Fall in love with a Valentine’s Day celebration ‘choc’ full of Indian spice

The Chocolatier Aneesh Popat

Whether you’re a right old romantic or love to hate it; are cosily coupled up or happy flying solo, there’s just no escaping Valentine’s Day. Whatever your moral stance and circumstance, the occasion is a chance to indulge in some naughty-but-nice Indian treats, even if the only person you’re treating is yourself.

Don’t scoff at such a good excuse to scoff yourself silly – from breakfast to supper, I’ve sought out a super subcontinental venue sure to seduce you at any time of day, along with romantic recipes to relish and chocolates from a cracking chap…

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥The Man♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Aneesh Popat The Chocolatier

Valentine’s Day is all about chocolate. I might be all about Indian food, and even more so about mithai of all shapes, sizes and types; but I’m also the type who has to keep anything created from cocoa under lock and key lest it find its way into my greedy gob.

So when I come across a chap who claims to fuse the two things that get my heart racing faster that a vintage hot shot of SRK, I’m floored before Cupid’s arrow even leaves the bow. I’m not the only one – in his incarnation as ‘The Chocolatier‘, Aneesh Popat has gathered a lot of admirers.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s fair enough of face. But the attraction is down to what this man does with his hands. I’m pretty quick to flash the double-thumbs up to anyone who makes such a fine fist of fusing East and West, particularly when he makes chocolate (practically) calorie-free.

Let’s not romanticise the awful truth. Chocolate makes you fat; piling on the pounds as it provides the pleasure. But these truffles are water-based, letting you tuck in whilst tightening your belt… or at least, not needing to loosen it.

The lower-calorie lark came as an unexpected benefit. Aneesh’s initial aim was simply to showcase every last flavour in his carefully-combined ingredients. Doing away with dairy had the desired effect, with the super side-effect of reducing the caloric value by almost half.

The Chocolatier Aneesh Popat truffle

Which sends you swooning? A piece of fruit, or a salted caramel ganache truffle? I’ll wager it’s the latter; and no matter – one of The Chocolatier‘s crams in no more calories than the average apple. And surely ‘five-a-day’ has no part to play on Valentine’s Day anyway?

Especially not when The Chocolatier offers something altogether more mouthwatering in terms of ‘fruity little numbers’ – rose, orange and cinnamon truffle, anyone? The awesome alchemy of Aneesh’s academic background and culinary creativity makes for precise products that offer precisely priceless indulgence.

The Valentine’s Collection might be meant for sharing, but that doesn’t make it easy to do so. You might just prefer to play for keeps; mooning into a mugful of rose petal drinking chocolate, snapping bits off a saffron and hazelnut slab, and letting a praline-filled chocolate heart melt yours.

In Aneesh’s own wise words, ‘Chocolate can make your day, take you to another world full of blissful moments and even give you the feeling of love – as proven by experiments undertaken at Harvard University’.

Science says it’s so. So word to the wise – go ahead and address that cocoa craving with a completely clear conscience.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥The Plan♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥Breakfast: Dishoom

Dishoom masala omelette breakfast

What could be more romantic than eloping to the verandah at Dishoom Shoreditch when you know you should really be in the office? Being bawled out by the boss won’t seem so bad on a bellyful of Bombay brekky, spicy scrambled eggs and chai.

Command the kitchen to secretly slip an egg into your beloved’s bacon naan to make them go as gooey as that runny yolk; or tell them how the warm bun melting the cold butter in a bun maska reminds you of how meeting them melted your heart.  The Permit Room permits you to double the fun with a gin-spiked Dhoble.

♥Lunch: Carom

Carom Valentines

Vishnu Natarajan isn’t just a whiz in the kitchen; he’s planned a Valentine’s lunch that will spice things up in other rooms of the house. Aphrodisiac-enriched dishes include Goan chilli squid; lamb cutlets and masala mash; and a toasted sandwich crammed full of goodies to get you going – saffron, nuts, cherries and chocolate.

Meanwhile, mixologist Adam Spinks’ intoxicating decoctions feature a bespoke beverage bent to suit both gents and ladies. ‘Mary Pickford’ may be named for a dame but it’s aimed at males – made with white rum, pomegranate, Maraschino liqueur and pineapple. A ‘French Martini’ is the drink Spinks thinks will seduce the fairer sex; combining vodka, pineapple and black raspberry liqueur. 

♥Afternoon Tea: Cinnamon Soho

Cinnamon Soho Love High Chai

To make Valentine’s Day even sweeter, stop for a spot of afternoon tea. Cinnamon Soho is serving a special ‘Love High Chai’ for the occasion, the stand for this ceremony packed with Chef Raju’s most romantic creations. From a tempting selection of teas, Rosebud is surely the most appropriate.

But whatever tipple titillates your tastebuds, beware – sharing the sweet’n’savoury snacks could speak a lovers’tiff. With tiffin comprising Bombay potato bondas, Bangla scotch eggs, garam masala cake, and spiced scones, you might even end up fancying the treats more than your amour.

♥Dinner: Cinnamon Culture

Cinnamon Culture starters Valentine's Day

Take a trip out of town when darkness falls. Bromley might not be exotic but it’s still far enough from Central London to escape the soppy so-and-sos decorating every dining room. You may be a little more sensible, but it’s a safe bet you’ll still go all mushy over Cinnamon Culture’s Valentine’s menu – and you’ll be seeing stars after the ‘glass of sparkles’ you’re served on arrival.

Sharing, caring sweethearts will adore the opportunity to feed each other plump prawns from the starter for two (selfish lovers may prefer to proportion the spoils). Banana leaf-wrapped bream allows you to perform a suggestive ‘peel’n’reveal’ routine. The ‘Sweet Threesome’ you’ll be engaging in for pud is also a pretty tempting prospect…

♥♥Romantic recipes to treat your sweet♥♥

Indiaphile Puja Thomas Patel rose creme brulee

Valentine’s Day – the perfect excuse to serve something splendidly sugary and wicked-good. Rinku Bhattacharya’s Gajar Halwa is rich enough to remove all notions of ‘healthy eating’ from her husband’s head. Over on Veg Recipes of India, Dassana’s man is content to celebrate with a Punjabi plate of rajma-chawal, but this romantic lass can’t resist rustling up a pomegranate-gulkand ice cream for the occasion.

Things are looking equally rose-y for Puja Thomas Patel. Her Valentine’s Day rose petal crème brulee uses delicate dried buds for fresh flowers – the only solution when she failed to source the superior ‘Mapras’ brand syrup outside India .

Uma’s been innovating, too, her Kitchen Experiments yielding a wonderfully whimsical heart-shaped double ka meetha to make your heart beat double-time. Big Apple Curry‘s got something similarly-shaped and surprising for your sweet if they’re of the savoury persuasion – chilli, coriander and curry leaf shortbreads.

KO Rasoi’s made short work of catering for both devils and angels; a sinful ‘100% Naughty’ Eggless Cardamom and Chocolate Cheesecake for the wicked and a ‘100% Nice’ Eggless Lemon and White Chocolate Cake for those whose halos haven’t slipped by bedtime.

I’m not devilishly spreading slander when I state that Sumayya Usmani’s been playing around, because it’s true. She’s been hard at work creating the Cupid’s Kiss cocktail and Passion’s Poison chocolate truffles that both benefit from the inclusion of her Pakistan-inspired Masala Monsoon spice blends.

Meanwhile, if you’d rather get your romantic recipes via video, check out Nina and Sunita demonstrating a three-course Valentine’s feast. The sometime chefs on Sonia Deol’s BBC create a partner-pleasing repast of spicy prawns, raan and rose petal kulfi – watch Part 1 and Part 2

So go forth and fill your boots with fine food and drink, and your heart with love.

 Happy Valentine’s Day, to all you lovely lot.

7 responses to “Fall in love with a Valentine’s Day celebration ‘choc’ full of Indian spice

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