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foods and festivals

5 recipes to impress a first date

The fragile first date can make or break a relationship. Those brave enough to invite potential partners over for a home-cooked meal need to be sure that dinner looks good and tastes good – but doesn’t require the skills of a master chef to prepare. Whether you’re cooking for someone you met through friends or on eharmony, these five recipes are bound to impress.

food

Baked chicken with sun-dried Tomatoes

Chicken is always a popular choice and this is one recipe that’s simple to cook. Brighten up your winter's day date with some sun-dried tomatoes.

Ingredients

• 2 chicken breasts, tenderised • 3-4 tbs of Dijon mustard • 4-6 tbs – sun-dried tomatoes • 3-6 tbs – olive oil • 1/4 onion, chopped • Pinch of tarragon • Pinch of paprika • Pinches of salt & pepper • Toothpicks • Oven-safe baking dish

Directions

• Preheat the oven to 350F. • Cover one side of both chicken breasts with Dijon mustard. • Add sun-dried tomatoes. • Drizzle the chicken breasts with olive oil. • Sprinkle with salt, pepper, chopped onion and tarragon. • Gently roll up each breast and hold in place with a toothpick. • Drizzle oil over the rolled-up chicken. • Place the breasts on the baking dish and put in the oven for between 20 and 30 minutes. • Once cooked, put the chicken on the plate and add some garnish or a little rice. • Inform your date that the chicken contains toothpicks. • It should go without saying that this recipe isn’t suitable for vegetarians.

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Steak, mushroom and polenta

Steak is widely recognised as a romantic dish and this recipe gives it an interesting twist by serving it with polenta.

Ingredients

• 2 steaks • 1 lemon • 300g button mushrooms • 1 sprig fresh thyme • 50g knob butter • 2 cloves garlic • 1 tin chopped tomatoes • 2 tsp capers • 3 anchovies • 1 brown onion • 2 tbs olive oil • Salt/pepper • 1 cup polenta • 7-8 cups of water • 1 cup grated parmesan

Directions

• Heat 50g butter in a pan and add the garlic, mushrooms and thyme. • Cook until the mushrooms are soft and set aside. • Dice the brown onion and sauté in a hot pan with garlic, anchovies and olive oil. • Add the chopped tomatoes and the capers and simmer for 10 minutes. • Cook the Polenta and add parmesan cheese. • Season the steak with salt, pepper and olive oil. • Sear it on both sides in a very hot pan. • Drizzle with lemon and leave to stand for eight minutes. • Assemble the dish by layering it with polenta, mushrooms, sliced steak and top it with •tomato sauce.

Spinach, ricotta and feta tortellini

This pasta is quick and easy to make. It's also a great recipe if you or your partner are vegetarians.

Ingredients

• 1x packet of lasagne sheets • 200g ricotta • 1 packet spinach • 100g feta • 1 clove garlic • ¼ cup olive oil • 1 packet cherry tomatoes • 1 lemon • 1 egg • 1 handful of parsley

Directions

• Preheat the oven to 350F. • Cook the lasagne sheets. • Sauté the spinach in a pan with olive oil and crushed garlic. • Add the ricotta, feta and lemon juice and mix well. • Spoon the mixture onto a pasta sheet and leave a gap in the middle. • Whisk the egg and brush in-between the dollops of mixture. • Place a second pasta sheet on top of the mixture. • Cut the tortellini shapes out and fold. • Drizzle the cherry tomatoes with olive oil, season and roast for 10 minutes. • Assemble the dish by placing the tortellini first, with the tomatoes on top and finish with a • little feta, parsley and olive oil.

Lentil dhal

Most people like a good curry. This is a good recipe if your partner is vegetarian, too – so why not add a bit of spice to your life?

Ingredients

• 2 tbsp sunflower oil • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped • 1–2 garlic cloves, crushed • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh root ginger • 2 tbsp mild curry paste • 170g red lentils • 1 tsp ground cumin • 1 tsp turmeric • 1 tsp salt • 400g small new potatoes, halved • 1 small cauliflower, broken into florets • 1 red pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped • 4 tomatoes, skinned and quartered • 225g baby spinach leaves •Generous handful of fresh coriander leaves, coarsely chopped

Directions

• Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add onion, garlic and ginger and cook for five minutes. Add •curry paste and stir for two minutes more on a gentle heat. •Stir in the lentils, cumin, turmeric, salt and 1 litre of water. Boil and simmer for 10 minutes. •Stir in the potatoes and cook for 10 minutes, then add cauliflower and cook for another 10 minutes. Add pepper and tomatoes and simmer for five minutes. • Stir in the spinach and serve with fresh coriander leaves.

Lamb stew

This is a traditional dish popular in Ireland but loved the world over. A hearty stew is perfect for a winter's evening.

Ingredients

• 675g thickly sliced bacon, diced • 2.75kg boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 5cm pieces • 1/2 teaspoon salt • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper • 50g plain flour • 3 cloves garlic, minced • 1 large onion, chopped • 120ml water • 1 litre beef stock • 2 teaspoons caster sugar • 500g diced carrots • 2 large onions, cut into bite-size pieces • 3 potatoes • 1 tsp dried thyme • 2 bay leaves • 250ml white wine

Directions

• Fry bacon over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain and put to one side. •Coat the lamb in flour, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Use bacon fat to brown the lamb in the frying pan. • Leaving 4 tbsp of fat in the frying pan, transfer the lamb into stock pot. Add the garlic and onion and saute till onion is golden. Ad 120ml water to the frying pan and add the garlic-onion mixture to the stock pot with bacon, beef stock and sugar. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. • Add carrots, onions, potatoes, thyme, bay leaves and wine to pot. Turn the heat down, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until vegetables are tender.

Tailor your menu

One more element that could really help you to impress your date is to tailor your menu. For instance, if you met on a dating site for black singles and you’re both originally from Zimbabwe, why not cook a traditional dish? Or, if you’re both passionate about environmental issues, use only ethically sourced, seasonal produce. You can really show how considerate you are by cooking something that highlights your compatibility – and it might just lead to the second date.

For more romantic suggestions and dating tips, check out the eHarmony Facebook Page.

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