Annabel Langbein's menu for romance (+ recipes)
In her book The Alphabet for Gourmets, American writer M.F.K. Fisher wrote a brilliant essay entitled "How to UnSeduce". This provided all the guidelines for discouraging an amorous suitor - Fisher was famous for her liaisons and very much the female Casanova. In such a situation she would invent a menu that would "floor him like a stunned ox, and turn him, no matter how unwittingly on his part, into a slumberous lump of masculine inactivity".
A great deal of booze appears to be involved, along with an assortment of dangerously rich foods ... "I would serve one too many martinis, that is, about three. Then while his appetite raged, thus whipped with alcohol, I would have generous, rich, salty Italian hors d'oeuvres: prosciutto, little chilled marinated shrimps, olives stuffed with anchovy, spiced and pickled tomatoes - things that would lead him on. Next would come something he no longer wanted, but could not resist, something like a ragout of venison, or squabs stuffed with mushrooms and wild rice, and plenty of red wine, sure danger after the cocktails and the highly salted appetizers.
I would waste no time on a salad, unless perhaps a freakish rich one treacherously containing truffles and new potatoes. The dessert would be cold, superficially refreshing and tempting, but venomous: a chilled bowl of figs soaked in kirsch, with heavy cream. There would be a small bottle of a Sauterne, sly and icy, or a judicious bit of champagne, and then a small cup of coffee so black and bitter that my victim could not down it, even therapeutically.
"All of this would be beautiful fare in itself and in another part of time and space. Here and now it would be sure poison - given the right man. I would, to put it mildly, rest inviolate ... "
Come Valentine's Day, most of us are looking for food that will create the opposite effect - a light and tantalising menu that avoids any soporific effects is the order of the day. It's important that the food makes you look proficient - you don't want to leave the person you're entertaining twiddling their fingers while you toil away getting sweaty over the stove. So here's the plan - an impressive starter that can be assembled ahead of time, a light, stylish main of crusted lamb that, again, can be prepared in advance ready to pop in the oven, and a dessert that requires only three ingredients. I've even provided a foolproof prep plan to guide your way. Here's a toast to Cupid!
In the morning
- Make chocolate mousse
- Make beetroot confit
- Coat lamb in pistachios, cover and chill
- Prepare avocado towers and chill
- Prepare salad greens and chill in a bag to keep crisp
- Make dressing
- Scrub new potatoes and place in a pot of cold water with a little salt
- Bring lamb to room temperature, roast then remove from the oven, cover and rest
- Boil potatoes until tender then remove from the heat and let them stand in the cooking water
- Serve the starter
- Dress salad just before serving with the lamb and potatoes
- Serve chocolate mousse
These look impressive, taste great and are an easy make-ahead assembly. Form the mixture into the moulds on serving plates and chill until you're ready to serve them. To serve just remove the moulds and garnish. Get the recipe
Lamb loins are a real treat - sweet, tender and not a skerrick of fat. Take care not to overcook them, as they are nicest slightly rare. This whole dish can be prepared ahead of time ready for a quick flash in the oven. It's great served with boiled new potatoes and a crisp green salad. Keep the leftover beetroot confit in the fridge for sandwiches. Get the recipe
This delicious silken chocolate mousse is very rich, so you'll need only a small glass or bowl each. Get the recipe
For more great Annabel Langbein recipes see her summer annual Annabel Langbein A Free Range Life: Share the Love (Annabel Langbein Media, $24.95) or visit annabel-langbein.com.