Scarlet Hearts

A jewel of a first course for a Valentine’s Eve party, these transparent ruby hearts are the ultimate in romance. However, if you feel squid is un romantic, substitute prawns or just feathery herbs. If you have no individual moulds you could use one large heart-shaped cake tin.

Ingredients

  • 450 g/1 lb small cleaned squid
  • 1 small raw beetroot
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 litre/ pints water
  • 1 rounded teaspoon salt
  • 2 level teaspoons caster sugar
  • 2-3 pinches cayenne pepper
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 level teaspoons gelatine
  • 300 ml/ ½ pint creamed smatana or soured cream
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • sprigs of fresh dill, to garnish

Method

Slice the squid across thinly into rings, including the tendrils but discarding the goggly black eyes if they are still there. Then cut the squid rings in half. Steam over boiling water for 1 minute only, until just opaque. Rinse through with cold water to cool quickly and leave on one side.

Peel the beetroot and chop up into very small pieces. Peel the onion and chop up fairly small. Put the beetroot and onion into a saucepan with the water, salt, sugar, cayenne pepper and lemon juice. Cover the pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve into a saucepan. Sprinkle in the gelatine and put over a gentle heat for a few minutes, stirring until the gelatine has dissolved. Remove from the heat.

Distribute the steamed squid evenly between 10 individual moulds or deep patty tins. Gently pour in the beetroot juices. Leave until cold and then chill until set.

To turn out, dip the moulds very briefly in hot water and then hold them upside down against a board, giving a good shake. Using a wide spatula, carefully transfer the jellies from the board on to individual plates. Mix the smatana or soured cream and milk together in a bowl and spoon this white sauce carefully all round each heart on its plate. Garnish with sprigs of dill.

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