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Romance isn't dead


You'll notice this post is a month late. Really, any and every day could be Valentine's Day, or an excuse to cook a lovely meal, à deux.

I'd been meaning to test-drive the 'aphrodisiac' menu from my cookbook project and decided that the 14th February was as good a day as any. Even though DS refuses to acknowledge said date in any way, shape or form. We still had to eat that night.

This year, it also happened to coincide with an EXTREMELY important Champions' League football match. DS had excitedly subscribed to an online sports channel, so we could stream direct to our big screen, in high res. Yippee. Luckily my choice of tuna steaks was a fortuitous one, as they are ready in minutes and ideal for a half time dash to the kitchen.

We ended up welcoming a last minute guest for the second half of the game. A neighbourhood friend had been forlornly looking for someone to watch with, so we did the good thing and invited him to join us. Just as well we'd popped that second bottle of wine in the fridge. He said he'd already eaten, but I didn't feel like we could guzzle our gourmet dessert in front of him. We were leaving for London the next day so decided to save it for a luxury train snack. It turns out that chocolate fondant, turned out into tin foil, doesn't travel very well. I advise you to eat it straight out of the oven, like any normal person.


This is a colourful and romantic menu for two, which you can have ready in an hour. A quick Google search of aphrodisiac foods inspired the inclusion of chili and tuna: chili contains capsaicin, which supposedly increases blood circulation and stimulates nerve endings, leaving you more sensitive to TOUCH; Omega 3 rich tuna promotes the production of progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone (according to Elle magazine, so it must be true), which encourage sexual responses in the body. Chocolate was a no-brainer, and beetroot went with the theme, and looks pretty. Celeriac is rich in vitamin K, which is thought to aid in the prevention of Alzheimers, so you can keep on enjoying one another, ad infinitum.

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Beetroot and feta dip

Makes two bowls, takes 10 minutes

perennial / starter / quietly smug / easy peasy / ready in a jiffy / party / vegetarian / gluten free / detox / date night / on a budget / baby (secure the perimeter!)

This was a zingy and colourful experiment which turned out good. This is also easy to do for large numbers and parties.

* Cooked beetroot - 1 large, or 350g (make sure there is no vinegar added)

* Feta - 70g

* Lemon juice - 2 tbsp

* Coriander stalks - of a bunch

* Olive oil - a couple of glugs

* Zatar - 1 tbsp

* Cayenne - 1/4 tsp

* Salt - 1/4 tsp

Blend the beetroot, feta, lemon and coriander in a mixer until smooth. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil until the texture thins slightly and you have a more 'dip-like' texture. Add the salt, zatar and cayenne and mix to combine. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a couple of sprigs of coriander.

Tuna with citrus, beetroot and olive salsa

Serves 2, takes 15 minutes

perennial / main / showing off / easy peasy / ready in a jiffy / fish / gluten free / dairy free / detox / date night

Tuna isn't something you should be eating every day, but it's a lovely treat for special occasions. Make sure you splash out on the highest quality, responsibly sourced steaks. This salsa is adapted from an Ottolenghi recipe, and is a juicy, spicy and colourful accompaniment to most sorts of fish.

* Tuna steaks - 2

* Lemon - 1

* Orange - 1/2 (use blood oranges in season)

* Long green chili - 1/2, seeds removed, finely sliced

* Beetroot - 1/2, finely diced

* Green pitted olives - a handful, finely diced

* Parsley or coriander - a handful, chopped

* Olive oil - a glug

* Vegetable oil - a glug

Season the tuna steaks and squeeze half a lemon over the top. Set aside.

To prepare the salsa, dice the flesh of 1/4 of the lemon and the orange. You need to remove the peel and pith first with a knife, and discard any seeds. Combine the citrus, beetroot, chili, olives and herbs in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, add a glug of olive oil and mix to combine.

When you're ready to cook the tuna, heat the vegetable oil n a frying pan to a high heat. Add the tuna steaks and sear for two minutes on one side, then flip and cook for a further minute. They should still be raw in the middle.

Celeriac wedges

Serves 2, takes 10 minutes prep plus 40 minutes in the oven

perennial / quietly smug / easy peasy / vegetarian / vegan / gluten free / dairy free / side / detox / date night / on a budget

Celeriac wedges still feel like a treat, but are a lighter alternative to regular chips,

* Celeriac - 1, medium sized

* Olive oil - a couple of glugs

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.

Scrub the celeriac all over with a vegetable brush and cut off any stringy bits. Remove the top and bottom and discard.

Chop the celeriac into thumb sized wedges. Lay the wedges out on a large baking tray, season with salt and pepper and toss in a couple of glugs of olive oil.

Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, tossing once during cooking.

Gooey chocolate fondant

Serves 2, takes 10 minutes, plus 15 minutes oven time

dessert / perennial / gluten free / quietly smug / easy peasy / ready in a jiffy / vegetarian / date night / baking / store cupboard

Classic, unctuous and seductive. This has long been one of my brother's favourite desserts, which he had no problem mastering for himself. Couldn't be simpler (no offense, JP).

* Butter - 50g

* Caster sugar - 45g

* Dark chocolate - 70g

* Egg - 1

* Vanilla ice cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.

Grease 2 ramekins or a 2 person-sharing-sized ramekin (I happen to have this cutesy heart shaped one, but to avoid arguments it MAY be safer to make two separate portions)

Melt the butter and 30g of the sugar in a small saucepan over a low heat, stirring often. Add the chocolate and stir until completely melted.

Whisk the egg and the remaining 15g of sugar in a bowl. Pour the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared ramekin(s). For two separate ramekins, bake for about 8 minutes. For one larger one, bake for 12 minutes. The fondant should look just cooked on top but will be molten and runny in the middle. Serve with vanilla or coconut ice cream.


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