St Valentine mightn’t have been Irish to begin with, but we’ve certainly adopted him. His relics lie in the Carmelite church at Whitefriar Street, Dublin. If you want to pop in to visit, you may have to elbow your way through the growing crush as the resting place of the Hallmark saint grows in popularity with loved-up couples. Although... according to that great bible of civilization, Wikipedia, there are about eleven St Valentines and it is not known which one inspired the retail frenzy.
Valentine’s Day would try the patience of a saint. Ok, who doesn’t like to know they are someone’s someone special... But... if this commercial outpouring of love is confined to romantic love... and then to just one day of the year, well, it’s a teeny bit exclusive, isn’t it.
For me, love is in the every day things. It’s in the whole-hearted, rib-cracking bear-hugs from my godson; in the slightly soggy, pre-licked crisps offered by my three-year-old niece when you know she really, really, really wants them herself (“Thanks honey, but you have them, I insist! No, really – I insist”.
I asked friends and family what love meant to them. It turns out, it isn't in the grand gestures. Love is... in having the washing up done for you; in getting a cup of tea... just the way you like it... brought to one’s boudoir. Love is in chocolate; in a tiny posy of primroses; in a bunch of daffodils (preferably not ones stolen from the local park); Love is in a ‘Thank you for feeding me’ lick from a four-legged friend (awwww); it's in a crayoned picture of you looking like a happy witch; in a warm hand that reaches for your cold hand; in sharing a bag of salty, vinegary chips; Love is in cupcakes, hot from the oven; in a hug, just when you need it; it seems that love happens in lots and lots of small ways, - funnily, many of them food-related.
Dear St Valentine, when it comes to love, with all your kitsch hearts and overpriced flowers you are in the ha’penny place. But, seeing as you are now adopted Irish, here is a nod in the form of my Baileys Chocolate Biscuit Cake - for grown up friends and family. (If you are making these for kids, swap the cream liqueur for double cream).
For 1 boozy Baileys Chocolate Biscuit Cake, (or many tiny bites) you will need...
150g Marietta biscuits (or any Rich Tea type biscuit)
150g Digestive biscuits
100g dried sour cherries or dried cranberries (or a mixture of the two), chopped
50g toasted almonds, chopped
50g toasted walnuts, chopped
150g good quality plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
150g good quality milk chocolate
150mls Baileys (or a similar Irish Cream Liqueur)
100g butter, melted
25g runny honey (something floral, but not overpowering)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
50g each of dark chocolate and white chocolate for drizzling over the finished cake (optional). Oh, who am I kidding! Since when has extra chocolate been optional?
Chop the biscuits into bits about the size of a 2c coin (or a penny) and place them in a large mixing bowl. Add the dried fruit and the nuts.
Place the chocolate in a heatproof (preferably non-metallic) bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water (making sure the base of the bowl doesn’t sit in the water). When the chocolate has melted, add the butter and stir gently together with a wooden spoon or spatula to avoid filling the chocolate with air bubbles. We’re not making mousse today.
When the butter is incorporated, add the cream liqueur (or double cream if you are going for an alcohol-free version) and stir until you have a smooth, shiny lake of chocolate-y deliciousness. (It will be alarming liquid at this stage but keep the faith - it will set later in the fridge.) Finally, stir in the honey and the vanilla extract. Tip the mixture into the bowl of biscuits. Stir until every last morsel is coated with boozy chocolate lusciousness.
Transfer to a loaf tin (if you want slices), a mixing bowl or round cake tin (if you want wedges) or a shallow pie dish or similar if you want little squares or bars, before covering and placing in the fridge to set for at least 4 hours or overnight. You can line your chosen container with cling film if you wish but I find it just as easy to pop the container in a tray of hot water for a minute or so to melt the edges a little before turning out onto a serving tray.
It would be utterly decadent to drizzle this little treat with even more chocolate...Pin It
Cut into squares, wedges or bars. Share.