Oh Mon Amour! The Stolen Heart

Ah, ’tis once again Valentine’s Day! In previous years I have treated you to pink and romantic treats, but this year I felt that a little bit of a twist was in order. Everyone is all about hearts, so let’s take that idea and run with it.

I’ve drawn my inspiration from the cold and snowy weather we’ve had in olde London Town for the last few days (even if today has warmed up rather nicely). I was in the City earlier in the week, and was fascinated by those medieval buildings that are still clinging on in the face of advancing glass and steel monsters. In the icy mist, they give you brief glimpses of times long forgotten, but still not quite gone. I passed one church that looked like something from a fairy tale, but more like one of the darker true Grimm tales than anything more recent and sugar-coated. It was striking how the cool weather seems to be able to strip a scene of almost all colour, leaving it eerie and silent.

Against this atmospheric scene, this dish is a tribute to those old tales, where key characters encountered  unexpected things in the woods. There might be a happily-ever-after, but there could equally be a grisly end in the dark forest on the snowy ground at the teeth of the big, bad wolf. Yes, you guessed it, I’m going with the latter. And you can guess how that heart was stolen – basically, it’s a crime scene on a plate!

Stolen_Heart

In coming up with this, I had something rather like Snow White in mind. There had to be lots of red and white – which are, after all, the key elements that go into making the most romantic colour of all, pink – but they are presented in a way which I’ve called The Stolen Heart to suggest that some beast has just “stolen” someone’s heart in the most literal sense. Rather than lovely fluffy pink macarons or cupcakes with love hearts, this is intended to look shocking.

The idea is that this is a snowy scene, achieved with a mixture of yoghurt and mascarpone. Roasted figs are added (a fruit that is so often linked with romance and passion) to represent something that has been left behind by the miscreant. The scene is dusted with snow-like sugar, and then finally splattered with a red fruit sauce with a dash of pomegranate molasses, this latter ingredient bringing in the fertility associations of pomegranate as well as adding sharpness. The result is strange, in turns both pretty and unsettling, and perhaps the complete antithesis of all the chocolate hearts and sugared rose petals that seem to be everywhere else at the moment. That said, perhaps this is not the most suitable thing to serve your special someone on Valentine’s Day, but then, that wasn’t what I was going for.

So what do you think? Taste-wise, it’s actually delicious – rich roasted figs, heady with the perfume of spice and lemon in red wine, chilled mascarpone with just a light hint of sweetness – so it does make a lovely late winter pudding. But it might just freak you out too…

Finally, just one little tip – it’s wonderfully great fun to splatter the red sauce in a dramatic fashion, but either do it over a sink or in the garden – otherwise you will find your Jackson Pollock frenzy makes the kitchen look like a crime scene. And serve it straight away – the sauce will start to bleed (ha ha!) and dissolve the sugar snow. You want it to look like the crime has just been committed, and someone’s heart really has just been stolen. Perhaps too literal an interpretation of Valentine’s Day?

To make The Stolen Heart (serves 2):

For the figs:

• 4 large ripe fresh figs
• dash of lemon zest
• 3 tablespoons red wine
• 1 tablespoon honey
• 1 tablespoon brown sugar
• pinch of allspice

For the snow:

• 100g natural yoghurt
• 100g mascarpone cheese
• icing sugar

For the blood:

• 100g raspberries (frozen work best)
• sugar (to taste)

1. First, roast the figs. Cut the figs into quarters, then mix with the zest, wine, honey, brown sugar and allspice. Put into an over dish, cut side up, cover with tin foil, and cook at 200°C (400°F) for 20 minutes (you might need to check from time to time and spoon the wine sauce onto the cut figs). Remove the tin foil, spoon the sauce into the figs again, and cook for another 10 minutes. Put the tin foil back, turn off the heat, and leave until cold.

2. Make the “blood”. Heat the frozen raspberries in a saucepan until quite liquid. Mash, then pass through a sieve to remove the seeds. Sweeten to taste with sugar. If you want, you can add any left-over wine syrup from the figs to add flavour and deepen the colour.

3. The prepare the dish, mix the yoghurt and mascapone cheese until smooth. Spread onto two large plates.

4. Chop the figs into large chunks. Drop onto the plate in a rough manner.

5. Dust everything liberally with icing sugar for a snow-like effect, and immediately “splatter” the plate with the red fruit sauce (you might not need all of it – just enough to create the dramatic effect). Serve straight away.

14 Comments

Filed under Recipe, Sweet Things

14 responses to “Oh Mon Amour! The Stolen Heart

  1. Wow!! Now that looks dramatic!! Love the twist on the traditional Valentine’s day idea though. This looks like a prop from some gory Hollywood film. Genius!

  2. Sounds refreshing and zingy. Love roasted figs.

    • Thanks – behind all the drama, actually a lovely way to enjoy figs on their own when they’re back in season. Rich, sticky and spicy. You could just serve them like that, with no more adornment.

  3. What a fun and creative twist for a V-Day post! I’m actually a fan of figs and I think this sounds delicious!

    • Hi Heather – glad you’re a fan. The figgy part was particularly delicious – it’s a fab way to cook them, and they end up spicy, sticky and just delicious. The tin foil covering seems to help them cook without drying our (or worse – burning!) so I’ll be doing this quite a bit when proper fig season arrives.

  4. Rebecka

    Oh this looks amazing. If I had a special someone I’d so go this route for Valentine’s Day. And well, if they didn’t appreciate it they wouldn’t be with me haha (as I have a glass fronted cabinet with skulls in my kitchen. Not even kidding) Great idea!

  5. I saw the picture before reading the text and thought you were serving duck hearts! Figs make excellent trompe-l’oeil hearts, who knew?

    Recently I finished reading Heston Blumenthal’s book Heston’s Feasts – these hearts remind me of his dark fairy tale one in particular. If you haven’t read the book I highly recommend it, it’s the companion to the television series of the same name.

    • Hi Kristina – oh, duck hearts, the thought of it! No, all veggie here, but I was pleased with how the figs looked quite “meaty” after spending some time bobbing around in a little red wine.

      Thanks for the Heston tip – I’ve watched some of his shows but missed the dark fairy tales bit. It’s something I am quite into – the true origins of fairy tales, which were usually much darker, and used to convey morals and serve as cautionary tales. I’ll check the book out, and perhaps I’ve found a new strand to my cooking. Rapunzel pie anyone?

  6. annika - all the live long day

    I like this a lot, it looks striking. I’ve been catching up on Dexter recently, and I think this is a dessert he would approve of.

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    • Thanks Annika – not sure I should be worried or flattered that you’re comparing me to a serial killer (but I think the fact I am concerned about it indicates I’m on the right side of sane at the moment). It was also fun to make, and quite nice to do something that was totally different to what you’d expect at this loved-up time of year.

  7. What a great interpretation, and so incredibly creative. And yet it perfectly counterbalances all the sweet stuff you see around on this hallmark day. To top it all, this dish doesn’t just look good, it sounds really delicious, too.

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