'Pray let's have no words of this, but when they ask you what it means, say you this. Tomorrow is Saint Valentine's Day. All in the morning bedtime. And I am made at your window to be your Valentine'.
William Shakespeare's Hamlet
Love, Amour, Amor, Liebe, Amore...in all the languages and around the world, every February 14, people exchange cards, candy, flowers, and gifts in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and where did these traditions come from?
Lets go back around the stories about Saint Valentine's day. most of them are honouring an early saint called Valentinus who was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers that were not allow to marry. Per legend, he fell in love with the daughter of the jailer and left a letter for her before his execution signed with ' Your Valentine'....an expression that is still in use today :)
Personally, I always thought in Valentine's Day as a celebration of love, but not only the couple kind, also friendship love, family love, love of life and all the beautiful things in it, love, just in general, and because love is in the air in February, I want to transport you to a beautiful country, full with beauty and romance, full with delicious food an excellent wines, artistic and magic at the same time... Any guess?
Well yes, I'm talking about...Italy!
Italy and their delicious and flavoured cuisine, because Italian food is famous for being a labour of love. A comforting cuisine that’s at its best when prepared especially for you, by someone who holds you dear.
Well my dear friends, Iniziamo, perché l'amore per la bocca inizia....
To start our Italian voyage, I choose this simple but delicious 'Italian-style antipasti plate.'
Literally, the word “antipasto” is derived from the Latin root “anti” meaning “before” and “pastus,” which means “meal.” Thus, the antipasto course simply refers to the dish that precedes all others.
You will need:
- 2 x 150 g mozzarella balls , torn in half
- 1 red chilli , deseeded and finely chopped
- 20 slices quality prosciutto/bresaola/salami
- 280 g artichokes in olive oil , drained, oil reserved
- 290 g sundried tomatoes in olive oil , drained, oil reserved
- 290 g balsamic sundried peppers in oil , drained, oil reserved
- 3 tablespoons mixed olives
- 1 handful cherry tomatoes , halved
- Parmesan , for shaving
- 20 g fresh basil , leaves picked
- 1 loaf ciabatta bread , sliced
- 1 clove garlic , cut in half
- Place the mozzarella at the edges of a large plate and scatter with chilli. Arrange the cured meat and all the vegetables in small piles over the rest of the plate. Top the meat with some Parmesan.
- Put most of the basil leaves in a pestle and mortar or a Flavour Shaker with a pinch of salt and crush to a paste. Add a few tablespoons of the reserved olive oil from the jars and stir to make a basil-flavoured oil. Spoon it over the mozzarella and the vegetables, then drizzle with a little olive oil.
- Toast the ciabatta then rub lightly with the garlic, drizzle with a bit more of the reserved oil and serve everything together with the remaining basil leaves scattered over.
For Main Dish...
Romeo and Juliet Risotto wit Amarone.
Is one of the most delicious dishes of Verona culinary tradition. In this recipe you find two of the top products of Verona territory: the Amarone and the Vialone Nano. Vialone Nano is a rice varietal typical of Verona(Yes, you can get it here in Jersey I already verified and also you can get it on Amazon :)), this rice is appreciated by international chefs all over the world for the creamy texture it gives to the risotto.
You will need:
- 320 gr of Vialone Nano rice
- 60 gr of grated aged parmesan cheese.
- 60 gr of finely chopped onion
- 40 gr of butter
- 35 gr beef bone marrow or, in alternative, 50 gr of extra virgin olive oil
- 1litre and a half of stock soup (If you can get the concentrated soup cubes that are sold in the supermarket they are perfect for risotto.
- 1/2 bottle of Amarone della Valpolicella. Of course it would be a crime to use an old vintage of Amarone. Please use a young Amarone, one of those that ages for only a couple of years in barrel and that are usually less expensive that long aged ones and also have more aggressive flavours, ideal to give more taste to your recipe
- Salt and pepper
- In a big pot melt the concentrated soup cubes with water and keep it close to boiling temperature. Do the same with the Amarone in another pot.
- Cut up the onion very thin, put it in a third pot with butter and bone marrow (or olive oil) and brown it until it gets of a beautiful golden colour, then add the rice. With a wooden spoon stir the rice until it gets evenly shiny with the oil and bone marrow, add a small pinch of salt and pepper and keep stirring. Add the Amarone and keep stirring until it evaporates. It is important to keep stirring otherwise the rice will stick to the bottom of the pot and burn.
- Now it’s the important point. With a ladle, put some soup in the rice pot, and keep on stirring until the soup is almost completely absorbed by the rice, then add some more soup. Keep on repeating the same operation until you finish the soup and the rice is tender.
- Turn off heat, add some more butter and the parmesan cheese and stir until everything is melted and creamy.
Put the rice on a wide, flat plate, spread it well and add some more grated parmesan cheese and buon appetito!
To close this delicious menu, a classic: 'Tiramisu'
The literal meaning of Tiramisu in Italian is “pick me up” or “cheer me up”. As the name implies, this is an iconic Italian dessert that is served at the end of the meal that hopefully “cheers you'.
- 250g/9oz full- fat mascarpone cheese
- 300ml/½ double cream
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 tbsp icing sugar sifted
- 125ml/4fl oz strong coffee cooled
- 6 tbsp brandy
- 12 sponge fingers
- 50g/1¾oz dark chocolate coarsely grated
Measure the mascarpone and about 50ml/2fl oz of the cream into a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Slowly add the remaining cream and whisk again until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed from the bowl, being careful not to over-mix or it will be too thick.
Fold in the vanilla extract and icing sugar.
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine the coffee and brandy.
Break six of the sponge fingers in half and dip into the coffee and brandy mixture. Arrange the soaked sponge fingers in the base of the tumblers. Spoon half of the cream mixture on top and half of the grated chocolate.
Break the remaining sponge fingers and soak in the coffee and brandy. Place on the cream layer, then spoon the remaining cream mixture on top, levelling neatly.
Chill for a few hours, if possible, then sprinkle with the remaining chocolate before serving at room temperature.
To make all this better, I have carefully chosen this selection of wines, with two Italians, Three Frenchie's and one rocking cinsault from the New World.
I wish you all an incredible Valentine's Day to share with the people you love.