Happy Valentine’s Day, Sweeties

Around this time of year, it’s customary for social media sites, magazines and newspapers to overflow either with sickly sweetness or with vitriol inspired by this day which is, after all, supposed to celebrate love and thoughtfulness. Many people have responded to this by taking against the whole idea.

There seem to be two fashionable excuses for this. First of all, people complain that this day is just another chance for shops and restaurants to charge excessive prices for things we don’t really need.

This is certainly true, but, after all, if we eliminated all the shops and restaurants that sold unnecessary items we would have very little left. When making money is their reason for being, it hardly seems fair to blame them for trying to squeeze a little more out of the excessively gullible or needlessly profligate.

The second excuse tends to be something along the lines of, “I’m romantic all year round – not just on one day of the year.” To which I would respond, “I don’t believe you.”

These days our lives are full of lists, worries and deadlines, and the vast majority of us need a little nudge to remind us to be grateful for the people we love.

So this year, I’m going to do my best to convince you to spend a little bit of time, rather than a lot of money. Baking something sweet or offering to cook dinner is the perfect way to show you care without getting too soppy, too serious or spending too much. I’m going to be tweeting my favourite Valentine’s recipes in the run up to Cupid’s big day, but here are a few of the highlights…

The easy one: White Chocolate Peppermint Creams
This really is one of the easiest Valentine’s Day recipes there is. There’s no cooking involved, you only need three ingredients, and only about 20 minutes of actual effort is required. The end result is really pretty, especially when you package them up in a clear bag with a bit of ribbon, and, of course, they’re absolutely delicious.

The retro one: Cutiepies
These are a bit more tricky than the last recipe, but still perfectly doable. They look absolutely gorgeous and can be customised to suit your beloved, plus the combination of light sponge, vanilla buttercream and sweet icing is fabulous. But if you don’t want to go the whole hog, then you can adapt the idea for cupcakes – just top with pink butter icing and decorate with icing pens.

The (sort of) healthy one: Chocolate & Aubergine Cake
If you and your beau (or belle) are not so keen on overindulging, or if you have to stick to a restricted diet, then try this fabulously unusual cake – there’s no fat in it, and no sugar apart from a few tablespoons of honey. You can’t actually taste the aubergine (honestly) but it does make the cake wonderfully moist. This cake would be perfect for someone who has to stick to a dairy-free diet (just make sure to use really dark chocolate which is dairy-free, and fill with jam instead of buttercream) or a gluten-free one.

The impressive (but actually quite easy) one: Mushroom Risotto
If your dearest doesn’t have a sweet tooth, or you fancy making an evening of it, then why not offer to cook dinner instead. Risotto is always ideal when you need to impress, because although it’s really not that difficult, most people persist in thinking it is. In fact, all it requires is your attention – nothing more complicated than that. This scrumptious version combines smoky porcini mushrooms, creamy rice and the rich, earthy taste of truffle oil – serve with garlic bread and a bottle of wine and you’re sure to make an impact.

For more recipes, click here. And have a lovely, lovely Valentine’s Day.