Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be all red roses and candlelit dinners, says Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

I am a sucker for all the ‘Hallmark holidays’. Call it commercial if you want, but I happen to like having one special day set aside every year to celebrate my relationship. The best kind of Valentine’s Day is one that’s authentic to you.

If your favourite thing is dining out – do it. If you love nothing more than huddling on the sofa with a movie and a cheeseboard – go for it. Personally, I want to be outside, especially as the days begin to lengthen out in the afternoon.

Romance to me is a lovingly made picnic, big flask of hot chocolate and a seat with a view. If that sounds like your idea of bliss, here are a few recipes to consider stowing away in your pack-up.

Great British Life: Lobster buns and beetroot coleslawLobster buns and beetroot coleslaw (Image: Charlotte Bond)

Makes two rolls, with dressing to spare

Lobster thermidor is still held up (when lobsters are in season) as a dish that epitomises luxury dining. Who, though, has the time, energy or heart to tackle the live lobster at home? Not me! The flavours of the dish – mustard, tarragon, Cognac, Parmesan – work just as well with sweet prawns or tender crayfish tails. Bring a sense of occasion to your picnic with this easy little recipe. You’ll have dressing left over, which I recommend tossing through crisp winter leaves with Parmesan shavings and some toasted nuts.


• 2 large egg yolks (freeze the whites for another time, or use one to make our marshmallows)
• 1tbsp English mustard
• 250ml oil (I used a mix of good olive oil and sunflower oil)
• 1tbsp lemon juice
• 1tbsp Cognac or other brandy
• ½ shallot, finely chopped
• 1.5tbsps fresh tarragon finely chopped
• 2tbsps Parmesan, grated
• 100g shelled crayfish
• Seasoning to taste
• 2 brioche buns and green salad to serve

Use an electric or balloon whisk to beat the egg yolks with the mustard until the mix starts to thicken. Now, very, very gradually add the oil, a drop or two at a time, whisking all the while. Once it begins to thicken and turn pale, you can begin to add the oil in a steady stream – again, whisking all the time. You should have a nice, thick, wibbly wobbly mayo.

Whisk in the lemon juice and Cognac, then stir through the shallot, tarragon and Parmesan. Season to taste. Before you set off pop the crayfish into a small bowl or tub and add enough of the dressing to coat.

Spoon into your buns with a few sprigs of green salad. Enjoy!


Makes enough for two

Every picnic needs a salad. Something robust and fresh to prop up the inevitably stodgy ‘naughty’ things you know you’re going to fill your bag with. Now, I love garlic as much as the next girl, but a spicy garlic dressing is hardly going to land you a Valentine’s kiss, is it? So this pretty pinky-purple number takes a tangy turn instead. It’s a really good way to use up any of those random jellies you might have bought for Christmas too. It works brilliantly alongside pies and roast gammon... or even tucked into a bacon sarnie.

• ¼ red onion
• 1 medium beetroot, peeled
• ½ small red cabbage
• Zest 1 orange and ½ the juice
• 1tbsp balsamic vinegar
• 3tbsps olive oil
• 1.5tbsps toasted mixed seeds
• 1tbsp redcurrant/cranberry or lingonberry jelly
• 1tbsp dried cranberries
• Seasoning to taste

In a food processor or by hand, finely grate the onion, beetroot and cabbage. Pop into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Combine well. Store in the fridge in a tub until needed. It will last up to three days.

Great British Life: Heart-shaped s’moresHeart-shaped s’mores (Image: Charlotte Bond)

Makes 12 rounds of s’mores

These are so cute. And the element of interaction, warming the mallows over a little stove, with a mini blowtorch, or over a tealight, brings a sense of occasion to a picnic. Don’t be afraid of making your own marshmallows. If you’ve got a sugar thermometer they’re a doddle, and taste so much better than anything from the supermarket. This recipe makes plenty, with lots of offcuts for topping hot chocolate.



For the marshmallows:
• 25g each icing sugar and cornflour for dusting
• 5 leaves of platinum gelatine
• 1 large egg white
• 1tsp red food colouring powder or gel (optional)
• 1tsp vanilla extract
• 225g caster sugar
• 25g golden syrup

For the chocolate digestives:
• 120g wholemeal flour
• ½tsp baking powder
• Pinch salt
• 45g light brown sugar
• 65g unsalted butter
• 25ml milk
• 150g milk chocolate, melted


Line a deep tray (approx. 10cm x 15cm) with greaseproof paper.

Combine the icing sugar and cornflour and sieve into a small bowl. Sieve a third of the mix evenly into the tray.

Pop the gelatine into a small bowl or dish and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for 10 minutes.

In a very clean bowl, whisk the egg white to soft peaks.

Add the food colouring and vanilla. Add the caster sugar and syrup to a pan with 125ml of cold water. Cook over a low heat until all the sugar is dissolved. Do not stir. Putting a lid on will create steam, preventing sugar crystals from forming.

Once all the sugar is dissolved, bring the heat up and take it to 120˚C on a sugar thermometer. Squeeze out the gelatine and add, stirring quickly – it will bubble up. Now carefully (you might need help with this if you’re using an electric hand whisk) pour the mix over the egg white.

Continue to whisk the mixture until it is very very thick – it will take around five minutes.

Spoon evenly into your prepared tray, smooth out with a palette knife, and dust over a third more of the icing sugar/cornflour mix.

Leave to set for two to three hours then cut out into heart shapes (with the same cutter as for your biscuits) and toss in the remaining cornflour/sugar. These will keep for a couple of weeks in an airtight tin.

To make the biscuits put the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and butter in a food processor and blitz to crumbs. Add the milk and blitz again until it forms a dough.

Wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 180˚C. Line a baking sheet.

Roll out to about the thickness of a £1 coin and cut out with a small heart-shaped cutter. Place on your baking sheet, leaving 2cms between each. Bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove to a cooling rack. Once cool, dip one side of each biscuit in the melted chocolate and set back on the rack to set.

To serve, heat a marshmallow over a non-toxic tealight, mini blowtorch or camping stove until charred and gooey – sandwich between two biscuits and devour.