For years myself and Sofie have been utterly terrible at celebrating Valentine's Day. We've used all the excuses - we're too busy, it's just a day for schmucks to keep the card companies in business - but if I'm truly honest, it's just pure laziness. Recently, however, we've been putting in the effort and marking the occasion. The addition of two children under three certainly makes us appreciate taking little moments out of the madness as a couple!
This year we had big dreams of going to Hawaii for a bit of romance but the mere idea of a flight with kids makes me break out in a cold sweat. Next on the list was Palm Springs, the town famous for being a hot spot for celebs like Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. Our favourite little spot there is a steakhouse called Mr Lyons which delivers retro booths, martinis and a menu of classics you can easily imagine the Rat Pack devouring. It's only a two-hour drive from our house in LA but we've decided instead to go all in at home and recreate a steakhouse night for two that delivers everything you need for a bit of romance. No date-night dinner would be complete without a serious bit of beef, so to give it a slight Irish twist I'm sharing my recipe for a simply cooked rib-eye steak for two slathered in butter with Young Buck Blue cheese.
I've been making a variation of oven-roasted garlic & rosemary smashed potatoes since the first apartment I moved into with Sofie. They are a result of a dropped pot of just- boiled spuds that required a makeover. I'm not pointing any fingers but let's just say that over the years they have lovingly become known as 'Sofie's Smashed Potatoes'.
Booze and chocolate for Valentine's Day are a must and you will get both in my chewy coffee-scented meringue nests dolloped with whipped cream drunk on Irish whiskey and slathered in chocolate sauce.
That's the food sorted - so all that's left to do is light some candles, stick on a bit of Sinatra and channel a little retro romance.
Cook time 25 mins
Allow the steak to sit for 30 minutes out of the fridge before you cook. This will help it to cook more evenly. When buying steak, look for steak with a deep rich red colour and good marbling of fat.
For the steak:
1 x 750g rib-eye on the bone
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 sprigs thyme
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the whipped blue butter:
25g Young Buck blue cheese
50g butter, softened
2 tbsp olive oil
125ml red wine
125ml beef stock
1. Pat the steak dry with kitchen paper.
2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
3. Season the steak well on each side. Heat a large frying pan over a high heat. Put the steak on the pan. There's enough fat on this cut that you won't need any oil. Holding it with tongs, press the fat against the pan and allow to render and turn golden. Then cook for 5 minutes on each side until charred.
4. In a medium-sized bowl whisk the softened butter with an electric hand whisk until soft and light, crumble in the blue cheese and fold through.
5. After flipping the steak for the first time, add the garlic and thyme and baste for a minute by tilting the pan towards you and spooning the rendered fat that pools back over the top of the steak.
6. Pop the tenderstem onto a roasting tray, drizzle with the oil and toss to coat. Place into the oven for 5-10 minutes. Add the steak to the roasting tray after this time. Cook for another 10-15 minutes or until a thermometer registers 60°C. Remove from oven and set aside to rest.
7. In the pan you cooked the beef in, add the wine and stock. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes until it has thickened.
8. To serve, cut the meat from the bone in one whole piece, slice this into 1-inch thick pieces perpendicular to the bone, then re-arrange around the bone. Serve with the oven-roasted smashed potatoes.
Cook time 45 mins
This brilliant method takes parboiled potatoes and turns them crispy on the edges and golden all over. Doused in garlic and rosemary, it's the stuff of spud-shaped dreams. Thyme or sage would also work really well with these tasty little spuds.
1kg of baby potatoes
3tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves
2 springs rosemary
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
2. Pop the potatoes into a pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes until cooked.
3. Drain and arrange on a roasting tray. Use a fork to slightly mark around the middle of the potato, this allows it to smash evenly when you press down. Using the fork or potato masher gently smash the potato so that it breaks the surface and makes them super crispy.
4. Drizzle with oil, bash the garlic and put on the tray along with the rosemary and season.
5. Place in oven for 25-30 minutes until golden and crispy. Serve hot.
Cook time 80 minutes
This batter makes a really chewy, marshmallow meringue, which goes perfectly with the whiskey cream. If you aren't a coffee fan, drop the espresso powder and replace it with more cocoa powder.
For the meringue:
250g icing sugar
4 egg whites
2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
10g of good quality cocoa powder
2 tsp instant espresso powder
60g chopped toasted hazelnuts
For the dark chocolate sauce:
30g caster sugar
1/2 tsp espresso powder
50g good-quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 tsp cocoa powder
For the whiskey cream:
3 tbsp whiskey
3 tbsp icing sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2. Line two baking trays with baking parchment.
2. Place the icing sugar and egg whites in a standing food mixer and whisk on high for 10 minutes until glossy white peaks form. Using a spatula, gently fold in the cornflour and the white wine vinegar. When this is mixed through, sift the cocoa powder and espresso powder over the meringue mix and gently fold in.
3. Using a tablespoon, place 3in/8cm spoonfuls of the meringue mix onto the baking tray and flatten each one gently in the centre with the back of a spoon. Bake for 45 minutes.
4. Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat and stir gently to dissolve the sugar. Add the espresso powder, whisk through and bring the mix to a steady simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to sit for 1-2 minutes, then add the chocolate and whisk through until combined. Sift in the cocoa powder and whisk until smooth.
5. For the whiskey cream, whisk the cream into soft peaks. Dissolve the icing sugar with the whiskey in a bowl and then add to the cream, folding to combine.
6. To assemble the meringues, place one on each plate, add a spoonful of whiskey cream on top, drizzle with the chocolate sauce and sprinkle with the toasted hazelnuts.
Into the blue
Young Buck is a blue cheese produced by Mike Thomson of Mike's Fancy Cheese in Belfast. He uses unpasteurised milk from a single herd of Co Down Holstein-Friesian cows. It has a strong, salty flavour and is made in the Stilton style. It's well worth tracking down for its pungent saltiness and creamy crumbly texture; Sheridans in Dublin and Galway stock it.
Taking a break
Today's steak dinner was inspired by a place in Palm Springs. After Noah was born we headed there on a mini-break for a little injection of heat and a break from the city. It's a pretty small town but an ideal getaway just a short drive from LA.
The pisco kid
My cocktail of choice is always a pisco sour, a frothy, sharp and sweet cocktail using pisco, the national drink of Peru. It's a grape brandy that could be swapped out with whiskey if you can't track it down. The cocktail is made by adding the following ingredients to a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice: ½ egg white, 50ml pisco, 25ml simple syrup and 50ml lime juice. Shake vigorously for 10 minutes, strain into a chilled tumbler and top with a few drops of Angostura Bitters.