Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Valentine's Day Dinner [a guide]

"I think careful cooking is love, don't you?  The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who's close to you is about as nice a valentine as you can give"  - Julia Child
from http://society6.com/product/Love-Birds-jFl_Print#1=45

Only one guy has ever cooked me a meal and it was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.  I was trying to find this quote on how being cooked for is one of the best human experiences one can have, but I couldn't find it..whoever said it phrased it in a much better way.   To be cooked for is infinitely better than any fancy restaurant meal that you pay for.  So this Valentine's Day, get in the kitchen and don't screw it up.

Here I offer a guide to this important homemade meal, something that does not require you to sweat and bleed over this task. It’s all about time management and planning.  First things first: you don’t want to be in the kitchen the entire time. From when your significant other arrives onwards, you should only step into the kitchen two to three times for no more than 5 minutes each time. The table should be set up, the customized music playlist should be on, and include candles and flowers and whatnot if you so wish.


Make something that you can cook ahead of time. Cured meats, pates, cheeses and some bread and good olive oil on the table with wine is terrific. However, I understand that this option can be quite expensive. So, how about crostini and bruschetta? Take some sourdough bread, cut into 1” slices, toast in the oven, rub with sliced garlic, drizzle with olive oil and they’re ready to be dressed. A nice tomato salsa or a cheese-based dip spread on top, perked up with some chopped herbs is perfect. The Internet is filled with recipes for inspiration.  [Happy Belly suggestion: Miso Ricotta & Roasted Tomato Crostini/Fondued Crostini]


You’ve got a couple of options – you can do a pasta by making the sauce ahead of time, then later on just cook the pasta to toss with the sauce and serve. You can do a meat or a nut roast, which are both very impressive, and you can just pull it out of the oven during dinner, no work at all. Seafood en papillote makes for great presentation, but if you’re worried about over- or under-cooking the fish then I’d stick to the first two options. [Happy Belly suggestion: Linguini with Pine Nuts, Zucchini & Goat's Cheese/Tagliatelle with Peas and Pancetta]


Nothing says love and romance like a rich, dense and sweet chocolate dessert. If you can pull off a good fondant or soufflé served with cold crème fraiche, do it, it’ll make you very lucky later on in the evening.  If that’s intimidating, try a flourless cake or a mousse. Or if you’re looking for something light, a fruit plate and some nice chocolates is also a good option.  [Happy Belly Suggestion: Chocolate Souffle / Torta Caprese]

It’s Valentine’s Day, so the pressure is on, but remember, at the end of the day, it’s the thought that counts. Good luck.  Oh, and if you're in the St Andrews area and would like some catering, I'd be more than happy to help, seriously, just contact me.

PS: I love this painting (The Kiss)

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