Valentine’s Day can be troublesome. Apparently loving couples can end up running in opposite directions halfway through a meal, even in my restaurants. Though that isn’t true for most lovebirds celebrating this Thursday, I have decided to embrace the contentious nature of the day with a meal that is anything but predictably mushy. There are anchovies in my starter, coffee in the dessert and a duck main that calls for overnight salting beforehand. All points to discuss amicably before a proper cooking session, which is as good a way as any to stimulate dialogue, teamwork and love.
Whole roast kohlrabi with herb oil and fried almonds (pictured above)
Kohlrabi is a wonderful vegetable to roast, but it needs a little help because of its high water content, so I smother it with herb oil and aromatics. Leave out the anchovies to make this vegetarian.
- Prep 10 min
- Cook 1 hr 55 min
- Serves 4 as a side
- 4 large kohlrabi (1.2kg), trimmed of any leaves and stalks (but not peeled)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds, roughly crushed in a mortar
- Flaked sea salt and black pepper
- 20g unsalted butter, softened
- 3 anchovy fillets, drained and finely chopped
For the herb oil
- 10g parsley leaves, roughly chopped
- 15g basil leaves
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
- 60ml olive oil
- 1½ tbsp apple cider vinegar
For the almonds
- 5g unsalted butter
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 30g blanched almonds
Heat the oven to very high – 260C (240C fan)/gas 9-plus. Toss the kohlrabi in a tablespoon of oil, put on an oven tray lined with baking paper and roast for an hour and a half, until deeply charred on the outside and soft in the centre. Turn down the heat to 240C (220C fan)/465F/gas 9.
When they’re cool enough to handle, peel the kohlrabi to reveal the lightly coloured centre; discard the skins. Starting from the top of each kohlrabi, use a small, sharp knife to cut slits into the flesh at 1cm intervals, stopping halfway down. Return the kohlrabi to the oven tray, drizzle over the remaining tablespoon of oil, and scatter on the cumin, a teaspoon of sea salt and a good grind of pepper, pushing some of the seasoning into the slits.
In a small bowl, mix the butter and anchovies, then use your hands to spread the anchovy butter over the top of the kohlrabi, pushing some of it into the slits. Roast for 15 minutes more, or until warmed through and nicely coloured.
Meanwhile, make the herb oil. Put all the ingredients, an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper in a food processor and blitz smooth – about a minute.
For the almonds, melt the butter and oil in a small frying pan on medium-high heat, then fry the nuts, stirring continuously, until golden – about three minutes. Strain (discard the oil), then finely chop the almonds.
Transfer the kohlrabi to a platter and spoon over a generous amount of herb oil; serve any excess alongside. Sprinkle on the nuts and serve warm or at room temperature.
Confit duck legs with shallots, pomegranate and coriander
Serve this with the roast kohlrabi on the side, or with some vibrant greens to cut through all the richness. Be sure to save the flavourful oil the duck is cooked in (discard the jelly that forms at the bottom once refrigerated), and use for roasting vegetables or to spread on toast.
- Prep 30 min
- Salting 6 hr+
- Cook 4 hr 20 min
- Serves 4
For the confit duck
- 25g flaked sea salt
- 1½ tbsp coriander seeds, roughly crushed in a mortar
- 3 tsp cumin seeds, roughly crushed in a mortar
- 4 duck legs
- 1 small onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
- 1 head garlic, cut in half widthways
- 1 red chilli, cut in half lengthways
- 900ml olive oil
- 1½ tsp soft brown sugar
For the pomegranate shallots
- 500ml pomegranate juice
- 75g caster sugar
- 50g pomegranate molasses
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 red chilli, finely chopped, seeds and all
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted and roughly crushed in a mortar
- 500g small-medium banana shallots, peeled
- Salt and black pepper
- 10g fresh coriander, roughly chopped, plus extra chopped leaves, to garnish
- 150g pomegranate seeds (ie, from 1 large pomegranate)
In a small bowl, mix the flaked salt with a tablespoon of coriander seeds and two teaspoons of cumin seeds. Pat dry the duck legs, coat all over with the salt mixture, transfer to a non-reactive dish, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least six hours, and ideally overnight.
Heat the oven to 140C (120C fan)/275F/gas 1. Take the duck legs out of the refrigerator at least an hour before you intend to start cooking.
Pat dry the duck legs again, removing as much moisture as you can, then lay them skin side up in a large, high-sided, ovenproof saute pan for which you have a lid. Add the onion, garlic and chilli, pour over the oil, cover tightly first with foil and then the lid, and roast for three hours, basting once or twice, until the flesh is almost pulling away from the bone.
Remove the tray from the oven, leave the duck to cool slightly in its oil – about 30 minutes – then gently transfer the legs to a tray lined with greaseproof paper. Sprinkle evenly with the brown sugar and the remaining coriander and cumin seeds, and set aside. Drain the oil, discarding any solids, leave to cool, then refrigerate – save the fat for the shallots (see introduction).
Meanwhile, put the pomegranate juice, sugar, molasses, vinegar, chilli and 200ml water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil on a medium-high heat, and cook for about 25 minutes, until it’s reduced down to the consistency of a loose maple syrup. Stir in the coriander seeds and set aside.
Turn up the oven to 240C (220C fan)/465F/gas 9. Put two tablespoons of the reserved duck fat in a large, ovenproof saute pan for which you have a lid. Add the shallots, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, and cook for seven minutes, or until the shallots are lightly browned on all sides. Add the pomegranate mixture, bring up to a boil, cover with the lid and transfer to the oven for 20 minutes, until the shallots have softened and the sauce has thickened. Stir in the fresh coriander and pomegranate seeds.
Return the duck legs to the top shelf of the oven and cook for 12-15 minutes, or until browned on top.
To serve, divide the shallot and pomegranate sauce between four plates, sprinkle with extra chopped coriander and top with the duck.
Coffee and pandan puddings
Pandan leaves are super-fragrant and used in Asia to flavour all sorts of sweet and savoury dishes alike. You can find them in most specialist south-east Asian food stores, but if you can’t get hold of any, use a split whole vanilla pod instead. Add the coffee syrup only just before serving.
- Infusion 2 hr
- Prep 15 min
- Cook 40 min
- Set 6 hr+
- Makes 4
- 50g fresh pandan leaves, roughly cut into 4cm lengths (or 1 vanilla pod, cut in half lengthways)
- 300ml whole milk
- 300ml double cream
- 15g cornflour
- 1¼ tsp instant espresso powder
- 5 egg yolks
- 50g caster sugar
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
- ¼ tsp flaked sea salt
- 25g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1cm cubes
- 30g salted macadamia nuts, toasted and roughly chopped
For the coffee syrup
- 150ml strong brewed coffee
- 50g caster sugar
Put the pandan leaves (or vanilla pod), milk and cream in a medium saucepan for which you have a lid, and put on a medium heat. Cover and leave gently to heat and steam, pressing down on the leaves a few times to release their flavour – about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave, still covered, to infuse for at least two hours. Strain through a sieve set over a bowl, pressing down on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible, then discard the leaves (or vanilla pod). Measure out 80ml of the milk mixture, pour this into a medium bowl, add the cornflour and whisk until smooth. Pour the remaining strained milk back into the saucepan, add the espresso powder and whisk to combine.
Meanwhile, make the syrup by putting the coffee and sugar in a small saucepan on a medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and leave to bubble away for six to seven minutes, or until reduced by about half and the consistency of a loose maple syrup. Set aside to cool; it will thicken more as it sits.
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cocoa powder and salt until smooth.
Bring the saucepan of infused milk up to a simmer on a medium heat. Temper the egg mix by slowly pouring in half the warm milk, whisking continuously, until the egg bowl is warm to the touch. Now pour in the cornflour mixture and whisk until smooth. Slowly pour the now-tempered mixture into the infused milk saucepan and whisk continuously, until it’s the consistency of a thick but pourable custard – about three to four minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter until incorporated.
Divide the mixture between four martini glasses (or similar), leave to cool slightly, then cover with clingfilm and refrigerate until set – about six hours, or overnight.
To serve, top each pudding with two teaspoons of the coffee syrup, then sprinkle over the nuts and serve with any excess syrup at the table.