The recipe in my book, The Adventurous Vegetarian, is vegan, though you would be hard pushed to tell. The filling is a seriously rich combination of dark chocolate and stimulating black coffee, and the walnut crust can easily be made gluten-free.
It’s notoriously difficult to pair wine with chocolate, as chocolate runs rampant over many more subtle flavours. But chocolate and raspberry is a winning combination, and Vintage Roots have a fabulous Champagne Fleury Blanc de Noirs, a bold, raspberry-flavoured champagne with creamy bubbles, which is biodynamic and suitable for vegans. It might be a good idea to buy more than one bottle.
If you’re getting serious on Valentine’s night, and thinking of popping the question, you can’t go wrong with a chilled bottle of Richmond Plains Nelson Blanc de Noir. It’s classy, with aromas of citrus blossom and a full, fruity flavour – think baked apples, peaches and pears. It’s made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes, in a white wine style, which gives it a very attractive faint pink blush. It’s a thoughtful, romantic choice which will go down particularly well if it is served alongside an intriguing little jewellery box…
Asparagus and macadamia nut salad
A bunch of asparagus
A handful of macadamia nuts
250g feta cheese
60ml olive oil, plus extra for cooking
Juice of half a lemon
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 375F/190C. Trim the asparagus and put it into an ovenproof dish. Drizzle with olive oil and cook for between 10 and 20 minutes (depending on the thickness of the asparagus spears). Allow to cool.
Put the macadamia nuts into a dry, heavy-bottomed pan and toast them over a medium heat fpr 2-3 minutes until beginning to colour. Tip them onto a cool plate to halt the cooking process.
Cut the tomatoes into halves and crumble the feta. Make the salad dressing by whisking the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt and pepper together. Arrange the asparagus on a serving platter or individual plates. Add the tomatoes and feta, and drizzle with the dressing.
For the crust:
100g vegan margarine
1 tsp vanilla extract
30g walnuts, finely chopped
150g plain white flour (can use gluten-free flour)
For the filling:
175g dark chocolate, chopped
300ml strong black coffee
2 tbsp cornflour
1 tsp vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
75g slivered almonds (optional)
Preheat oven to 355F/180C. Cream the margarine and sugar together, then add the vanilla and walnuts and mix well. Add the flour, a little at a time, and mix until the dough sticks together and is slightly moist.
Press the soft dough into a tart pan with your fingertips, forming a smooth crust without any holes. Bake until the edges are just barely starting to brown, about 20 minutes. Allow the crust to cool completely before filling.
For the filling, melt the chocolate. Bring the coffee to boiling point, pour onto the warm chocolate and stir until smooth. Mix the cornflour with a little water to make a smooth paste, then stir into the warm chocolate with the vanilla and salt. Pour the filling into the cooled pie crust and refrigerate the pie for at least 6 hours. Decorate with slivered almonds (optional), slice and serve.