Valentines Day

Usually about this time of year, the rush begins to secure a sought-after restaurant reservation and pay over the odds for a mediocre meal, all in the name of St Valentines.

This year, for those of us seeking our annual dose of romance, its down to us to recreate the magic at home. Now I’m all for supporting your local takeaways (perhaps a little too much over the last 12 months!) but the way to my mans heart is definitely through his stomach. So my gift to him this February 14th is going to be a romantic dinner cooked by moi.

My wedding day was arguably one of the most romantic days of my life (until I jumped in the pool in the dress and my husband pulled the plug on the party and sent everyone to bed. Did I mention he’s the inspiration for our fun sponge mug?) Anyway, the location was a vineyard in the Tuscan countryside and the theme pretty much start to finish was wine and authentic, beautifully simple, Italian food. I’m talking endless pizza and copious amounts of pasta – you need the carbs to soak up all that Chianti.

I’m throwing together a few Italian inspired favourites for our Valentine’s Day meal and thought I’d share them with you. But first things first, a shameless plug for Swank & Whimsy candle holders, because with all the will in the world, that energy saving lightbulb above your dining table is doing nothing for romantic ambience.

Check out our glamourous gold leaf cast aluminium candlestick holders online now, or the Midas touch candle holders in solid white Indian marble

If you and your lover live on the wild side then invite along a couple of our kiwi bird candle holders instead. Did you know greater spotted kiwi birds usually mate for life? The best bit – they combine their calls and duet together (too cute, I know).

Now for those of you that aren’t up to speed with the basic principles of psychology, turns out all we need to do to excite the senses of the opposite sex is slip on a red dress or some red lippy. Various studies have concluded that women that wear red are approached by men more often. Perhaps even more relevant in todays ‘zoom call culture’ – apparently men are even more attracted to the same woman if viewed against a red background verses a white one. I’ve also read that female primate’s skin turns red when they are most fertile to attract mates. From red light districts to red fast Ferraris, red is turning up the heat so I’m running with this theme in the kitchen too.


Caprese salad

Caprese-salad

It doesn’t get much simpler than juicy red tomatoes and cheese but add in some fresh basil, dried oregano, balsamic glaze and cracked black pepper and you have yourself a pretty special treat.

Step 1
Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella, chop the herbs, marinade it all together.

Step 2
Stack it all up and finish with a ‘cheesy’ mozzarella heart and what’s not to love?

I’ve included some grilled asparagus because its Valentines day and after a little google research, I discovered that asparagus is a lesser known aphrodisiac.

Turns out it contains a high amount vitamin E which increases blood flow and oxygen to the genitals – “oo la la” (how do you say this in Italian?!).

Asparagus is also jam packed with potassium which is linked to sex hormone production – who knew!


Tagliatelle con gamberi e brandy

If you didn’t see the Lapland Christmas special with Gino d’acampo’s bare body in a hot tub, then thank your lucky stars and don’t ever watch it. I find his passion and humour quite attractive, not sure if that’s something I should publicly admit to or not but turns out he’s excessively hairy, and that kind of ruined it for me. Anyway, he does profess a few delicious pasta recipes and this one is my favourite.

Its super simple but perfect for date nights. This whole meal can be thrown together casually in the kitchen with next to no stress. Shellfish is another famous aphrodisiac and I’m pretty sure generous amounts of brandy will do the trick too!

To make this dish you’ll need:

  • 30g salted butter
  • Olive oil
  • 2 Shallots
  • 60g Walnuts
  • 300g Uncooked prawns
  • 20 Cherry tomatoes copped into halves
  • 60ml Brandy (or 120ml, or just add as much as you like)
  • 250ml Cream
  • 1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 400g of fresh parsley
  • Tomato puree (optional)

Step 1
Melt the butter and oil in a pan then cook the shallots and walnuts for about 2 minutes.

Step 2
Increase the heat and throw in the raw prawns and tomatoes. Season with a little salt and pepper. Notice all those lovely shades of red in the pan!

Step 3
Add in the brandy and let the alcohol evaporate in the heat before adding cream and balsamic. Let it all cook for a few more minutes. The tomatoes should colour the creamy sauce but you can always add a little tomato puree at this point if you feel you need it.

Final Step
Boil and drain your tagliatelle, stir through the sauce, scatter in the parsley and ‘hey presto’. Buon appetite.


Cinnamon Apple Roses

Last but not least, cinnamon apple roses. Not technically an Italian recipe but my Italian wedding cake was basically a 2ft by 2ft round pastry full of cream, scattered with fruit and dusted with icing sugar. If I’m honest I’m not sure how this came to be, perhaps a wedding planner with too much creative license, but who doesn’t love pastry and cream?

Apples might not be your traditional aphrodisiac but another quick google search revealed a 2014 study that claimed an apple a day didn’t just keep the doctor away but also correlated with better sex life in young women. Happy days!

To make this dish you’ll need:

  • 1 or 2 red apples
  • A pack of puff pastry pre rolled ( I know I’m not the only one with a busy life)
  • Small bowl of melted butter
  • 1 Heaped tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 Heaped tsp of icing sugar

Step 1
Cut the pastry sheet into lengths, you should get 4 out of the roll easily.

Step 2
Slice your apples in half and then into thin slices

Step 3
Dab melted butter across the strips of pastry, then lay a row of apple slices along the length. Place each piece in the middle of the strip and leave the red edge of the apple sticking out over the edge. Overlap each piece of apple slightly.

Step 4
Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon then fold over the pastry to cover the apple, leaving the red edge poking out.

Step 5
Dap butter across the folded strip and roll up into pretty little roses. Cover with another dusting of sugar and cinnamon.

Final Step
Place in buttered ramekins and pop in the oven for 40mins at 200c (gas mark 6). Serve with fruit and cream on a Swank&Whimsy serving board.


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