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Valentine’s Day is literally days away, and we hope you haven’t left preparations until now. This Valentine’s Day, why not skip the streets and whip up a romantic meal for two at home? Not only can you show your boo how much you care, but your wallet will thank you, too. We’ve put together a list of simple but impressive dishes that you can prepare on your own or with your enlisted Valentine. No need to fear—even the most amateur of home cooks can tackle these scrumptious recipes that’ll have you in and out of the kitchen in no time.
We’ll start you off easy with a classic: Garlic bread. Yes, we know it’s best to avoid bad breath in case you get up close and personal with your sweetheart, but crust us, everyone loves garlic bread. You could buy it ready-made from the frozen section or bakery, but there are really only three ingredients to this recipe, so what’s your excuse?
Wrapping prosciutto (or good old bacon) around something is a great way to jazz up even the blandest ingredient. If your main course feels a bit plain or veggie-deficient, roast or pan-fry some of these flavourful parcels. If you’re really going for the wow-factor, wrap them individually as Chef John does in the video above; but if you’re pressed for time, make bigger bundles with longer pieces of smoked meat around about five to six succulent green shoots.
Moving slightly up the difficulty scale, we’ve got gorgeous stuffed peppers. They look like a lot of work but trust us, the most difficult step in preparing these is not overfilling the peppers. A great tip mentioned in the video recipe is stuffing the peppers sideways as opposed to from the top to allow for better portion-control. If you want to have some fun with your food, keep the tops of your peppers to allow for an unveiling when you serve them.
Fun fact: Bell peppers come in an array of colours, but the most common green, yellow and red variations are actually just varying states of ripeness, with red being the ripest.
We think Molly has sold pasta al limone the best: five ingredients or less, done in less than 15 minutes, and three separate Parmesan cheese servings. It’s a heartwarming pasta dish that isn’t as tricky as cacio e pepe, with light and fresh flavours to boot. The copious amounts of lemon juice cut through the heavy use of cream and butter, and won’t leave you feeling too stuffed for the rest of the night’s activities.
You can pair this alfredo sauce with any type of pasta you like, but we usually stick to penne or fettuccine. If you’re low on cooking space and utensils, try out this one-pot recipe with less than 10 ingredients that’ll have you salivating in no time. If you’re worried that it’s too boring, you can easily adapt this recipe to include chicken, bacon, spinach, or broccoli (or all of the above!) for a more well-rounded dining experience.
Before anyone starts on the “This isn’t an authentic carbonara” train, please hear us out. This dish came highly recommended to us by our vegetarian friends as a scrumptious alternative to the traditional carbonara, made with guanciale, pancetta, or bacon.
Mushrooms have long been a meat alternative because of its complex savoury flavours and thick textures, and they work excellently in this vegetarian carbonara recipe. You don’t need to use orecchiette; any pasta you have on hand will work perfectly. Serve this up to any of your carnivorous friends and we can promise you they won’t miss the meat.
Cooking fish may seem daunting to some, but we promise this one is easy, peasy, lemon-squeezy (yes, squeeze the lemon over the dish for a welcoming touch of acidity). We recommend keeping the skin to fry up for a crunchy side, and marinating the salmon overnight if you’ve got time to spare. If you’ve not got maple syrup, honey works great as well. Store-bought teriyaki sauce is a fine substitute, but hey, we’re here to impress remember? Serve the glazed salmon with rice, a refreshing noodle salad, or vegetable stir-fry to make a balanced meal.
The “Engagement Chicken” recipe was first developed by former Glamour magazine fashion editor Kim Bonnell in 1982 and it’s supposedly encouraged the nuptials of hundreds of couples since, including (allegedly) Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Roasting a whole chicken is definitely a showstopper, but if you’ve not got an oven or the thought of cleaning and stuffing a chicken kills your mood, adapt the recipe to make chicken thighs or breasts instead. No guarantees on the proposal though!
Steak is always on the menu for Valentine’s Day. Forget all the naysayers who tell you that you can’t cook a juicy steak at home if you don’t have a grill or (at the very least) a gas stovetop—because you definitely can. For the poor souls out there with an electric or induction hob, the only detriment is that heating on these stovetops takes longer to adjust.
When cooking a steak, experiment with preheating your stovetop to higher heats, and using two hobs to go back and forth between temperatures. A cast-iron skillet is ideal, but any frying pan will do in a pinch. Bear in mind the thickness of your pan determines its heat retention and as soon as you put your cut of steak down it takes a lot of heat. Can’t be bothered to make fries or chips? Grab a pack from the frozen section. The possibilities with potatoes are endless, really.
Now you may be thinking, “Isn’t all cookie dough edible?” While we’ve been eating raw cookie dough from the spoon every time we bake, going to A&E for a stomach bug isn’t the sexiest date activity we have in mind… Feeding each other cookie dough is, though. Make a basic cookie dough base and add in any toppings your heart desires. Serve it in a cone if you’re feeling fancy; it’s basically an indulgent ice cream treat that doesn’t melt.
No oven, no problem: This strawberry cheesecake recipe requires only a fridge and freezer to set into deliciousness. Not only can you make these cute cups from a cupcake tin, but you can also assemble the ingredients in glasses, cups, or whatever container you have. Graham crackers can be substituted with Marie biscuits or digestives, and you can use a ziplock bag with a hole cut out as a piping bag, or simply scoop the cheese mixture with a spoon.
Another classic Valentine’s Day recipe, you can get your date involved in the preparation of these chocolate-covered strawberries. We like to get sloppy with it and just dip the strawberries (or whatever fruits you enjoy) into a pot of melted chocolate or Nutella—sort of like a fondue—but that’s just us. Most of all, just have fun with it!