Weekend Bites: For food with a lot of heart, a DIY job is the sweetest thing
I'm a romantic at heart, but decided long ago that the last place I'd want to celebrate St Valentine's Day was in a restaurant.
A delicious box of Ladurée macarons is a much-preferred token of affection around these parts.
Most restaurants on February 14 are terribly overcrowded places, as managers are often aiming to squeeze in two sittings while offering a limited menu.
Add in the fact that everyone around you is supposed to be madly in love, and the atmosphere in the room becomes decidedly awkward and self-conscious.
Even worse, your waiter might embarrass you into ordering glasses of bubbly to start the whole ordeal, which bumps up the bill before your evening has even began.
So, rather than celebrate your love for each other in a crowded restaurant, why not put some TLC into creating a delicious home-cooked meal?
Seafood is always special, and this heart-shaped salmon en croute is really simple to make yet looks impressive. Served with a side of steamed greens or a crisp salad, it'll leave plenty of room for dessert.
This beautiful box of truffles will make the perfect end to any meal, or can be handed over as a thoughtful gift.
If you plan on eating them tomorrow, you'll need to get the mix into the fridge tonight to allow them to set firmly. They might look very tricky, but truffles are surprisingly easy to make.
Recipes courtesy of Siúcra. Find more recipes at www.siucra.ie
Salmon en Croute
l 1 roll of puff pastry, chilled
l 200g freshly-smoked salmon
l 100ml low-fat crème fraîche
l 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
l 50ml leeks, cut into thin strips
l 2 tbsp dill, chopped
l 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
l 1 tbsp light golden brown sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Roll out the puff pastry and cut out two large hearts using a heart-shaped tin or a sharp knife. Combine the crème fraîche, mustard, Siúcra brown sugar, eggs, leek and dill.
Spread the filling on to one of the hearts, leaving a 2cm margin around the edges. Arrange the salmon on top of the filling.
Brush the edges of the heart with egg and place the other heart on top. Press the edges together firmly to keep the filling from leaking out.
Bake at 200C for about 25 minutes. Serve with a fresh salad.
Delicious homemade chocolate truffles
l 300g Siúcra Roll Out Icing
l 200ml double cream
l 400g 70pc dark chocolate
l 50g unsalted butter
l 100g Siúcra Instant Royal
l 2-4 tsp cold water
Cut the Roll Out Icing into very small cubes. Place in a saucepan and pour the cream over. Heat over a very low heat until the Roll Out Icing has completely melted, stirring constantly.
Finely chop up the dark chocolate. Place into a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until melted.
Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat. Cut the butter into cubes and stir into the chocolate mixture until completely melted.
Stir the cream mixture into the chocolate until just combined. Don’t over-whisk or the truffle mixture will split.
Pour into a shallow container that is lined with baking paper, cover and place in the fridge overnight to set.
Once set, place on a chopping board and cut into 36 equal pieces. Place the Instant Royal Icing in a bowl with two teaspoons of water and stir until the icing is a runny consistency. If it is a little too thick, add some more water. Drizzle the icing over each chocolate truffle.
They can also be dipped in melted chocolate and rolled in cocoa powder, coconut, nuts or grated chocolate.
Ask the Expert: Catherine Fulvio
Everyone can cook. Simply start by reading the recipe in full. Read it at least twice, especially if it's a new one.
Check the ingredients and the equipment list before you start to ensure you have everything.
Cooking a new recipe can be fun, but it can be challenging, especially if it is for a special occasion. If new techniques are involved, practise at least once. Pay careful attention to oven specs as every oven is different.
A fan oven will distribute the heat evenly throughout. The Whirlpool Circa-Fan oven is great for fast, even heating and cooking on three levels at once.
Doubling recipes can be a tricky business, especially when baking, which is a bit of a science.
Best advice is to write down the quantities of the main ingredients and double them.
Raising agents and flavouring don't always require doubling-up, and it is often better to go by taste rather than increasing them (spices, alcohol and flavourings, say).
If you double the recipe, you may need to allow more cooking time. Finally, it's very important not to forget to season and taste as you go along - but not too much.
Catherine is the new brand ambassador for Whirlpool appliances. See www.whirlpool.ie