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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 16 August 2018

Our step-by-step, minute-by-minute guide to cooking Valentine's dinner

We take you through an easy three-course meal that can be prepared in under an hour

Mango and ginger cheesecake pots
Mango and ginger cheesecake pots

Whatever your thoughts about Valentine’s Day (lover, hater, utterly indifferent), make dinner for someone this evening. Cooking a meal is one of the nicest things you can do: it’s not schmaltzy, clichéd or expensive, but it does show that you care and the effort will always be appreciated. So forget about paying over the odds for a restaurant meal, bypass that niggling feeling that all the other couples are a little more in love than you are, and cosy up at home instead.

It’s a workday, which means that time will be tight. Follow our step-by-step, minute-by-minute guide, though, and you can have a three-course meal ready, prepared and on the table in under an hour. It’s a simple menu, but it’s delicious and, crucially, it won’t stress you (or your dining partner) out.

To make things even easier, we’ve created a handy shopping list and a store cupboard checklist specified the items you’ll need for each dish in case you don’t fancy a three-course affair and suggested a few variations to suit different tastes. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day menu (ready in under 60 minutes)

Starter: Endive, blue cheese and walnut sharing salad

Endive, blue cheese and walnut sharing salad
Endive, blue cheese and walnut sharing salad

Main course

Poached salmon with spiced couscous and herb-yogurt dressing
Poached salmon with spiced couscous and herb-yogurt dressing

Poached salmon with spiced couscous and herb-yogurt dressing

Dessert

Mango and ginger cheesecake pots
Mango and ginger cheesecake pots

Mango and ginger cheesecake pots

Shopping list

Fresh ingredients

2 heads endive

1 small bunch parsley

1 small bunch mint

1 lemon

4 spring onions

1 mango

Dry ingredients

2 tbsp golden raisins

1 packet ginger biscuits

2 tbsp walnuts

1 tbsp dried cranberries

100g couscous

400g canned chickpeas

1 jar stem ginger in syrup

Fish

2 x 120g skinless salmon fillets

Dairy

130g natural yoghurt

50g blue cheese

100g mascarpone

65g cream cheese

Store cupboard items

Butter

Olive oil

Ground cumin

Runny honey

Icing sugar

Salt and black pepper

Checklist

For the starter:

30g natural yoghurt

50g blue cheese

1 tbsp olive oil

2 heads endive

1 tbsp runny honey

2 tbsp walnuts

1 tbsp dried cranberries

For the main course:

100g couscous

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp butter

1 small bunch parsley

1 small bunch mint

1 lemon

400g canned chickpeas

4 spring onions

2 tbsp golden raisins

100g natural yogurt

2 x 120g salmon fillets

For the dessert:

1/2 mango

2 pieces stem ginger, plus 1 tbsp syrup from the jar

8-10 ginger biscuits

100g mascarpone cheese

65g cream cheese

2 tbsp icing sugar

Minute-by-minute instructions

60 minutes to go

Decant two heaped tablespoons of yoghurt into a bowl. Crumble the blue cheese into small pieces and mix ¾ of it into the yoghurt (save the rest for later). Drizzle with olive oil.

54 minutes...

Peel the mango half and finely dice the flesh. Put in a bowl and drizzle with one tablespoon of syrup from the jar of stem ginger. Set aside.

50 minutes...

Tip the ginger biscuits into a sturdy

bowl and bash with a rolling pin until you’re left with fine crumbs. Add a tablespoon of stem ginger syrup and mix well. Divide between two serving bowls

or glasses

44 minutes...

Finely chop two pieces of stem ginger. Beat together the mascarpone, cream cheese and icing sugar until smooth. Stir in the chopped stem ginger. Spoon the cheesecake mix over the biscuit base. Top with the mango and chill in the fridge

until you’re ready to eat dessert.

36 minutes...

Boil the kettle. Tip the couscous into a

bowl or saucepan and add 1 tbsp cumin

and 1 tbsp butter. Add 200ml boiling

water, cover with cling film or a

lid and set aside

32 minutes...

Roughly tear the bunches of parsley and mint to separate the leaves and stems. Put the stems in a medium saucepan filled with salted water. Set leaves aside. Slice the lemon in half. Add the juice from one half to the pan, along with the peel. Set over a medium-high heat and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to

a gentle simmer.

28 minutes...

Fluff up the couscous with a fork. Drain the chickpeas, discarding the liquid. Finely slice the spring onions. Add both to the couscous, along with the golden raisins. Drizzle with olive oil, season generously with salt and pepper and stir well. Set aside.

24 minutes...

Put the parsley and mint leaves in a blender with 100g yoghurt and the juice of the other lemon half. Season with salt and pepper and blitz until smooth. This is your finished herb dressing

20 minutes...

Add the salmon fillets to the pan of gently simmering water and leave to poach for 8 to 10 minutes.

18 minutes...

Set the table, pour the drinks and take a deep breath: you’re almost done.

12 minutes...

Divide the herbed yoghurt dressing between two serving plates and add a

couple of large spoonfuls of the spiced couscous to each one.

10 minutes...

Remove the salmon from the pan and drain on kitchen paper, then wrap loosely in foil. Unwrap and sit the fish on top of the couscous when you’re ready to serve the main course.

8 minutes...

Roughly chop the walnuts. Slice the endive into slim wedges and put in a bowl. Add the blue cheese dressing you made earlier, as well as the chopped walnuts and cranberries. Gently mix together, then pile onto a serving platter or large plate and drizzle with honey. Place in the middle of the table for sharing. Set aside.

5 minutes...

Relax. You’re done.

Variations

Starter

Can’t get hold of endive? Use chicory or cos lettuce instead. If you’re not a fan of blue cheese, swap it for Parmesan and add a couple of tablespoons of cream cheese to the mixture. Forgo the cranberries and sprinkle the salad with chopped spring onion, extra Parmesan and walnuts to finish – a little crispy veal bacon would be good as well. To make the salad more substantial, serve warm crusty bread on the side or add croutons to the mix.

Main course

For a vegetarian main, replace the salmon with roasted vegetables: toss wedges of red onion and thinly sliced butternut squash and carrots in olive oil, and cook in a 2000C oven for 35 minutes. If you prefer poultry, you can swap the fish for poached chicken breasts instead, or even pick up a rotisserie chicken on the way home and shred it into pieces to serve.

Dessert

For a chocolatey take on the dessert, use double chocolate chip cookies instead of ginger biscuits, swirl a spoonful of Nutella through the mascarpone and cream cheese mix, and top the cheesecake with grated chocolate and chopped hazelnuts. If you don’t like stem ginger, mix the crushed biscuits with a tablespoon of melted butter and omit the ginger from the topping.

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Read more:

Sorry, romantics – Valentine's Day has no place in our hearts or wallets

Your guide to Valentine's Day in the UAE

Luxury Valentine's Day gift guide for her - in pictures

Travel deals: 11 last-minute getaways for Valentine's Day 2018

Extravagant ways to celebrate Valentine's Day in Dubai

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