Romance needn’t be limited to five star restaurants and pricey getaways. This year, skip the elbow-to-elbow dining in a crowded restaurant and treat yourself and your partner to a romantic dinner cooked at home. Never underestimate the power of a home-cooked meal! It is one of the simplest ways to make your beloved feel special and, at the same time, set the stage for a steamy night ahead.
With the restaurants packed on Valentine’s Day, an at-home dinner is a very peaceful and intimate way to spend the evening without worrying about securing reservation or trying to converse in a loud and crowded setting. A truly romantic date night with your mate can be highlighted by clever food selections. If you wish to opt for a lighter dinner, finger foods make for fantastic starters. You two can feed each other. It does not matter if everything isn’t perfect. Your sweetheart will appreciate the effort you have taken to put up a meal and make it a memorable experience. With just a little preparation, it’s easy to pull off and get your partner asking for more. Here are a few simple recipes that are easy on the wallet and sweet on romance.
Roasted corn chowder with jalapeno
Ingredients: 100 gms American corn, 150 ml milk, 10 gms butter, 15 gms jalapeno, salt and black pepper to taste, 10 gms garlic, 10 gms onion, 4 asparagus and lime juice
Method: Wash the corn under running water. Roast it in an oven at 180 degrees Celsius for about 10 minutes until brown in colour. Sauté onion, garlic in a thick bottomed pan and add the roasted corn along with the chopped jalapeno. Add milk to this and bring to a boil. Simmer this mix for a few minutes till the desired thickness is achieved. Make a fine paste and strain. Finish with cream, salt and pepper.
Ingredients: 6 lasagna sheets, 10 ml olive oil, 75 gms chopped broccoli, 75 gms carrots, 100 gms chopped bell pepper, 75 gms zucchini, 5 gms chopped garlic, 50 gms refined flour, 50 ml milk, 75 gms parmesan cheese, 5 gms white pepper powder, 100 gms mozzarella grated cheese and salt to taste
Method: Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Grease a casserole dish with butter. Take a pot with slightly salted water and bring to a boil. Add lasagna sheets and cook for 8-10 minutes and then drain. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. When the oil is heated, add broccoli, carrots, onions, bell peppers, zucchini and garlic, and sauté. Add tomato sauce and cook, and keep aside.
Place flour in a medium saucepan and gradually whisk in milk until well blended. Bring it to boil over medium heat. Cook until thick, stirring constantly and add parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Spread the lasagna sheet in a casserole, put the vegetable mixture on the sheet along with cheese sauce on top. Repeat the step to make three layers. Top with mozzarella cheese. Bake in a preheated oven for 25 minutes until lightly browned on top. Garnish with fresh basil leaf and serve hot.
Ingredients: 10 strawberries, 100 gms yoghurt, 100 ml milk and 30 ml honey
Method: Blend all the ingredients together. Add ice if required. Serve chilled.
Hot chocolate fondant
Ingredients: 200 gms condensed milk, 15 gms icing sugar, 50 ml fresh milk, 125 gms chocolate, 50 gms butter, 100 gms flour, a pinch of baking soda, baking powder
Method: Melt butter and chocolate together and set aside. Take icing sugar, condensed milk and fresh milk, and mix well. Add melted butter and chocolate to the milk batter. Sieve together flour, baking powder and baking soda, and mix with the batter. Put into a greased mould and bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Ingredients: 1¾ cups unsweetened pineapple juice, 8 tbsp thick coconut milk, 8 tbsp shredded tender coconut flesh, 2 cups vanilla ice cream, 8 tbsp chopped pineapple chunks, 16 to 20 tinned cherries, crushed ice as required
Method: Process pineapple juice, coconut milk, coconut, vanilla ice cream and ice in a blender till smooth. Pour into individual Collins glasses or tender coconut shells. Decorate with pineapple chunks and cherries. Serve immediately.
Ingredients: 15 large fresh button mushrooms (thickly sliced), 1 tbsp butter, 1 bay leaf, 1 small onion, 4 garlic cloves (chopped), 4 cups vegetable stock, ¼ tsp white pepper powder, ¾ cup cream, 2 cups milk (chilled), 1 tsp cinnamon powder, salt to taste
Method: Melt the butter. Add bay leaves, onion and garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté for a minute. Add 1 cup vegetable stock and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Remove the bay leaves. Make a puree of the cooked mushrooms and add the remaining vegetable stock. Add salt and white pepper powder and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cream and remove from heat. Pour soup into individual cups and keep warm. Pour the chilled milk into a bowl. Beat with a fork till it develops froth. Collect the froth with a ladle and place on the hot mushroom soup to lend it a cappuccino effect. Sprinkle cinnamon powder and serve immediately.
Vegetable Thai green curry
Ingredients: 1 carrot (cut into diamonds), ½ cauliflower (small florets), 2 to 3 baby brinjals, 1 potato (cubes), 5 lemongrass stalks, 1 tbsp oil, 1 tsp lemon juice, ¾ cup coconut milk, 2 to 3 basil leaves, green curry paste, 10 green chillies, 3 shallots, 9 garlic cloves, 1 inch galangal, ¼ teaspoon lemon rind, a few coriander roots, 2 tsp coriander seeds, 2 tsp cumin seeds, salt to taste
Method: Grind the green chillies, shallots, garlic, galangal, lemon rind, fresh coriander roots, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and salt to a fine paste. Blanch all the vegetables. Tie the lemongrass in a piece of muslin. Crush slightly. Heat the oil in pan; add the green curry paste, blanched vegetables and lemon juice and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add three cups of water, lemongrass and cook for 3 to 4 mins. Remove the lemongrass and add salt and coconut milk. Simmer for a minute. Add fresh basil leaves & serve with steamed rice.
Chocolate nut fondue
Ingredients: 340 gms semisweet chocolate chips, 368 gms evaporated milk, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup peanut butter
Method: Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Stir until all is melted over medium heat. Transfer to fondue pot. Use cake, marshmallows, fruits and dry fruits as dippers.
Ingredients: 50 ml vodka, 15 ml raspberry liqueur, 35 ml fresh pineapple juice and 2 fresh or frozen raspberries
Method: Place the vodka, raspberry liqueur and pineapple juice into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Strain the mixture into a martini glass. Garnish with a raspberry and serve.
Splendid raspberry aragula salad
Ingredients: 2 tbsp raspberry vinegar, 2 tbsp jam, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 8 cups aragula (rinsed, stemmed and torn to pieces), ¾ cups coarsely chopped macadamia nuts or toasted almond slices, 1 cup fresh raspberries and 3 kiwis, peeled and sliced
Dressing: Combine vinegar and jam in a blender or a small bowl. Add oil in thin stream and blend well.
Method: Toss aragula with ½ the nuts, ½ the raspberries, ½ the kiwis and the dressing. Place in a salad plate and top with the remaining ingredients — nuts, raspberries and kiwis and serve immediately.
Seared scallops with lemon risotto
Ingredients: For the scallops: 1 tbsp oil, a pinch of cracked black pepper, a pinch of sea salt, 4 scallops
For the risotto: 5½ cups of vegetable stock, 2 tbsp oil, 2 cups arborio rice, 2 tsp lemon rind and parmesan shavings
Method: Heat the stock to a boil reducing it to a simmer. Heat oil in another saucepan, add the rice and cook for a minute. Add the stock and stir. Season with pepper and sea salt. Keep the risotto warm. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Sprinkle pepper and sea salt over the scallops. Place the scallops in the pan and cook for 20-30 seconds on each side until seared. To serve, stir the lemon rind through the risotto and spoon onto the serving plates. Top with the scallops with lemon wedges and parmesan on the side.
Ingredients: 2 eggs, 200 ml milk, 40 gms sugar, 2 to 3 drops of vanilla essence and 4 chopped strawberries
Method: Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Pour in two small ceramic bowls. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius. Place the bowls in a water bath and place it in the oven. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Cool in the fridge. To garnish, place 2 whole strawberries on the custard and serve.
Ingredients: 180 ml (1 cup) cranberry juice (chilled), 180 ml (1 cup) orange juice (chilled), 2 tsp sugar syrup, 360 ml (2 cups) club soda (chilled), 4 canned cherries (to garnish)
Method: Combine cranberry juice, orange juice, sugar syrup and club soda well. Pour into individual glasses and serve chilled, decorated with two cherries each.
Ingredients: 4 crusty rolls, 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 green capsicums (sliced), 10 button mushrooms (sliced), 1 large onion (sliced), ½ cup firm tofu (cubed)
For the sauce: 2 tbsp butter, 1 inch sliced ginger, 1 chopped onion, ½ cup white wine, 12 to 15 crushed black grapes, 1 tbsp soy sauce, ½ tsp black pepper powder, 1 tbsp molasses, 2 tbsp honey, salt to taste
Method: To make the sauce, heat butter in a pan. Add ginger and onion and sauté till golden. Add white wine and cook. Add hand crushed black grapes and continue to cook till the grapes become soft. Add soy sauce, black pepper powder, salt, molasses and honey. Mix well and strain the sauce. Set it aside. Heat olive oil in a pan, add green capsicum, mushrooms, onion and tofu and toss for 2 mins. Add teriyaki sauce and mix. Cook for 2 minutes. Divide the mixture into 4 portions. Halve the rolls and spread 1 portion of the mixture on one half of each roll and cover it with the other half. Serve immediately.
Chilli garlic crabs
Ingredients: 3 large crabs, 2 tbsp red chilli paste, 14 to 15 cloves of garlic (chopped), 2 tbsp oil, 2 tbsp tomato ketchup, 1½ cups of fish stock, ¼ tsp MSG, 2 tbsp corn flour, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tbsp vinegar, 2 stalks chopped spring onion greens, 1 whisked egg, salt to taste
Method: Heat oil in a wok and deep fry the crabs. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a wok. Add garlic and sauté for a minute. Add tomato ketchup, red chilli paste, stock, salt, sugar and MSG. Dissolve corn flour in half a cup of water and add to the sauce. Cook till it thickens. Add vinegar to the sauce along with spring onion greens and mix. Add the egg in a thick trickle and cook till the egg strands rise to the top. Place the fried crab in a serving dish and pour the mixture over it and serve.
Ingredients: 1 cup cream cheese, ¼ cup honey, 2 tbsp pineapple juice, 3 cups bunny cake, ½ cup mango nectar, ½ tsp rum, ½ cup crystallised ginger, ¼ cup chopped macadamia nuts, ½ cup sliced fresh mango
Method: Beat together the cream cheese, honey, and pineapple juice concentrate until fluffy. In a bowl, combine the mango nectar and rum extract. Place half of the cake cubes in 1½ quart bowl. Drizzle half of the mango/rum mixture over the cake and spread half of the cream cheese mixture over it. Sprinkle on half of the ginger and nuts. Repeat layers. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Garnish with fruits.
PLAN THE AMBIENCE
Apart from food, ambience is essential for a successful romantic evening. Make sure that the house and the place where you are planning to set up your dinner is clean. Be sensitive to your beau’s style, preference and plan for the location. It can either be on the terrace, home garden, balcony or in your living room.
Try to be innovative with your plan. Not only will this show how much you care about your partner but will also make your romantic dinner successful.
Set the mood: Dim the lights, turn off all the bright overhead and fluorescent lights and stick to lamps and candles. You can also choose a theme for your dinner date. Buy cutlery and other accessories according to the theme. Use flowers and aromatic oils to add colour and fragrance to your setting. Make sure the setting is romantic and relaxing. Background music can be selected in such a way that it goes with the theme of your romantic dinner and your Valentine’s preference. Make sure that it is not too loud.
> Drape a satin smooth red or black tablecloth over the table.
> If you are planning to set up dinner on your dining table, make sure you remove all the extra chairs and have only two.
> Place the plates on each side of the table where both of you will be sitting. Place the bowls directly in the centre of the plates. Arrange the silverware on the right side of the plates, on top of the cloth napkins. Spoon, fork and then knife.
> Place the drinking glasses on the right side of the plates and the wine glasses on the left side. Make sure that they are in line with one another.
> You can either have rose petals spread on the table cloth, or maybe arrange a vase directly next to the wine glasses and place a rose in the vase.
> Place a large red candle in the middle of the table with two small white candles, one on each side. Remember to light your candles before you start with your dinner. This will prevent excess of melted candle wax.
> Set a menu that comprises dishes that can be precooked, plated and kept ready. You wouldn’t want to spend most of your time in the kitchen on a mushy night.
> Stay away from foods that will cause bad breath or that may cause gassy after-effects. Avoid garlic, broccoli, spicy food and beans. Make sure you plan the meal taking into account the dislikes and allergies (if any) of your partner.
> Consider foods that are delicious but easy to cook, such as penne and vodka sauce with peas, grilled chicken or stir fry vegetables.
> Make it small, light, and save room for dessert. If it’s too elaborate, you both might end up with bursting tummies and the romantic evening might end in a snooze fest.
> Don’t forget to serve your meal with wine, champagne, caviar or any drink of your choice. It gives your meal a touch of elegance.
> End your meal with a delicious dessert. If you aren’t that good at dessert, a chocolate fondue is the safest and the most uncomplicated option. Prepare sliced fruits, marshmallows and cake squares, and savour them with melted chocolate.
TIP: No matter what drink you serve, dip the rim of the stemmed glass into a shallow dish of strawberry crush and then dip it in a dish of powdered sugar; you’ll get a gorgeous strawberry coloured rim.