Sunday, 16 May 2021

Treat your love to a home-cooked meal

SATURDAY Valentines, plan ahead!

SATURDAY Valentines, plan ahead!

By February 14 your resolution of a New Year’s diet and a “dry-January” are faded memories, you’ve taken the NutriBullet veg juicer to Sue Ryder, you’re back on the chocolate and Merlot by Valentine’s Day.

Take note: if you really want to do the Valentine’s thing of going out for dinner on the day itself, the 14th falls on a Saturday this year. Book early.

The clue is in Friday 13th, leave V-planning until the very last minute and you’re in the hands of Reading Road ESSO. Imagine the crassness!

A bunch of disappointment and a box of 30 per cent cocoa solids. I’d rather get a car wash token and a copy of BBC Good Food Monthly (no doubt with an article on early forced rhubarb).

Working to the adage “chefs do it for money, cooks do it for love”, show true heartfelt burning affection for your lover and cook at home. No doubt St Valentine, the patron saint of florists, restaurateurs, chocolatiers and divorce lawyers will beg to differ.

It is agreed, you’re making dinner. The seduction of cooking, sizzling and drizzling a libido into action will have you leaving washing up ‘til morning.

Shelf stackers at the supermarket “dinner for two” selection will be flat out.

But the secret to great cooking, is great shopping. Go see the butchers at Machins; perhaps a nice steak or shoulder of local free range pork — for a long, slow seeing to, succulent flesh, salty crispy crackling. Boss butcher Ian Blandford tells me people like a nice sausage and stuffing on V-day.

Men, be warned, you’re useless shoppers. Send a man for a 1lb mince, he’ll come back with a beef fillet. And boys! Make an effort with your appearance on V-day. If you go out of your way with your appearance your date will feel they mean much more to you and you can spend less at Machins.

Machins also have oysters, apparent aphrodisiacs, wet and glistening inside their shells. A foot massage achieves the same result. Fantastic if you’re into foot fetish. Incidentally, watermelons, particularly the pale flesh closest to the skin, are nature’s Viagra.

If you really haven’t got the time, confidence, inclination or bother to pull off a romantic meal at home, then perhaps a ready meal from Cook (corner of Friday Street). But beware “I made it myself” is a recipe guaranteed to backfire, come back and haunt you.

Valentine’s Day, how about giving a couple of tickets to see Lionel Richie at this year’s Henley Festival? Or something delicious from Gorvett & Stone, perhaps something beautiful from The White Garden, florists on Hart Street. The Regal Cinema are screening Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Or whisper sweet nothings on Henley Bridge, watch the river, then home to make these cinnamon Sweethearts.


100g caster sugar, plus one tbsp for coating

100g unsalted butter

125g plain flour

Four eggs, beaten

Sunflower oil, for frying

One tsp ground cinnamon

Bring 250ml water, 100g sugar and the butter to boil in a pan. Remove from the heat.

Sift the flour into the pan, mix it into the liquid with a wooden spoon and return the pan to a moderate heat. Cook, stirring continuously, until the mixture leaves the side of the pan. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Gradually add the beaten eggs to the sauce, beating well to make a paste with a thick, dropping consistency. Chill for one hour to firm up the paste.

Heat sunflower oil for deep-frying to 170C. Mix the remaining caster sugar with cinnamon on a plate or dish.

Using a spoon, scoop walnut-sized portions of mixture. Drop the mixture into the oil and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until they puff up, double in size and are golden in colour. Try them with a greedy dollop of lemon curd.

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