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Valentine’s Day Menu

Clare Steve

My husband hates Valentine’s Day.

He had planned to ask me to marry him on a holiday to New Zealand and had found the perfect place…a beautiful lodge by Lake Wanaka. We had been on a somewhat budget holiday and he had kept this luxury retreat a surprise. Much to his chagrin and usually impeccable organisational skills we ended up staying there Valentine’s Day, although due to his distinct dislike of the day he waited till the next morning over breakfast to ask me.

We were married one year later to the day, so now he can never escape a celebration!

What’s on the menu? For entrée: Oysters kilpatrick and Oysters with Shallot Vinaigrette. For main: BBQ salmon fillets with tomato salsa and zucchini and rocket salad. And for dessert:  Buttermilk panna cotta with tuille biscuit and berries.

I have chosen oysters for the entrée, which are now available at most supermarkets. I know they are a bit pricey but they’re the most expensive part of the meal and worth every cent. I have also chosen fish as the main course as the recent hot weather means the idea of eating a big slab of meat is not my cup of tea. I hope you enjoy making, and eating, it!

Oysters Two Ways

Oysters with Shallot Vinegar

This is one of Jamie Oliver’s never fail recipes and it makes enough for about 12 oysters. Mix the left over with some olive oil and use it later in the week as a salad dressing.

what you need

1 eschallot, very finely chopped

2 tsp sugar

6 tbsp red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste.

what to do

Mix all the ingredients together and taste. It is very important that it is not too sour or sweet. Keep adding either sugar or vinegar until you are happy. Leave it aside until you are ready to serve the oysters. Then either serve in a jug on the side or spoon about 1/2 tsp on each oyster.

Oysters Kilpatrick

An absolute classic – this is enough to do 12 oysters.

what you need

2 rashers of bacon

1/2 tbsp bourbon

2 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2 tbsp tomato sauce

1 tbsp BBQ sauce

A few shakes of Tabasco (optional)

what to do

Get the best quality bacon you can find. If you can find smoked bacon it is the best for this recipe. Dice the bacon, including the fat, into very small pieces (think about the end result, you don’t want big pieces of bacon hanging over the edge of your oyster).  Cook this over a high heat until it is browned. Add the bourbon to the hot pan and then remove from the heat then add the other sauces. Return to the heat just to mix everything together. Taste the mixture, it should have a little bit of a bite from the Worcestershire, add more if you like the taste. If you are using the Tabasco, add it now.

The mixture should easily spread across the top of the oysters. If it is too thick, just add a little water

If you don’t feel like turning on the griller, cook the bacon a bit more in the initial stage and pour this over the oysters just before you want to eat them. If you can stand the heat, turn on the griller to high and place a tsp of the mixture on top of each oyster. It is important that the oyster is covered or it will burn. Place the oysters under the grill just for a minute or so. You really just want to warm the oyster up, but not cook it.

BBQ salmon fillets with tomato salsa and zucchini and rocket salad

Tomato Salsa

Make your salsa and salad first, so that all you have to do is cook the salmon to perfection and assemble!

what you need

2 vine ripened tomatoes or the equivalent in cherry tomatoes

1/2 red capsicum

1/4 red onion

1/2 garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp olive oil

Chopped handful of parsley and coriander

Juice of one lime

Salt and Pepper

what to do

Dice the onion as fine as you can and place it in a dish with some of the lime juice. Leave this to sit for about 10 minutes and then discard the lime juice. This will take some of the acid away from the onions and should reduce the onion after taste. Cut the tomatoes, capsicum into small dice and mix together with the crushed garlic clove. Mix the onions with the tomato mixture and add the olive oil, extra lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Add the chopped herbs just before eating. Once the herbs have been mixed through, taste the salsa with a bit of each ingredient, you may need to adjust the lime or salt, I think it should be a bit on the acidy side as it will them complement the creaminess of the salmon.

BBQ salmon

what you need

2 Salmon fillets, skin on

2 slices of prosciutto

Salt and Pepper

Spray olive oil

Lemon wedges

what to do

Season the salmon on the flesh side with some salt and pepper.

On a very hot BBQ, spray the griddle pan or the bars with some olive oil. Place the salmon skin side down and if possible, close the lid on you BBQ. If not place a large heat-proof bowl over the top over the fillets. After about 4 minutes, turn the heat down to medium. Depending on how you like your salmon done (I like mine a little rare in the middle) it should take between 10 and 20 minutes to cook the salmon through (the piece pictured took 12 minutes).

The best way to test is to place a knife in the largest part of the fillet and leave it there for a count of 5. Then place the knife (very carefully) under your lower lip. If it is body temperature (i.e. you can’t feel the knife) it is still quite rare. If it is really hot and you have to pull the knife away quickly, the fish is well done. It takes some practice but this is a good method of testing all types of meat. If you do it regularly you will be able to check meat without disturbing the outside appearance.

On another part of the BBQ cook the prosciutto until it is really crispy. Once the salmon is cooked, remove it and set it aside to rest for a few minutes.

To serve, place the salad in a pile in the middle of the plate and place the salmon on top. Drizzle the salsa on the side of the fish and finish with the super crispy prosciutto.

Zucchini, Fetta and Rocket Salad


This simple and delicious salad can be tossed together at the last minute while your fish is resting.

what you need

2 zucchini

Good handful of washed rocket

1/2 a packet of fetta, crumbled (I prefer the creaminess of the Danish, but the Greek will also work)

1 tsp good Dijon mustard

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tbsp good quality olive oil

1 tsp sugar (this varies slightly depending on the tartness of your vinegar)

Salt and pepper to taste

Spray olive oil

what to do

Chop the ends off the zucchini and using a peeler, peel long strips off and place them to one side. In a beautiful bowl, place the washed rocket and the crumbled fetta. Place the Dijon, vinegar, olive oil, sugar and some salt and pepper into a small jar and shake like crazy. Taste for balance and set aside.

On a very hot BBQ, spray the griddle pan or bars with some olive oil. Place the zucchini on the BBQ so that you get attractive lines. Wait until you get some colour before turning them. If it has taken some time to get colour and you think the zucchini is already cooked, don’t bother turning them over.

Mix the cooked zucchini, the leaves and the dressing together just before serving.

Buttermilk Pannacotta with Almond Tuiles & Berries

Panna cotta

This is Maggie Beer’s recipe, and it is quite simply the best. Make these the day before.

what you need

4 x gold strength gelatine leaves (I use Alba brand).

400ml cream

150g castor sugar

250ml buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 vanilla bean scraped

what to do

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water to soften. Combine the cream, vanilla and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and bring almost to the boil. Squeeze the excess moisture out of the gelatine and whisk into the cream mixture. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Add the buttermilk.

It is important to cool the mix as overheated buttermilk splits really easily. Divide among six 125ml moulds and place in the refrigerator overnight to set.

If you think that your mixture may have split (it will look slightly grainy), don’t freak out! It can be saved! Continue to place the mixture in the serving containers and refrigerate, then at 30 minute intervals whisk the mixture with a small whisk or a fork while in the containers.


These are an extra flourish – don’t worry if you don’t have time to make them, the panna cotta is delicious on its own! They will last quite well if stored in an airtight container. The recipe comes from Rosie Davies.

what you need

2 egg whites

110g castor sugar

55g butter

55g plain flour

Grated rind of a lemon or orange (optional)

what to do

Line baking sheets with baking paper and pre-heat oven to 180°C.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Add the sugar and whisk thoroughly. Melt the butter and add to the meringue mixture alternatively with the sifted flour. Fold in the orange or lemon rind if you like.

Drop a teaspoon of the mixture onto the baking paper and spread very thinly in the shape you desire. This mixture will spread when cooking. Place the trays in the oven and bake for 5 – 6 minutes.

Once cooked, ease the biscuits off the baking paper with a pallet knife and while they are still hot you can mould them around a greased glass or a spoon handle. When they are quite firm slip them off your moulding and into an air tight container. You can make baskets and all sorts of things with this mixture.

To serve, ease the panna cotta out of their moulds with a non-serrated knife, place some lovely fresh berries on the side and finish with the light tuile.

  • Nina Downes

    Hi Clare – I want to make these yummy looking pannacottas but I’ve never used gelatine sheets before only powdered. Where do you buy your sheets from? The standard supermarkets did not seem to have them?

    BTW Made the zucchini salad the other day – yummo – very nice 🙂

  • Amanda Whitley

    I can answer that one! Try Essential Ingredient in Kingston…I’m not sure of the brand, but they have ‘titanium strength’ ones (sheets very in hold strength and some are gold, titanium, etc.) Other deli kind of places/gourmet supply shops may also have them xx

  • Nina Downes

    Thanks Amanda!

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