Special food for relaxed romance

Special food for relaxed romance

After unsuccessfully trying to fit into a ‘one-size-fits-all’ hat this winter it got us wondering: is there such a thing as a one-size-fits-all romantic meal?

After a completely unscientific poll of friends and team members, we’ve come up with at least three styles of ‘perfect romantic evening’.

1. The Lovebug Snuggle

If you spend your whole week suited and booted, smiling politely at people you’ve only just met, odds are you’ll want to spend your downtime in PJs under a blanket on the sofa. What could be better than sharing this with someone you can completely relax with? Move dinner to the couch and make sure you’ve got a sofa-ppropriate date-night dish.

Bowl food is the type of thing you can eat with just one utensil. You don’t want to be juggling plates, knives, forks and a glass of wine on a sofa. Keep it relaxed with a tasty butternut squash tagine piled on herby harissa couscous.

Butternut squash tagine

You will need:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 garlic glove
  • 2 tbsp of harissa paste
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled & cut into 2cm chucks
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 2 carrots, peeled & cut into 2cm chunks
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 40g dried apricots, sliced
  • 200g of chickpeas
  • Small bunch of coriander


  1. Heat the oil in a thick-bottomed pan and gently cook the onion until transparent. Add the garlic and spices and continue cooking for a few minutes.
  2. Stir in the harissa paste and cook for further 3 minutes. Add the squash and carrots and coat in the spice mixture. Add the tomatoes and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring every so often.
  3. Add the stock and sliced apricots and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook over a low heat, adding the chickpeas after 15 minutes. Then cook for a further 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Remove from heat, season, and sprinkle with chopped coriander.
  5. Serve in generous bowls, cuddle up and enjoy!


On the other hand, if you want to push the boat out, we’ve got a few easy tricks for making the evening really special.

2. Dress to impress

If you spend your week in your scruffs, it’s great to scrub up for your evening together. Taking a bit of time over individual portions can make it feel like a real occasion. Pick some fancy ingredients that will do all the sweet-talking and prepare them in the simplest of ways.

Impressive starter 1:
A caramelised red onion and goat’s cheese tart

Goats Cheese tart

You will need:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 sheet of pre-rolled shortcrust pastry
  • 60g of goats cheese
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 2 springs of fresh thyme


  1. Place the onions, sugar, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and 1/2 of the chopped thyme in a thick-bottomed Season and cook over low heat, stirring often, until the onions have reduced down and become almost jam-like in consistency. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 200˚C.
  3. Using a 5-inch cutter or saucer, cut out four circles of pastry.
  4. Press them into the cups of a tartlet or muffin tin. Prick the bases with a fork.
  5. Divide the onion jam amongst the pastry cases and top with a slice of goat’s cheese.
  6. Bake for 15-20 mins or until the pastry becomes lightly golden.
  7. Garnish with the rest of the chopped thyme and serve.


Impressive starter 2: Pan-seared scallops with chorizo

Scallops and chorizo

You will need:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 prepared king scallops
  • 1 chorizo sausage
  • Bag of mixed salad leaves
  • 1 lime


Heat oil in a frying pan and gently sauté the chorizo sausage on both sides until crisped on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

  1. Add the scallops to the pan and fry in the chorizo oil. Sauté on both sides for 1 minute. Remove from pan.
  2. Squeeze 1/2 a lime straight into the pan, and whisk into the chorizo and scallop juices.
  3. Place the salad leaves on two plates, place the 3 scallops on each plate and then spoon over the chorizo and the juices from the pan.

If you want to do something somewhere in the middle, share something special.

3. Sharing is caring

While there are many deep insights into how a plate shared by two people is a metaphor for a relationship, we’ll leave that to the philosophers – we’re more interested in the food on the plate!

Only share a platter if it won’t leave one of you hungry, wondering where it’s all gone, with your partner smugly stuffed with sweet potato wedges. Instead, consider a whole seabass baked with chilli, sweet fennel and lemon, or a sharing dish of steaming hot Jambalaya. Perfect with a roaring fire and some craft beer.

Whole baked sea bass

For the baked seabass, you will need:

  • 1 large whole seabass, gutted and cleaned
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 20g parsley
  • 20g dill


  1. Heat the oven to 180˚C. Stuff the cavity of the fish with the herbs, fennel, chillies and lemon slices. Season the fish inside and out, and drizzle with olive oil. 
  2. Place the fish in an oiled tray and cook for 15 minutes, until the skin is blistering. To check if the fish is ready, pull on the dorsal fins, which run along the top of the fish. They should detach easily. Serve the fish with lemon wedges.

Our advice is not to be a cookie-cutter romantic, choose something that feels special for you. If red roses and wine float your boat, go for it! If fish and chips on a lonely windswept beach sounds better, do that instead. Just don’t do it in a one-size-fits-all woolly hat!

For an extra special post-dinner treat, our friends at Cocoa Runners have given us and our readers a special discount on their lovingly handmade bars of chocolate.

“Here at Cocoa Runners, if there’s one thing we love more than eating and discovering great chocolate, then it’s sharing that chocolate with our loved ones. Treat your Valentine to a tasting flight of four distinctive bars from exceptional makers. With bars from Original Beans, Domori, Cacaosuyo and Marou, there’s a lot to love here. A truly exceptional collection, that is an ideal Valentines gift.  This gift is priced at just £24.95, and can be sent directly to chocolate lovers around the world, wherever they may be.”
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