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How to have a French Valentine’s Day if you’re not in France!

I guess the thought of Paris, whispered words of love in French, a wonderful elegant and romantic meal and the fact that the French are supposedly the best lovers in the world will do it for most people. So, all you romantics out there who’d like to prepare a French style romantic night in for your loved one on Valentine’s Day (or frankly any other time) here are my top tips:

The Meal

This is obviously key. The last thing you want your loved one to see is you sweating away in the kitchen over a hot oven, swearing at something that’s gone wrong, crying over the mess you’ve just burned or dressed in your favourite apron looking like Cinderella before the makeover and without the magic.

Preparation is critical – know what you’re going to cook before hand, make sure you have all the ingredients to hand, and if you can practice or at the least make yourself familiar with the requirements if there’s anything remotely complicated. I once made butterfly lamb with garlic. I read the recipe wrong and instead of inserting 4 cloves of garlic, I inserted 4 bulbs of garlic. Now I like garlic but it was too much, it definitely was not romantic. However had we both needed a cigarette at the end of the evening I may well have impressed by lighting it  just with my breath.

It should be a three course meal and each course should be light, tasty and something you know the other person will enjoy. No point in making moules mariniere if your partner doesn’t a) like fish or b) thinks that mussels look like bogies – however romantic it might sound to you!

Don’t make any of the courses so heavy that you can hardly stand afterwards let alone be romantically inclined. Ending with fruit and cheese is a good idea, nice and fresh and light.

If it takes a while between courses – serve small pieces of baguette in a basket and have a little olive oil in a dish for dipping or serve a bowl of lettuce between the starter and the main course. In France this acts as a palate cleanser and is nice and light and keeps the meal flowing nicely.

There’re plenty of classic French recipes in our recipe section if you want some ideas for traditional French meals.

The room

Candles – we all know that one!  A candlelit room is definitely more romantic than harsh electric lighting – hides the wrinkles and makes everyone look softer.

Flowers – they don’t have to be big and showy in fact small posies (low down so that you can gaze across instead of round) that smell gorgeous is far more French style.

Set the table as nicely as you possibly can – table cloth, gleaming cutlery, shining glasses, wicker bread basket, an ice bucket for the champagne or wine.

Play some French romantic music – this is not as easy as it sounds, when I trawled the internet I couldn’t find a lot of romantic French sounds but Madeline Peyroux is perfect – she’s American but spent 6 years busking in Paris which definitely flavours her music.

Leave a Valentine’s Day card on the table and a box of French chocolates or gorgeous pastel coloured macarons and tell your loved one “Je t’aime”.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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