When my husband and I first started dating 4 years ago, Valentine’s Day snuck up on us and we were strapped for cash. Craig’s mom graciously transferred some cash to us as a gift for our first V Day together and told us to treat ourselves. We didn’t really feel like going out, and assumed that all restaurants would be booked solid anyway, so we decided to take a trip to the expensive sections of Woolworths and bought some sparkling wine, some cinnamon popcorn, some smoked salmon & trout roulades, some smoked snoek terrine and mussels marinating in a creamy garlic & white wine sauce. It was an incredible feast and it became a tradition for our Valentine’s Days together. Sadly we haven’t been able to find these pre-cooked mussels at Woolworths for a while so it’s just as well I now know how to make my own, and it’s even tastier than the original inspiration, if I do say so myself.
Despite the ritual that was started, neither my husband nor I were ever really fans of the moneymaking racket that everyone calls Valentine’s Day. Probably because from a guy’s perspective, it creates so much pressure to show the girl you love, just how much you adore her, and it has to be done on that specific day or else it almost doesn’t mean as much. Should he buy roses, chocolates and a teddy bear or is that too kitsch? And if he buys her a cactus instead of red roses, is the gesture still as romantic? Or if he makes her something instead of buying it, will that be interpreted as a cheapskate move? I actually really feel bad for them. Then from a girl’s point of view, she tries not to build up her expectations of the guy, but how do you not with the media bombarding you with all the lovely things he should be buying you this year, and if he doesn’t, then you should be questioning if he cares enough? Phew!
At the end of the day, we both believe that you should be showing the person you love, whether it be your bae or your family or your significant other just how much they mean to you as often as possible, not just on one day of the year. This year, we are expecting to be extremely hung over from a friend’s party the night before, so bringing each other Rehydrate, extra strength Disprins and junk food is how we will be showing each other how much we appreciate the other, and how much we enjoy each other’s company, even if we are both severely babalaas.
The point is, it’s the thought that counts. But if you really do want to go all out and use Valentine’s Day as the perfect opportunity to spoil a loved one, then I suggest that you make them my Mussels Gnocchi dish. It’ll cost you a lot less than going out to a restaurant charging double or triple the price for mediocre food, and it’s dead easy, so you don’t have to be a Masterchef to make it (with my help of course). Pair it with a bottle (or a few) of Drostdy-hof Extra Light dry white wine. And if you’re really trying to win her (or him) over, check out my last post for how to make a chocolate lava cake, with minimal ingredients and baking talent. The receiver will be blown away with the effort and time that you’ve put into the planning, and as long as they like Mussels and chocolate, they will fall in love with your culinary skills. After all, the way to a man’s (and a woman’s) heart, is through his (or her) stomach, right?!
Ingredients (Serves 2):
• 1 x 500g vacuum packed bag of Serena Gnocchi (save 250g in a Ziploc bag for another time) OR you can make your own gnocchi
• OR you can substitute the Gnocchi for linguini or SPAR’s cranberry & date artisan bread (thickly sliced, grilled and buttered for dipping in the sauce)
• 1 x 500g pack of Food Lovers Market’s frozen blanched open shell mussels
• 250ml Woolworths double cream
• 500ml Drostdy-hof Extra Light Dry White Wine
• Ina Paarman’s garlic & herb spice
• ¾ onion (roughly chopped and sliced)
• 2 cloves of garlic (1 chopped & 1 crushed)
• Parmesan (finely grated for serving) OR Ina Paarman’s pasta spice
• Parsley leaves (loosely broken up for serving)
• 2 tsp garlic chives (chopped for serving)
• Olive oil
1. Boil 250g gnocchi in a large pot of water with a splash of olive oil for approximately 3 minutes or until they all float the surface. When they float to the surface, they are done. Easier than pasta hey?
2. Rinse gnocchi in cold water and set aside in a colander
3. When the gnocchi has cooled down, heat up some butter in a pan on medium to high heat, and fry the gnocchi until golden on both sides. Then separate them into two pasta bowls
4. Place your frozen mussels into a large pot, and pour in the white wine. Place the lid on top and bring to the boil on medium to high heat. Keep checking it and allow the mussels to steam for 5 minutes from when the wine starts boiling.
5. Take the pot off the heat, discard the wine and retain the mussels in the pot on a heat proof surface
6. While the mussels are steaming, reheat the butter in the pan used to fry the gnocchi on low to medium heat
7. Gently fry the onions & garlic for 2 minutes, then add the cream and the garlic & herb spice (to taste), and allow the mixture to heat up on medium heat for about 1 minute.
8. Pour the creamy mixture into the mussel pot and toss to coat
9. Spoon your mussels and sauce over your gnocchi, and garnish with the grated parmesan, garlic chives and parsley
10. Serve with a crisp, cold glass of white wine & enjoy!
I hope you have a fabulously happy Valentine’s Day, however you choose to spend it!