Let there be love


TASTY TAILS  Finger-licking good tempura prawns can be served with a variety of dips.

The Cabots

St Valentine was a third-century martyred Roman priest who became the patron saint of lovers, beekeepers and people with epilepsy. Details of his life are sketchy but he has an Irish connection.
In 1836, Pope Gregory XVI sent the saint’s remains (or some of them), interred in a golden casket, to the Carmelite order at Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin. The casket is displayed at an altar and is visited by couples seeking St Valentine’s blessing. Other parts of the saint are said to be interred in shrines in different countries around the continent of Europe, including Italy, England, Scotland and the Czech Republic.
On February 14, in the name of St Valentine, up to a billion heart-adorned cards will be delivered worldwide. When I was in my teens, this provided great excitement for me and my schoolmates. Would we get a card in the post? Would it be the real deal or our friends taking the mick? Ah, the good old days!

The food of love
I’m all for love, but there are aspects of the Valentine’s Day frenzy I don’t like – for example, all the useless plastic love-heart things that fill the shops each February. Does poor St Valentine turn in all his various graves?
Still, we do mark the day in our house. When I was pregnant with my young fella, Louis Valentine, he was due on February 14, 2016. Impatient, he popped out five weeks early. Valentine’s Day in our house is a bit of a ‘Little Christmas Birthday’ affair; we have a celebration of Louis’ intended birthday. For children, more is always more, so why have just one party when you could have two?
Louis gets to have his favourite meal, tempura prawns – and not to be left out, his sister Penny gets her favourite jam tarts, complete with pastry heart in the middle!

Tarts with hearts
These jam tarts are super easy to make. You can use shop-bought shortcrust pastry or make your own.
For twelve tarts, grease a twelve-hole tart tin, roll out the pastry, use a cutter to cut 12 circles, place in the tin. Pop one or two teaspoons of jam into the centre of each tart and spread. Cut out miniature pastry hearts and place on top of each tart. Bake at 200ºC for 10-15 minutes or till cooked. Serve with whipped cream. Couldn’t be simpler.

Tempura prawns with dips

What you need

  •  Vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • 100g plain flour
  • 50g corn flour
  • Pinch of bicarbonate of soda
  • 250ml iced water
  • 1 lightly whisked egg
  • 24 large raw prawns, deveined, with tails intact

Wasabi/lime mayo (to serve)

  • Half a cup of mayonaise
  • 2 teaspoons of wasabi mustard paste
  • One teaspoon of lime juice
  • One teaspoon of chopped coriander

What you do
To make the batter, sieve the plain flour and corn flour in a medium-sized bowl. Add the water and the egg and whisk lightly till combined. Don’t over mix; it doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth.
Place the medium bowl into a large bowl of iced water and let the batter cool for a few minutes.
For the deep-frying, fill a saucepan to about 5cm depth of oil. Heat to about 190°C. (To test if the oil is the right temperature, pop in a cube of bread. If it turns golden in ten seconds, the oil is ready.)
Fry the prawns in batches of six. Take each prawn by the tail and dip into the batter. Gently shake off the excess. Cook the prawns in the oil for three to four minutes till golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Repeat the process another three times, allowing the oil to heat up again between batches.
Drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately. Dip in a soy and/or sweet-chilli sauce, or the wasabi/lime mayo sauce (made by simply mixing the mayo, wasabi paste, lime and coriander together). Happy dipping!

— Sandra

The Cabot family live and work in Lanmore, outside Westport. Fresh, seasonal foods are their passion, from country markets to growing, making and selling. They love cooking and eating at the kitchen table, while Redmond and Sandra are kept on their toes with children Penny and Louis. Here they share their favourite recipes.