Emergency Valentines

The Dinner Menu

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For a seductive dinner you want easy, laid-back food, nothing too complex. A slow-cooked dish is a winner; as it bubbles away you can ply your intended with more wine. Forget oysters, chocolate and powdered tiger’s cock - booze is the greatest aphrodisiac of them all. 

Starter | Bream Ceviche
Light and elegant, this dances across the palate. Lime juice “cooks” the fish, mixed with fresh chilli and chopped tomatoes. Serve with shots of tequila blanco, a good one such as Don Julio or Herradura.

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1 kg bream fillets, pin-boned, skinned, diced into 1cm pieces; 2 limes, juiced; 3 tomatoes, skinned, seeded and diced; 3 chopped jalapeño chillies or 1 habanero; 1 red onion, finely chopped; a big pinch salt; a handful of chopped coriander; 1 avocado, halved and sliced lengthways; 4 tortillas, fried until crisp. Mix fish with lime juice and fridge for 30min. Add in tomatoes, chillies, salt, onion and coriander. Serve (on the tortillas) with avocado slices and a sprig of coriander.

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Main | Penne All’Amatriciana
Pasta doesn’t sound super-sexy but bear with me. This slow-cooked sauce takes time, so, when your date arrives, apologise and say it could be a while. But have a glass of wine. And another. Serve with more red.

600g smoked pancetta cut in strips ½cm x 4cm; a big glug of olive oil; 4 red onions, chopped; 4 tins chopped tomatoes; a big glug of red wine; 4 handfuls grated Parmesan; 3 rosemary branches, stripped and finely chopped; a fat pinch of dried peperoncino or dried chilli flakes; 1 packet penne pasta; salt and black pepper; Parmesan to grate at end.

Fry pancetta in oil until crisp. Add onions and fry till soft. Add chillies and rosemary, cook for 2min. Chuck in wine, increase heat, burn off booze and deglaze pan. Add tomatoes and season well. Cook on low heat for 3hrs until sauce is thick and dry. Add grated Parmesan. Cook and drain penne. Mix with the sauce and grate over more Parmesan if needed.

Dessert | Lemon Sorbet
Clean, crisp and refreshing; a perfect finale.

200ml lemon juice; 400ml water; 200ml sugar syrup; 200g caster sugar; 40g glucose syrup; grated lemon/citrus zest.

Put 200ml water, citrus zest, sugar and glucose syrup in a pan and bring to boil. Turn down heat for 45min until thickened. Cool, then stir lemon juice and 200ml water into the resulting syrup. Pour into an ice-cream maker and process to manufacturer’s instructions.

Words by Tom Parker Bowles
Illustration by Nick Hardcastle