I’m always a bit flummoxed by Valentine’s Day. What constitutes the perfect dish for a romantic meal? It’s so subjective. It’s often assumed that women will want something chocolatey and flowery and yet at a lunch with friends recently it was one of the men who plumped for the chocolate pudding. What of those of us who prefer savoury to sweet? It’s a quandary.
I’m probably the last person you should be turning to for advice, because I don’t really ‘do’ Valentine’s Day. I don’t like the commercialisation and as my birthday falls within a few days of it, it seems unfair to expect my husband to shower me with cards and presents twice in a week. However, since we all know I am wise beyond even my advanced years, here’s my two penn’orth …
If you’re intending to end up kissing the person across the table, onions and other strong flavours are probably a bad idea. Allium breath isn’t very sexy. If you’re aiming to get even more physical, a heavy meal isn’t wise. Nor is a surfeit of wine.
It helps to know your target’s preferences. I’m a pushover for lobster, my husband can take it or leave it. Maybe it should be something you can feed each other, like the famous scene in Tom Jones, although a bit less messy than their chicken and over-ripe pears. Look it up, it’s on YouTube. If I’d troughed through soup, lobsters, chicken, oysters and a fruit bowl, I’d be comatose but maybe they were hardier in those days.
It doesn’t help that Valentine’s Day is in February, when the weather in the northern hemisphere is at its chilliest and most depressing. Salads don’t much appeal when you’ve left off your thermals in the hope of a bit of romantic grappling.
So something light, flavourful and warming, but not pongy. Maybe finger food. Ok, we’re narrowing it down. Personally, I’d go for something like mussels, cooked in wine or cider with a splash of cream and a scattering of parsley, with crusty bread to mop up the juices. A lemon syllabub to follow.
Both are easy to prep in advance with a minimum of cooking on the night because, let’s face it, you’ve got better things to do than stand at the stove and most aprons are unalluring unless that’s all you’re planning to wear, in which case I recommend keeping the burns unit on speed dial.
Of course, you could just cop out, go to a good restaurant and let someone else do all the work but I hope you’ve booked in advance. There’s nothing very romantic about standing in freezing rain with your nose pressed against a window watching other people necking champagne then going home with a greasy kebab. Spontaneity. It’s all in the planning.