The prospect of declaring your love for someone while cooped up in a noisy restaurant on Valentine’s Day is the ultimate passion killer for many people.
Sitting at tables crammed together like sardines with views obscured by ‘I Love You’ balloons, before being spat out after a rushed two-hour meal, will leave most couples turned off rather than turned on.
Elizabeth Carter, consultant editor for The Good Food Guide, agrees that going out for dinner on Valentine’s Day can leave a sour taste in the mouth – but puts forward an alternative.
‘Do you really want to sit with a load of other couples giving each other red roses?’ she asks.
‘Wouldn’t it be much nicer to have a romantic environment at home where you can tap into your inner creativity and spend some quality time with each other?’
Carter advises that to make up for the loss of what she calls the ‘theatrical element’ of going out, special effort is required to create the right atmosphere at home.
‘It’s not just sitting down and having dinner, but creating the whole ambience and setting,’ she says.
‘Make an effort to dress up, send out an invitation to make it extra special, and try to make the setting as romantic as possible.’
When it comes to choosing a menu, keep the food simple and make sure everything is meticulously planned.
She says: ‘Don’t overstretch yourself on the cooking front, because you don’t want to be hot and sweaty in the kitchen all night.’
Carter recommends some aphrodisiac foods to get your taste buds (and each other) going. ‘Oysters are the obvious choice but not everyone likes them. Instead, treat yourselves to some nice chocolates to have after your meal with coffee,’ she says.
Valentine’s Day suggestion - Zuppa Di Vongole by From Good Food Guide chefs Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers
1kg small clams
1tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 dried red chilli, crumbled
1 1/2tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
325ml dry white wine, such as Vermentino
Slices of sour dough bread
Rinse the clams in cold water and then allow them to sit in fresh cold water for 10 minutes. Rinse again. Check over the clams and discard any that are not closed.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan that is large enough to hold the clams. Add the garlic and chillies and half the parsley and cook over a medium heat for two to three minutes. Add the wine, bring to the boil, cook for one minute and then add the clams. Stir well to coat the clams with the wine.
Cover the saucepan with a lid. Bring back to the boil, reduce the heat a little and cook the clams for two to three minutes or until they open. Discard any that remain closed.
Meanwhile, toast or grill the bread until brown, then prop up the pieces around the sides of two warmed dishes. With a slotted spoon, remove the clams to the dish. Reduce the wine in the saucepan for a few minutes more, then pour over the clams.
Sprinkle over the remaining parsley and drizzle with plenty of extra virgin olive oil.