Skip the dinner reservation this Valentine’s Day and cook up romance at home with these recipes that are strictly for two.

Whatever your take on Valentine’s – the perfect opportunity to display deep passion for your paramour, or commercial opportunity exploited by marketeers – there is one thing most people can agree on. Restaurants’ special St Valentine’s Day menus rarely offer the romance they promise (yup, not even including that mandatory complimentary glass of fizz); are, almost always, a ridiculous rip-off for a bland set-menu; and involve having to eat cheek-by-jowl with a lot of other couples who’ve had, and are probably now regretting, the same idea.

Why not instead show your adoration by cooking something simple but heartfelt and strictly for two at home? Light a candle, make a play list, chat into the night over a bottle of wine and a favourite dish, and then wind up dancing round the kitchen: what could possibly be nicer?

Here are a few serving suggestions to stoke the embers of romance.

Rib-Eye Steak and Crispy Smashed Potato for Two

Epicurious


The key to pulling off a great Valentine’s sharing feast is to do something that feels special while not being over-ambitious (getting stressed, shouty or sweary in the kitchen is no aphrodisiac). This simple Rib-Eye Steak and Crispy Smashed Potato recipe is delicious, hearty, lends itself to being accompanied by a good mellow bottle of red and is easy and relatively quick. The perfect culinary expression of passion right there, on a plate.

Shetland Mussels, Fennel and White Wine

Olive Magazine


If you can pull it off, it never hurts to try and make your Valentine’s dinner look pretty. Seafood is a clever way to dish up a good-looking plate, since it does the aesthetic hard work for you. This Shetland Mussels, Fennel and White Wine recipe is a winner in every regard. Without even trying, it looks and tastes beautiful – and although the recipe states that it is for up to four people, we say save the rest for seconds with your inamorata. Serve it up with some crusty bread and wash it down with a bottle of light, crisp Pinot Grigio or an unoaked Chardonnay. Only the flintiest of souls would not be moved to romance.

Oysters with Sauce Mignonette

Rick Stein via The Happy Foodie


On the theme of seafood and romance, it always pays to go classic. And since oysters are renowned for their aphrodisiac properties, it would be a bold prospective Valentine’s cook who would ignore the pearls of the sea. Plus, British oysters are said to be best in any month containing the letter ‘r’; February then, is a go-er. The Happy Foodie is a brilliant resource for any foodie, and we love that it went straight to the country’s foremost seafood expert for this recipe: the inimitable Rick Stein. It’s a simple take on the dish, and doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, instead confidently allowing the fresh ingredients, of which there are just five, to do the talking. Champagne is, surely, the only way to go for accompaniment. A quick public health warning: do follow the instructions carefully. Shucking oysters can be treacherous, and there’s quite nothing like a trip to A&E for killing romance in an instant.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Tasty



Ever since Disney’s titular ‘Tramp’ romanced the refined King Charles Spaniel ‘Lady’ over spaghetti with meatballs, it has been a go-to for us when it comes to starry-eyed dining a deux. Sure, taking romance cues from cartoon dogs might be a trifle absurd, but who are we to question the whys and wherefores of the heart? Plus, on a practical note, you can make the sauce the day before – indeed it takes better if you do so – so all you need to do on the night is make a little side salad and cook the spaghetti. Remember, for full amorous effect, serve in one large bowl and share to recreate that Lady and the Tramp moment. All together now, ‘Look at the skies, they have stars in their eyes, on this lovely bella note…’

Rose Prosecco Cocktail

Sophie Dahl/ BBC


The creation of romance is all about setting the tone (think lighting, music, and ambience). And ahead of your intimate repast, it’s a good idea to strike the mood with a fittingly romantic drink. Sophie Dahl’s Rose Prosecco Cocktail is delicate, delicious and oh-so pretty. In other words, the perfect aperitif for a Valentine’s night in.

Beetroot, Ginger And Coconut Soup

Waitrose


An overwhelming number of recipes conducive to romance feature meat or fish. But there is no earthly reason why plant-based romantics should not find their way to their loves’ hearts through their stomachs – especially when there are recipes such as this gloriously dramatic soup to knock up. The colour is intense and passionate, while the soup itself is warming and comforting. The perfect combination for passion, we say.

Tartufo

Taste Made


If you haven’t ever whipped up a Tartufo, make this Valentine’s the year that all changes. It features softened ice-cream, raspberry sorbet in a shell of dark chocolate – and it’s easy to make. Cracking into this domed spectacular together will doubtless be make it a Valentine’s an affair to remember.

Chocolate and Drambuie Truffles

Great British Chefs


Anyone concocting a Valentine’s Day dinner cannot, if they are serious, neglect dessert. Nor indeed, should the wise romantic home cook overlook chocolate. This recipe by the great Bruno Loubet is rich, dark and deeply romantic. Forget Valentine’s: this is true love.

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February 2020
By Nancy Alsop