Sharing and Caring Dishes for Valentine's Day

PUBLISHED: 16:23 10 February 2011 | UPDATED: 18:51 20 February 2013

Sharing and Caring Dishes for Valentine's Day

Sharing and Caring Dishes for Valentine's Day

With dinner a deux most definitely on the cards this month, Annie Stirk, our food and drink consultant, offers creative and romantic recipe ideas too good to keep to yourself<br/>Photographs by Andy Bulmer

What are your favourite Valentine's Day meals? leave a comment below

With dinner a deux most definitely on the cards this month, Annie Stirk, our food and drink consultant, offers creative and romantic recipe ideas too good to keep to yourself

Photographs by Andy Bulmer

Humans have been sharing food since forever. Its a way of celebrating, a way of bonding, and a crucial element of companionship (even the word companion originates from the Latin for bread fellow or someone you break bread with). Sitting down to a good meal gives us an opportunity to talk, to make new friends, and maybe fall in love which is why its a smart idea to prepare something really tasty for Valentines Day.

Start as you mean to go on with an indulgent breakfast. Serve yoghurt, granola and frozen berries in a pretty glass, or make cinnamon French toast (posh eggy bread made by dipping bread in a mixture of eggs beaten with a sprinkling of cinnamon, sugar, vanilla essence and milk, and lightly fried).

Or treat your loved one to the crme de la crepe of French desserts, Crpe Suzette (thought to have been named after a dining companion of King Edward VII), using a basic pancake recipe (125g plain flour, two eggs, 125ml milk and 125ml water) and an orange-butter sauce made by heating 50g butter and the grated zest of an orange in a frying pan over medium heat. Add 75ml orange juice and one tablespoon of sugar, whisk until the sauce is bubbling.

Stir in three tablespoons Grand Marnier and simmer, and dip each crpe into the sauce, flipping over to cover both sides and fold into quarters. Add some segments of fresh orange.
The Greeks know a thing or two about romance so its worth taking a leaf out of their cookbooks too. Mealtimes in Greece are important social events. Meals including shared little dishes (mezethes) of food, often last several hours. In Spain they call it tapas, in Italy cicchetti or spuntino and in Turkey and the Middle East, meze.

Whatever you want to call it, bite-size morsels are always more romantic because they give you time (and space) to talk. Stuff button mushrooms with finely chopped sage, breadcrumbs and Stilton, or figs with goats cheese and then wrap in prosciutto.

In Japan, sharing food equals sushi and you can make easy sushi rolls using boiled rice blended with rice vinegar, sugar and salt, spread thinly on a nori seaweed sheet and filled with smoked salmon, crab meat, tuna or stir fried vegetables, served with soy sauce and wasabi.

For dessert, keep it simple -smother small toasts with Nutella and wafer-thin slices of fresh fruit or fill shot glasses with mini trifles.

While it might be cold outside, bring a taste of summer indoors by spreading a rug on the floor, adding some candlelight, and filling a wicker hamper with dips and dunkers. Try pitta bread with pt, or whiz store cupboard pulses into hummus using chickpeas, tahinni, lemon juice and olive oil, or a butterbean dip using crushed garlic, smoked paprika, lemon and olive
oil, and dunk with broccoli and cauliflower florets, carrot or crunchy bread sticks.

For an anti-oxidant vitamin-kick (good for the libido), try grating winter vegetables into desserts: grated carrot and cinnamon in individual iced cakes, beetroot with chocolate in brownies, or parsnip with ginger and dried fruit in mini muffins. And dont forget the champagne.

Nothing quite epitomises Valentines Day as well as foods and drinks with a rose-tinted hue. Try a starter of blood orange segments with rocket, goats cheese and toasted pine nuts, or a heart-shaped pizza with lashings of red wine (prepare ahead and give a pink hue to vodka by pouring into a kilner jar and marinating frozen red fruits in it for a few weeks). For real romance, there is nothing like a meaty rib-eye steak served with ruby-red rhubarb and onion chutney.

Having fun with food and making a meal together is a recipe for romance. Try flour tortillas or pancakes served with bowls of savoury and sweet fillings such as salmon and cream cheese, lardons and mushrooms, or steamed apples and cinnamon, drizzled with delicious dark chocolate.

Some foods are recognised as aphrodisiacs. Hot chilli and spices in chilli-con-carne are thought to release endorphins, and oysters lovely with chilli, ginger and rice wine vinegar contain zinc, which is thought to increase sex drive. Mussels cooked in lemon juice, chopped garlic, fresh parsley and white wine are also perfect served with warm tear and share bread.

But nothing says I love you more often than chocolate, whether you use it for fondue with dunkers of pineapple, mandarin orange segments, banana, marshmallow, biscotti and nuts; to write a sweet love note on top of a cake or to make homemade truffles (whizzed up with cream, butter and rum).

Happy Valentines Day.

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