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FOOD & DRINK

Tips for guys cooking Valentine’s Day dinner at home

Words by Rob Chilton

Cancel the restaurant and bring the romance to your place

Jewellery, spa days and weekends away are extravagant gifts that will always hit the bullseye. But for a more thoughtful present this Valentine’s Day, a home cooked meal, made with care and love, tops the lot.

In these Covid times, staying home and avoiding busy restaurants is a sensible idea. Instead, bring the restaurant experience to your dining table. Just think: no irritating restaurant musak, no pushy waiters and no eye-watering bill at the end of your dinner. Dinner in the comfort of your own home with someone special guarantees a romantic Valentine’s Day, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines.

Keep it simple

Valentine’s Day is about spending time together, talking and reconnecting. You don’t want to be in the kitchen all night, stirring a complicated cream-based sauce to prevent it from curdling, fretting about the temperature of your guinea fowl or kneeling in front of the oven praying for your soufflé to rise. You are not a professional chef and your partner is not expecting a Michelin-star dinner. Choose a simple dish, some of which can be pre-prepared if possible.

Lay the table, chaps

Make an effort

Nobody wants to hear the ping of a microwave on Valentine’s Day night. A ready meal is fine for a quick office lunch or an easy dinner when you’ve had a long day at work and need to refuel before collapsing into bed. But for February 14 you’re going to have turn on the cooker and use a saucepan, maybe even a roasting dish. Get the kitchen prepared and take the stress out of cooking by making a timeline of when the stages of your recipe need to be ticked off.

Think about it

Does your partner often mention that spaghetti carbonara they enjoyed in Rome? Is their favourite food asparagus? Are they allergic to shellfish? Did you already have chicken pie last night and so won’t want it two nights running? Basic questions but it’s important to spend a while thinking about what your significant other would actually like to see on the table in front of them on Valentine’s night. And if your partner’s vegetarian, don’t serve up a T-bone steak.

What to cook

There are some foods that are traditionally associated with Valentine’s Day meals. Steak is simple, quick and easy to cook, while lamb chops are also a great choice as they always look attractive on a plate. Oysters are decadent, but are easy to serve and will score you big brownie points – just ask your fishmonger to prepare them in-store for you and serve them with a wedge of lemon as a spectacular starter. Anything Italian usually hits the spot for romance, but instead of dried pasta, try fresh pasta instead – it brings more flavour, tastes more authentic and the extra effort will be noticed by your partner. If you’ve made a starter and main course, then you’ll be forgiven for buying a pre-made desserts. Don’t go too heavy with a cloying pudding, try something delicate and cleansing such as panna cotta perhaps, a showstopping pavlova or a colourful lemon sorbet with fresh berries.

Cook a starter and a main course, but buy a pre-made dessert - we won't tell

Set the mood

We’re presuming that if you’ve managed to find someone special and maintain a relationship already, you’re probably pretty familiar with page one of the romance manual. But even so, remember to keep the lighting soft when dining at home. Candles are obviously great for creating a romantic mood but a couple of carefully positioned lamps will do just fine. Keep the music low and calm – you may be obsessed with heavy metal but you don’t want your seductive conversation to be drowned out by a man with a perm yelling about destruction. Dress the table with nice napkins, preferably linen and not the paper ones you took from your last visit to Burger King; put some placemats down, arrange the cutlery neatly and make sure the glasses are sparkling.

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