Everyone has their own idea of the perfect Valentine’s Day. Some want to be pampered with weekends away in boutique hotels and dinner in expensive restaurants, while others enjoy nothing more than a romantic countryside walk and a night in spending quality time with their significant other.
If you’re wondering how spending Valentine’s Day at home can possibly be as romantic as a candlelit restaurant, there are actually quite a few reasons why it makes sense. Valentine’s Day is the busiest night of the year for most restaurants, so your favourite eatery is likely to be noisier and more crowded than usual. Plus, the likelihood of getting a reservation at the time you want is virtually non-existent for all but the most well-organised of us. Eating at home is far more intimate - just the two of you, no noise and bustle, and what could be more romantic than a meal prepared just for you by your Valentine?
With a little preparation, your dining area can be turned into an upscale bistro - the best-kept culinary secret in town! Dress the table in your favourite linen and silverware, dim the lights, and select some romantic music to play in the background.
Most important of all is choosing what to cook for your romantic Valentine’s dinner. The critical thing here is not to go too complicated. Remember that the point of Valentine's day is to spend time together, and the evening won’t be as enjoyable if one of you is frequently in the kitchen, or fretting about whether to take the next course out of the oven.
The best recipes to cook for Valentine’s Day are simple dishes, using a handful of ingredients that complement one another well without the need for lots of complicated processes. A simple authentic pasta dish is a great choice, or tender pan-seared scallops with a quick sauce. Choose something you can prepare and serve in minutes, leaving you free to enjoy the wine and the company of your date.
And if you don’t have a date, there’s no reason why you should miss out on the fun. There are millions of single people around the world, and most of us have spent at least one dateless Valentine’s Day. We think everyone deserves a Valentine’s treat, so if you happen to be single this year, show yourself some self-love with our collection of solo Valentine's Day recipes, perfect for one.
Valentine's Day Recipes
If you’re trying to decide what to cook this Valentine’s Day and need a little inspiration, we’ve selected our favourite home-cook recipes for the perfect romantic dinner. These dishes have been chosen for both their flavour and how quick they are to prepare, so you’ll be spending less time in the kitchen, and more time with your Valentine.
Our first selection is a recipe from former Michelin-starred chef Magnus Nilsson, but that doesn’t mean it’s overly complicated. In fact, this recipe for Grilled Oysters and Ättika requires just two ingredients - oysters, and white wine vinegar, or ättika in Swedish - and it takes five minutes to prepare.
Nilsson is a leading proponent of sustenance cuisine, which means elevating an often limited supply of local ingredients to fine-dining status, and this dish shows just how much can be achieved with simple ingredients. After all, why spend hours in the kitchen when you can emerge in five minutes with the perfect starter?
Shellfish are a great choice for an appetiser, or if you’re adding a fish course. Their soft, melting texture makes eating them a sensual experience, and both oysters and scallops have long been thought to be aphrodisiacs. Are the rumours true? Perhaps the best way to find out is to try them out on a willing test subject.
To that end, our next recipe is for Pan-Seared Sea Scallops - fresh, lightly-seared scallops with a white wine and butter sauce. Like oysters, scallops only take a few minutes to cook so this dish will be ready in no time. Serve on the shell with a knob of garlic butter.
For our main course, we have chosen an authentic Italian recipe for Cacio e Pepe. Italian food is always cooked with love, and a well-cooked plate of pasta is like a warm embrace. Like our other recipes, this dish has very few ingredients - just salt, pepper, pasta and pecorino cheese - and the way to get great results is to use the best ingredients you can find. Use a well-aged pecorino cheese, and good quality black peppercorns - pepper is a key ingredient in this dish, not just a seasoning. Use rigatoni or a similar tube-shaped pasta to catch all of that delicious cacio e pepe sauce for the pasta.
For dessert, wear your heart on your plate with these adorable heart-shaped brownies with pink icing. Valentine’s day is no time for subtlety, and these cute bite-sized treats are an explosion of everything romantic. Hearts? Check. Pink icing? Check. Chocolate and strawberry? Check and check. On the downside, these are a little more time-consuming, but they’re really worth it, so we recommend making them the night before.
If you’re still looking for inspiration, why not take a look at the Fine Dining Lovers’ Valentine’s Day page? Here you’ll find all of our articles on Valentine’s Day, with recipes from heart-shaped desserts to, well, hearts. Whether you’re looking for an all-aphrodisiac menu, swoon-worthy desserts, or romantic vegan recipes, we’re sure to have what you’re looking for.
Our new five-part video series, 'The Secrets of Fine Dining', brings you incredible tips and tricks, straight from the chef’s kitchen, to level up your fine-dining cooking techniques and plating skills. Take a look.
It's pumpkin season again, but how can you elevate your pumpkin cooking skills this year? Kiki Aranita has some simple but delicious suggestions for everybody's favourite winter squash, including step-by-step recipes. Take a look.
If you're cooking a special Valentine's Day dinner for your loved one this year, you'll want to make it as tasty as possible. Which is where chef, restaurateur, cookbook author and food polymath James Briscione comes in. Here are his tips for an unforgettable Valentine's dinner.