Monday, 15 February 2016

All for Love - Valentine's Day 2016

Last year, I surprised my DH by cooking a Valentine's Day dinner in Game of Thrones style. Previously, we've done Medieval Feasts, Ancient Romans etc., and I needed to come up with a new theme. Since we both love “The Three Musketeers” and since it just so happens that the 17th century has featured very strongly in our interests lately, it seemed like a good choice.

Unfortunately, I could not find a blog or a website featuring food from Alexandre Dumas' novels... so I had no choice but to read the book and see what I could find. I used to love the musketeer novels as a child, so it was actually a very pleasant task. I bookmarked all references to food and from those notes started to construct the menu.

Similarly to last year, I had certain conditions. The dishes should be fairly easy and fast to prepare; something I could find the ingredients for in local grocery stores, and something we all might enjoy eating. Since the descriptions of the dishes left much room for imagination, I could have prepared the food pretty much the way I wanted to. However, I thought it would be more fun to use authentic 17th century recipes as some sort of a reference.

On Friday evening (not the actual Valentine's Day, but more convenient than Sunday), my DH received this invitation:

This is how the menu turned out (I added quotes from the novel to show where the idea for each dish came from and also just because they were amusing):


Eggs à la Aramis

served with spinach and roquefort
Recipe adapted from The Closet Of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digby Kt., 1677
”We’ll dine soon, my dear friend; only you’ll remember that today is Friday, and on such a day I can neither see nor eat any meat. If you’ll content yourself with my dinner, it’s composed of cooked tetragons and fruit.”

”What do you mean by tetragons?” d’Artagnan asked uneasily.

”I mean spinach,” said Aramis. ”But for you I’ll add eggs, and that is a grave infraction of the rule, for eggs are meat, since they engender the chicken.”

Chicken Larded with Lemmons, on the French fashion

served with French bread
Recipe adapted from A New Booke of Cookerie, 1615
”Do you know what we’re eating here?” asked Athos, after ten minutes.

”Pardieu!” replied d’Artagnan, ”I’m eating veal larded with cardoons and marrow.”

”And I’m eating fillets of lamb”, said Porthos.

”And I’m eating breast of chicken,” said Aramis.

”You’re all mistaken, gentlemen,” replied Athos. ”You are eating horse.”

Huguenot Torte with honey, almonds and mock quinces

served with cheese
… Mme Coquenard got up and took from the buffet a piece of cheese, some quince preserves, and a cake she had made herself from almonds and honey.

For the appetizer, I simply fried some eggs, crumbled some blue cheese on them, let it melt and served everything on a bed of spinach. No recipe was needed, but since I wanted to refer to one, I found something appropriate in "The Closet Of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digby Kt., 1677". The eggs turned out to be delicious – my family requested I make these more often!

The main course was chicken, and I found “Capon Larded with Lemmons on the French fashion” in the vast, truly amazing collection of Gode Cookery's historical recipes, and it seemed perfect. The recipe was a little complicated, but I simplified it by leaving out some ingredients I couldn't find and substituting for some, e.g. there are no preserved lemons available around here, so I sliced some fresh ones and used them. Cranberries doubled for barberries (I gathered these are some sort of bitter berries) and used lemon juice in lieu of verjuice (a substitution suggested in various places). I had no idea how this would turn out - it seemed like such a weird bunch of so many ingredients - but it was very tasty! The flavours actually worked very well together. There were no leftovers!

Dessert was a little tricky: it was difficult to find a good 17th century cake recipe – it seems that cakes were more like pies and tortes at the time, not like modern cakes. I had almost given up and settled on a modern recipe but wasn't quite happy with that. Then I came across Huguenot Torte, and it immediately appealed to me (it was the words “gooey” and “sticky” that did it). I am aware that Huguenot Torte does not actually date back to the 17th century, but Wikipedia tells me that it is a variant of Ozark pudding, whose predecessor, gateau aux noisettes (cake with hazelnuts), was brought to the New World by French Huguenots. I decided that if I used organic honey instead of sugar, almonds instead of pecans and “quinces” (can't get quinces here, but apparently pears are close enough) instead of apples, it would at least have the right ingredients. This probably works better with apples and pecans, but it was nonetheless pretty good, especially when served with mascarpone. The recipe I used was this one.

While researching the recipes I learned a little something about food in the 17th century, and I was thrilled to discover that some 17th century cook books can be found in the Project Guthenberg collection (such as "The Accomplisht Cook or, The art & mystery of cookery"... the art and mystery of cookery! Wow!).

Anyway, it was a lovely evening - my DH seemed delighted, my daughter insisted on wearing my Musketeer hat the entire evening and watching "Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds" between courses; the food was good and we had a great time.


  1. Mahtavat ideat sinulla aina ystävänpäiväksi!
    Ja onneksi ystävänpäivä on joka päivä...kiitos ystävyydestäsi!

    1. Kiitos! Vähän hassujahan nämä "teemajuhlat" ovat, mutta onneksi Marko on samanlainen ja riemastuu yllätyksistä. :)

      Ja totta, ystävät ja ystävyys ovat kaikkien päivien ilo. Meidän ystävyys on kestänytkin jo pitkään - kiitos siitä! :)

  2. Hi there,
    rather unfashionably late - but here I am!
    Wow, you are so creative! And what a wonderful idea, again, combining the love for books with food and with Valentine's Day. Thanks for sharing your idea and recipes and pictures, very inspiring.
    Have a wonderful weekend,
    hugs Kathy

    1. Thank you, Kathy! :) For some reason, I enjoy planning these little "theme parties".

      Have a lovely weekend!