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A voluptuous Valentine’s dinner for two

publication date: Feb 29, 2012
author/source: Fiona Beckett
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This is an unashamedly lewd, messy dinner which can (and should) be eaten with your fingers. Obviously you won’t want to make all of it - there are vegetarian, fishy and meaty options - but you should be able to put the whole thing together for a tenner a head which is a lot cheaper than going out to a restaurant.

Asparagus with lemon and butter dip
Molten camembert
OR Gorgeous garlicky prawns
OR Sticky soy and honey ribs
Hand-held lettuce salad
Chocolate dipped strawberries

Asparagus with lemon and butter dip
Asparagus isn’t in season at the moment but as it’s regarded (for obvious reasons) as an aphrodisiac food you should be able to find it at a reasonable price.

Serves 2
Time: 5 minutes + 5 minutes preparation
Cost: about £1 a head

250g asparagus
50g butter
2 tbsp lemon juice

Plunge the asparagus in a sink or bowl of cold water and give it a good shake to clean. With a sharp knife cut off the tough end of the stalk (about 1/3 of the way up the spear) Lay the spears in the top of a steamer and steam for 4 minutes or until you can easily insert a sharp knife into the stalks. Alternatively lay them in a microwaveable dish with a couple of tablespoons of water, cover with a damp piece of kitchen towel (just soak it under a running tap and lay it carefully over the dish) and microwave on high for about 3 1/2 minutes. Meanwhile melt the butter gently in a saucepan and stir in the lemon juice. Pour into a bowl and dunk the asparagus spears as you eat them.

Molten camembert
I’ve seen variations on this all over the place but you really don’t need to add anything to it. The original comes from the brilliant Nigel Slater’s Real Food.

Serves 2
Time: 25 minutes + 10 minutes to heat the oven
Cost: about 75-80p a head

1 camembert in a wooden box
1 clove of garlic, peeled and halved (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
Crusty bread and/or breadsticks to serve

Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Remove any plastic wrapping from the cheese and replace it in the box. Rub the cut sides of the garlic over the surface of the cheese. Stab a few holes in the top of the cheese and replace the lid. Bake for about 25 minutes until molten. Serve with crusty bread, breadsticks and, if you’re feeling particularly sinful, boiled baby new potatoes to dunk in it.

Gorgeous garlicky prawns
Raw prawns are rather an alarming shade of grey but don’t be put off. They really do taste much juicier and sweeter than if you cook ones that have already been cooked. You can of course cook more than 8 if you’re feeling flush but 4 each is about right.

Serves 2
Time: Under 15 minutes
Cost: About £2.50-£3 a head

8 large raw prawns with their shells on
1 tbsp olive oil
25g (1 heaped tbsp) soft butter
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
A few chilli flakes (optional)
A good squeeze of lemon juice
1 heaped tbsp finely chopped parsley

Have everything ready before you start. Rinse the prawns. Heat a wok, add the oil then add the butter. As soon as the foaming has died down chuck in the prawns, garlic and chilli flakes if using and stir fry for about 2 minutes until the prawns are hot through and have turned completely pink. Add a good squeeze of lemon to the pan, stir in the chopped parsley and serve with crusty bread. You may want to put a small bowl of water on the table to rinse your fingers in between each prawn. On the other hand you may just want to lick your fingers . . .

Sticky soy and honey ribs
A deliciously messy recipe that needs to be shared by consenting adults.

Serves 2
Time: Just over 1 hour
Cost: £1.25-£1,75 a head, depending how many of the other ingredients you have

350-400g meaty pork spare ribs*, ideally cut into short lengths
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp grated ginger or ginger paste
1 clove of garlic peeled and crushed
2 tbsp runny honey
A few drops of hot pepper sauce (optional)
About 1 tbsp cooking oil

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5. Pour the oil into a small roasting tin or baking dish, add the ribs and turn them in the oil. Roast for 30 minutes, turning them half way through. Just before the initial cooking time is up put the soy sauce in a saucepan with the grated ginger, garlic and honey and hot sauce if you like it and heat gently until the honey has melted. Take the ribs out of the oven, pour off the fat (into a bowl rather than down the sink) and pour over the sauce making sure the ribs are well coated. Turn the oven down to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 and return the ribs to the oven for another half hour. Take them out and turn them every 10 minutes spooning over the sauce and adding a spoonful of hot (boiled) water if the sauce seems to be sticking. Serve in bowls with a bowl of warm water and plenty of paper towels.

* Put the roasting tin in hot water to soak immediately after you take out the ribs or you’ll never get it clean.
* Don’t confuse ribs with spare rib chops. You want the kind of ribs you put on the barbecue
* You could also make this with chicken wings, slightly reducing the cooking time (about 20 minutes to start with + another 20-25 minutes)

Hand-held lettuce salad
Even a salad can be deconstructed to seductive effect

Serves 2
Time: about 10 minutes
Cost: about 60-70p

2 little gem lettuces
For the vinaigrette
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp single or whipping cream
Salt and pepper

Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each lettuce, remove any discoloured outer leaves then remove the inner leaves and put them in a bowl of iced water. Spoon the mustard into another bowl or jug, season with a little salt and pepper and whisk in the vinegar with a fork. Gradually add the oil whisking as you go so the dressing amalgamates and thickens. Whisk in the cream and a little cold water if the dressing is too thick. Check the seasoning adding more salt or pepper if you think it needs it. Drain the lettuce leaves and pat dry with kitchen towel. Put them back in the dry bowl and serve with the dressing alongside to dunk the leaves in.

Chocolate-dipped strawberries
This is such a simple recipe you’ll want to make it all the time once strawberries are in season. At this time of year look for ones that are bright red all over. The ones that are white round the stalk are underripe and will taste a bit sharp.

Serves 2
Time: 10 minutes
Cost: £1.50-£2 a head (less when strawberries are in season)

A small carton of ripe, firm strawberries (about 225g)
100g dark luxury Belgian chocolate*

Break the chocolate into a small bowl and perch it over a saucepan with a little boiling water in the base. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Stir the chocolate until it melts. Lay a piece of greaseproof paper or lightly greased foil on a baking tray or large plate that will fit in the fridge. Pick up a strawberry by the stalk and dunk it in the chocolate about half to two thirds up the fruit so you leave some red showing. Lay it on the paper or foil. When you finish the strawberries chill them for 20-30 minutes in the fridge. Lick the bowl.


* Look for this in the baking section. It’s a lot cheaper than good quality eating chocolate


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