Heart's delight (+recipes)

By Amanda Laird

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Plan a romantic picnic for your loved one(s) on this special day.

As a natural aphrodisiac, oysters will go down a treat shared with your valentine. Photo / Babiche Martens
As a natural aphrodisiac, oysters will go down a treat shared with your valentine. Photo / Babiche Martens

Whatever you are into when it comes to Valentine's Day - whether you are a big heart-loving romantic, or a dubious sceptic - I look upon this once-a-year date as an opportunity to celebrate a little love, if nothing more. But more importantly, it is an opportunity to have two or maybe 10 of your fondest gather around and eat some good food.

Certain ingredients are bound to get you in the mood; obviously oysters, red wine and chocolate never go astray, but I have discarded the chocolate this time in favour of blood red, juicy plums cooked with a little butter, rum and honey. Plums are gorgeous right now and when cooked this way they become syrupy and decadent. I've paired them with dainty strawberry shortbreads and a little cream.

Hopefully the evening is idyllic - enough so to set up a picnic scenario in your backyard or wander to the local beach.

The food is straightforward to prepare and can be popped into containers and taken with you.

Look out for small tartlet cases or vol-au-vents to be tad retro; some stores have square cases which are quite smart or you can make your own.

Gently poaching the oysters retains all the succulent juices without overcooking them. Top with a little creme fraiche and some fresh chives carefully snipped and a minimal grind of black pepper.

For a main course, we have a red salad of chilli and garlic-rubbed venison, quickly seared or barbecued then sliced generously and paired with slices of roasted beetroot, sweet tomatoes and a dressing made from hazelnut oil and orange juice. A few salad greens can be added if you fancy. Pile it on a platter and enjoy.

Chef's tip

Take time to set the mood. Flax mats with silver cutlery, music being played, candles, crystal glasses ... The extra effort will lift your meal out of the ordinary.

- NZ Herald

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