Quick Recipes and Easy

An Al Fresco Meal Adds A Taste Of Romance

What could be more romantic than an indulgent meal, eaten outdoors with the one you like?

All your senses are heightened as you absorb the visual impact, fragrance and sounds of a well-chosen outdoor setting – a rustling wood, sweet-smelling meadow, or perhaps the salty spray of sea air as waves crash on rocks. You experience the unique touch of nature and this, blended with the taste of sensuous food, lovingly prepared, makes your heart leap.

Make someone’s heart leap in your direction this Valentine’s day by organising a surprise al fresco meal for them. It’s so much more romantic than just a card or a bunch of roses and so simple to do.

We live in an age when it’s simpler than ever to buy ready-made food for outdoor dining and, if time is limited, then you may choose this as an simple option. But, if possible, make the food yourself, prepare it with like, for the one you like – especially if cooking for them is not part of your normal daily routine. A meal is usually loved so much more, no matter how simple, if lovingly presented, rather than prepared by oneself.

Many picnic foods are effortless to make yourself. A nutty houmous can be whipped up in minutes and eaten with baby vegetables. Likewise, tangy taramasalata or a healthy avocado dip such as guacamole is much tastier when home-made and not mashed to a pulp like so many of the commercial varieties.

Figs and prosciutto ham make simple romantic morsels to feed each other with. Peel 4 ripe figs carefully with a sharp knife. Wrap each fig in a slice of thin prosciutto ham and place in an airtight container. In a screw-top jar, make a simple dressing of 5 parts olive oil to one part Balsamic vinegar and some ground black pepper. At the picnic drizzle each fig parcel with the dressing and devour!

A really herby tabbouleh is fun to share and can be served either with bread or robust leaves for scooping. Rinse 20 grams of bulgur (cracked wheat) well. Drain and place in the picnic container. Skin and dice 350 grams of fragrant tomatoes and add these along with 2 finely sliced spring onions, a handful of chopped parsley and a smaller handful of chopped mint. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into all this, as well as a generous splash or two of excellent olive oil and a sprinkling of allspice, salt and pepper.

If there’s no chance of the sun on your back this Valentine’s Day, then choose something like a steaming flask of soup and fresh baguettes stuffed with figs, blue cheese and honey. Sausages wrapped in foil, and still warm if possible, ready to dip in a spicy salsa, will also keep the fire in your heart on a cold day!

As a last temptation, an expensive bar of luxury chocolate might do the trick and is simplicity itself to provide. If you want to place more time into an “I like you” desert, then bake a heart-shaped chocolate or cheese cake and, either decorate with such things as nuts and rose petals, or make it as whacky and personal as you like by writing like notes on it in icing.

A cream cheese desert can be made by lining a heart-shaped mould (which must have at least one draining hole in it) with fine muslin. Mix together 150 ml of whipped double cream, 225 grams of cream cheese, 2 tablespoons of castor sugar and then fold in a stiffly beaten egg white. Press the mixture into the lined mould and let it drain overnight in the fridge. Turn it out onto a plate at the picnic and surround with mixed red berries or drizzle with fruit syrup.

If you’re not a sweet-tooth sort of couple, then whisper your sweet nothings over a piece of runny Brie or nutty Manchego cheese with a crisp apple or pear, or a handful of bright red cherries.

Don’t kill the passion by forgetting to pack a waterproof blanket, a cosy rug, cushions and linen napkins, even if your plates are plastic. A candle or two in jam jars will add to the romantic atmosphere and perhaps a bottle of pink Champagne – with flutes of course.

Emily McDonald is author and editor of the-picnic-site.com the-picnic-site.com, which offers food & drink recipes, thoughts for games and everything you need to know about picnic plotting. This article, or part thereof, may be freely distributed if this resource box stays attached.

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