Menus to suit the mood: 3 recipe ideas to try this Valentine's Day
From prawns with gremolata to easy-breezy tacos, here are some dish options for couples in various stages of their relationship, plus a special soup for one
Whatever the stage of your relationship – from long-term but loving to the exciting first months – if you’re planning to spend Valentine’s Day indoors, we have a menu to suit your mood.
If you’re utterly loved up, embrace those feelings. Blow kisses in the face of the naysayers. Celebrate the day and your happiness by eating chocolate-covered strawberries from morning until night, if you so desire.
Should you also wish to share a meal that feels as special as the relationship, prepare it together – after all, you can’t bear to be apart, right?
Beginwith a dish that sets the tone for the evening: light, tasty, full of flavour and very much in line with Valentine's Day vibes. This recipe for butter-seared prawns with a fresh pea puree and crispy veal bacon gremolata will do just that.
For the main course there’s a reason steak features so often on Valentine’s Day menus – it’s uncomplicated, delicious and luxurious. Mix things up a little by making tagliata – an Italian-inspired dish that’s perfect for two and ever so simple to prepare.
What we’re talking about here is essentially a great-quality rib-eye cooked medium-rare (or however you desire), thinly sliced and served on a bed of rocket leaves along with roasted cherry tomatoes, slivers of parmesan cheese and the meat-cooking juices. Alternatively, a piece of special-occasion fish – think halibut, turbot or sole – wrapped in a baking paper parcel with butter, herbs, lemon zest and garlic, and roasted in the oven until tender, will show someone you care in exactly the same way.
For dessert, a bowl of smooth, creamy chocolate mousse served with tart cream fraiche to counter the richness, a sprinkling of dark chocolate or honeycomb and two spoons is a guaranteed partner-pleaser.
Seared prawns with pea puree and veal bacon gremolata
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Ingredients for the puree
1 tbsp olive oil
½ white onion finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and very finely chopped
200g frozen peas, defrosted
4 sprigs mint, leaves picked
Juice of ½ a lemon
2 tbsp creme fraiche
Ingredients for the gremolata
2 rashers veal bacon
4 sprigs mint, leaves picked
6 sprigs parsley, leaves picked
Zest of ½ a lemon
2 tbsp almonds, toasted and chopped
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tbsp butter
6 fresh prawns, peeled
1. For the puree, set a saucepan with the olive oil over a low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for four to six minutes, until softened but not coloured.
2. Tip in the peas and mint leaves and season with plenty of black pepper. Cook for three to four minutes, then transfer to a blender. Add the lemon juice and creme fraiche and blitz until smooth. Return the puree to the saucepan.
3. For the gremolata, cook the veal bacon in a dry frying pan until crisp. Transfer to kitchen paper to drain off any excess fat, then finely chop. Tip into a bowl and add the mint, parsley, lemon zest, almonds and extra-virgin olive oil. Mix well.
4. When you’re ready to serve, set a frying pan with the olive oil and butter over a high heat. Once hot, add the prawns and cook for one minute on each side.
5. Divide the puree between two plates. Arrange the prawns on top and finish with the gremolata.
For young couples
If you’re the one doing the cooking for someone you’re in the early stages of a relationship with, easy, breezy, effortless cool is the aim.
You want to make something that tastes great, but without it seeming like you’ve made too much effort. The meal should certainly be low on last-minute stress and must be simple enough to pull together without compromising your pre-dinner repartee.
In this instance, a menu featuring classic starters and mains runs the risk of feeling forced. A vibrant, fun Mexican feast of tacos, on the other hand, might just be the key to a successful Valentine’s date night at home. The majority of the work can be done in advance (avocado cream blended, slaw prepped, chicken marinated), meaning all you need to do when it comes to serving is sear the meat over a high heat and warm the tacos through.
If chicken is not your thing, the yoghurt marinade works equally well with a more robust fish such as cod, or bite-sized cauliflower florets.
Serve tortilla chips, salsa and sour cream as a pre-dinner snack, and task your date with bringing dessert.
Coriander-yoghurt chicken tacos with avocado cream and pickled slaw
Prep time: 45 minutes, plus marinating
Cook time: 12 minutes
Ingredients for the marinade
50g plain Greek yoghurt
Juice of ½ a lemon
Small bunch coriander, leaves picked and chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts, sliced into 2cm cubes
Ingredients for the pickled slaw
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp white vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
½ red onion thinly sliced
½ red cabbage, thinly sliced (core removed)
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
3 tbsp chopped coriander leaves laves
3 tbsp pomegranates seeds
Ingredients for the avocado cream
1 avocado, destoned and roughly chopped
juice of ½ a lime
2 tbsp sour cream
6 small corn tortillas
1. For the marinade, mix the yoghurt, lemon juice, coriander, cumin, oregano, honey and one tablespoon of olive oil together in a bowl. Add the chicken, mix well, cover with cling film and transfer to the fridge to marinate for at least an hour.
2. For the slaw, whisk together the caster sugar, vinegar and lime juice in a bowl. Add the red onion and set aside for 10 minutes (this will take the bite out of the raw onion taste). Stir in the red cabbage and spring onions.
3. Put the avocado in a blender with lime juice and sour cream. Blend until smooth, then season with plenty of black pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and keep in the fridge until needed.
4. Set a frying pan or griddle pan with 1 tbsp olive oil over a high heat. Add the marinated chicken and sear for 2-3 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Arrange on a serving plate.
5. Stir the chopped coriander leaves and pomegranate seeds through the slaw and tip into a serving dish.
6. Warm the corn tortillas in an oven preheated to 200°C for 3-4 minutes.
7. Arrange the tacos on a platter along with the chicken, bowls of slaw and avocado cream. Add extra lime wedges on the side and serve.
For the couple with young children
Don’t even think about putting extra pressure on yourself to cook an elaborate meal from scratch. In fact, don’t even think about cooking at all. Order in – but do so with style. There are nights for a meat-feast pizza eaten straight from the box in front of the TV, but don’t make Valentine's Day one of them.
Instead, if you have the time and foresight to do so, consider going gourmet with your delivery order – take that takeaway up a notch, as it were. This could mean ordering an array of cheeses, charcuterie and antipasti from Jones the Grocer, a spectacular, spanking fresh sushi platter from purveyors of premium-quality seafood (and much more besides) Fresh Express or a Valentine’s Day picnic kit from Maison Duffour, complete with heart-shaped cheeses and truffles courtesy of chocolate specialist Mirzam.
That said, if planning falls by the wayside and you find yourself scrolling through your favourite delivery app once the children are in bed, all is certainly not lost. Place that order, then spend the next 15 minutes changing the mood: lay the table, dim the lights, put on background music, light some candles. When dinner arrives, be it burgers and fries, Thai-style noodles or indeed, pizza, transfer the goods from packaging to proper plates, ready to be eaten with real knives and forks – trust me, it will make a difference. Then sit back, relax and enjoy.
For the solo diner
If you’re eating alone, enjoy it. Go heavy on the garlic. Devour dinner in front of the telly / while reading your favourite book / in the bath (or all three). Whatever you do, though, lavish the same amount of attention on the meal as you would if you were preparing it for someone else. That means slightly fuzzy, veering towards furry hummus is out, and a healthy, delicious dish that requires a little time and effort, but that tastes good and makes you feel good, is in.
Our recipe for butterbean and rosemary soup is just the thing. It’s simple yet soothing to prepare, and is packed with punchy flavour and hearty goodness. It also feels that bit more special than the average soup, thanks to the finishing touches: vibrant, verdant kale pesto and slightly crunchy, parmesan-toasted beans. Try it and you’ll see what we mean.
The pesto makes more than you’ll need, but freezes well and is fantastic for stirring through pasta, using to top bruschetta or as a marinade for chicken or fish.
Butter bean and rosemary soup with kale pesto
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Ingredients for the soup
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked
1 x 400g tin butter beans, drained
300ml vegetable stock, warmed through
2 tbsp thick Greek yoghurt or labneh
Ingredients for the pesto
4 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 bunch kale, leaves torn, stalks discarded
50g Parmesan, finely grated
1. To make the soup, set a saucepan with the olive oil over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook for eight to 10 minutes, until completely softened.
2. Add the garlic and the leaves from three sprigs of rosemary and cook for three to four minutes more.
3. Tip in all but two tablespoons of the butter beans. Season and mix well. Pour over the hot vegetable stock and bring to the boil.
4. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for four to six minutes. Leave to cool slightly, then transfer to a blender and blitz until smooth. Add the yoghurt or labneh and blend again. Return the soup to the saucepan and clean the blender.
5. For the pesto, set a large frying pan with one tablespoon of olive oil over a medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook for two to three minutes.
6. Tip in the kale leaves, mixing well to coat. Add a splash of water and cook for four to six minutes until the kale leaves are tender. Transfer to a blender, add the remaining olive oil and 40 grams of the parmesan. Blitz to combine.
7. Dry the reserved butter beans with kitchen paper. Set a frying pan with one tablespoon of olive oil over a high heat.
8. When you can feel a strong heat rising from the pan add the reserved butter beans and fry for three to four minutes, shaking the pan often, until the beans start to crisp around the edges.
9. Sprinkle over the remaining parmesan and cook for a minute more.
10. To serve, pour the hot soup into a bowl, pile on two to three tablespoons of kale pesto and top with the parmesan butter beans.
Updated: February 9, 2021 05:40 PM