Wednesday, 12 February 2014 15:38

Seven years a (cherry) charm on Valentine’s Day

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It was true. In the seven years since they’d been married, Valentine’s Day had become synonymous with romantic folly, yielding the kinds of stories that, at dinner parties, kept friends laughing, helplessly, until someone finally snorted a green pea out their nose.


There was their first. When a dozen daisies (because they were newlyweds who couldn’t afford roses, and they hadn’t yet exchanged their full lists of allergies) produced a night of sniffling and sneezing that, to this day, causes them to blush whenever someone has a runny nose.
A year later, there was the  incident with the chocolate lava cakes. And the stains on the kitchen ceiling to prove it.
Following that were two distinct restaurant mishaps that resulted in having to choose two new favourite restaurants.
And then, back in their own kitchen for Year 5, was the year of the mysterious big bang and the resulting fallen soufflés. The year she finally tossed her whisk in the sink and declared a ban on Valentine’s Day.
“We have a good marriage. We don’t need a paper card holiday to prove it!” she said, her face red as a cinnamon heart.
But when February came around again the next year, and they treated it like any other day of winter, she felt as sullen as the weather. They decided to make it up to each other by making their anniversary, in the summer, extra special.
That July, a friend loaned them their houseboat for the night.
They arrived separately, to heighten the anticipation. (A choice they would’ve reconsidered had they known that getting to the dock entailed a half-hour long tractor ride, down an iffy cliffside goats would fear to tread, with a gregarious vineyard owner who held their lives, and their romantic evening, in his hands.)
They brought silk sheets and other silken things.
They brought wine and flowers and gourmet take-out and two place settings of their good dishes.
Together at last, it wasn’t until the tractor was halfway back up the goat track that they discovered they weren’t alone.
Half an hour later, on the house boat’s roof deck, while their friend’s adult daughter and her boyfriend had their own celebration in the cabin, they ate in miserable silence. It began to rain.
Still, she was a hopeless romantic.
A hopeless romantic with a recipe she was anxious to try for the very first time.
Worse, it was a pastry chef'’s recipe, which she’d obtained by writing more than one pleading letter to their (new) favourite restaurant. A recipe which needed to be halved at least twice, and was written in exacting grams and millilitres, instead of familiar cups and tablespoons.
Instead of trying to convert it into wild approximates, she made her shopping list.
She started at her favourite gourmet shop, to buy oval-shaped silicone moulds, and a digital kitchen scale.
 Elsewhere, she selected dark Belgian chocolate and dried sour cherries.
And then, at home, she carefully separated yolks from whites, melted chocolate over a gentle water bath, stirred and folded everything together, poured the mixture into the priceless moulds, set the moulds on baking sheets, and the baking sheets into the freezer overnight.
It wasn’t her fault the freezer door didn’t close.
Nor was it her fault when a thousand dollars worth of frozen groceries thawed out and had to be thrown away.
But when she made the chocolate pâté again the next day, and served it after dinner that night, all was forgotten.
Until the very next dinner party.

Dark Chocolate Pate with  Dried Sour Cherries
3 large egg yolks
12.5 grams granulated sugar
250 grams dark chocolate
150 grams unsalted butter
250 ml 36% (whipping) cream
75 grams dried sour cherries, chopped
In a large bowl, thoroughly whisk together egg yolks and sugar. Set aside.
In a large Bain Marie, melt together chocolate and butter, stirring with a rubber spatula until combined and glossy. Slowly stir chocolate/butter mixture into egg yolk/sugar mixture. Stir in cream. Fold in cherries.
Pour mixture into 15 individual silicone moulds. Place in freezer for several hours or overnight. Turn out onto serving plates and allow to sit 5 minutes. Serve with raspberry coulis.
(Alternately, pour mixture into a single, parchment-lined pâté mould or a small spring form pan. To serve, slice with a hot chefs' knife, cleaning knife under hot water after each cut). Makes one litre of mixture.

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