February has arrived with a flourish, filled with fluttering lovehearts & gorgeousness galore! St Valentine’s Day is upon us, as shops are carpeted with row upon row of rich red roses, ready to be plucked & packed for someone’s sweetheart. Fluffy toy animals line shelves, all cute, cuddly & clutching velvet hearts, while pink & red boxes of chocolates wait patiently to be unwrapped & eaten. Walking into my local supermarket earlier this week, I was greeted by a wall of wine-coloured roses, swathed in cellophane & stacked in ascending buckets (perfect for any “Last Minute Larrys” who may have just remembered on their way home!). My week has been filled with creating cute chocolate hearts, sculpting them from my homemade modelling chocolate, then dipping in melted chocolate & dusting in pink sparkly sugar. The white ones resemble smooth, satin covered pebbles, although they are soft to the bite & melt in the mouth (I’ve obviously had to sample a few!).
Although beautiful, love tokens can be a bit expensive, especially if you’re on a tight budget & want to treat your Amour to something special. This is where a romantic déjeuner à deux is perfect, as there’s nothing more personal than something you’ve created just for them! All you need is a little preparation & some help from your Fairy Lovemother (OK, she was busy so you’ll have to make do with me).
This time of year brings a beautiful variety of vegetables, including the rather underrated but lovely leek. In those flippy fronds of light green loveliness lie a delicate onion flavour, less intense than their rotund counterparts & worth more than steaming as a side with your spuds. These little leek filled cheesy crumbles, perched on puff pastry pillows are perfect as a starter or even a vegetarian main course (check with your date before you start cooking, otherwise that steak you’re considering might be wasted). This recipe is actually one of my Husband’s creations, in honour of a recipe I used to make when we first started dating. As you know, I prefer to make my own puff pastry & although easy to make, it does need an hour to rest, so use that hour to pamper yourself in the shower beforehand & then your pastry will be ready when you emerge, all shiny & clean (multi-tasking at it’s finest). If you are using shop-bought, please make sure it’s made with real butter to bring out the flavour of the filling (you’re going to a lot of effort for this evening, so it’s important). Ready for a little love-baking? Hands washed, aprons on & here we go!
What you need:
9-12 small Potatoes (depending on size), skin on & washed
2 Leeks, cleaned & trimmed
2 slices/crusts of Bread (I used seeded for this)
3oz Mild Cheddar Cheese, grated
2oz Parmesan, grated finely
Puff Pastry (see link below if you’re making fresh, otherwise 1 packet)
Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper
2 sprigs of Fresh Thyme leaves (pull them through your fingertips to remove leaves easily)
For the crumble:
4oz Plain Flour
What to do:
If you’re making your own puff pastry, you need to do this first as it needs to rest for an hour (you can do everything else while it’s in the fridge). Here’s the link to my puff pastry recipe: http://hopeyourehungry.co.uk/puff-up-the-volume/
Pre-heat the oven to 210*C.
Next, grease a baking tray with butter (use a butter wrapper if you have one handy), sprinkle flour over it & tip out the excess. Set aside for later. If you’re making a large one to share, just lay a sheet of greaseproof paper on your baking tin, no greasing required.
Blitz the bread into crumbs & set aside for later.
Prepare the leeks & potatoes, as you can cook these together by steaming the leeks over the potatoes. Chop the potatoes into thin slices & put into a large saucepan (I use a food processor for this, so I can get them wafer thin). Chop the leeks into thin slices too, discarding the tops if they are a bit tough. Place in a steamer above the potatoes.
Add a pinch of salt to the potatoes, cover with boiling water & cook for about 4 minutes. They should be soft enough to get a knife into, but still firm. Drain & tip into the leeks, placing the strainer over the saucepan to catch any drips & leave the lid off the pan.
Make the crumble – tip the flour & butter into a bowl. Rub together with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs, then add the grated cheese, half of the Parmesan & all the breadcrumbs. Stir through & set aside.
Roll out your pastry & cut into either hearts or circles, placing them on your baking tray. If you don’t have a heart cutter or heart baking trays, just cut one freehand or use a wine glass, cup or jam jar if you want circles (you can cut whatever shape you like, it’s your pastry!). If you’re making a large one for sharing as a main course, cut to the size of your baking tray & gently score a line around the edge, about 1cm thick.
Sprinkle the base with a little of the crumble mixture (this will stop your pastry going soggy). Spoon a little of the potato & leek mix carefully onto each pastry base (if making a big pastry, leave the 1cm edge free of filling).
Top with the cheesy crumble mixture & bake in the centre of the oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden & crispy on top. If you’re making a larger one, give it 25-30 minutes.
Remove from the oven & place on a cooling rack for a couple of minutes (burned lips means no kissing, so be careful!).
Serve these delicate cheesy crumble topped puffed pastries as a starter, or just as something to nibble together over a glass of fizz. If you have any leftover crumble, potatoes & leeks, chuck them all in a bowl together & tip into a greased muffin tin. Bake them for 10-15 minutes until golden & when cooled, pop them in cupcake cases for tomorrow’s lunch!
So if you’re stuck for a starter on your romantic rendezvous, try my Husband’s recipe for Lovers’ Leeks & treat your Amour to something special! Happy love-baking! Stay hungry! A 😉 x