In all the 14th of Februaries that passed during our relationship, I’m not sure if my beloved and I ever spent one together. We were often separated by work or geography but I can’t say it ever bothered me. Like most of the people I hope are reading this, I have a healthy disdain for a Saint’s Day that seems constructed solely to bridge the commercial gap between Christmas and Easter. But C didn’t share my apathy. Perhaps his Catholic upbringing helped bring more resonance to it. Or maybe it was just guilt for being a less than perfect partner…it doesn’t matter now…but it was he who was always more romantic about Valentine’s Day than I. He never failed to mark it in some way no matter where he was. There were always flowers, usually roses which I love no matter what the time of year. Sometimes there was jewelry and on one occasion some less than successful lingerie. At some point in the days or weeks around that day, and generally within a reasonable time frame, our shared love of food would be involved in an opportunistic nod to Eros.
“What are we doing for our Valentine’s dinner?” he would ask. This wasn’t an invitation to suggest a restaurant however. We never went out to celebrate our February lurrrve. Even if we had been together for the date I doubt we would have ventured into a restaurant on this night, speckled as it is with doe-eyed ingenues, sweating salary-men and bored couples scanning the room each wondering if they might have done better if only they’d waited.
I always enjoyed cooking for us at home. The simple pleasure of putting a meal together often provided a focus for a day together. In Munich, where we spent a lot of time, a trip to the Viktualienmarkt was a great start to the weekend. If I was alone or didn’t want to venture that far, I’d simple go to the Wiener Platz market at the bottom of Kirchenstrasse where we lived. (Click here to have a wander around. It’s just wonderful) It had about 12 little stalls. Everything you would need from fish to meat, veg to bakery.
I loved it very much.
So this is a dish I cooked as a first course on what was to be our last Valentine’s Day together.
Christian adored it I remember. I made it a several times in what were to be the few remaining months we had together. Doubling up the recipe from my original makes a light supper for one. My Valentine’s version in Munich used smoked eel which was easy to get at the local market. Not so easy here so I’ve replaced it with smoked mackerel.
I cooked it tonight, Valentine’s Eve, in memoriam. Things aren’t very easy for me at the moment for many reasons. Looking at the two little yolks nestled together was very comforting – and not a little hopeful.
CODDLED EGGS WITH HORSERADISH & SMOKED MACKEREL
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp whipping cream
- 1.5 tsp grated horseradish (horseradish sauce would be fine)
- A few fennel or caraway seeds
- salt & pepper
- a little butter to coat the ramekin dish
- 1 small smoked mackerel fillet, flaked
- a squeeze of lemon
- toasted rye bread, one slice
- 2 tsp chopped chives
- Heat the oven to 180 degrees and set the kettle to boil.
- Separate the eggs, setting the yolks aside carefully
- Mix the egg whites with the cream, horseradish and seasoning
- Pour the cream mixture into a ramekin or small oven-proof bowl
- Carefully place the yolks in the cream and sprinkle with a few fennel seeds
- Place in a roasting dish in the oven and pour boiling water around the ramekin to half way up the side
- Bake for 12 minutes or until the edges are firm and the middle gently wobbles. You want the yolks to stay runny.
- Meanwhile, toast the bread and top with flaked mackerel, lemon juice to taste and chopped chives.
- Serve, and eat while counting your blessings
POST SCRIPT: When I went out to buy the ingredients for this dish I bought the Waitrose Valentine’s dinner for two for £20. Starter, main, side, pudding, Prosecco and a box of chocolates. I’m going to see how many meals I can make out of it over the next few days. Stand by for a new blog update. Although not for Valentine’s Eve dinner. I’m having the neighbours round for a curry!
PPS: Sorry about the formatting. WordPress is driving me nuts tonight.