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With Valentine’s Day approaching, Zack Deakins of 1921 has love on his mind and has put his passion for food to good use by creating a decadent menu we can enjoy at home

Valentine’s Day is normally a big thing for the restaurant. Once we are through our January reboot it is what we are working towards. Obviously it is always busy and even the planning of the evening is no easy task. It is predominantly tables of two, so it takes some skills similar to that of playing Tetris to ensure we have a table layout that allows us to accommodate as many people as possible without compromising people’s experience.

Food wise we always do a special menu for the evening. It will of course follow our values of the best seasonal produce but I like to try and make it especially decadent. A real treat. That’s what it’s all about after all – treating the one you love.

When the first lockdown started last March even my most pessimistic side wouldn’t for a second believe that we would still be in lockdown, albeit a different one, for Valentine’s this year. . . but here we are.

foie gras crèmeux with smoked duck breast and plum (44134808)
foie gras crèmeux with smoked duck breast and plum (44134808)

I have said many times how much I miss my kitchen. The thought of all that beautiful food I should be preparing for Valentine’s day has led me to decide to fire up the stoves again to prepare a heat-at-home-style menu for Valentine’s day.

I have written a menu full of dishes and recipes that I adore. So from a purely selfish point of view I can’t wait to cook them.

The menu starts, as any 1921 meal should, with some classic canapés, followed by our dill and caraway milk rolls. Now I know it may not be as on trend as sourdough seems to be at the moment – don’t get me wrong I love a good sourdough – but these rolls have a special place in my heart. I first made them when I was 17 working in Lola’s in Islington, London. The days were always long, a minimum of 16-17 hours, and I was travelling an hour each way to be there. I rarely had the time or energy to cook something for myself at the end of the day, but I would stuff a couple of leftover rolls into my bag and devour them on the tube on the way home. They would taste like pure heaven and I love the fact I now serve them at my restaurant. I also still love grabbing one for a snack at the end of the day!

Next up foie gras crèmeux with smoked duck breast and plum, pictured. I wanted the menu to be decadent and it doesn’t get much more so than this. The crèmeux is a thick set cream with the beautiful rich flavour of the foie gras. I love the classic flavour combination of duck and plum and the various preparations of the plum in this dish bringing texture and acidity to cut the rich mouth-coating foie gras. As for the smoked duck. . . why the hell not. A bit like adding smoked bacon to a dish, that salty smoky meatiness is only going to elevate it to another level.

On to the main, again a dish full of classics – Suffolk chicken crown topped with truffle, the truffle continuing my decadent theme. Served alongside this I am doing a chicken boulangère, think a confit leg and chicken pie, topped with a crispy chicken skin crumb. And then the classic Koffman cabbage. I love this, it is almost a dish in its own right. Savoy cabbage, onion, pancetta, swede, carrot, garlic and white wine all cooked down together. It’s a perfect combination and one I could happily just eat on its own. The whole dish is finished with a rich truffle and sherry jus, all in all the best roast chicken dinner going.

Now dessert. Pistachio and olive oil cake with poached rhubarb and Vietnamese yoghurt. Now this pistachio cake has been on and off our menu over the years with various garnishes. In fact, just before we closed back in December, a customer asked when it would be coming back on. Perhaps that’s why it instantly came to mind when writing this menu. I spoke about Yorkshire rhubarb in my previous column so it seemed like the natural thing to use it particularly as its beautiful pink tone matches the colour we all associate with Valentine’s so well. The last unifying component is the Vietnamese yoghurt, a mixture of yoghurt and condensed milk, its sweet creaminess just brings it all together.

The final part of the meal. . . our classic petit fours. White chocolate ganache, apple sours pâte de fruits, and my mum’s favourite of all time, dark chocolate and cherry ganache. Perfect with coffee or an indulgent treat on their own.

I cooked the menu for Annie last week and, I know she is biased, but it very much got the thumbs up. So we are good to go.

Only problem now is I have started a few improvement projects in the kitchen, so the race is on to get them finished in time, but I can’t wait to get cooking.

If you want to give your loved one a special treat, Zack’s Valentine’s menu is priced at £45 per person and can be ordered by emailing info@nineteen-twentyone.co.uk or call 01284 704870.

Zack Deakins is chef patron of 1921 Angel Hill in Bury St Edmunds.

Call 01284 704870

See nineteen-twentyone.co.uk