Valentine’s Day may have become an excuse for commerciality and excess, but there is worse these days than having a day that celebrates love in whatever form.
Dining out is a treat, but dining in on Valentine’s night can be fun and easy as long as we don’t complicate matters.
With most couples working, a piece of fish or steak, roasted winter vegetables, can be as much of a treat as any big roast, casserole or fancy concoction.
For those who want to sit back but dine at home, there is plenty on offer. I chose a variety of savoury dishes for inspiration, and they are especially good from local and speciality food shops and markets.
Make the day special from when you get up with a delicious breakfast. Poach or fry eggs and serve on toasted sourdough bread with a smear of chutney.
Bake some Madeleines the night before and have them, as Proust famously wrote, dipped in tea to start the day, transporting you both for a moment of “exquisite pleasure”.
Madeleine moulds are a terrific investment. I use silicone ones so the finished sponges pop out easily. If not for breakfast I dip them in dark chocolate to serve as an easy dessert.
There are also heart moulds in the shops which work well with the Madeleine mixture.
There is a particularly good recipe at www.bbc.co.uk/food/madeleines
Located in Cork’s English Market, this stall joins Dashi, the first in Cork (and still good) on Cook Street, and the much lauded Miyazaki off Barrack Street. All produce excellent take away food, which is ideal for busy romancers.
These long rolls have seven flavours, including a vegetarian option, and there is enough in one for light eaters as a starter or main course.
This single portion of chocolate mousse cake is a mini version of two larger sizes from a superb patissier with a light hand. While richly chocolatey, this is light and plenty for two to share. From their stall in English Market.
These shards of 70% cocoa solids chocolate are speckled with hazelnuts and available in milk chocolate too. While not very hard, like toffee brittle, it can be broken up and scattered over icecream for an easy dessert. From a Cork chocolatier based in English Market.
Light, creamy meringue on top of a creamy, lively, citrussy lemon filling in a crisp shortcake. Ideal for those who don’t like chocolate or want a light finish to a meal. From English Market and Carrigaline shops.
This brightly spiced, succulent chicken dish will easily feed two and is a perfect example of great takeaway food. I have shown it in a beautiful heart shaped china dish from the shop’s Sophie Conran Portmeirion range (€39.95) which can later be used for baking, as well as to make a shepherd’s or fish pie or a soufflé even more special.
The impressive Cinnamon Cottage has a huge range of sweet and savoury heart-shaped treats. Monastery Road, Rochestown, Cork.
This mix of potato, salmon and beans with plenty of parsley makes substantial cakes which just need heating on a pan or in the oven before serving.
Try with mixed leaves or grated beetroot and carrot with an oil-and-vinegar dressing. A homemade garlicky mayo would be delicious too.
Three different types of individually wrapped milk chocolates have different fillings, one with a crunchy, white centre, another a chocolate mousse, another a crisp hazelnut.
All of them appealed to tasters. The range here includes a sheet of milk chocolate with a sticker that can be written on and stuck to the slab to make a love letter. All good fun.
It was difficult to choose from an extensive range, but this heart shape is large enough to share, is not expensive and can be placed on top of a bowl of icecream, a cake, or try it on a heart shape of warm, crisp flaky pastry, gently warmed.
The contrast is amazing. Or you can just nibble and enjoy the creamy hazelnut and almond praline with a light crisp enrobed in 64% chocolate. It is also soya free – the emulsifier is rapeseed lecithin. Delicious and good value.
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