By Saiba Haque, Food Editor and Oscar Ross, Music Editor
The Croft Magazine// Love is in the air... and so will the enchanting aromas in your kitchen, should you choose to make this amazingly simple date night meal. With Valentines Day looming closer, Food Editor, Saiba and Music Editor, Oscar, bring you the perfect date night meal and romantic tunes. Saiba provides a perfect two-course menu for you to impress your date whereas, Oscar provides a romantic playlist to cook and enjoy your date night to with some beautiful old-school love songs.
I am so enthused that I finally get to write a Plate X Playlist with Oscar! For this special Valentines edition of Plate X Playlist, I will grace you with not only one, but two recipes for you to effortlessly make from scratch for your date night dinner.
The Plate (Dessert): No-Bake Cheesecake
You may be wondering, "Why the hell is dessert the first thing on the Menu?" Reason being that it's easier to make this dessert the night before so that it has plenty of time to chill and set in the fridge (Hence the 'no-bake' element of the dish).
This recipe makes for a whole cheesecake. After cutting up your desired amount of slices, it can be stored in the fridge for about three days, or covered and frozen, which can make it last longer. Just make sure to defrost for 40-50 minutes before serving. The main recipe is for a plain vanilla cheesecake, but it's so versatile that you can add any condiments of your choice. Directions for making a quick berry compote is available to see in Step 9 of this recipe.
25 Digestive biscuits
70g Demerara brown sugar
300ml Double cream
680g Full fat Cream Cheese, softened to room temperature
100g Granulated Sugar
15g Icing Sugar
60g Sour cream at room temperature
2 teaspoons Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1. Crush up the digestive biscuits, and mix it with the Demerara sugar and melted butter. It should have the consistency of wet sand. In an 9 inch springform cake tin, start pushing in the crumbly mixture and flatten, pack it in tightly. Put it in the freezer for 10 minutes so that it’s well structured
2. Beat the room temperature cream cheese and the granulated sugar with an electric or stand mixer. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed.
3. Add the icing sugar, sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla extract to the cream cheese mix. Beat for 2-3 minutes on medium-high speed until smooth and combined. Set aside.
4. In a separate chilled bowl, whip cold double cream into stiff peaks on medium high speed (start off slow). You can chill your whisk attachment and mixing bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes before you start mixing for the best results.
5. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the whipped cream into the cream cheese batter a little bit at a time, so that the whipped cream is not deflated.
6. Remove the crust from the freezer, spread the cheesecake batter evenly and cover tightly with aluminium foil before putting it in the fridge to chill and set for 12+ hours.
7. Take the cheesecake out of the fridge 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.
8. You can serve this plain or with condiments such as lemon curd or salted caramel. I personally like mine with a berry compote, perfectly red and on theme for Valentines.
9. For the berry compote, add in 400g of any berries of your choice (can be frozen) in a saucepan/pot on medium-high heat with 40-50g white sugar and add in a shot of vodka or lemon juice. Stir often with a rubber spatula, the compote should have a liquid-ish sauce, if you want to thicken it slightly, gently sift in about a tablespoon of cornflour a little bit at a time and stir well until desired thickness is met. It’s very much possible that you may not even need a whole tbsp of cornflour (hence the adding of it a little bit at a time). Let it cool before serving with cheesecake.
The Plate (Main Course) : Authentic Carbonara
Put away the double cream! I can assure you you don't need it for this. Although cooking Carbonara may seem very complicated, I promise you it's not. Nevertheless, making this Italian classic is sure to impress your date!
Traditionally carbonara does not use cream or crème fraiche, but rather, it uses eggs, Pecorino Romano and pasta water for its silky smooth sauce. Traditionally guanciale (pig cheek) is used for this. However, since it can be hard to acquire depending on where you are, in a pinch, pancetta should be alright! But if you desperately want to acquire some guanciale for this dish, then by all means make your way to Lavender Café and Delicatessen for the real deal stuff (or Waitrose). But to save myself some money, I often opt for making this dish with pancetta. The rendered fat from guanciale/pancetta adds a wonderfully luscious flavour to the sauce.
The rule of thumb on deciding how many eggs to use for the dish is usually one whole egg for every four people plus one egg yolk for each person (don't fight me, take it up with my Italian uncle!). So, for example, if you are making a portion for four people, that's one whole egg, and four egg yolks. I have adjusted this recipe for the consumption of two people, where I use one whole egg and two egg yolks. If you want it to taste richer and get a food coma, you can probably "accidentally" add another egg yolk, just don't tell anyone about it.
Since not everyone eats meat, to make this recipe vegetarian friendly, swap out the guanciale/pancetta for some wild mushrooms or porcini mushrooms and good quality olive oil (maybe even truffle oil if you wanna be bougie).
180g dried spaghetti or linguine pasta
60g Pecorino Romano cheese
1 whole egg and two egg yolks
130g guanciale or [ancetta (chopped in even cubes)
Generous scrunches of pepper
1. In boiling water, add some salt and then add in the spaghetti, cook until al dente.
2. for the egg sauce, whisk the egg and egg yolks along with finely grated Pecorino, pepper. Set aside.
3. Heat up a pan to medium-high heat and add in the guanciale or pancetta and fry it with no oil at all, as the fat will be rendered and that will be more than enough for flavour. I promise you it won't stick! Cook the pancetta for about 4-5 min or until crispy and brown. And then turn off the heat and let the pan cool completely. (VERY IMPORTANT!)
4. Add about 1-2 tablespoon of the pasta water to the egg sauce mixture and stir well, this will temper the eggs and prevent it from getting scrambled, a great technique for beginners.
5. When the pasta is cooked al dente, strain it and stir it into the cooled pan of pancetta and fat or place and mix them in a separate large bowl if you want to be extra cautious. Add in the egg sauce to your pasta and pancetta and mix cohesively with tongs until the sauce is smooth and creamy. If your sauce is runny and you want it to be thicker, grate in a bit more of the Pecorino Cheese and continue mixing again. If your sauce feels too thick or isn't mixing well, add in a bit of pasta water and mix again until smooth. Simply serve topped with grated parmesan and a scrunch or pepper.
To make this two course meal into a three course meal, I would suggest adding a fresh and vibrant salad. The recipe for which is available in our last Plate X Playlist article here.
It's officially the month of love! For the February playlist, I bring to you some old-school romantic tunes for you to set the mood for your date night. Happy Valentines!
Featured Image: by Saiba Haque
What are your plans for the month of love?