Sunday, February 13, 2011

Feature: Romantic meals for the Culinary Hopeless

A little bit late to be a Valentines Day recipe feature I suppose, but I am of the opinion that it doesnt have to be a certain day or a certain celebration to treat your significant other to a nice meal or treat. I was having a conversation with a friend at the pub yesterday, who said that he wanted to make a nice valentine dinner for his new girlfriend- but he said he really REALLY can't cook. I gave him some advice on what to make and I thought I would share my ideas with you guys too.

O.K, so if you're in the unfortunate position of having no culinary talents- I have some simple recipes here that i'm pretty sure anyone could make. I will go an extra mile and suggest that even if you can't "cook", you can slice/chop things, fry things in a saucepan, and you can make toast. Is that a fair assumption? If so, then have a go at impressing you're loved one with these easy meal ideas!

Usually an Italian Appetiser, you can make a couple of brushcettas on a plate (or in lamens terms, topped slices of grilled bread!) with some salad on the side (using rocket, watercress or a darker leaf salad helps the appearance) look far more impressive that what it literally is- "something on-toast".

All you have to do is get a nice loaf of bread from the shops (ciabatta works well), slice fairly thickly, and put under the grill quickly until it turns golden brown.

Here are some examples of topping ideas:

Cherry Tomato, red onion and pesto- Mix halved cherry tomatoes with thinly sliced red onion, olive oil, salt and black pepper. Spread the toasted bread with some shop-bought pesto, and top with the tomato and onion mixture.

Roasted Red Pepper (you can get these in any supermarkets ready roasted in jars), Mozzarella and prosciutto- slice up the roasted red pepper and proscuitto (or any other type of thin ham) and put upon the toasted bread. Top this with bits of torn mozzarella.

Red onion, goats cheese, and walnut- Fry a red onion in a frying pan with a little oil and a pinch of sugar for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Put this onto the toasted bread, followed by some crumbled goats cheese and walnuts. Put under the grill for a moment or two, to make the goats cheese go slightly warm and soft.

Avocado, coriander, tomato and chilli- Mix chopped avocado, fresh coriander, a little bit of chopped fresh tomato, and a finely diced red chilli. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, and put this mixture onto the toasted bread.

Brie, red grape and wholegrain mustard- Spread the toasted bread with some wholegrain mustard, and top with some sliced oozing brie and some halved red grapes.

I reckon that most people know how to cook eggs, right? And OK, if you can't make poached eggs or an omelette- the most easiest form is through the mode of scrambling!This is actually the dish I suggested to my friend. Make scrambled eggs the way you like it- some people like it really runny but I prefer it a little firmer. Toast a couple of nice slices of bread, top with the scrambled eggs. Snip some chives over the dish, and top with a few slices of smoked salmon. Put a wedge of lemon on the side and eh voila! A beautiful and simple dish made to impress!

Minute Steak and Salad
A minute steak does what it says on the tin- all you do is fry it on each side for a minute in a hot saucepan (with a little oil) and you're done! Here are a couple of delicious salads to have on the side of the steak.

Tomato, red onion and black olive salad- Dice some tomatoes roughly, add some finely chopped red onion, sliced black olives, and some torn fresh basil leaves. Season with salt and pepper, add a splash of olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar, and it's ready!

Apple, walnut and blue cheese salad- Mix some sliced apple, roughly chopped walnuts and crumbled blue cheese into a handful of watercress. Easy or what?

Fruit Salads
A pudding that doesn't involve cooking- thereby reducing any dessert-related-disasters! Good mixes are:

Strawberry, clementine and dark chocolate- Put some halved strawberries, clementine segments and a splash of orange juice into some bowls. Grate some dark chocolate over the top and serve!

Tropical fruit salad- a mix of sliced kiwi, mango, starfruit and papaya. Pour over a little pineapple juice, and top with the scooped out seeds from a passionfruit.

Indian fruit salad- Mix diced mango with pomegranite seeds and roughly chopped mint. Top with some pistachio nuts and serve!

So I hope this gave you all a few ideas- and I hope I have shown you that you don't have to be a masterchef in order to make a beautiful romantic meal for your significant other!

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