Romantic Valentines Day Ideas

romantic valentines day dinner

Happy Valentine’s Day for this Saturday.  We don’t go all out for Valentine’s Day as I feel it can get a little corny but what I do love to do is cook something special at home.  When my girls were little I’d help them make love heart shaped cakes and a special dinner for my husband when he’d come home from work.  It’s a bit of fun and this year I wanted to share a dinner you can make easily at home for your partner.  The steak can be cooked in no time and the chocolate mousse can be made ahead of time and chilled in the fridge.  It’s good to have some valentines day ideas in mind as it’s getting closer.  My oldest daughter is flying down from Sydney and hosting a Valentines Day barbeque for her friends at our house.  I’d love the house to be overflowing with red roses like the ones in the picture below on the day.  Nothing is more romantic than red roses.

beautiful red roses for valentines day

special steak dinner for valentines day

Sharing one big plate of chocolate mousse with two spoons is a charming way to finish the evening washed down with a glass of champagne.  My husband and daughter loved this chocolate mousse they said it’s the best they’ve tasted so it’s sure to impress your loved one.  It doesn’t hurt when it’s paired with beautiful raspberries soaked in rosewater and sprinkled with a crunchy hazelnut praline.  Very special.

beautiful chocolate mousse for valentines day dessert

Wherever you are and whatever you do on Valentine’s Day, enjoy it, if you’re a single lady or chap, make this special meal for yourself, you’ll feel a sense of achievement making these easy recipes.  Treat yourself to a box of chocolates, bunch of flowers or  have a glass of champagne, let’s clink glasses and toast the special person you are!

Steak Marinated in chilli & garlic with ricotta and basil pesto

Serves 2

2 scotch fillet steaks, olive oil, 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes, 2 cloves garlic crushed, 4 radishes (one sliced thinly with a mandolin), keep others for garnish, shop bough basil pesto and ricotta.

Place the steaks in a bowl and add the olive oil, dried chilli flakes and garlic cloves, massage the steaks well.  Heat a frypan or grill pan on top of the stove and cook the steaks to your liking.  When ready place on a plate and cover with foil and a tea towel to rest for 5 minutes or so.  Slice steaks on the diagonal and arrange on a platter, pour the steak juices over the top.  Sprinkle ricotta, arrange sliced radish on top and drizzle with basil pesto.  Arrange some whole radishes in between the steak and finish with a sprinkle of sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil.

Green Salad

Arrange your favorite lettuce on plate, drizzle with some olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and sea salt and gently toss.

French Fries

3-4 potatoes, skin peeled or left on (I left mine on).

Preheat your oven to 180°C.

Cut a potato in half lengthwise, cut into slices then cut those slices into thin french fry strips.  Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, drizzle with olive oil and sea salt and roast in the oven until crisp and golden.

Chocolate Mousse with Salted Hazelnut Praline

for the chocolate mousse: 150g dark chocolate, roughly chopped, 1/2 cup thickened cream, 3 tblsp icing sugar, 1/2 cup plain yoghurt.

for the raspberries: 125g raspberries, 1 tsp caster sugar, 1/2 tsp rosewater.

for the praline: 50g caster sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, 50g roasted hazelnuts.

Praline:  Preheat oven to 180°C, place hazelnuts in the oven for about five minutes until just golden.   Heat the sugar and salt in a small pan until it melts and turns a pale caramel colour, add the hazelnuts and tip onto a lined baking tray.  Cool completely, then break up in mortar and pestle.

Mousse:  Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.  Whip the cream and icing sugar to soft peaks.  Gently fold the cream into the cooled chocolate, followed by the yoghurt.  Cover, keep chilled.

Raspberries:  Place the raspberries with the caster sugar and rosewater in a small bowl, toss and set aside until the raspberries become a little juicy.  Roughly mash some of the raspberries with a fork.

Pile the mousse onto a big plate, spoon over some juicy raspberries and sprinkle with praline.  Serve with two spoons and a glass of champagne.

Chocolate Mousse Recipe: Bill Granger for Sunday Life Magazine.

Catherine x



Hetty McKinnon’s Community Cookbook

hetty mckinnon community

I love the suburb of Surry Hills in Sydney.  The more I visit my daughter Emma who works there, the more I get acquainted with the area and it’s vibe. I wander the streets, have coffee and people watch.  After Christmas my youngest daughter, husband and I drove there for a weeks holiday to visit Emma once again.  This time we had the good fortune to stay in a fabulous apartment in Surry Hills near Bills2.  Some nights Emma would walk to the apartment after work and have dinner with us and we’d go to Gelato Messina afterwards for ice cream.

hetty mckinnon cookbook community

It was our last night in Sydney, we bought our ice creams and strolled around the streets of Surry Hills licking and devouring the creamy treats.  I don’t know how it came up but Emma said to me something like “there’s someone around here who makes beautiful salads, we get them delivered to work”.  I instantly made the connection, “oh yes I know, she makes them from home here in Surry Hills and delivers them on her bike.  “Yes” said Emma, “you already know about her”.  “My favourite is the Soba Noodle Salad with eggplant”.  “She’s written a book with all the salad recipes in it as well” I said.  We continued our tour around the narrow streets with Emma pointing out her favourite block of apartments on Crown Street and favourite cafes and shops.  We then walked home.

The person was Hetty McKinnon and the cookbook is Community, salad recipes from Arthur Street Kitchen.  The recipes in Community cookbook are inspired by Hetty’s Arthur Street Kitchen, the hub where she made salads twice a week to deliver by bike to residents in Surry Hills.   In doing so she discovered as much as the business was about local food it was also about the people who ate the food every week.  She began to exchange ideas and connect with people and best of all she got to do what she loves most, feed people.  She has recently moved to New York with her family and plans to deliver salads in Brooklyn this year.

Hetty McKinnon's Community Cookbook

We drove back to Melbourne, the next day and I invited my cousin Carol over for lunch to see our new house.  By sheer coincidence I was absolutely delighted when she gave me Hetty’s book as a house warming present.  I couldn’t believe it and was so thrilled.  I’ve since made a couple of the salads and connected with Hetty on Instagram.  The recipes in the book serve 4-6 people, there’s only 3 of us at home at the moment so I halved the quantity for both recipes.  I also couldn’t resist topping mine with gorgeous little micro herbs I found at the Greengrocer near our house.

hetty mckinnon's cookbook community

Recipe Credit:  Hetty McKinnon from Community, salad recipes from Arthur Street Kitchen, published by Plum. Pan Macmillan Australia.

You can connect with Hetty on Instagram and her website Arthur Street Kitchen.


Peas and Mint with Quinoa, Feta and Almonds

Serves 4-6

To make the dressing: blitz all the ingredients in a food processor and season with salt and black pepper.  Taste for balance, adjusting the vinegar, oil and seasoning as required.  For a stronger mint flavour, add a few more leaves.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add a large pinch of salt, the sugar and oil (these keep the peas green and enhance sweetness).  Add the peas, sugar snap peas and snow peas and blanch for 1-2 minutes or until just tender.  Remove and refresh under cold water.

In a large pot of water, add the vegetable stock powder, a pinch of salt and the quinoa and bring to the boil.  Turn the heat down tolow and continue to simmer until the quinoa is tender and transparent.  Drain through a fine sieve.

To serve, add the dressing to the mixed peas, mint and quinoa and combine well.  Top with the crumbled feta and almonds.


Spicy Fried Edamame with Eggplant and Soba Noodles

Serves 4-6

4 eggplants (1.5kg), 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, seas salt & black pepper, 400g soba noodles, 3 tbsp sunflower oil, 2 garlic cloves finely chopped, 1-2 long red chillies (depending on how hot you like it) finely chopped, 4cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated, 400g frozen podded edamame beans, thawed, 4 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp vegetarian stir fry sauce (or oyster sauce), 1 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp black sesame seeds.

Preheat the oven to 200°C

Partially peel the eggplant, leaving a ‘stripe’ pattern. Cut into 2cm cubes.  Drizzle over the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast for 20-25 minutes or until tender.

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the soba noodles for 3 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent sticking.  Drain and refresh under cold running water.

Heat the sunflower oil in a frying pan over high heat.  Add the garlic, chilli and ginger and stir-fry for about 1 minute.  Next add the edamame beans and stir-fry for 1 minute.  Finally add the soy sauce, stir -fry sauce and sesame oil and cook for another minute or so, or until the sauce thickens slightly.

Combine the spicy edamame with the roasted eggplant and soba noodles.  Toss gently to combine.  Serve with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds.


Catherine x

Brown Sugar Pavlova with Flowers

pavlova with flowers

Well it’s coming to the end of another Summer holiday and we’re well and truly settled into our new house.  I’m loving our new location closer to the city, it’s been such a good move for us, no more lawns to mow and the new place is very easy to clean, lots of marble everywhere and because we’ve decluttered easy to keep tidy.  My daughter starts back at school tomorrow, second last year of high school, so it’s time for me to get back into blogging and all things Farmhouse Home related as well.  I’m looking forward to 2015, it has to be a year of fully believing in myself, exploring my passions and doing rather than putting things off.

pavlova with flowers

pavlova with flowers

One of my passions is flowers, so it felt very satisfying to make this brown sugar pavlova, topped with stewed rhubarb and raspberries and decorate it with flowers.  I visited one of our local florists The Big Bunch, it was great to meet Mike the owner and talk about what kind of flowers would work together.  Decision made, the flowers were wrapped in brown paper and I walked home feeling very happy and proud of the beauty I was carrying in the crook of my arm.

pavlova with flowers

Before serving I took the flowers off the cake as they are not edible and placed them in a bowl of water which looked very pretty.  It’s lovely to be back, wishing you all a happy and healthy 2015, look forward to our journey together this year.

flowers used to decorate my pavlova

Brown Sugar Pavlova with Stewed Rhubarb and Raspberries

Serves 8-10

6 eggwhites, 1/4 tsp cream of tartar, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 225g (1 cup) caster sugar, 80g (1/3 cup) soft brown sugar, 1 TBLSP cornflour, 2 TBLSP arrowroot, 2 tsp white vinegar.  To serve: 250ml cream, 150g greek yoghurt, stewed rhubarb, raspberries.

Stewed Rhubarb: trim ends from a bunch of rhubarb and cut into 3-4cm pieces. Place in a pot with a 1/4 cup maple syrup, stir and place the lid on the pot.  simmer until soft, about 10 minutes, if rhubarb still tastes tart you can add more maple syrup or sugar to sweeten to taste.

Preheat oven to 200°C. Draw a 20cm circle on a sheet of baking paper and place the paper on a large baking tray.

Beat the eggwhites with the cream of tartar and vanilla until stiff peaks form.  Add the caster sugar and brown sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until all the sugar is incorporated and dissolved and the mixture is thick and glossy.  Stir in the cornflour, arrowroot and vinegar.

Pile the mixture into the circle on the baking paper and spread gently into shape with a spatula.  Put in the oven and reduce the temperature immediately to 130°C.  Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, then turn off the oven, prop the door ajar and leave the pavlova inside until completely cooled.

To serve, lightly whip the cream and yoghurt together and spread over the pavlova.  Top with stewed rhubarb, raspberries and decorate with your favourite flowers.

Make sure the flowers you choose are not toxic with pesticide or chemicals as you don’t want this transferred to your cake.

Recipe adapted from Bill’s Basics by Bill Granger.