When Valentine's Day falls on a work day, it doesn't leave you much time to prepare a romantic meal for your loved one. But that doesn’t mean it cannot be done. Buy as many of the ingredients as possible in advance. The night before, make the marinade and whip up the mousse. Pour the mousse into a pretty serving bowl so you can share the dessert. On Valentine's Day morning, pour the marinade over the pork, then mix and refrigerate. That night, all that's left to do is grill the meat, prepare the couscous and garnish the dessert with berries. You should, of course, serve the entire meal with a bottle of chilled champagne.
Grilled pork with pomegranate molasses, rosewater glaze and pearl couscous salad
It’s best to use a fattier cut of meat for this dish. It’s worth searching out one of the Spanish cuts – pluma or secreto – but if you can’t find them, pork neck is also excellent. If you use tenderloin, be careful not to overcook it or it will be dry.
Check the label of the pomegranate molasses you buy. Some are pure pomegranate juice, others contain sugar. If the one you have contains sugar, don’t add any more to the marinade.
Pearl couscous is also known as Israeli couscous.
400-500 grams pork meat (4 pieces pork pluma, or two pieces secreto or neck, or one tenderloin)
15 grams ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2-3 shallots, about 40 grams
1 medium-sized garlic clove
80 grams pomegranate molasses
15 grams sugar (if the pomegranate molasses doesn’t contain sugar)
¾ tsp fine sea salt
Edible fresh roses and/or rose petals, to garnish
Pearl couscous salad (see below for recipe)
Use paper towels to dry the surface of the meat. If you’re using tenderloin, cut it into two pieces. Put the pork in a bowl.
Finely julienne the ginger and roughly chop the shallots and garlic. Put the ginger, shallot and garlic in a small blender and process to a fine purée. Add the pomegranate molasses, sugar (if using), rosewater and salt and process until combined. Pour this marinade over the pork and mix well, then refrigerate for several hours.
Take the meat from the fridge about 30 minutes before it’s time to cook. (While the meat is coming to room temperature, prepare the pearl couscous salad.) Turn the oven grill as high as possible. Lay the pork on an oven rack placed over an aluminium foil-lined baking tray. Spoon some of the excess marinade over the meat to coat it lightly. When the grill is hot, slide the baking tray into the oven, so the meat is about 2cm from the heat. Cook until the meat is lightly charred in spots, then turn over and spoon more marinade over the top. Cook until the second side of the meat is lightly charred in spots. Move the rack further away from the heat source and continue to cook until the meat is done to your liking (I like it so it’s still pink at the centre). Leave to rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes.
While the meat is resting, pour the remaining marinade into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over a medium flame. Lower the heat and simmer for several minutes, or until it forms a thick glaze. To serve, divide the couscous salad between two plates. Thinly slice the meat and lay the pieces over the couscous. Spoon some of the pomegranate/rosewater glaze over the meat, then garnish with roses and/or rose petals.
Pearl couscous salad
100 grams pearl (or Israeli) couscous
30ml extra-virgin olive oil
10ml fresh lemon juice
A little finely grated lemon zest
A small handful of fresh parsley
100 grams rocket or baby spinach leaves
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a pot of salted water to the boil, add the pearl couscous and simmer until cooked. Drain the couscous but do not rinse it. Put the couscous into a bowl and add the olive oil and lemon juice. Use a microplane to grate a little lemon zest over the couscous and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then leave for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Just before serving the couscous, chop the parsley and add it to the bowl, top with the rocket or spinach leaves and mix.
Chocolate mousse with raspberries
This mousse recipe, by Elizabeth David, is intensely chocolatey and not too sweet. Use excellent bittersweet chocolate.
60 grams bittersweet chocolate, with a cacao content of about 70 per cent
2 large eggs, at room temperature
¼ tsp fine sea salt
10 grams granulated sugar
Melt the chocolate, either by microwaving it on high and stirring every 30 seconds (stop when it’s about 90 per cent melted, and let the residual heat melt the rest) or by putting it in a dry bowl set over a double boiler of barely simmering water and stirring almost constantly (again, remove it from the heat when it’s about 90 per cent melted). Cool the chocolate to lukewarm.
Separate the eggs, putting the whites into a clean, dry bowl, and adding the yolks to the bowl of chocolate. Whisk the yolks with the chocolate until thoroughly combined. Use a hand-held electric mixer to whip the egg whites until frothy. Add the salt and sugar and continue to whip until the whites form medium peaks. Immediately add about one third of the whites to the bowl holding the chocolate/yolk mixture, and mix quickly. Gently fold the remaining whites into the chocolate/egg mixture, trying to maintain as much volume as possible. Pour the mousse into a serving dish, cover with cling film and refrigerate until needed.
When it’s time for dessert, scatter the raspberries over the mousse and serve.