Celebrity chefs dish up their most romantic recipes for Valentine's Day

Staying in this Valentine’s Day? Some of our top cooks share their extra special dishes with Ciara McDonnell.

THEY may spend their days providing gourmet meals to Ireland’s most gastronomically demanding people, but when it comes to their personal lives, our top chefs prefer to keep it simple.

We asked some of our favourite foodie stars to tell us how they approach Valentine’s Day, and to share some of their top tips to romancing your loved one on February 14.

Martin Shanahan

Passionate about his love for fresh, local produce, it’s no surprise that when it comes to romance, Martin Shanahan believes that success is in the ingredients.

Martin Shanahan of Fishy Fishy in Kinsale with his linguine with prawns, brocolli, garlic cream and parmesan shavings. Picture: Denis Minihane

  • They say the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach… do you think this is true?

Even though I do most of the cooking at home, my wife makes a lovely pasta dish with bacon and broccoli and a little Parmesan cheese, and it’s this simple comforting food that I love. I work all day in the kitchen and it is lovely to come home and be served something delicious.

  • What is the most romantic meal you have ever eaten and why?

My wife and I spent my 50th birthday in Cinto de Lago in Portugal and we had lunch in a beach restaurant where we ate baked turbot that had come straight from the sea and a few bottles of delicious wine. We finished our meal with a walk on the beach, and it was perfect.

  • What are the key ingredients to a romantic night at home?

Simplicity is key. Buy your ingredients on the day as fresh as possible and choose something that can be prepped in advance and cooked quickly.

  • Formal or casual? What sets the scene in terms of romance for you?

I love casual eating. Dim the lights, put on some soft music and light the candles. Put away the phones and if you have kids send them in bed early!

  • What are the best tips you can give someone who is planning a Valentine’s feast at home?

Don’t try and do too much. Keep it simple. If you can do a main course that you can bake on one tray in the oven, then that’s ideal. Choose something that you feel confident with and remember that on the evening that’s in it, if they love you, they’re going to love what you cook.

  • What if anything is the worst dish for a home cook to try to replicate on Valentine’s Day?

Please do not cook a roast for Valentine’s Day. I would pick any piece of grilled fresh fish with a flavoured butter and a salad. Keep it quick and easy.

  • Who will you be sharing Valentine’s Day with this year and what will it mean to you?

We are open on Valentine’s Day at Fishy Fishy but my wife and I will sit down at one point in the day and share a plate to celebrate.

Linguine With Prawns & Broccoli 

Serves 4 

INGREDIENTS 

  • 500g peeled prawn tails 
  • 450g spaghetti 
  • 2 heads of broccoli, separated into florets 
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced 
  • 200ml cream 
  • knob of butter 
  • Salt and pepper 
  • Parmesan cheese, shaved

METHOD

Cook the spaghetti in boiling, salted water. 

Cut the broccoli into small florets and cook in boiling, salted water for approximately 3-4 minutes, then drain.

Heat a large pan and add the oil. Sauté the prawns for approximately 30 seconds. Remove and set aside. 

Heat the pan again, and this time add the sliced garlic and the cream. 

Bring to the boil to reduce slightly, and season with salt and pepper, and add a knob of butter. 

Add the broccoli to the cream, and then gently stir in the prawns.

Add the cooked, drained linguine and toss. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

www.fishyfishy.ie 

Catherine Fulvio

As one of Ireland’s most prolific television chefs, Catherine Fulvio balances a busy schedule between film shoots, writing cookbooks and running Ballyknocken Cookery School with her role as wife and mother of two. 

Chef Catherine Fulvio with her pasta dish — Spaghetti with Garlic and Olive Oil — at Ballyknocken House, Wicklow. Picture: Mary Browne

She loves to spend Valentine’s Day at home with her family, and says that pasta may be one of the simplest dishes to prepare, but it is certainly one of the most romantic.

  • They say the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach… do you think this is true?

Yes I do. We’re all happier when we have eaten but for me it is as much about the food we eat, taking the time to enjoy it and savouring the moment. 

Cooking food for your partner and choosing a menu that will be appreciated is a lovely gesture and on Valentine’s Day, you go the extra mile with ingredients and courses.

  • What is the most romantic meal you have ever eaten and why?

Sicily of course — Ristorante Monte San Giuliano in Erice (montesangiuliano.it). Erice is a Norman town perched on a hill with views of the Salt Beds of Trapani and the Mediterranean Sea. 

The town is a food lover’s paradise with delectable coffee and cake shops. The setting is unforgettable as is the sea bass in this restaurant. The stroll through the cobbled streets of the hilltop town after dinner is so romantic.

  • What are the key ingredients to a romantic night at home?

The success is in the planning and that is from the menu to the table setting. This will create a relaxed atmosphere and allow for an intimate experience. Also scent is good — whether it be the lovely aromas from the kitchen or aromatherapy candles.

  • Formal or casual? What sets the scene in terms of romance for you?

Although I do appreciate the formal setting for a meal out, for a romantic meal at home I wouldn’t go too formal. Napkins and place settings yes but it won’t be crisp white linen. 

I love plenty of colour and want the atmosphere to feel relaxed, so it’s casual for me with a touch of rustic Italian flair through the tableware.

  • What are the best tips you can give someone who is planning a Valentine’s feast at home?

It is all in the planning — and keep it simple. Do not over complicate the menu and do not try something out for the first time. Don’t be shy and double check likes and dislikes when it comes to fish and seafood and be sure of allergies before the day in question, it saves a disaster on the night!

  • What if anything is the worst dish for a home cook to try to replicate on Valentine’s Day?

Anything overcomplicated or that requires cooking during service. To keep this from happening, avoid ordering outlandish things that you’ve never tried before, and stick to something you know and it’s a good idea to avoid anything messy on a first date.

  • Who will you be sharing Valentine’s Day with this year and what will it mean to you?

As Valentine’s Day is Tuesday this year and due to work commitments it will be myself and the children but we’ll still make a big deal of it.

For more information on Ballyknocken Cookery School visit www.ballyknocken.ie 

Spaghetti with Garlic and Olive Oil 

Serves 4 

INGREDIENTS

  • 350g spaghetti 
  • 75ml extra virgin olive oil 
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced 
  • 1 dried chilli, chopped 
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper 
  • 4 tbsp. freshly grated Pecorino, to serve

METHOD

Cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the package, reserving a little of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan over a low heat. Add the garlic and the chilli and sauté for 1 minute, taking care not to let the garlic burn, then take the pan off the heat.

When the spaghetti is done, drain it, stir it into the sauce and serve. Loosen with the reserved cooking liquid, as required and season to taste. Sprinkle over the Pecorino to serve.

Kevin Dundon

As well as influencing the nation’s weekly menus, Kevin Dundon runs Dunbrody House with his wife, Catherine. 

He says that the key to a romantic meal is keeping things simple.

Kevin Dundon at Dunbrody Housewith his ‘Dunbrody kiss’ dessert. Picture: Mary Browne

  • They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach… do you think this is true?

Absolutely! Whenever my wife Catherine wanted me to come home early she cooks a roast chicken because she knows that once I know it’s in the oven, I’ll be home on time.

  • What is the most romantic meal you have ever eaten and why?

We had an incredible meal on a terrace in Sicily overlooking Taormina. It was in the Hotel Grand Taormina and its surroundings are hard to beat.

  • What are the key ingredients to a romantic night at home?

The right women!

  • Formal or casual? What sets the scene in terms of romance for you?

I prefer a casual environment. Good candles and a nice bottle of wine make everything more romantic.

  • What are the best tips you can give someone who is planning a Valentine’s feast at home?

Don’t try too hard; this is where a lot of people go wrong. Find out what your partner likes to eat and include this in the menu; this is not the night to encourage someone to experiment.

  • What if anything is the worst dish for a home cook to try to replicate on Valentine’s Day?

Anything that is complicated. Keep the menu simple so that you can spend more time with the one you love.

  • Who will you be sharing Valentine’s Day with this year and what will it mean to you?

Catherine is my wife and best friend and we will both we working in the hotel on Valentine’s evening. 

We will try to get away and have a nice supper together and maybe even a nice bottle of wine too!

www.kevindundon.com 

Valentine Dunbrody Kiss Serves 2

It is an intensely chocolatey experience and never fails to impress — just make sure you use the best possible quality chocolate. 

There is no doubt in my mind that there is something about chocolate that is addictive, it contains several stimulants, including caffeine and pleasure-inducing endorphins — no wonder it tastes so good.

INGREDIENTS

  • 125g 70% dark chocolate, chopped 
  • 1 egg, separated 
  • 250ml cream, lightly whipped 
  • 1 Mars bar, chopped 
  • 50g cornflakes, lightly crushed 
  • Chocolate Ganache 45g 
  • 70% dark chocolate, button or finely chopped 
  • 80ml cream 
  • 15ml water 
  • 20g honey (liquid) 
  • 15g butter 

To decorate 

  • Chocolate Shards 
  • Handful small halved strawberries and raspberries to decorate

METHOD

Select 2 x 200 ml teacups (or 1 larger bowl if you want to share it) and line them with cling film. 

Melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Leave to cool a little. 

Lightly beat the egg yolks, then whisk into the melted chocolate.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, and then fold into the chocolate mixture. Divide among the lined teacups. When the chocolate mousse has set, melt the Mars bar in a small pan. 

Remove from the heat and fold in the cornflakes. Leave to cool a little, then add a layer to each chocolate mousse to form a crunchy base. Place in the freezer for at least two hours.

Then, prepare the chocolate ganache. Bring to simmer the cream, water, and honey. Remove from the heat. Pour in the chocolate and stir until melted. 

Add the butter and stir until the consistency should coat the back of a wooden spoon.

Invert the teacups onto a wire rack set over a clean tray and then carefully peel away the cling film.

Ladle a little of the chocolate ganache over each one until completely coated, allowing the excess to drip onto the tray below. 

Using a spatula, scrape the excess chocolate ganache into a pan and reheat gently. Leave to cool a little.

When ready to serve, using a warmed fish slice, transfer the Dunbrody kiss on to dishes and leave to defrost at room temperature for 15 minutes, then decorate with strawberries and raspberries and drizzle around the cooled chocolate ganache and chocolate shards.

Michelle Darmody

Whether it’s creating recipes for her Weekend column or inventing new dishes for The Cake Café, if it’s one thing Michelle Darmody knows, it’s how food and love go hand in hand.

Michelle Darmody of the Cake Cafe, with her heart-shaped St Valentine’s Day chocolate dessert. Picture: Dave Meehan

  • They say the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach… do you think this is true?

For me it is definitely true. Food is always a first priority for me either at home or when we are on holidays, I am always planning my next meal; my husband never seems to complain.

  • What is the most romantic meal you have ever eaten and why?

It would have to be oven-roasted fish on a cliff top in India. We had walked quite far and were tried and sore and did not expect much from the little place where we sat down to eat.

They served us the most amazing meal from a clay oven in their garden. We were overlooking the ocean as the sun was setting and eagles were gliding on the warm breeze and we could still feel the heat of the sun on our skin. It was perfect.

  • What are the key ingredients to a romantic night at home?

At this time of year the fire is the most important. A lit fire, a bottle of nice red wine and some tasty food and a really good cheese board to finish.

  • Formal or casual? What sets the scene in terms of romance for you?

It depends on the mood and where I am. Each has its place.

  • What are the best tips you can give someone who is planning a Valentine’s feast at home?

Keep it simple, cook something you are confident with, or even better, something that can be pre-prepared so that you can relax on the evening. Entertaining at home is all about chatting and relaxing not sweating over a stove.

  • What if anything is the worst dish for a home cook to try to replicate on Valentine’s Day?

Anything that you are unsure of. Cook what you know and there will be far less stress.

  • Who will you be sharing Valentine’s Day with this year and what will it mean to you?

My husband and I will be eating together. It’s a Tuesday night so I guess we will be staying in and I’ll be the one cooking. I love venison so I will probably do a venison roast and chocolate dessert afterwards.

Soft centred chocolate hearts topped with ganache

You will need two love-heart moulds for this desert. You can use metal cake tins or the silicon version. 

I decorate these with either some crystallised orange peel or some fresh edible flowers for the evening that is in it.

INGREDIENTS

  • 50g butter and extra 1 tbsp of soft butter 
  • ½ tbsp of coco powder 
  • 80g dark chocolate, broken into pieces 
  • 1 egg 
  • 1 egg yolk 
  • 50g of light brown sugar 
  • The zest of three oranges 
  • 50g of flour 
  • 30 mls of cream

METHOD

Brush the soft butter on the inside of each of your two love heart moulds and dust them with cocoa powder making sure to coat all of the butter.

Tap out any extra cocoa powder and set the hearts aside.

Melt the rest of the butter with 50g of the chocolate chips over a saucepan of simmering water and allow them to mix together, set it aside for 10 minutes to cool.

Whisk the egg yolks, eggs and sugar until pale and creamy and sieve in the flour then stir the flour in well, stir in the orange zest. 

Add the cooled chocolate mixture to the bowl with the eggs and mix them together gently until completely combined.

To make the chocolate ganache topping: Heat the cream and once it is shivering on top stir in the chocolate chips until melted and the liquid looks shiny. Set aside.

Place the hearts into the fridge for a half an hour then heat the oven to 190 degrees. 

Bake the hearts for 15 minutes and take out and set aside for at least five minutes before turning them upside down onto a plate.

Use your hand first to make sure the fondant has come away from the sides. 

Use a wet knife around the sides if not. Once upside down on the plate coat with the chocolate ganache.

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