Menu for ‘Write about Love’ February 2024



 ‘Beet-ing’ hearts salad


 Seafood in saffron and cascabel chilli broth


Coconut rice pudding with sour cherry and orange compote with cherry shortbread hearts


Cooking for someone is always an act of love, regardless of the date. Still, it can be fun to have an excuse to dial things up a notch, just because, so, leaning into a Valentine’s Day theme, we have still beet-ing hearts, bittersweet oranges, heady, floral spices, prosecco and heart-shaped melt in the mouth shortbread. A dinner to melt the heart.


Starter: ‘beet-ing’ hearts salad


  • 750g beetroot (ie,3 large), scrubbed clean but skin left on, or  shop-bought cooked beetroot
  • 2-3 small shallots, peeled and cut into 1mm-thick rounds
  • 2 blood oranges (or regular orange), zest finely grated, to get 2-3 tsp
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds, finely crushed in a mortar
  • 4 tsp maple syrup
  • 80ml olive oil
  • 8 tsp red-wine vinegar
  • Fine sea salt
  • 200g ricotta
  • 200g radicchio, leaves picked and roughly torn into three pieces


STEP 1: If you’re working with raw beetroot, heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. Wrap the beetroot in foil, put it on a lined baking tray and roast for an hour, until it’s easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. If you’re using shop-bought cooked beetroot, skip this step.

STEP 2: Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the shallots, orange zest, fennel seeds, maple syrup, a tablespoon of oil, a teaspoon and a half of the vinegar and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt.

STEP3 : Top and tail the oranges, then, working around its natural curves, cut away the skin and pith. Cut the flesh into chunks, removing and discarding any pith from the centre as you go.

STEP 4: When the beetroot is cool enough to handle, slide off the skin (wear rubber gloves, so you don’t stain your hands), then cut the beetroot into eight equal pieces. Set aside about 200g cooked beetroot, put the rest in a small bowl with the remaining oil, vinegar and a pinch of salt, and toss to combine.

STEP 5: Put the reserved beetroot in the small bowl of a food processor with the ricotta and a quarter-teaspoon of salt and blitz smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go.

STEP 6: Just before serving, mix the torn radicchio leaves through the shallot dressing. Put ricotta mixture on each plate, top with the radicchio mix, beetroot wedges and pieces of orange, spoon any extra shallot dressing over the top and serve.



Main:    seafood in saffron and cascabel chilli broth


  • 2 x dry cascabel chilli, stem and seeds discarded, flesh finely chopped
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 8 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
  • 1 x large  fresh fennel 3/4 finely chopped, the rest finely sliced (on a mandoline, ideally)
  • 25g fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 3 tsp lemon juice
  • 750ml chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp loosely packed saffron, roughly crushed and steeped in 1 tbsp boiling water
  • 2 shallots, peeled, halved and cut into thin half-moons (70g)
  • 2 sticks celery, trimmed and finely sliced
  • Fine sea salt
  • 4 tsp tomato paste
  • 500ml prosecco (or any other dry white wine)
  • 40 mussels, cleaned
  • 400g sustainably sourced, skin-on white fish fillets (sea bass or similar), cut into 4cm cubes
  • 24 sustainably sourced king prawns, peeled and deveined
  • 100g cavolo nero, leaves stripped off and roughly chopped, stems discarded or saved for stock
  •  thick slices sourdough, cut in half


STEP 1: Put the chilli and paprika in a small heatproof bowl. In a small pan, heat a tablespoon of oil until it’s visibly hot, but not smoking, then pour it over the chilli and paprika and leave to cool. Mix in the sliced fennel, coriander and lemon juice, then set aside.

STEP2: Put the stock and the saffron and its steeping water in a small saucepan and heat gently.

STEP 3; Put a medium saucepan for which you have a lid on a medium-high heat and add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Once hot, add the diced fennel, shallot, celery and half a teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring, for a minute, until lightly softened. Add the tomato paste, cook, stirring, for another minute, then turn up the heat to high and quickly add the prosecco and mussels, put on the lid and leave the mussels to steam open; check after a minute – if they haven’t started to open, cover again and leave to cook for 30 seconds more.

STEP 4; Once all the mussels have opened (discard any that do not), take off the lid, pour in the hot saffron stock and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium-low, stir in the fish, prawns, and cavolo nero, leave to cook for a minute, then take off the heat, cover the pan and put to one side while you grill the bread.

STEP 5: Put a griddle pan on a high heat and, once hot, grill the bread on both sides until toasted, then take off the griddle and lightly drizzle oil over both sides.

STEP 6; Divide the soup between two large bowls, top with the fennel mixture, tuck a couple of pieces of toast into the side of each bowl, and serve hot.


Dessert: coconut rice pudding with sour cherry and orange compote with cherry shortbread hearts

This combination of flavours elevates the humble rice pudding to a higher plane. The compote is best cooked well in advance to allow the cherries to swell and soften and the juices to become syrupy and somewhat concentrated, so it’s best to cook the cherries the day before, but cooked first thing in the morning to serve that evening will also yield a good result. The pudding is best served warm with chilled softly whipped cream to accompany. The preparation time here is short, but do give the rice the suggested length of time to cook to a creamy consistency.

  •  – 100g Arborio rice
  • – 50g desiccated coconut
  • – 50g caster sugar
  • – 10g butter
  • – 1.2 litres milk
  • – 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • To serve
  • – Sour cherry and orange compote
  • -cherry heart biscuits


STEP 1: 1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

STEP 2: Put the rice, coconut, sugar and butter into a 2 litre capacity pie dish. Bring the milk to the boil with the vanilla and pour it over the rice. Give everything a gentle stir.

STEP 3: Bake in the oven for 1½–2 hours and remove when just set. The skin on the pudding should be golden and the rice underneath should be cooked through and have soaked up the milk, but it should still be soft and creamy.

STEP 4: Serve the pudding warm with the cherry compote chilled or at room temperature and chilled softly whipped cream on the side. And with cherry heart biscuits.

For the biscuits:


  • 100g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • 200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 50g cornflour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 250g pack cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 50g glacé cherries, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 8 tbsp cherry jam, sieved


STEP 1: Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Sift the icing sugar, flour and cornflour together into a bowl. Stir in the ground almonds and butter, then rub in the butter until smooth. Stir in the chopped glacé cherries and almond extract, and bring together to form a dough.

STEP 2: Roll out on a lightly floured surface, then stamp out biscuits using a heart-shaped cutter. Keep re-rolling the trimmings until all the dough is used. Carefully transfer the biscuits to baking trays lined with parchment and bake for just 8-10 mins until just pale golden.

STEP 3: Using an upturned bottle top or similar, press gently into the centre of each biscuit to make a round indent. Spoon in a little jam and return to the oven for 2 mins. Remove and cool on a wire rack, before dusting with icing sugar to serve.