Tips for the ultimate romantic dinner for two
Siobhan White, who is something of an expert when it comes to romance, shares her tips for the ultimate dinner for two with our food and drink consultant Annie Stirk. Photographs by Andy Bulmer
Siobhan White, who is something of an expert when it comes to romance, shares her tips for the ultimate dinner for two with our food and drink consultant Annie Stirk. Photography by Andy Bulmer.
A romantic meal at home has to be the ultimate, intimate treat. Just imagine candles flickering, delicious aromas drifting from the kitchen and absolutely no one but that special person to spoil.
For Siobhan White there’s no better way to woo your loved one than with a sensuous supper at home on February 14th. And she should know. She is the talented cook and savvy entrepreneur behind Feast Yorkshire a catering company that just loves weddings.
‘On Valentine’s Day my partner and I eat at home because it means we can cook exactly what we both love and are able to take our time over dinner,’ says Siobhan. ‘It’s the effort that counts most, rather than how much you spend. Plus, it’s all about sharing food together.’
It was the sharing nature of eating that caught Siobhan’s imagination when she swapped a career in nursing to embark on a love affair with food. ‘I was training to be a nurse but then I signed up to a three-month course at Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery School in Cork and completely fell in love with cooking,’ she says.
‘Not long after, I did a dinner party for my mum and lots of her friends began asking me to cook for them too; canapé parties, buffets and it just grew from there. ‘Eating together with your nearest and dearest really sums up Feast, and it’s what I love about good food, the way it brings people together.’
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Sharing platters are therefore a common element to a Feast Yorkshire spread, whether it’s blue cheese, Parma ham and warmed caramelised pear skewers, pastry tartlets with a horseradish cream and British salted beef, local baby sausages with red onion marmalade or mini oatcakes with blue cheese and homemade chutney.
Little morsels that are just right for romance. ‘A couple of years ago, I took my partner to an open air concert in Dalby Forest for our anniversary and I’d secretly prepared a hamper full of treats,’ says Siobhan. ‘There was homemade breads with dips, chutneys, cheeses and lovely cuts of meat from our local butcher, quiche, salads and other savoury bites, followed by a mixture of his favourite mini-desserts and mine. We had an absolute feast.’
While the main course is important – ‘you can’t beat a good fillet steak, well seasoned and rested properly,’ says Siobhan – the dessert can be the real aphrodisiac in a romantic meal.
‘A plate of mini desserts such as his and her favourite puds to share is really romantic,’ she says. But while Siobhan might create pistachio tuiles with sticky toffee apple ice cream, mini chocolate tarts and baby crème brulées for weddings and events, she advises on ‘keeping it simple’ at home.
‘A chocolate pot for him and a nice, seasonal rhubarb crème anglais style thing for her are perfect, and using different little pots to serve them in is a great way to make them look interesting and special, and it also means they are quick to serve up.
‘My other half loves my brownies and fudge so I cut some up small to serve after dinner with a liquor coffee (amaretto for me... whisky for him),’ says Siobhan, who has won a Great Taste award for her brownies.
Ultimately, Valentine’s Day is not the day to become a cordon bleu cook. Mushy morsels, such as heart-shaped cookies and cupcakes with notes written in edible pen, done well are better than a three-course meal done badly. And, overall, the night should be about indulgence not indigestion, so don’t overdo it.
‘Try to make the evening as much of a surprise as possible,’ says Siobhan. ‘Dig out some old photos and use them to decorate the table; add atmosphere with lots of candles or fairy lights.’
Preparing ahead is also key to a relaxing night. ‘It’s such an honour to be part of someone’s special day or wedding – but it can be very daunting too. Lots of preparation goes into it to make it perfect, and it’s the same if you’re cooking for your loved one. Choose a menu that can be prepared in advance, something that can be left prepped and plated in the fridge or somewhere cool – ready to go.
‘Everyone loves to feel special and see that an effort has been made for them,’ adds Siobhan. ‘But ultimately good planning for that surprise shows how much you care.’
Feast Yorkshire, 01904 491460feastyorkshire.com
Setting the scene
You’ve cooked the food, cracked open the wine, but what about setting the table? Here, we share out top tips for creating a room for romance…
A fragrant, single red rose or orchid in a nice vase on the table is better than a giant bouquet that prevents you from making eye contact.
Go for simple linen tablecloths in red, pink or white or get up close and personal on the floor with an indoor picnic and cushions.
Candles are a must as they add soft, flattering light, but don’t overdo the scent as it can be off-putting when you’re eating. Tea lights arranged into a heart shape is inexpensive but romantic, and floating candles make lovely centerpieces in a bowl filled with water and his or her favourite flowers.
Create place names or write out menu cards, add a bowlful of handwritten notes and jot down happy memories of your time together on each one or tie small bags of red and pink sweets to napkin rings with pretty ribbon.
Foods with added sauce
While asparagus, chillies and strawberries may be out of season, there are plenty of other foods available in February which are said to have aphrodisiac properties
Purple sprouting – Okay, so it’s not quite asparagus but the newest, tenderest purple spears can be just as delicious. Strip the stem as you would asparagus and eat (flower head and all), tossed in sesame oil flavoured with chilli, ginger and lime, or dip into soft boiled eggs for a romantic breakfast in bed.
Rhubarb – The Chinese are said to have used these tart pink sticks in ‘love tonics’ as far back as 2,700BC, and in Italy they still mix stewed rhubarb into romantic potions of wine, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla.
Almonds – Nuts of all kinds have long been associated with fertility but the sweet fragrance of almonds is said to arouse the most passion in women. While we don’t recommend wooing your loved one with entire almond branches – as per Samson and Delilah – but added to a main course or dessert, these nuts provide a rich source of Omega 3s that are said to keep your reproductive bits and bobs in tip-top condition and boost libido.
Oysters – The obvious choice for Valentine’s, are packed full of zinc, which is known to crank up your sex drive (legendary romantic Casanova was said to eat 50 a day) however, if your partner isn’t too keen on them, serve with a richer sauce (made with red wine, Port, red wine vinegar and plenty of herbs) with hunks of bread to mop up the juices.
Spices – Lace your food with natural stimulants such as dried chilli and ginger, which get the heart racing and the blood pumping. Combine chilli with chocolate in a dessert and you’re on to a winner.