Three romantic recipes to impress your lover on Valentine's Day
Impress your date with a feast of aphrodisiac oysters, roast duck, and runny choccy dessert, straight from top chef Sean Smith's romantic menu
The French may think they have the monopoly on all things romantic, but our own climes allow for a tantalising menu to get you hot under the collar this Valentine's Day, if you so desire.
Top chef Sean Smith, from Dublin's Cliff Townhouse on St Stephen's Green (theclifftownhouse.com), promises a night to remember for those attempting his special Valentine's menu themselves at home.
Packed with homegrown ingredients to get pulses racing, Sean advises planning ahead to keep a level head when trying to impress a loved one.
"The night before, you can prep the duck dish and then pop it into the oven while you prepare the rest of your meal. Be confident with the oysters, buy as fresh as possible and take out of the fridge before serving," he says.
"I like to add Grand Marnier (an orange-based liqueur) to my orange sauce as it packs a great flavour punch and adds decadence to this simple roast, and again, you can make this the night before," adds Sean.
As for the super yummy chocolate dessert, it too can be made the night before and then you just take the cups out of the fridge about 15-20 minutes before serving, in order to bring them closer to room temperature. Ooh la la!
Whole Roast Duck with Roasted Seasonal Vegetables and Orange Sauce
2-3lb approx. whole duck, neck and giblets removed
Salt and pepper
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
A few sprigs of thyme
1 tbsp honey
3 red onions, quartered
A few stalks celery, chopped into chunks
1 fennel, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
A splash of sherry vinegar
1 bag baby potatoes
For the orange sauce:
1 onion, peeled
2 cloves garlic
500ml fresh stock (chicken or beef)
Splash of sherry vinegar
100ml red wine
1 orange, juiced
Grand Marnier, optional
Preheat the oven to 210°C/Gas mark 6/400F. Bring the potatoes to the boil in a saucepan for 5 minutes and drain. These only need to be par-boiled (soft on the outside). If there are any extra large ones, please halve them.
Heat a small pan on the hob, no oil. Season the duck with salt and pepper and stuff it with the garlic cloves and thyme. Seal the duck on the pan until it gains some colour.
Place the duck on a roasting tray, breast side down and cook in the oven for approximately 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn breast side up and glaze it with honey. Place back in the oven, and repeat 4-5 times until duck is glazed nicely. This process should take 20-30 minutes.
To prepare the vegetables:
Remove some duck fat from the oven dish the duck is cooking in. Place it in the saucepan and add all vegetables, cook for few minutes until they caramelise. Add a splash of sherry vinegar. They only need to be par-cooked. Add to the oven while the duck is still cooking for 10-15 minutes. For a well-done duck, cook for 1.5 hours. Use a meat thermometer to check the duck is 82˚C before taking it out. Leave to rest for 10 mins before serving, keeping the vegetables warm in the oven.
For the orange sauce:
Peel the vegetables and cut into even, small pieces. Prepare 500ml of chicken or beef stock and leave it to the side. Heat a little olive oil in the pan, add vegetables and thyme and sweat them for few minutes. Add a splash of sherry vinegar and the red wine and boil until it reduces to almost no liquid (approx. 1 dessert spoon of liquid).
Then add the juice of one orange, bring to the boil and reduce to 100ml. Add the stock and bring to the boil for couple of minutes to reduce it down again. Take the sauce off the heat, add 40ml of Grand Marnier (this step is optional).
Irish Oysters with Shallot Vinegar
One dozen fresh oysters
80ml red wine vinegar
50ml red wine
Cracked black pepper
Sprinkle of nutmeg
To prepare the main dish:
Clean the outside of the oyster under running water to remove loose grit or barnacles. Rub the shell with your fingers or use a stiff brush if you have one for this purpose.
To open the oyster, hold the shell in a towel. With the flat side of the oyster up, insert the tip of an oyster knife near the hinge and move the knife down the edge to pry open the shell. You only need to insert the knife about ƒ an inch. For safety ensure the knife used is blunt.
Prepare the dressing:
Finely dice the shallots. Add the vinegar and red wine with some cracked black pepper and a sprinkle of nutmeg, mix gently.
Lay your oysters out on a serving dish. In the centre place a small jug or glass with the shallots dressing along with a lemon halved.
Cliff Townhouse chocolate cup
150g dark chocolate (over 70pc cocoa)
175ml double cream
3 egg yolks
50g castor sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 150˚C. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over, but not touching, a saucepan of boiling water. At the same time, in a small saucepan, bring the cream and milk to a gentle boil. Pour this mixture into the melted chocolate.
Place the egg yolks and the sugar into a large clean bowl. Whisk until pale white (for this, an electric whisk would be easier if you have one). Pour the egg mixture into the chocolate mix and fold in gently.
Pour into clean cups or ramekins. Fill a roasting tin with 1.5 inches of water. Place the cups in it so that water goes halfway up. Place in the oven at 150°C for 10-15 minutes. The chocolate should be almost set and with still a little wobble. Leave to cool slightly then store in the fridge to set. Serve with good quality vanilla ice-cream.