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Posts tagged ‘Lemon Syllabub’

Valentines dinner – suggested menu

Why a week early?

  1. You might need to practice
  2. You will need to plan your shopping
  3. You may need to bag yourself a valentines partner…and it’s a bit late!
  4. If you are a bloke living alone – you will need to tidy up, or get the blitz cleaners in…

Wooing can be for brand new relationships or 33 years into it (I am one of these). Here’s my full suggested menu – and why…

Here’s the menu:

  • Orange infused Chicken Liver Pate with bread or toast
  • Beef Stroganoff (or mushroom instead of the beef, for veggies)
  • Lemon Syllabub

This has many clever twists:

  1. Courses 1 and 3 are prepared in advance
  2. Beef Stroganoff is easy to do even if you are being watched
  3. It also shows off your timing prowess

The Pate:

I did this recipe as a (successful!) contestant on ITV’s cookery contest “Britain’s Best Dish”.  You can see my performance on You Tube – Can Men Cook Channel

As shown on ITV Britain's Best Dish

As shown on ITV Britain’s Best Dish


  • 8oz / 200g frozen (or fresh) Chicken livers
  • a few mushrooms – 3 or 4 button
  • slice of bread
  • one clove of garlic
  • zest of ½ orange
  • juice of ½ orange
  • salt & pepper
  • slice of bacon, chopped into small pieces
  • a spoonful of Cointreau / brandy / Grand Marnier (best of the three)


Defrost the liver, chop it a bit (you can do this easily with scissors) then fry it in a knob of butter, and a spoonful of olive oil, slowly, until all the meat is browned.  Keep them moving about.  You can see it is cooked through if you split one of the pieces with your egg slice and it is brown, evenly, all the way through.  If you overcook them, it starts to taste a bit metallic (this is the blood changing its chemical nature and giving up its iron molecule, which comes out as that flavour).

Meanwhile, zest the orange and extract juice.  Use a lovely old fashioned juicer – or just squeeze the orange upside down and allow the juice to pass through your fingers.  This stops the pips falling in.

Chop the mushrooms a bit, and then fry them with the liver.

Put the bread, raw clove of garlic, salt and pepper into a food processor, and blend. Add the livers and mushrooms, plus options if desired (nb. cook the bacon! – fry gently in chopped up bits for about 5 minutes.).

Wash the frying pan out with the orange juice, and transfer to the blender.  Do the same with the liqueur.

Blend.  Leave a bit of texture there, so you can see the orange bits and some of the mushroom – so 10 or 20 seconds, tops.

Scoop into serving dish, and garnish with orange slice / mint etc.

Serve with bread or toast, claret etc….

Perfect start to a Valentine’s dinner…and you can prepare it on the morning this year – 14th is on Saturday!  Do this the night before if during the week…and you can do the same with the Syllabub – next!


This is my other great stand by.  You prepare it in advance, so stops panic when you are doing a main course too.

  • One large non waxed lemon (non-waxed because it has nicer peel, which we are going to eat)
  • 3 fluid ounces of sweet sherry (about a sherry glass full!)
  • A spoon of brandy
  • 2 oz. Caster sugar
  • ½ pint of double cream

What you need to do first is take your lemon zester (or carefully use a fine grater) to take about half the rind off the lemon.  Put in a bowl, and then add the sherry, brandy and sugar.  Stir this until the sugar is dissolved.  You need to pour in the cream and whisk until it forms little mountains.  You will see my tip for stopping the splashing of cream on the You-Tube site.  Suffice to say, if you take a kitchen roll wipe, and make a hole in the middle, then poke the mixer whisks though the hole, the bowl is then covered and you can whisk more quickly.  Good, eh?

Transfer the mix into individual bowls or glasses, and then put them in the fridge ready for serving, up to one day later.  I always make too many and have to have a second one the next day too!  Sad, isn’t it?

Beef Stroganoff

You will need:

  • An onion – red or white, and half-moons work best in this
  • Button mushrooms – two portions, about 7 button, or one big field one
  • (Field mushrooms – big and flat -, then sliced in the same way as the steak – look really good in this – and also have a stronger flavour – and ‘bleed’ more colouring juices, which is useful for the look of this)
  • (Blimey that was a bit pretentious and chef like. Sorry)
  • Half a pound of Fillet Steak. (It’s the most expensive – but you can ask for the ‘cheaper’ tail piece as you are going to chop it into wiggly slices anyway – some butchers will do this slightly cheaper for you – or at least be kind to you in your future relationship with them. OK – I mean on a professional basis…)
  • (You can substitute rump steak – always the favourite of all the butchers I have ever known, and about 60% of the price – takes a bit longer to cook, but is more forgiving than fillet to being a bit over cooked…
  • A glass – 150 ml – of dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper – quite a lot of milled black pepper
  • Boiled Rice (separate pot, of course…)
  • 4 dessertspoons of Crème Fraiche
  • Large pinch (about a flat half teaspoonful) of Nutmeg (optional)

(When you do this for the first time, it is best to do all the chopping of ingredients first.  When you are very confident, and have done this a few times, you can probably do the chopping while cooking). And this will make getting your guest a drink and chatting calmly far easier…

Beef Stroganoff and a few ripped parsley leaves

Beef Stroganoff and a few ripped parsley leaves

I usually start the onions first – the rice takes about 13 minutes, and slowly sweating the onions to soften and caramelise them a bit takes almost as long.  Unlike chefs, I don’t like to fry the onions at very high temperature.  Put a couple of spoons of cold olive oil in a large frying pan, and put the onions in and mix them around to cover them with the warming oil.  Put the heat on medium, then put it lower after about 2 minutes, and keep the onions on the move a bit so they don’t stick and burn.  Get the rice on the go now – and you can forget about that for 13 minutes.  Here’s the recipe for Perfect Rice (which you can get from my blog too).  It is as easy as boil in the bag – honest!

Perfect Rice

I am assuming two adults: (unless your Valentines dinner has suddenly become an orgy?)

  • 5 fluid ounces of long grain rice (the Queen of rice is always considered to be Basmati – and it is worth it.  You measure this in a liquid measuring jug
  • 10 fluid ounces of boiling water
  • salt
  • dried coriander
  • a small nub of butter (about the size of the last joint of your thumb)

Put the nob of butter in a pan which has a well-fitting lid.  Turn heat on medium.  Boil the kettle with at least half a pint of water in it.  Pour your rice from its jug into the pan, and swiggle it around to get the grains covered and glistening.  Add half a teaspoon of salt and the same again of the coriander.  Measure out 10 ounces of the boiling water.  Turn the heat to minimum under the pan, and pour the water in carefully (it will make a lot of noise and be a bit splashy).  Push any stray grains under the water.  Set the lid on tight, and the timer for 13 minutes exactly.  Not 12 or 14 – which is what recipes say because we hate the number 13!  Turn off the heat when the dinger goes, and marvel at your gorgeous and dry rice, steaming away.  Wonderful isn’t it?

Back to the stroganoff itself: After about 5 to 7 minutes of moving the onions about, push them over into one half of the pan. If you managed to get big mushrooms, then cut them into slices across.  They will be about twice as thick as a pencil, and obviously about the length of the diameter of the mushroom (are you following the trigonometry here?).  There is usually a bit of oil in the pan still – if it is dry, then add a wee bit.  Or maybe add a bit of butter to this side – mushrooms love it even more than olive oil.  After about a minute wiggle them together with the onions.

The steak can be cut into worm shaped pieces – twice as thick as a pencil.  If it’s fillet, wait a couple of minutes.  If rump steak, then get it in with the mushrooms. Turn up the heat to about half and a bit, so everything sizzles and maybe even spits a bit.

It’s hands on now, and you need to keep everything moving in the pan.  You only need to cook the steak through – about 3 to 4 minutes for the fillet, 5 to 8 for the rump.  You can tell it’s ready when blood stops leaching out of the meat.

Next thing is to stop the high temperature cooking – turn the heat down to low, and add the large glass of wine.

Does it seem strange that this dark red meat dish has white wine to make the sauce?  It works – you get a dark brown / almost black sauce.  The mushroom and meat juices do this.  And they are beautiful in the wine.

The pan will make a lot of noise when you throw the glass of wine in because it holds a lot of latent heat.  Swiggle everything around, and wait for the boiling bubbles to die down.  Add the Crème Fraiche and mix that around with a wooden spoon until the sauce is all one colour and consistency – takes a minute or so.  Grate the nutmeg and the black pepper in too.

I serve this in pasta bowls, because there is a nice load of the gorgeous sauce.  Take two dishes, split the rice between them.  Make a crater in the centre of the rice.

You can add a red pepper, sliced to similar sizes as the mushroom, and added at the same time as them.  Adds colour and flavour.

Do y’know – I think you could be getting a bit overconfident?  If you carry on like this – the next thing you do may just go completely belly up!  Isn’t that the way of things?

Served with Rice and a few ripped leaves of parsley

Can Men Cook?

Ok.  I’ve recently published “Can Men Cook?” on Amazon (link below)

Can Men Cook

One of the side effects from doing this had never entered my mind.  What happens now when you go to friends who have bought the book, and you are going to a dinner party at their house?  Now, I had thought of the obvious one – that we may get less invites because people might be intimidated.  Once they have read the book, they realise that is not the case – it really is a cook book to work from scratch if you want to, and not a chef style complication to be seen.  It is also designed to make you laugh at the same time.  One (woman) purchaser said “It reads like a cookery version of Top gear!”.  Fine with me!

But there is another side effect.  Part of the email invite to Pete and Pam’s was “And Pete’s going to do one of your recipes”.  Gee whiz – suddenly I feel the pressure!  What if it doesn’t work for him?  What if it tastes crap?  What if he ruined the kitchen and I am to blame?

When we arrived, I decided the only sensible option was to drink copiously.  Pam had done some brilliant grilled steaks (she is a fine cook, and her flapjacks are legendary!  Many a young football friend of their son, Tom, still remember them as a full time treat from 10 years before!).  Mixed veg, including asparagus, and lovely small potatoes, in their skins, finished off in hot oil in the oven,

So Pete decides to take the piss.  And said -“You know you said cheating good in your book – wel here it is!”  Tinned apricot, with a glace cherry on top, and condensed milk.  Silence.  Then huge guffaws of laughter.  (Those who know Pete Curtis will know that this is the hugest of guffaws).

What he actually made was a Lemon Syllabub.  And it was pretty damn good.  Buy the book if you want the recipe! There were a few disasters on the way.  Pete had followed instructions about covering the mixing bowl with a kitchen towel, but had used the mixer on fast and at an angle.  Pam followed the swearing, and saw Pete’s face completely covered in the mixture (and a lot of the kitchen was covered too).  So, out for more double cream, and finally success.

Cheese was great.  The fourth bottle probably a mistake.  Drinking and chatting with Jo-Jo, daughter who arrived home from college at 9, was great fun too.

And here’s the dish:  Splendid!  Well done Pete – and thanks to you both. Can men Cook?  Certainly!

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