Tuesday, 14 February 2012


I don't really support the commercialism that surrounds the whole Valentine's day thing, you know, where you get emails from online shops suggesting that an ipad is the ideal Valentine's Day present- yeah, right! Quick £400 and you're done (well and truly).
However, I'm a firm believer in the small things in life making the big differences. So my idea of a decent Valentine's night in, would be to lay the table with a red or white tablecloth, (or leave it bare and use placemats) grab a couple of candles - tea lights in little glass jars are nice, but essentially any couple of candles is better than nothing, a couple of flowers in a vase makes all the difference, but real flowers can be expensive in winter, so polyester is better than none (although you may say NONE is better than polyester!), polish up a couple of wine glasses, get a bottle of wine from the supermarket and think about how you can feed your beloved a frugal 3 course meal!
If you can cook a bit, a starter could be half a grapefruit sprinkled with demerara sugar and a pinch of mixed spice then warmed under a grill until the sugar melts (don't abandon it as burnt grapefruit is an aquired taste) and then served with half a glacĂ© cherry if you have any. You need to prepare the grapefruit by cutting all the way round and slicing down the side of the segements, but you can do this in advance and cover with cling film in the fridge until you are ready to sprinkle with the spice and sugar. If you think a grapefruit starter is too much cooking for you - buy a small quantity of patĂ© from the supermarket, slice in two, arrange nicely on a small plate with a couple of lettuce or rocket leaves,  and a tomato segment or two, a dab of butter and serve with toast triangles - tada! All of that can be done in advance and kept in the fridge.
Now for the main course - pasta is easy- cook 175g of any pasta shapes (easier to eat than spaghetti etc) according to pack instructions, slowly warm 100g cooked prawns through with a small jar of any pasta sauce that you like - you need to do it slowly but once it boils, stop sooking and turn off. Drain the pasta, divide between 2 pasta bowls (or a cereal bowl on a plate if you don't have the proper thing), pour over the prawn and sauce misture. garnish with halved olives, or a few basil leaves or a handful of chopped parsley- whatever you have. If this is also too much cooking, buy a ready made, filled Ravioli pasta, boil it for 2 minutes, heat up a tub of pasta sauce and pour over.
Now the dessert- this also is cold so it can be made in advance. Put a couple of slices of ready-made chocolate cake (or a choc muffing will be fine) into a sundae glass  (use short tumblers if you don't have any sundae dishes- they look just as nice), you only reall want to cover the bottom and up the sides a little. Drip some booze over the chocolate cake - whatever you have; Baileys, Tia Maria, Brandy, cooking sherry, about a dessertspoon of each should be fine, although the brandy may require slightly less! Top with a layer of fruit tinned mandarins, cherries or fresh sliced banana is fine, grate some chocolate over the fruit (plain is nice, but any will do it won't be seen, only tasted), then cover with Creme fraiche or Mascarpone. Hopefully you should have reached the top of the glass with this, then decorate with one or two pieces of fruit and/or more grated chocolate - this looks better if it's dark chocolate. Too much fiddling about? Go to the supermarket and buy a pack of two chocolate mousses or some other good dessert - they will be about £3, but will usually be tasty!Finish your meal with coffee and a couple of heart-shaped chocolates. Done!
And last but not least, if you really think you can only heat stuff up in the microwave, then get along to the supermarket quickly and buy any one of their "meal deals" most have a starter, main with side dish or two and a desseret with a bottle of wine for £20 - still much cheaper than going out!
Happy frugal Valentine's Day!

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