Celebrity chef Tony Tobin's Valentine's Day recipes
PUBLISHED: 12:06 13 February 2012 | UPDATED: 18:24 20 February 2013
Celebrity chef and long time Surrey Life associate Tony Tobin on why food is the music of love
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine February 2010. Updated February 2011.
Celebrity chef and long time Surrey Life associate Tony Tobin on why food is the music of love
Celebrity chef and long time Surrey Life associate Tony Tobin on why food is the music of loveTony Tobin has been a regular on the BBC's Ready Steady Cook for over a decade andis head chef at the acclaimedThe Dining Room in Reigate.
A very good friend of mine confessed to me recently that in the run-up to Valentines Day 2009, he made an error of such magnitude that he still winces about it today. I think hes wrong to wince... but it all depends on your view of romance. So lets put you to the test.
He was walking down the Kings Road in London and spied a shop whose name he recognised. It was a hosiery shop selling tights, stockings and such like. Remembering that his wife always raves about a pair she had been given as a gift from this place, he decided to nip in and get her some tights for Christmas.
Now the women among you will probably already sense where this is going. A posh shop on the Kings Road selling tights. Paying London level business rates and wages all from the proceeds. Hmmm!
Anyway, the nice lady in the shop said without a moments hesitation: I know exactly what you need. She then went on to produce a small white box adorned with a picture of a superb pair of pins enveloped in luxurious opaque black tights. Had he looked further at the description, he might have picked up the all-important words cashmere/silk, too. But he didnt. Like most men, he already had a picture in his mind of what a pair of tights costs. And that picture consists of a single digit possibly appended with a .99.
He tells the story in such a way that he was supposedly in a hurry to run for the Tube and when offered this instant solution to his problem he said: Yes, Ill take them, at which, the merest flicker of a smile played across the sales assistants face. He says: One end of my credit card was in my hand, one end was in hers... and then the price flashed up on the till and she pulled...
When 109 appeared, he could, of course, have found his alpha male assertiveness and said: No, this is ridiculous... give me my card back now and keep your cashmere silk, three-digit tights. But, typical of most males trapped in a female palace of power he just went ahead regardless albeit with a slight tightening of the throat and weakness of knee.
A cautionary tale
The way I like to interpret this cautionary tale is slightly different from his recollection. I believe that deep down inside it was not shame that made him carry on with the purchase, it was romance. No one ever willingly buys a pair of tights that could ladder on the slightest liaison with pineapple for that much money. Surely they dont? So, in giving them to his wife, he actually gave her the perfect gift.
It was gratuitous, foolish, over the top, something she would never have bought for herself... but all the more utterly wonderful for it.
In my restaurants, there is a small piece of psychology that plays out each year on Valentines Day that is very similar. I used to have some lovely wines at the beginning of my wine list real gems that cost very little but tasted wonderful and so sat at the beginning of the list that was arranged roughly in price order. They never sold. No one dining with a loved one ever buys one of the first two wines. I swear if I put a Grand Cru as the first wine for 8.99 a bottle, no one would buy it. Everyone knows that romance and cheap-skatery do not sit well together.
So my advice to all of you men out there (the women among you, simply leave this magazine open at this page on the loo floor!) is this. When you are planning a Valentines meal for your girlfriend or wife or prospective candidate for either of these two roles, ignore the cost. You will forget the outlay in less than two months but the impression you leave with a truly wonderful, luxurious wine and meal combination will last for the whole year.
For those of you who would like to rustle up your own romantic meal, try my recipes below for a fantastic dinner at home. For everyone else, choose a great restaurant (I can recommend one) and dont look at the amount when you punch in your pin number.
Seared scallops with crabsticks, and hot and sweet sauce
- 8 Large scallops
- 400g Crabmeat
- 1tsp Fresh ginger finely diced
- 200g Thai fragranced rice
- 100ml Coconut milk
- 8 Spring roll wraps
- 1tsp Fresh ginger finely diced
- 1 Red chilli
- 1 Clove garlic
- Zest of one lime
- 200ml White wine vinegar
- 2tbsp Caster sugar
- Sweat finely diced ginger in a little olive oil until soft, add crabmeat and season with salt and pepper.
- Allow to cool.
- Brush the spring roll wraps with a little egg wash, place crab mix in the centre and roll into chopstick shapes. Put to one side.
- Boil rice in twice its volume of seasoned water until all the liquid has evaporated, add the coconut milk and gently simmer until rice is tender. Correct seasoning and finish with lime juice.
- Place all the ingredients for the sauce into a pan, bring to the boil reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Allow to cool and liquidise.
- Heat a heavy based frying pan with a little olive oil and sear the scallops very quickly keeping them nice and rare in the middle. Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve the scallops on a spoonful of the coconut rice, drizzled with the hot and sweet sauce.
- Deep fry the crabsticks until crisp and golden brown and use these to garnish the scallops.
Teardrop of chocolate mousse with fresh raspberries
- 400g Dark chocolate
- 1 Sheet acetate
- 800g White chocolate
- 2 Egg whites
- 2 tbsp Caster sugar
- 175ml Double cream
- 1 Punnet raspberries
- 1 tbsp icing sugar
- Cut the acetate into strips about two inches long.
- Melt the dark chocolate, dip the strips into the chocolate and bend the two ends together to form a teardrop shape. Secure with a paperclip and allow to set.
- Melt the white chocolate, whisk up the whites to soft peaks and add sugar and whisk until firm.
- Semi whip cream and fold it into the white chocolate, then fold the egg whites in and spoon into the chocolate teardrops.
- Allow to set in the fridge.
- Liquidise half of the raspberries with the icing sugar and strain through a sieve.
- Mix half of the sauce with the rest of the raspberries.
- Remove acetate and place some of the raspberries on top, spooning the rest of the sauce around.
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine February 2009
Tony Tobin cooks up a little romance
Celebrity chef and long time Surrey Life associate Tony Tobin cooks up a romantic start to Valentine's Day
The evening is cold and crisp. The crescent moon wears a blurry halo and the leaves of the trees shine silver in its reflection, rippling in a cool breeze that prompts you to walk just a little closer together.
After a delicate, delicious meal over candlelight and a shared bottle of spirit-lifting, pupil-widening champagne, you are walking home together arm-in-arm. A warm room awaits with a white cotton duvet secretly adorned with rose petals before you left the house.
You stop. The moment is magical. Two sets of eyes meet with the sparkle in each twinkling a pure and electric connection of love...
Sorting the men from the boys
Hold on, hold on. The most important bit's missing. That's the end of Valentine's day... and much as it sounds lovely, it's easy to end Valentine's Day with a gooey dollop of romance.
What separates the Valentine's men from the boys isn't the meal and the wine and the hours between 10pm and midnight - it's what happens between 7am and 10am. Yes, to be a true lover is a 24-hour job on the 14th of February and the clock starts ticking before you normally wake up.
A truly beautiful day starts beautifully... and as a chef, I'm going to encourage you to start it with the key ingredients of food and thoughtfulness - a recipe that is guaranteed to tenderise the heart that you're hoping to claim (or reclaim) by the end of the night.
Breakfast - as you all know - got its name because it marks the end of that long gap since you last ate supper the evening before. It's the cornerstone of the day and on Valentine's Day, it's the place where you absolutely must make your first right impression.
What's more, this year, it's a Saturday. For most people, there's no work to rush off to, no reason not to enjoy a glass of Buck's Fizz, and no excuse for not creating enough romantic sizzle to keep your love life in credit for months to come.
And, of course, there's always CBeebies or the Christmas PSP to keep the kids at bay for a few hours.
It's your choice, of course, but compare and contrast the following:
Scenario 1: Woman wakes. Partner still prone, not quite snoring but making an assortment of not quite natural sounds. He grunts: "A cuppa would be nice..." Rolls over and turns on 5Live to catch the team announcements while staking claim to oversized proportion of duvet. He eventually descends the stairs in a dressing gown that is long overdue a visit to the washing machine and pours self a bowl of cornflakes on autopilot. Reads post. Does not notice arrival of partner...
Scenario 2: Woman wakes. Partner not there but notices a single red rose in a small vase on the dressing table. A small note on the pillow says: "Stay exactly where you are." The door opens. Unshaven but wearing a clean white dressing gown, the man enters the room with a large tray. Upon it there is a bottle of champagne, freshly squeezed orange juice, croissants and two plates of scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. There is also a card with a pink ribbon wrapped around it. "Just something I knocked up... and the children have just started watching a film."
Hmmm. I challenge even the hardest male heart among you not to see what I'm driving at - and I challenge every woman not to be tempted to cut this article out and leave it strategically positioned somewhere around the house.
Breakfast matters and never more so than on Valentine's Day. From a culinary point of view, the other great bonus is that breakfast dishes are simple to make and eggs are cheap. It's not like trying to cook lobster thermidor. You just set some sort of silent vibrating alarm to wake you up 15 minutes early. Then even if one egg goes pear-shaped, you can do another in minutes for just a few pence wastage.
Even better, many of the key ingredients for a perfect Valentine breakfast can be bought from a good deli the day before.
My recipe for Valentine's morning is one that includes avocado as a sensual aphrodisiac! See opposite for Tony Tobin's Valentine Breakfast Muffins with poached eggs, avocado and Hollandaise sauce.
And finally the kiss...
Finally, the kiss. A bit like cooking the eggs for just the right amount of time and serving the Buck's Fizz cold enough for the condensation to form on the outside of the glasses, timing your first Valentine kiss is a crucial factor. My advice: it should happen a few seconds after the first sigh from your lover that expresses the unspoken, "you really made an effort, I appreciate it!"
Just make sure you brush your teeth before you go downstairs to start cooking!
Tony Tobin's Valentine Breakfast Muffins (serves 2 only!)
- 2 floury breakfast muffins
- 2 slices of smoked salmon
- 2 large eggs
- 1 avocado
- 1 sachet or jar of ready-made hollandaise sauce (250ml)
- To poach the eggs, fill a frying pan with an inch of boiling water and keep it at a bare simmer.
- Crack the eggs in the pan and cook for one minute.
- Take off the heat and leave for 10 minutes.
- Cut the smoked salmon into four 'muffin-sized' circles, using the edge of the muffin as a guide.
- Cut the avocado in half, removing the stone, and peel it. Crush the flesh in a bowl using a fork, then add salt and pepper.
- Pour the ready-made hollandaise sauce into a saucepan and place on a low heat, stirring regularly.
- Split the muffins in half - to serve half a muffin per person. Lightly toast the muffins under the grill.
- To serve, spread a layer of the avocado paste on to the toasted muffins, add the smoked salmon, then decorate it with small strips of the left-over smoked salmon.
- Put the poached egg on top and, to finish, drizzle the warm hollandaise over the egg.
The ready-made hollandaise sauce (I used a jar from Marks & Spencer) makes this a simple dish to put together and won't tie you up in the kitchen for too long. Serve on a large wooden tray with a cafetire of coffee and fresh linen.
Tony Tobin has been a regular on the BBC's Ready Steady Cook for over a decade andis head chef at the acclaimedThe Dining Room in Reigate.