A few weeks ago, it was my husband’s birthday. He preferred a nice night in, with a romantic meal, than going out to eat as we were going to do for Valentine’s Day. So, I decided to come up with a special menu for his special dinner, full of things that he liked and that I enjoyed too (no liver and bacon here, people). And we liked it so much that he said I could post it all online for you.
First Course/Appetizer: Seared Scallops and Bury Black Pudding with Watercress and a Mustard Cream Dressing
The idea came from a night out where we had some DELICIOUS black pudding. Black pudding, for those who haven’t been introduced is basically a blood sausage, but without any actual meat in it. Sounds nasty, tastes wonderful.
Recipe (idea taken from BBC Food):
- 2 thick slices of large black pudding
- 6 large scallops
- small amount of olive oil
- lemon juice
- 1 bag of watercress, washed
- 1 tsp of whole grain mustard
- a good glug of cream
- any herbs and spices you like
- Start by searing your black pudding in a hot pan. You won’t need any oil in the pan, as the pudding is fatty enough. Make sure it’s browned and crispy on both sides before removing from pan. Keep the pan on the heat.
- Wash your scallops. Put them back in the paper or plastic tub they came in, and drizzle over a little olive oil. Sprinkle on any seasoning now–I chose some hot paprika, salt and pepper. Toss the scallops around, covering them in the oil and herbs and spices.
- Place your scallops in the pan and don’t move them for at least 1 minute. Turn them over, again, leave them alone otherwise the tender scallop flesh could pull apart. When they’re cooked they should be slightly firm, and a little more opaque than they were before, but still soft if you press down lightly with a spatula or spoon.
- Get 2 plates, and arrange a handful of washed watercress on each. Place your black pudding down first, then place one scallop on top, and one on each side.
- Whilst the pan is still hot add in the whole grain mustard–to be honest, any mustard would do. A friend of mine made some champagne mustard once upon a time, which would taste phenomenal in this, so choose what you like. Then, once the mustard as combined with the pan juices, add a glug of cream–use your discretion. Mix it all up.
- Spoon a little of the mustard cream dressing over the scallops, black pudding, and watercress. Save what’s left over in case you’d like some extra sauce.
Second Course/Entrée: Duck Breasts with Port and Sour Cherry Sauce
This was taken from a Delia Smith recipe I found online. Its simple, clever, and hella tasty. However, her recipe calls for wine, while I used port–but I think both have their merits and its good to use what’s on hand. Also, I couldn’t find morello cherry preserves and instead bought black cherry preserves. I added some tartness to the sauce by added a tiny amount of red wine vinegar, around half a tsp.
- 2 duck breasts (200g each)–the ones I bought from the local butchers were a lot smaller, so I also used duck legs, which my husband kindly de-boned for me.
- salt and pepper
- 25g dried sour cherries
- 66ml red wine or port
- 83g morello cherry preserve
- For the sauce: soak the cherries in the wine for approximately 15 minutes. Combine with the conserve and put into a saucepan. Simmer gently without a lid for 20 minutes, or until it reduces down slightly.
- Prick the skin of the duck slightly, with a fork, then with a sharp knife score the skin to form a diamond pattern. Season with the salt and pepper.
- Place them in a pan, skin side down (you won’t need oil–duck skin is very fatty), and cook very gently for 20 minutes until the skin is slightly brown and crispy. You want most of the fat to cook off. You can remove this later and use for roasting the best potatoes you’ll ever eat. As the fat can get very hot, keep the pan on a low-moderate heat, otherwise the skin may colour too quickly and the duck won’t be as cooked. It’s all right for the duck to be slightly pink in the middle. Treat it like steak, not like chicken.
- Rest the duck for about 5 minutes, and then cut into thick slices. Serve on a bed of watercress and either drizzle your sauce over the meat, or put it on one side. I also sprinkled some pomegranate seeds over top– easy tip to getting the seeds out (courtesy of Jamie Oliver): cut the pomegranate along its equator, hold a half seed side down in your hand, then bang the crap out of the top with a wooden spoon or something. The seeds just fall out, but you might have to pick out a few bits of pith.
- I served this with boiled new potatoes that I tossed in butter and chopped chives and parsley, and some steamed sugar snap peas.
Third Course/ Dessert: Pistachio and Rosewater Semolina Cake
Ah, the birthday cake. Oh, did I have plans for this cake. My husband LOVES desserts like baklava, Turkish delight, and lemon cake. I looked and looked until I found a cake that seemingly encompassed all three.
Recipe (from Waitrose.com): Please see the recipe via the link–I used it exactly. Well, there was supposed to be a rosewater cream, but we decided against that. Also, I went against the recommendation to use a basic springform cake pan, and used the pan’s bundt option instead. BIG MISTAKE. Basically, the cake will be upside down, and once that syrup sets in there is no way you’re gonna get that thing unglued. Lesson learned. I was disappointed, but we laughed and I just cut out pieces, sprinkled on some leftover pistachios and added a candle to hubby’s piece. It tastes great–and that’s the important thing!