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A vegetarian valentines day!

March 30, 2011

It’s not all that hard to find a meal to impress on valentines day. A nice steak is hard to get wrong if you buy a decent cut and there’s an array of lovely pre-made options out there now for the less adventurous cook (M&S in the UK are particularly good at this). But what if your valentine is an enforced vegetarian who would normally be impressed by a beef wellington/ostrich fillet or springbok carpaccio?

Never one to shy away from a challenge, especially a culinary one, I set to work devising a vegetarian menu. For my vegetarian month I struggled with the concept that vegetables in my mind usually form a side dish element of many meals – although often a delicious one (think sag aloo or potato dauphinoise bmmmm). And as I found out over that month there are some awesome vegetable only meals to me made – vegetarian lasagne, curries, stir fries, pasta dishes, but nothing I thought was special enough for a special day with a special person.

So, I knew I could make lots of nice little vegetable dishes, and the thought of tapas popped in to my head – a favourite meal of us both.

Here is my menu:
Sweet potato gnocchi pan fried in sage butter
Roasted vegetable and gorgonzola tart
Marinated paprika peppers and artichokes
Patatas bravas
Fresh sour dough bread
A selection of olives, sundried tomatoes and feta in italian herbs

And the recipes for each:

Sweet potato gnocchi pan fried in sage butter


Sweet potatoes, chopped into chunks
A handful of fresh sage leaves, whole.


Roast the sweet potato in olive oil until very soft. Put into a bowl and mix in flour, parmesan and seasoning to form a soft but rollable dough. Roll the dough onto a floured work surface into a long sausage shaped piece. Cut into small (1.5cm) dumplings. Place the gnocchi in to boiling water so they cover the bottom of the pan. Cook on a medium heat until all the gnocchi have risen to the surface. Drain and add to a pan with melted butter. Fry the gnocchi until they have got a little colour then add the whole sage leaves, continuing to fry until crispy. Use plenty of butter to form the sauce and serve. Ideal with a nice green salad or as part of a tapas feast.

Roasted butternut, red onion and gorgonzola tart


Half a butternut squash – cut into 2-3cm chunks.
A red onion – cut into 2-3cm chunks.
3 garlic cloves.
A 250g chunk of gorgonzola
Fresh basil
1 roll of ready made puff pastry


Roast the butternut and red onion with the garlic. Grease a baking tray and roll out a sheet of ready made puff pastry. Place the roast veg onto the pastry and crumble the gorgonzola over. Season well with pepper and cook in the over on 180 degrees for 30 minutes or until the pastry has risen and turned golden. Drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar reduction if desired and tear over some fresh basil.

Marinated paprika peppers and artichokes


2-3 peppers of various colours
1 tin of artichoke hearts
2 tsp smokey paprika
Olive oil
Salt and black pepper


Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds. Place skin side up on a baking tray and grill until the skin is blackened. Leave to cool and then remove skin and slice the remaining flesh. Drain the artichokes and slice into desired size. In a bowl mix the olive oil, seasoning and paprika and add the peppers and artichokes. Leave to marinate, ideally overnight in the fridge. Ideal on top of crusty bread.

Patatas Bravas

4 large potatoes
250ml + a few tablespoons of Olive oil
125ml Tomato sauce (you could use a fancy one, but ketchup is actually great as its so rich).
125ml Mayonnaise
2 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbs Onion
1/4 tsp Paprika
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp Thyme


Add a little olive oil to a pan and saute the onions and garlic on a medium heat. Add the cayenne, thyme and paprika and put into a bowl before adding the tomato sauce and mayonnaise. Taste and season more if necessary.

Peel and cut the potatoes into dice sized cubes. Season well with salt and pepper and fry in hot olive oil, careful when adding to the oil (I’m clumsier than most so I always have to be extra cautious! A burnt hand is not romantic!). Make sure these are drained well (I line my sieve with kitchen roll and put them in there). Add the sauce to the potatoes immediately before serving else they go soggy.

I served this all with plenty of bubbles, it was valentines day after all and you can buy bubbles here for a cheap as a normal bottle of wine – recent favourites include the new one by Sarensburg. Here’s some pictures of my night 🙂

Veggie tart, marinated peppers and artichokes, feta/olives/sundried tomatoes and delicious bread (last two courtesy of the neighbour goods market at the biscuit mill).

Picnic-ing in the garden with the tapas feast and lots of pink bubbly. Valentines day in the summer is much nicer, who wouldn't want to eat outside in beautiful surrounds in summer clothes 🙂

Enjoying dinner - I don't think I normally look this good, all credit to Ben being a perve and his camera 🙂

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