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Home is where the heart is

Categories: Reflections and opinions

Luke Mackay on avoiding the rigmarole of Valentine’s Day and rustling up a flavoursome, fuss-free meal at home

“We don’t have to do anything for Valentine’s Day, do we?”

“What? Oh, that’s lovely. Who said romance was dead…”

“Really? You actually want to GO OUT and sit in a restaurant?”

“Oh God no. I’m exhausted.”

“Takeaway?”

“What? Oh, that’s lovely. Who said romance was dead…”

“Shall I cook something easy?”

“Yeah. Go on then.”

This is the genuine conversation that I had with my wife yesterday and I’m sure it’s a variation of a conversation that is happening all over the country this week—particularly among those who have a baby and other small humans running amok with gay abandon and destructive glee in your battered home.

I just don’t want to pay over the odds for average food, cheap house wine, surrounded by awkward couples as I fall asleep in my semi frozen prawn cocktail while my wife tells me about Skye’s last poo. So I’ll cook.

Three courses because, you know, apparently, it’s important to make an effort to keep the ‘magic’ alive. But EASY food, no faffing about—nothing that makes a load of washing up or stress. A menu where the shopping is more important than the cooking. If you start with good ingredients, you don’t have to do much to them, and when you are exhausted, stressed and have a long-held, deep-seated mistrust of the whole Valentine’s scam, then that’s key.

Toast with personality
How about this: take a slice of Olivier’s Bakery bread, rub it with raw garlic and drizzle with delicious, verdant Oliveology oil. Brand it hard in a hot grill pan—you want a toast that has a bit of personality, crunchy charcoal-heavy bits, a slap of garlic. Now some white and brown crabmeat from Shellseekers Fish and Game, mixed together with a decent mayonnaise and a squeeze of lemon juice. Pile it on and if you must, put a whisper of barely-blanched samphire atop. Another drizzle of that olive oil and a good grind of black pepper and some crunchy flakes of sea salt and that’s a pretty sexy starter, which basically just involves making toast.

For a main course, keep it fishy—squid ink pasta from La Tua Pasta and some plump sea urchins from Furness Fish Markets. Dessert is my go-to when I was a private chef in the Alps or on super yachts when I. Just. Couldn’t. Be. Bothered. Lemon Posset.

All you have to do is bring cream, sugar and lemon juice to the boil and pour it into a glass. It will magically set into a luxurious, zingy treat that you can then garnish, if you must, with passionfruit or raspberries. If you’re so -minded, you can feed it to your lover while whispering sweet nothings and stroke… Urgh no. Sorry, I can’t even write about it. If you’re still awake, eat it quickly, pass out on the sofa in front of Newsnight and wait for the inevitable night terrors, wet bed, monster at the window that will be ruining your night’s beauty sleep at any minute.