Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Dinner Date Night In

Sometimes its just nice to stay in and cook for a date. Together, so you don't have to slave away in the kitchen alone can enjoy the fun of cooking (and washing up later!) with your other half. There are just days when you're not up for fighting the crowds for a table somewhere.

I like cooking dates because that usually means I can try something new that I haven't done before. Two minds (and four hands) are better than one when making recipes that you're not familiar with.

Beef Carpaccio Salad | Svelte Salivations

Of course, too (or two?) many cooks can spoil the broth, but Ant and I are very compatible. We have designated roles: He tells me what he wants to eat, I find recipes. I choose ingredients, he pays for them ;) He chops, slices and dices, I wash.  I preheat the ovens and pans, he handles the sizzling oil and hot steam. He seasons, I taste test. I stir, he dishes up. It works very well.

Beef Carpaccio Salad | Svelte Salivations

Ant took care of the meat for this Beef Carpaccio Salad, although there wasn't much really to do! We used a thick cut steak of beef fillet for this, because it is such a beautifully tender texture (though the flavour may not be as good as cuts like sirloin), and kept the handling to a minimum.

We just brought it to room temperature about 30 minutes before seasoning it lightly with salt and pepper and searing the outside surfaces on a very high heat to a charred brown (1-2 minutes). In order to be a safe as possible with the raw meat, we didn't cut it until we were ready to eat.

Ant managed to cut it really very thin (considering the soft raw texture), and then we flattened the slices out some more on a chopping board with a rolling pin covered in glad wrap. Then I did the important job of tossing it with some baby spinach leaves, roasted peppers (from a jar!) and balsamic vinaigrette. Ta da! Easy-peasy Beef Carpaccio Salad.

Salmon sashimi with avocado and cucumber | Svelte Salivations

I don't know why we thought it was a good idea to have so much raw food in one night. We just couldn't resist when we saw an entire side of salmon on sale at Tesco for £13! It looked so fresh, we had to try some of it for salmon sashimi!

While the sushi master (educated at the YouTube academy of sushi knife skills) carefully deskinned and deboned the slab of omega-3 goodness, I halved, cored and sliced the creamy butteriness that is an avocado. With similar textures, and rich, creamy, oily-but-in-a-good-way tastes, I think it's weird that salmon and avocado go well together (it seems like it would result in overload!) but they do. It's the ultimate match. I also sliced some cucumber to freshen it all up.

Spanish style toasted spaghetti with prawns and clams | Svelte Salivations

Somehow we survived all the raw meat and raw fish, and made it onto our main course.

This is inspired by some Spanish paella-type recipes that are made with pasta rather than rice. I believe it is something called fideuà. Having never actually tried this dish, we didn't really know what we to expect and what would be a good recipe. So we improvised.

There are various fideuà and pasta/noodle-paella recipes online, and I used a combination of a few, including this one from America's Test Kitchen, and this one. The key concepts to point out are:

  • toast the spaghetti in some olive oil to start (break the spaghetti in half or smaller to fit easily into your pan
  • cook up a tomato based sauce (I used canned tomatoes, tomato paste, shallots, garlic and fish stock - I don't know where to get hold of bottle clam juice?) and then cook the toasted spaghetti in it
  • when the pasta is just done, nestle in your seafood (clams, mussels, prawns, cockles, fish, calamari, whatever you can get your hands on!) and bake in the oven until the seafood is done and the pasta begins to crisp up
  • serve with lemon wedges
Spanish style toasted spaghetti with prawns and clams | Svelte Salivations

It definitely tasted delicious, but whether it was authentic or even close to what the dish is supposed to be, I would not know. I think this calls for a trip to Spain (or a Spanish restaurant, but preferably in Spain) to do some research !

The beauty of seafood (if it's fresh) is that it's actually incredibly easy to make. There's very little you need to do with it, because its the seafood itself that you want to appreciate. I love this dish also because it's quick, quite hassle free, and if you're fortunate enough to have a ovenable pan, a one-pan dish that means even washing up is easy.

Red velvet cake with buttercream frosting and mini marshmallows | Svelte Salivations

So it was supposed to be a date night in, but my sister was in as well, so it became a dinner for three instead. That 's how we managed all that food! ;)

She contributed a beautiful red velvet cake, decorated with marshmallows and buttercream. It was the perfect size, and the perfect way to end our meal.

Moet & Chandon champagne with a raspberry | Svelte Salivations

All accompanied with some champagne of course!

Date nights in like these make me less inclined to go out for a fancy (and probably expensive) meal as often. It can be just as perfect at home, don't you think?

Although, I can't give you many tips on improving the next part - washing up. It's probably easiest to pile it all to the side and thinking about it the next day ;)