Make something Simple & Classic for Valentine's Day
Cooking for two on Thursday evening? Then try this impressive yet easy meal from Jane Hornby's new book
One of the great things about Jane Hornby’s new book, Simple & Classic, is its menu section at the back. Here, Hornby, one of Britain’s most popular home cooks and cookery book authors, arranges a selection of her 123 recipes into a series of smart meals, suitable for a wide range of occasions, from Mother’s Day to baby showers, Cinco de Mayo to a simple, stylish picnic.
And her Special Dinner for Two, is a great choice for Valentine’s Day 2019, which falls on a Thursday. Spicy shrimp, fennel & chile linguine and chocolate mousse with cherries both take less than half an hour to make, meaning they’re manageable for a mid-week meal, but still memorable enough for this date night of date nights. Here’s what you need, and how you prepare both.
Spicy shrimp, fennel & chile linguine
6 oz (175 g) linguine (or any other long pasta shape)
1 large or two smaller fennel bulbs
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 cloves garlic
1 large red chile
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ tsp fennel seeds (optional)
3½ oz (100 g) cherry tomatoes
7 oz (200 g) uncooked jumbo/tiger shrimp (large prawns), shelled and deveined, thawed if frozen
Salt and pepper
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, then once it has collapsed into the water, stir it and let it boil for 8–10 minutes, until just tender.
While the pasta cooks, cut the fennel bulb in half and remove any tough outer layers. You can also remove the core, if you like. Thinly slice the fennel. Reserve the feathery leaves, if there are any.
Heat the oil in a large skillet or frying pan, then add the fresh fennel. Fry for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring often, until softened and sweet, and turning golden in places.
While you wait, thinly slice the garlic and chile. Seed the chile first, if you like. The easiest way to do this is by scraping out the middle with a teaspoon. Coarsely chop the parsley and cut the lemon into quarters.
Add the garlic, chile, fennel seeds, if using, and cherry tomatoes to the pan. Turn the heat up a little. Cook for 2 minutes or until fragrant and the tomato skins are starting to pop. Now add the shrimp and cook for about 3 minutes or until the shrimp have changed colour all the way through.
Reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta in a colander.
Add the pasta, 5 tablespoons of the cooking water, the parsley, and any fennel leaves to the shrimp pan, then squeeze in the juice from 2 of the lemon wedges. Season generously with salt and pepper and toss everything together. Adjust to taste by adding more lemon juice, salt, and pepper, if needed. Serve drizzled with a little more oil and the remaining lemon wedges for squeezing.
Chocolate mousse with cherries
5 oz (150 g) bittersweet (dark) chocolate, 70% cocoa solids
11/2 cups (350 ml) heavy (double) cream
2 extra-large (UK large) eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp kirsch, brandy, or water
4 tbsp superfine (caster) sugar
12 oz (350 g) ripe cherries
(2 cups pitted)
Chop the chocolate into small pieces, then put into a large heatproof bowl. Pour ⅔ cup (150 ml) of the cream into a small saucepan, then bring just to a boil.
When the cream has bubbles appearing at the sides and the surface is shimmering, it’s ready. Pour the hot cream onto the chocolate and let melt for about 3 minutes.
While you wait, separate the eggs (see page 343) and put the whites into a clean, grease-free bowl. Beat the yolks with the kirsch, brandy, or water. Stir the chocolate and cream together until even, then add 2 tablespoons of the sugar and all of the yolk mixture. Stir until smooth and even.
Pour another ⅔ cup (150 ml) cream into a bowl. Using an electric mixer, first whisk the egg whites until thick and foamy, but not stiff. Then whisk the cream until thick but not stiff. Do it this way around and you won’t need to wash the beaters in between—(cream on the beaters would prevent the whites from whipping).
Fold the cream into the chocolate mix using a large metal spoon or a rubber spatula.
Now add a quarter of the whites and stir them in. This will loosen the mixture ready for the rest of the whites. Spoon in the remainder, then fold in gently until the mixture is thoroughly blended, with no traces of white.
Spoon the mousse into 6 larger or 8 smaller serving glasses or cups and chill for at least 2 hours or until firm.
To prepare the cherries, first cut them in half and remove the pits (stones).
Put the cherries into a skillet or frying pan with the remaining sugar and 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Cook the cherries over high heat for 1 minute or so, until the sugar melts and bubbles around the cherries. Let cool.
Softly whip the remaining cream, then spoon it on top of the set mousses. Serve with the cherries.
Simple & Classic is a newly curated collection of the very best of Jane Hornby's recipes from What to Cook & How to Cook It, Fresh & Easy, and What to Bake & How to Bake It, each previously published by Phaidon.
The absolute beauty of Hornby's recipes is how easy they are to perfect – with detailed step-by-step shots and beautiful images of the finished dishes, this is destined to be the most useful cookbook on the shelf. Buy your copy here.