What’s The Perfect Valentine’s Day Meal?
Can you smell that, MOB? That slightly sweet yet kinda funky scent that’s lingering in the air? It sort of smells like a mix between a freshly baked loaf of garlic bread and talcum powder? That’s love, MOB. And it’s in the air. February is the month of Valentine’s Day – a month to celebrate romance and passion and finally send that risky DM to your Instagram crush. It’s also a month where you should be testing your kitchen skills with some of our most romantic recipes.
Yes, it might be a “corporate created holiday designed to sell cards.” but Valentine’s Day is also nice and lovely and I like it a lot, OK? Whether your idea of romance is buying last-minute petrol station roses or serenading your life partner with a rousing rendition of ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight?’, Valentine’s Day is a nice excuse to do something special for the person you hold most dear.
We’re all big softies here at MOB Kitchen and feel that the best way to show someone you love that you appreciate them is by cooking them up a plate of delicious food. Our sultry Crab Linguine and Salmon En Croûte are ideal Valentine’s Day dishes to cook on the big day – they're both the kind of recipe that says, “I care, and I can cook” – but we’ve also enlisted the help of some of the nation’s top chefs to tell us what their perfect Valentine’s Day meal looks like. Just in case you needed some extra inspiration.
Ben Tish – Culinary Director of Norma and The Stafford
"For me, it's got to be a curry: we always go for the full works and it's our favourite. My set menu for Valentine’s Day is a homemade chicken madras with rice, roti, kachumber salad, saag aloo, and a bottle of champagne. It's the same every year, and all the more special for it."
Find out more about Ben on his website.
Santosh Shah – Head Chef of Cinnamon Kitchen
"For me, Valentine's Day is a very special day, so you’ve got to do a proper romantic dinner with champagne, flowers on the table, and a dessert that’s heart-shaped. Starters would have to be light. Something grilled like the chargrilled Himalayan wild yams I did on MasterChef would be perfect – that dish has got such a vibrant colour and beautiful presentation. For the main course, I'd have a few nice side dishes and then I think a pan-fried sea bass would be an amazing centrepiece. I'd serve that with a coconut sauce on some quinoa with a few pickled elements on the plate. You've got to have a beautiful presentation so you can see how much work you've put into it! For dessert, we can go heavy with a heart-shaped chocolate fondant with redcurrant jelly and some edible flowers. I think that’d be a beautiful meal.”
Find out more about Santosh on his website.
Lucy Carr-Ellison and Jemima Jones, Founders of Wild by Tart
"Given we can’t dine out this Valentine’s Day, we suggest making it extra special at home. Decorate the table with seasonal flowers and lots of candles to create an ambience, then write up a bespoke menu. In our houses, we will be enjoying a platter of seafood piled beautifully in the centre of the table. It is exceptionally easy to prepare, incredibly generous as well as being an aphrodisiac! We'll be finishing the meal with some Wild by Tart rose champagne jellies and chocolate caramel hearts which are easy to make at home. For those who don’t have time to temper chocolate and make caramel, invest in a rubber heart-shaped ice tray. Melt either milk or dark chocolate, pour a little into the moulds and brush up the sides. Leave to cool and spoon in a little caramel then pour chocolate over the top and leave to set. If you are feeling creative, spray with a little edible gold spray once out of their moulds."
Find out more about Wild by Tart.
Emeka Frederick – Chef and Co-founder of Chuku’s
"My perfect Valentine’s meal is smoky jollof rice with suya meatballs. Smoky jollof is usually had during parties or special occasions, so that’s what makes this a proper celebratory kind of meal. You want that spice element present because what you're trying to demonstrate through your cooking is what your relationship is going to be like, right? You don't want to be cooking a bland meal! Jollof rice – especially for someone from a West African or Nigerian community – is a dish which is super traditional and well-loved. So, you've got to put your own signature twist on that home comfort. The suya meatballs give you a chance to show some finesse.
I don't think one needs to go crazy with dessert. If you've already put your heart and soul into the main, then that’s just a little sweetener on top. I'd go for salted caramel ice cream with some crushed stem ginger to add a bit of extra texture and zest. Drinks-wise, you’ve got to have a glass of Champagne or prosecco (because you need to toast the night with something) and then a refreshing Zobo Sangria cocktail. Put on some chilled out Afro Beats, light some candles, and you’re good.”
Anna Haugh – Head Chef and Owner of Myrtle Restaurant
"I'm a really romantic person and what makes Valentine's for me is the idea that somebody puts the thought into planning the meal and then does their best to cook something for the person that they love. I think that's what we all want from a Valentine's meal, really. Of course, we do still associate it with food like oysters. And steak. Steak’s what my boyfriend, as a man, thinks of as a romantic meal, so that's what he does for me on Valentine’s. He always makes me a steak with his homemade chips. It’s really nice and it takes him about fifteen billion hours to do. Which is sweet. I can often hear him swearing from the next room and, at one stage last year, I swear I even heard him weeping. He doesn't do the cooking often."
Find out more about Myrtle.
Helen Graham – Head Chef of Bubala
"I would love to be cooked fresh pasta because that’s not something I'd normally have the energy to do for myself at home. My dream main would be an agnolotti with maybe some Jerusalem artichokes, feta, burnt aubergines, a rich stuffing, and a kind of Jerusalem artichoke cream sauce. For a starter, if someone baked some homemade focaccia, and served it with some fresh burrata and olive oil, I would absolutely love that. Just simple stuff, really. But if they went to the effort to make the bread and make the pasta? That would really impress me. Oh, and the meal would have to end with a tiramisu. Obviously. I'd appreciate the effort if they bake their own sponge biscuits but I'd be more than happy with ladyfingers for that.”
Find out more about Bubala.
Tom Brown – Head Chef of Cornerstone
“It’s maybe clichéd but I have to say oysters. I make my own fresh chilli hot sauce for them, which I would also recommend doing. They’re a tried and tested fire starter and, as a very wise Gordon Ramsey once winked at me, ‘you know what they say about oysters’. I’ll be having mine with champers or maybe a pét nat.”
Find out more about Cornerstone.
Allegra McEvedy – Chef, Writer and Broadcaster
"Let's be honest: Valentine's is every chef's idea of hell and, historically, all the day has really meant for me is an absolute shitshow of tickets on the tab grabber. This year is obviously a little different, though, and the dish that I'd love my girlfriend to hypothetically prepare for me would be a fruits de mer seafood platter. There's no cooking involved, which makes a nice change from every other day of my life, and it’s not so much a dish as a complete sensual experience. Not only does it look beautiful but you get all the smells of the sea and the ocean, and there’s such a tactile joy in digging out the jewels of meat from the claws and the shells that I love. I know it's very un-COVID but eating with your hands and sharing a plate with someone is one of the sexiest things you can do. So, a seafood platter with a bit of homemade soda bread and a nice shallot vinegar – what greater joy could there be?”
Find out more about Allegra on her website.
Nicholas Balfe – Founder and Chef Director of Salon, Levan, and Larry's
"Even though pasta is the most everyday ingredient in many households (including mine), it still somehow feels a bit special every time. The last three years in a row, I've celebrated Valentine's night with my partner and my step-daughter. She's nine now, and whilst she instantly balks at any kind of physical affection between us, I think she secretly loves muscling in on the romance! In true child-friendly, Lady and The Tramp style, I've made spaghetti and meatballs each year. It's an incredibly simple dish, really; shop-bought spaghetti, a basic tomato sauce with oregano, garlic, red wine vinegar, and a pinch of chilli, and homemade meatballs. I use half veal mince, half pork mince, lots of thyme and garlic and a little parmesan for umami. Valentine's is a bit of an odd occasion at the best of times, and I'd far rather celebrate it with my tongue in my cheek."
Find out more about Nick and his various restaurants on Instagram.
Sarit Packer – Co-Founder of Honey & Co.
"Cooking for a loved one must start from only one point, and that is thinking about what your loved one would want to eat. You must set aside any thoughts of your own preferences and cravings and channel your other half. In my case, that is easy, as my other half is a glutton who loves everything I cook for him! Especially if I don't bother him in the process and simply present him with dinner.
So I cook with care, starting with fun little foods that can be eaten with your fingers, like a little crostini with butter and anchovy, a main that is colourful, happy and not too heavy – I especially like our chicken roasted in plums, it is beautiful, fruity and zingy paired with lovely buttered rice – and I have a very happy man at my table. You mustn’t forget dessert, though, and for Itamar that always means chocolate, so a rich chocolate and almond cake with pears poached in red wine rounds everything off beautifully."
Find out more about Honey & Co.
Will Bowlby from Kricket, Co-Founder and Head Chef at Kricket
"A really simple recipe that we often serve at Kricket can easily be recreated at home. We use Porthilly oysters from Cornwall, shucked and kept on ice. We top these with a homemade green chilli and coriander granita, a teaspoon of thick coconut cream and tiny dices of pickled sweet cucumber. This dish is light and refreshing for a starter. For the main course, I would suggest a pan-roasted piece of Wagyu beef, triple cooked chips (which can be made in advance) with a nice rich béarnaise sauce. You don’t want to be too full at the end of dinner so a few chocolate truffles finish the meal perfectly. When it comes to the table setting, the more candles the better to create an intimate evening."
Find out more about Kricket.