Food: Romantic recipes sourced in Herefordshire

PUBLISHED: 12:21 26 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:37 20 February 2013

Shaun Naen puts the finishing touches to his exceptional chocolate and beetroot tart

Shaun Naen puts the finishing touches to his exceptional chocolate and beetroot tart

Martin Griffiths visits some of Herefordshire's top chocolate makers and shows how to put passion into your St Valentine's night cooking

February 14 is a perfect excuse to celebrate romance and if you can indulge your loved ones passion for food then so much the better.

Chocolate rightly occupies a prominent role on many a Valentines menu and has long been regarded as a food associated with love. Casanova is said to have consumed chocolate for its energy-giving and aphrodisiac qualities before going off for a frolic and chocolate is known to release phenylethylamine and serotonin into the body, both of which produce feelings of wellbeing and euphoria.

There are some delightful small scale producers of delicious chocolates to be found in Herefordshire today and these include Williams and Dunkerton of Pembridge, Dore Valley chocolates and The Velvet Bean run by Melissa and Ben Boyle in picturesque Church Street in Ledbury. Their high quality chocolates offer a constantly changing selection of flavours and chocolate sourced from various parts of the world including the wonderfully deep, dark and fruity flavours of Sao Tome, which comes from a small island off the west coast of Africa. Look out especially for their chilli and tequila truffles. Bite through the crisp outer coating and allow your taste buds to savour the creamy soft truffle interior before enjoying a deep kick of chilli heat. Try these with a glass of port or cider brandy and a cup of late night coffee.
The buzz may keep you awake half the night, but if its Valentines night, well, whose complaining?

Susie Dunkerton and Lorraine Williams established their chocolate business just three years and have already created a reputation for excellence of flavour and offering a personal service.

They specialise in making great use of local flavours, (their chocolates with a cider brandy filling are delicious) and their chocolate heart plaques can be decorated with your own personal message.

You can find their chocolates at a range of farmers markets and outlets, including Legges of Bromyard. Or pop out to their outlet, which is sited at the home of Dunkertons cider just outside Pembridge.

Recipes for romance and passionate nibbles

One of the simplest romantic recipes, which combines chocolate and cream, is a non-cooked chocolate pot, which with a few extras can be easily transformed into a dessert with the passion factor.

Basic Chocolate Pot

Serves 6
100g high quality plain chocolate
125ml whipping cream
1 tsp honey
1 tsp cider brandy (or liqueur of
your taste)
1 small knob of butter
1 chocolate flake, crumbled

1. Gently melt the broken-up chocolate with the honey and brandy in a bowl placed over a pan of simmering water. Add the butter and stir together. Set aside to cool a little
2. Whisk the cream into soft peaks before gently folding it into the chocolate mixture. (Do not beat it, it will remove the air)
3. Spoon the mixture into wine glasses and chill for around two hours before serving with crumbled flake or chocolate curls on the top

Variations: To add a little more zest try introducing an aromatic coffee mixture to this basic formula. I use half a cup of espresso coffee, which has been gently reheated along with crushed cardamom pods, a cinnamon stick and a slurp of extra alcohol which is sieved before being added to the initial mixture. If this separates the cream and chocolate mixture dont worry, you just get a two-tone effect. If the mixture is a bit runny supply fresh pineapple chunks and strawberries and dip them into the mixture for each other.

Recette du gateau au chocolat

This recipe was passed on to me by Marine, a French language student who came to stay a few years ago and it makes a really moist cake. A touch of alcohol gives it the oh la la factor and its delicious served with champagne, or even better, some sparkling white wine from Herefordshire. Sparkling wine has a reputation for intensifying the beating of the heart and can increase a feeling of wellbeing. (Lulham Court, Frome Valley and Broadfield Court all produce delicious sparkling wine, so it has to be worth a go.)

3 eggs
200g sugar
125g of natural yogurt
125g of vegetable oil
280g plain flour
70g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder

1. Beat the eggs and sugar together
2. Add yogurt and oil to the mixture, mix gently
3. Sieve the flour, baking powder and cocoa together. Add to the mixture and fold in
4. Cook in an 8 inch tin at 180Oc for around 20 minutes

Deerhurst Flower Festivals flourless chocolate brownies

Makes gorgeous, gooey, wheat-free brownies, which are especially delicious when served with Herefordshire ice cream from Kelsmor Dairy on the edge of Garway Common or Just Rachels Quality Desserts, Bromsberrow, both of which sell their products at shops and events throughout the county

225g high quality chocolate
225g butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
200g caster sugar
3 beaten eggs
150g ground almonds
100g chopped walnuts

1. Carefully melt the chocolate and off the heat mix in the vanilla and sugar
2. Beat in eggs, almonds and walnuts
3. Turn into a 24cm square baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes at 170Oc

The way to a mans... and a womans heart

The countys food experts offer ideas on how to woo your love

Hot and passionate tomato soup for two, with a touch of added fruitiness

Anne and Norman Stanier run Dragon Orchard out at Putley and Norman definitely had a twinkle in his eye when he recommended this recipe. Ive added a touch of orange juice and some fresh chilli to give it extra fruitiness and a heart-warming Valentines kick. Look out for Dragon Orchards recently released Dessert Cider. Its superb.

3 large ripe skinned tomatoes
450ml tomato juice
50ml orange juice
Juice of one lime
Good dash of Worcester sauce, Tabasco
and a small finely chopped chilli
Salt and pepper to taste
20ml double cream to decorate

1. Put the finely chopped, skinned tomatoes in a pan with the tomato and orange juice
2. Bring to a very gentle boil and add your spicy sauces, chilli and seasoning.
3. Serve with a heart shaped swirl of cream, a chunk of bread and lots of love

Its so simple to make, it saves time for other things Norman Stanier

Shaun Naens Chocolate and beetroot tart

Shaun is head chef at the Renaissance restaurant at Gloucestershire College and this is his very special St Valentines pudding recipe

100ml milk
100ml double cream
25g 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate
1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
150g beetroot, cooked and grated

1. Gently heat milk and cream together
2. Add the chocolate pieces and stir well
3. Whisk in the eggs
4. Squeeze dry the beetroot and add to the mixture with the eggs
5. Add to a blind baked, 10-inch pastry case and cook at 180Oc for 12-15 mins.
6. Dust with cocoa powder and serve with sorbet and delicate, sugar syrup-coated beetroot crisps

Not two deer at Legges of Bromyard

Anthony Legge reckons his favourite Valentines meal is a venison steak rolled up with a layer of fresh herbs and served with a bottle of Frome Valley wine. You could also try his Valentines venison, champagne and chocolate sausages served with dauphinoise potatoes and a nice crisp winter salad. (This terrible joke was told to me by my friend Garston while shopping in Legges: If you pay over 100 for eight legs of venison thats too dear. (Two deer!)

Matt Slocombes Valentine wish

Personally I like nothing better than sharing St Valentines night with my wife and eating a fine piece of Herefordshire rib eye of beef washed down with Westons cider, but Im usually cooking in the restaurant. This year the menu at the Slocombes superb Crown at Woolhope will include oysters, which are excellent at this time of year and Matts infamous Chocolate bad boy fondant pudding. As oysters and chocolate are considered to be strong aphrodisiacs, then early booking is recommended!

Richard Mayos chocolate heaven

My Valentines favourite is the chocolate brownie made by my wife Hayley, served slightly warm with ice cream from Rowlestone Court. Richard and Hayley run Truffles Delicatessen in Ross-on-Wye and also stock Dore Valleys delicious chocolates.

Paul Kelly of The Bridge at Wilton

For me it has to be oysters every time. Oysters will feature on this years Valentine menu served grilled with herb butter and a champagne jelly.

Paddy Shave at Hop Pocket Wines

For starters I love smoked salmon mousse served with chilled sparkling wine from Herefordshire while my favourite pudding is a chocolate torte served with a sweet dessert cider or wine from Coddington vineyards near Ledbury.

Castle House Hotels romantic banquet

Castle House in Hereford will be serving up a candlelit seven-course banquet while a pianist plays a medley of romantic songs. When I offered receptionist Sam Slade a choice of her perfect romantic Valentines dinner partner, she rejected Brad Pitt and George Clooney in favour of my husband and lots and lots of chocolate. Now thats true love!

Valentines night is an opportunity for chefs throughout the region to demonstrate their passion for food. There are some top quality menus on offer at fine restaurants such as The
Malthouse in Ledbury and especially in hotels such as Verzon House near Ledbury and Pengethley Manor near Ross. The countys inns will be putting on a feast of romance as will the Red Hart Inn just over the county border at Newnham on Severn.

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