Valentine’s night, with zero stress

Valentines Table setting

Admittedly, sipping a glass of something expensive in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower is a very pleasant thing to do of an evening. We’re not knocking watching the sun set over an azure Caribbean Sea. But, when you want a romantic evening without having to re-mortgage the house in the morning, a few simple tricks can transform your night.

What you really want out of a romantic evening is to enjoy each other’s company. Don’t spend the entire evening slaving away in the kitchen. Cook something tasty you both like that won’t leave you dripping in sweat and exhausted. If you have the time, you could make something in advance. That way, you can relax, knowing the hard work is done. Alternatively, our SimplyCook recipes are ready in under 20 minutes, leaving you plenty of time for those little extras that can make your evening extra special.

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Spend a little time choosing some music to match the mood of the evening. There’s a time and a place for hard rock, but it’s unlikely to be a romantic night in. We recommend going for something softer, a playlist that will politely take its place in the background –allowing all your attention to be on each other.

A few little touches to set the scene can make a massive impression. There’s no need to spend a fortune, often things you already have can be repurposed to make your table look really inviting. If you have some aromatic herbs in the garden or kitchen, tie them together with raffia or ribbon and display in a line of shot glasses along the table to make a very sweet, but low-cost table decoration. They smell gorgeous and they’re not too tall to see over. Flowers are all very well but you don’t want to spend your evening staring lovingly at a bunch of tulips.

Bouquet garni of fresh herbs, tied with twine.  Rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley.
Bouquet garni of fresh herbs, tied with twine. Rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley.

Some rose petals scattered across the table and a few candles later, you’re all set. Just don’t get your candles and your table decorations too close to one another – you’re after steamy romance, not smoky dining room!

If you’ve gone to the trouble of cooking something lovely, it’s worth thinking about how to serve it. A bit of height on the plate always lifts the food (well, literally, but figuratively too). A dash of colour can make your dish sing. A sprinkling of pomegranate seeds, chopped herbs or fresh green salad leaves brightens the whole affair.

Macaroni with pesto pesto with olive oil herbs nuts and Parmesan sprinkled with fresh basil and parmesan
Macaroni with pesto pesto with olive oil herbs nuts and Parmesan sprinkled with fresh basil and parmesan

It always helps to ‘set the table’ before you start cooking – it’ll save endless trips to the kitchen, which can interrupt your meal – a jug of iced water (a few slices of lemon always help), glasses, napkins, the whole shebang.

Start as you mean to go on by making a couple of simple cocktails or mocktails. First put some glasses in the fridge or freezer a couple of hours in advance. A Kir is a simple foolproof cocktail, just mix blackcurrant liqueur (crème de cassis) with white wine. If you’ll be opening a bottle of champagne, you could make a Kir Royale instead. Alternatively, try a Bellini – mix peach puree with Prosecco (or sparkling apple juice for a virgin Bellini).

Last but not least, take a little time for yourself, relax, and enjoy your evening together. Happy Valentine’s, lovebirds…