Always a festive time of the year. A couple of weeks doing Christmas and New Year (usually after big bakes); the winter dip in energy followed by the tedium of income tax returns. But then, the approach of Valentines Day followed by my birthday three days later. These things we take seriously.
Valentines falling on a Sunday gives the excuse of making a weekend of it and, while we’re at it, with the birthday and all coming up, why not make a few days of it? So, I’ve spent the last two days cooking.
When you’re self-isolating food stuffs generally arrive once a week with the Waitrose delivery on a Saturday (if you’re up and conscious – alright then, if Sue’s up and conscious – by 7.30am Thursday morning three weeks ahead of the desired delivery slot). Cadwyn Ogwen, the local produce supply chain, is our other main source of fresh food. It delivers on a Thursday, but last orders is the Sunday before and, if you want to make sure of securing the stuff you really want, ordering starts the Monday before that.
What I’m trying to say in a round about way is that, in these times of lock-down, cooking takes a lot more planning than it used to.
So we started our gastronomic weekend with Lamb Kebab Fattee – a layer of broken, crisp flatbreads topped with rice and chickpeas, sprinkled with tomato sauce and aubergine, then the sausage-shaped kebabs and finally a good few dollops of Greek yoghurt and a handfull of parsley.
For Valentines Day itself, we started with Crab Backs. Comes from our ancient, battered, stained copy of Kenneth Gardnier’s Creole Caribbean Cooking – crab meat mixed with a little fried onion, allspice, chives, Worcestershire sauce, rum, lime juice, bread crumbs – stuffed into shells and baked.
But the star turn – what we call Tickle Chicken (Pollo Ticuleño) from Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz’ The Book of Latin American Cooking.
A tortilla spread with black beans topped with a bread-crumbed chicken breast fried in butter, a tomato salsa and parmesan. Garnished with fried banana (should have been plantain), peas and radish flowers. Served with quick pickled onion (onions slices in vinegar brought to the boil and cooled.
After that? Only film we could think of that featured St Valentine’s Day (the Massacre at least) was Some Like it Hot. So we watched it – again