Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. This special day has its origins in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, which celebrated the coming of spring as well as fertility rites.

These rites included the pairing off of women with men by lottery. Maybe this practice was deemed to be unseemly, as at the end of the 5th century Pope Gelasius 1 replaced Lupercalia with Valentine’s Day.

Its associations with romantic love, and with the exchanging of love tokens go back to the 14th century in the UK.

These days, Valentine’s Day can certainly be seen as an opportunity to celebrate both new and long-established love. Going out for a meal has become a tradition, as the scores of restaurants full of couples testify.

If you don’t feel like joining them, you can always celebrate at home with a special meal. For Valentine’s Day, a pudding is essential. The panna cotta recipe below is easy and delicious, and can be prepared the night before, giving you more time to drink some celebratory fizz. As it’s a special occasion, I have broken my rule of using only seasonal produce, and have conjured up some strawberries.

Make sure they are not served straight from the fridge, as that will kill their flavour. And make sure you buy the sweetest and most fragrant ones you can find.

READ MORE: Stuart Forman's Slow-Cooked Lamb Shank

Panna cotta with strawberries


For the panna cotta

2 gelatine leaves

250ml milk

250ml double cream

1 vanilla pod, split lengthways, seeds scraped out

25g sugar


Soak the gelatine leaves in a little cold water until soft. Place the milk, cream, vanilla pod and seeds and sugar into a pan and bring to a simmer.

Remove the vanilla pod and discard. Squeeze the water out of the gelatine leaves, then add to the pan and take off the heat.

Stir until the gelatine has dissolved. Divide the mixture between two glasses and leave to cool.

Place into the fridge for at least two to three hours until properly set. Serves with strawberries, sweetened with a little caster sugar, or vanilla sugar, if you have it.