I’ve often thought it slightly odd that the Feast of St Valentine (that day of Love and Romance) commemorates a Roman martyr who was tortured and put to death in the most horrible fashion. Having said that, for us simple creatures of the male persuasion, Valentine’s Day can be sheer torture if you get it wrong- and, Jiminy Cricket, can you get it seriously wrong.
If you’re out to impress tonight, I would advise you to avoid restaurants at all costs. You’ll discover dewy-eyed couples holding hands, while swarthy Lotharios flog over-priced roses, serenaded by squeaky violins. It’s like appearing as out-of-work extras in an old episode of The Love Boat.
Instead, how about cooking up a romantic dinner for two over at your place? I would suggest that you keep it simple (a decent steak picked up on your way back from the Counting House would be ideal), and finish it off with strawberries dipped in chocolate.
Get hold of several bars of dark chocolate, and melt them gently in a bain-marie. This just means placing a smaller pan into a larger pan full of boiling water. The dark chocolate has more solids, and will be less likely to separate. Stir until you have a smooth sauce. Dip the strawberries in the chocolate, and then chuck them into the ‘fridge. With any luck, they should be set by the time you get onto the pudding course. They would go well with a Sauternes or Tokaji, too.
I’ve always admired that bit in Roman Polanski’s Tess, when the rakish Alec d’Urberville dangles strawberries over Nastassja Kinski’s ravishing lips. Here’s your chance! Okay, strawberries are out of season, but who cares?