A Romantic French Meal with Expedia's World On A Plate 'Love' Campaign

For Valentine's Day Expedia invited me to take part in their World On A Plate 'Love' Campaign, and asked me to cook up a meal idea based on one of their European holiday destinations. I chose France as my romantic destination inspiration, they are home to the language of love after all! Expedia sent me a hamper of goodies and a voucher to get me started, and I got thinking back to the things I used to love eating when I holidayed in the south of France.


ENTREE


Our starter was a celeriac and truffle oil soup. One of the things that Expedia sent in the hamper was a bottle of truffle oil and - OH MY GOSH - it is amazing. I have to admit that I have been using it on everything I possibly can, but it is absolutely perfect swirled into the creamy velvety celeriac soup. It looks rather pretty, too!


Ingredients - serves 4
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig of thyme, leaves picked
- 1 celeriac, peeled and chopped
- 1 potato, peeled and chopped
- 1 litre of vegetable stock
- Truffle oil, to finish

Method
1. Heat the oil and cook the shallots, garlic and celery until for a few minutes until soft.
2. Add the celeriac, potato, thyme, bay leaf and stock. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat and remove the bay leaf. Blend with a stick blender until smooth.
4. Ladle into bowls and finish with a swirl of truffle oil.


LE PLAT PRINCIPAL


For our main I decided to do something quite light. In the hamper from Expedia was a jar of tapenade, which is one of my favourite things to eat. I used to spend a lot of my summers in the south of France and that's where I discovered tapenade. Whenever I eat it I am reminded of those hot summers by the sea, drinking wine and nibbling on rounds of crisp bread absolutely smothered in salty tapenade. I made tartines - basically a French open sandwich - topped with flageolet beans, celery and spring onions mixed with tapenade, lemon juice, thyme and olive oil. Oh, and a drizzle of the heavenly truffle oil. Cannellini beans work well, too.


Ingredients - serves 2
- 200g cooked flageolet beans
- 1 tbsp green olive tapenade
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 sprig thyme, leaves picked
- 1 spring onion, finely sliced
- 1 celery stick, finely sliced
- 4 slices of toasted pain de campagne
- 1tsp lemon juice
- truffle oil, to finish

Method
1. Put the beans, tapenade, garlic, olive oil, thyme, spring onion, lemon juice and celery in a bowl, and mix until evenly coated.
2. Spoon the mixture onto the slices of toasted bread.
3. Drizzle with a little truffle oil before serving. 

DESSERT


Finally pudding. Now the obvious choice for a French dessert would be a classic like creme brulee, tarte tatin or perhaps a souffle. I wanted to make something that reminded me of my holidays, and one thing I could never resist was freshly baked palmiers from the patisserie. What could be more apt for Valentine's Day that these heart-shaped classics! Made from flaky puff pastry and encrusted with crisp demerara sugar, these were the perfect way to end our Valentine's meal, to be enjoyed whilst sipping on a glass of Bordeaux. They can be made with other fillings too, but I love them just like this.


Ingredients - makes 18-20
- 1 sheet of ready made puff pastry (extra points if you make your own!)
- 125g demerara sugar

Method
1. Roll out your pastry and sprinkle 2/3 of the sugar over it. Press the sugar into the dough.
2. Fold one side of the pastry into the middle, length-ways, then fold the other side.
3. Sprinkle the pastry with the remaining sugar, pressing it into the dough, and fold each side into the middle length-ways, once again.
4. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes. In the meantime preheat the oven to 210C.
5. Slice the pastry into 1inch thick rounds, and lay on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Leave enough space for the puff pastry to, erm, puff!
6. Bake for 18 minutes or so, until the pastry is crisp and golden and the sugar is caramelised.
7. Allow to cool , and then try to resist eating the lot!


What do you think of my meal ideas? I hope they inspire you to get cooking this Valentine's Day! Head over to Expedia's website to find out more about their World On A Plate Campaign and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.



*With thanks to Expedia for the lovely French goodies and supermarket voucher.

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