I would rather stick rusty pins in my eyes than go out on Valentines Night. All those coo-ing couples and rip-off roses. No thanks. My ideal February 14 involves putting the kids to bed early, breaking open the Breaking Bad box-set and having someone else do the cooking for a change.
And then serendipity stepped in to literally delivery my ideal Valentines Night albeit a week early.
I was contacted by a relatively new online delicatessan called Delicatezza, set up in 2013 by a couple of friends who teamed up with a family-run producer and importer of fine Italian foods.
In a nutshell, it offers freshly-made (on the day) Italian deli food, delivered to your door. All you have to do is order, select a time slot and wait with your knife and fork at the ready, with a napkin on your lap to catch the anticipatory drool.
In their own words: œWe are an online delicatessen with two key categories:
¢ A Freshly Made section that offers a range of hand made filled pastas & fresh egg pasta, pre-prepared meals, fresh sauces and our award-winning cannoli, mozzarellas and sausages;
¢ A Pantry section featuring a hand-picked selection of premium delicatessen items, from a superlative truffle range through to a bakery, a wide choice of antipasti and a fantastic set of drinks to suit any occasion.
œEvery item in the Freshly Made section is made to order on the day of delivery, so when we say fresh we really do mean it.
Heres a video from them¦
Whats not to like? Now, here in the Recipe Shed we (aka I) usually like to cook everything from scratch, but despite being the owner of a magnificent pasta machine, and despite being given a masterclass in the art of making tortelloni and ravioli by my friends at Giacobazzis deli in Londons NW3, it is not only very time-consuming, but Im actually not very good at it.
My efforts have either fallen to pieces in the pan of boiling water or ended up as thick and rubbery as the sole of a welly.
So when the folks at Delicatezza offered me a 30 voucher to fill my boots on filled pasta, I decided to lump in an additional 6.99 to try out their Valentines meal for two (carne/meat version veggie and fish versions also available), thus killing the two proverbial birds with one stone.
Heres what was promised: œThis combination provides sweet green Nocellara olives, artisan breadsticks, Treccia which are gorgeous plaits of mozzarella and your choice of either sliced prosciutto or bresaola to set the scene.
œThen move on to our delicious Arancini with chorizo and mortadella before enjoying our hand-made Tortelloni with a choice of roast veal braised beef fillings finish with a simple sauce such as butter and sage or even drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkling of crushed black pepper for an impressive main.
œFinish with our fabulous light and creamy cannoli and youve got a meal to delight and impress your date!
And to wash it all down a lovely Montepulciano dAbbruzzo.
On Wednesday night I went onto the website and chose the San Daniele prosciutto and the veal tortelloni, then clicked Thursday and delivery time 6-8pm.
The next day, the doorbell rang at 6.10pm.
Heres what was sent. Looks nice, no?
Because Im a romantic type of bloke, I put the kids to bed at 8pm, laid the table, opened the wine to let it breathe and set out the breadsticks and olives for nibbling purposes.
The sticks were great: a lovely wheaty flavour with a crisp snap; the olives were fat and juicy, although a bit too salty, so could have benefitted from a rinse.
The wine was superb: soft and smooth and bursting with red fruit. Totally delicious. (If only there were two bottles!).
Next up was the mozzarella plait (very pleasing on the eye) and the prosciutto (San Daniele as opposed to Parma ham). This is one of my favourite antipastis. Just on their own they were a bit Meh but dressed with a little extra virgin olive oil, a few drops of balsamic vinegar and a grind of black pepper, they were fantastic.
After this came the Arancini. Id never had these before. Theyre risotto balls, coated in fine breadcrumbs, and presumably deep-fried before I baked them in the oven for 15 mins. Very nice, but quite filling, but that gave us a window to watch an episode of Breaking Bad before we moved on to the main course: the tortelloni.
These were as big as a babys fist and packed with soft, savoury meat. Dressed with homemade tarragon butter, they were sensational beyond anything I could make myself.
To finish we had a couple of delicious crunchy, biscuity, creamy, citrussy cannoli we were sent eight but only had two each (the kids scoffed the rest!)
If you want to treat you Valentine and you cant be bothered to cook or dread the idea of being ripped off in a restaurant, then Delicatezza might be right up your street.
THE VALENTINES CARNE MENU IN FULL:
Total meal preparation time: Pasta: Boil in water for 5-6 minutes. Arancini: 15-20 mins in oven or 2-3 mins in microwave.
Large Nocellara & San Agostino Olives (250g)
Artisan Italian Breadsticks (200g)
Cured meats sliced Prosciutto di Parma or Bresaola (80g)
Freshly made Arancini Salame Chorizo and Mortadella (250g)
Hand made Treccia mozzarella (250g)
Hand made Tortelloni (Veal or Braised beef)
250g Hand made Cannoli 8 Small (240g)
Montepulciano dAbbruzzo DOC (750ml)