Feb 14 2013 by Mhairi Macfarlane, Harrow Observer
FOR reasons best known to themselves, people often seek my advice on matters miscellaneous. Recipes, wine advice, or restaurant recommendations, you could understand, but gardening, DIY – and least of all matters pertaining to amour!
One friend (who shall remain nameless) asked me last week if I thought it would be better for him to take his girlfriend out to dinner on St Valentine’s Day, or would he fare better by cooking a meal at home. Me! What do I know? I couldn’t even offer him a table at the restaurant as it was fully booked!
It’s worth remembering the origins of St Valentine’s Day, which can be traced back to the ancient Roman celebration of Lupercalia.
In addition to a bountiful feast, Lupercalia festivities are purported to have included the pairing of young women and men.
Men would draw women’s names from a box and each couple would be paired until next year’s celebration.
While this pairing of couples set the tone for today’s occasion, it wasn’t called ‘St Valentine’s Day’ until a priest named Valentine came along.
Valentine, a romantic at heart, disobeyed Emperor Claudius II’s decree that soldiers remain bachelors.
Claudius handed down this decree believing that soldiers would be distracted and unable to concentrate on fighting if they were married or engaged. Valentine defied the emperor and secretly performed marriage ceremonies.
As a result of his defiance, Valentine was put to death on February 14.
After Valentine’s death, he was named a saint. As Christianity spread through Rome, the priests moved Lupercalia from February 15 to February 14 and renamed it St Valentine’s Day to honour Saint Valentine.
So, considering St Valentine’s unfortunate demise, I suggested that my friend prepared a simple – he’s not a great cook – but appropriate meal for his young lady, and he might then not suffer the same fate!
Here’s what he is going to do:
Stir fried salmon and asparagus
125g fresh salmon, cut into 1 inch cubes
6 spears of asparagus, trimmed and cut in half diagonally, then blanched in boiling salted water
½ tsp grated ginger
1 small red pepper, de-seeded and cut into thin strips
2 spring onions
75g bean sprouts
100g egg noodles, blanched for a minute as above.
1 tbsp chopped coriander
Salt and pepper
1) Heat the sesame oil in a wok, and add the sliced peppers.
2) Toss for a minute or so, then add the ginger, bean sprouts and spring onions, tossing for a minute or so.
3) Add the salmon and asparagus, and cook for a further 2 minutes.
4) Now add the noodles, coriander, a few drops of rice vinegar and soy sauce and heat through.
5) Season to taste and then serve.
A glass of pink champagne and some flowers, he might even get away with it!