Viva Valentine’s Day

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By Jan Bilton

As the American poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson put it “All mankind loves a lover.” And Valentine’s Day (February 14) is the recognized time to send special greetings to a sweetheart usually in the form of a card, chocolates, flowers or bubbles. Dining out has also become a fashionable way to celebrate. But, a special meal — prepared with love in your own kitchen — is a real winner.

There are many stories relating to the origin of St Valentine’s Day. Some trace it to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia. The early Christian church had at least two saints named Valentine. Some link it to the old English belief that birds chose their mates in mid-February. One early custom was for women to place their names in a ‘hat’ and the woman whose name was drawn by a man became his Valentine and he wore her name on his sleeve.

In Canada and the United States, parties and dances are held to celebrate Valentine’s Day. In Denmark men send letters or rhymes to their sweethearts but do not sign their name. Instead they put a dot for each letter of their name.

Interestingly, Valentine’s Day just keeps on growing in popularity. Latest estimates put the number of cards being sent worldwide at over one billion.

RASPBERRY HEART TARTS

Valentine’s Day raspberry heart tarts

These are great to share with your friends at work. Or serve topped with a scoop of ice cream for dessert. Bought pastry cases could also be used. Use half a sheet of ready-rolled short pastry for the hearts. Ensure the pastry is kept as cold as possible.

400g sweet short pastry

3/4 cup raspberry jam

Lightly grease a 12-hole tartlet pan. Roll the pastry to about 7mm thickness. Cut into 12, 10cm rounds and gently press the pastry into each tartlet hole. Chill for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the offcuts into heart shapes using aspic or biscuit cutters.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Bake the shells for 15 minutes. Fill with the jam and decorate with the heart offcuts. Continue baking for another 15 minutes or until the jam is bubbling. Makes 12.

  • Jan Bilton is a Cambridge-based, professional food writer. For more of her recipes visit her website here.

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