For some, tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day celebrations may be dismissed as simply a long-running marketing ploy by card companies.
For those with more romantic tendencies, it is a day on which a little bit of love can be showered on the man or woman in their life.
And this is the day that many people choose to spend some time cooking a meal from scratch, to treat the object of their desires.
But what are the dos and don’ts of cooking a successful Valentine’s meal? We asked some of the county’s top chefs and restaurateurs to share their advice.
Nick Bonner is owner of The Red Lion Restaurant at East Haddon where chefs are planning an ambitious Valentine’s menu of asparagus, pancetta and soft poached egg, followed by grilled lobster thermidor, home made frits and honey dressed salad and fresh strawberries with chocolate and ginger fondue.
When it comes to home-cooking, his advice is to plan well. He said: “Put as much time into pre-preparing your dishes as you don’t want to leave your loved one on their own for too long.
“Also, use romantic and extravagant ingredients, it’s the one night you can really spoil each other. Don’t make your menu too rich, you don’t want that bloated feeling at the end of your meal and one good idea is to serve your pudding on one plate and share.”
Juliet Hanson, chef at The Barn Restaurant, The Old Dairy Farm in Upper Stowe, also had some tips. She said: “If I was cooking something at home I would remember that making someone a meal is like a gift and I would put some thought into it, considering budgets, spice levels, equipment and the person’s likes and dislikes.
“Sometimes obvious things like aphrodisiacs (like oysters) aren’t always to everyone’s taste. I would also say go lightly on strong ingredients like garlic and chillies.
“It might be a good idea to prepare something in advance, something like a slow-cooked dish that doesn’t require precise timings, so you can relax with your guest. There are lots of good slow-cooked casseroles and dishes you can prepare beforehand. One thing we do is lamb shanks, or tarragon chicken.
“Sharing platters also work really well, cold platters of something delicious. For dessert, something like a chocolate mousse is always a favourite,” she added.
Hao Dang, owner of Dang’s Vietnamese Cuisine in Wellingborough Road, Northampton, volunteered a recommended dish for a Valentine’s Day starter, which she says is one of her favourites. She calls it the ‘Teaser Appetiser’ and says “you can’t really go wrong with this dish, it is very easy.”
1 tsp thin strips of ginger
1 tsps fresh chilli strips
2 tbsps spring onion strips
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsps light soy sauce
2 tbsps vegetable oil
8 scallops ‘in shelf’
In a hot wok or pan, add oil and turn up heat, then add the spring onion and ginger for 1 minute. Then add all the following ingredients and bring to boil. Take off heat and put aside.
Place scallops in a steamer and steam for approximately 5-7 minutes. Once cooked, carefully display 4 in each plate and drizzle the soy sauce on top before serving immediately.