Valentine’s Day is somewhat like Christmas – a holiday of great, blundering clichés, and a chance for the loveless and the cynical to mine every orifice of Scroogian misery for reasons to hate it. While this is understandable (after all, let’s face it, Valentine’s is about as palatable as one of Jordan’s boonies), the point has been made ad nauseam.
So instead of whingeing about the evanescence of love, I’ve decided to embrace some of the couples that will be together forever. Because while the most seemingly perfect relationships can disintegrate inexplicably, there are certain pairings that are eternal.
I am, of course, talking about food. Some things just seem to have been made for each other. Beetroot and goat’s cheese; beef and horseradish (and smoked fish and horseradish, come to think of it); pork pies and pickled walnuts (if you haven’t tried this you must); ginger and honey; apple and cinnamon. No amount of tabloid scandal can tear these apart (what? Haven’t you ever seen a paparazzo chasing a Melton Mowbray down the street?) They are more perfectly married then any human could ever be.
To celebrate Valentine’s Day I’m going to spend the week cooking with these perfect pairings, with perhaps the odd cheeky threesome thrown in if I’m lucky.
Potatoes and cream – Cullen Skink
Cullen skink is, I believe, traditionally made with mashed potato, but I much prefer it with chunks.
1 fillet of undyed smoked haddock
200ml double cream
200ml whole milk
A bay leaf
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 large potato, chopped
– Put the smoked haddock, cream and milk in a saucepan with the bay leaf. Place over a medium heat, bring to a simmer and cook gently for 5 minutes. Leave to cool.
– Heat a little olive oil in a separate saucepan and sweat the onion and celery until soft and translucent.
– Add the potato, season with salt and pepper, cover, and cook for a further 15 minutes.
– Take the fish out of the saucepan and remove the skin and any bones.
– Add white wine to the potato and onion pan, simmer for 1 minute, and then add the cream.
– Cook very gently until the potato is completely soft, before flaking in the fish. Cook for a further few minutes, check for seasoning, and serve with chopped parsley.