1: Don't Attempt To Cook Together If You're Early In Your Relationship
James doesn’t think it’s a good idea to cook a meal together for Valentine’s until you’ve been together for at least four to five years.
“I’d test the water with a take-out first, I wouldn’t bother going shopping. It’s not worth the hassle, it’s too stressful. First time, just get take-out,” says James.
2. Make The Menu Italian, Rather Than French
French food seems very romantic – it makes us feel like we’re sipping wine and dining in Paris – but James suggests Italian if you’re making your Valentine’s dinner at home.
“Go for Italian food, because it’s simplistic, easy, and you won’t mess it up. And you’ll spend time that’s not in the kitchen. Italian food is the easiest because it’s the simplest, and it relies on the great ingredients. French is very different, you’ve got such a variety in France, whereas Italy’s all the same. It relies on great ingredients, just put simply. But that’s what food is.”
TRY THIS: Prosciutto, Mozzarella And Rocket Pizza, which is super-easy to make
Photo: Bauer/Rob Shaw
3. Keep It Simple With Pasta
“Practice doing pasta – everybody messes up pasta because they always overcook it,” says James. “And you don’t put oil in when you boil it – I don’t know where people get this idea, that oil in the water apparently stops it from sticking. But all you need to cook pasta is a big pan of boiling water, and you drain it off. But you must put the pasta in the sauce – everybody puts the pasta on the plate and pours the sauce on top. Fatal. If you do that in Italy, then you’ll get shot. You’ve got to put the pasta in the sauce to finish it off. And then that coats it, and that just makes it taste so much nicer.”
TRY THIS: 10 Refreshing Pasta Recipes For Quick Dinners
Photo: Bauer/Rob Shaw
4. Try A Roasted Fish Or Chicken Dish
To up the fancy meal factor, James loves the idea of a good old roast, which suits his comfort food cooking style to a T.
“I think a nice whole-roasted piece of fish is fantastic. The way the Italians do it, they take a whole sea bass and they just simply roast it in the oven for 25-30 minutes, and serve it whole. And then you just basically serve that with broccoli and potatoes, and then you just rip it up. I love that whole sharing sort of thing. My new restaurant is going to be like that, with a whole chicken. We’re just going to put it in the middle of the table and just watch everybody tear it apart.”
RELATED: How To Make The Perfect Roast Chicken Dish and our Roast Spring Chicken recipe
Photo: Bauer/John Paul Urizar
5. Up Your Cooking Skills By Learning From A Restaurant
It’s too late this year of course, but if you want to plan a bang-up Valentine’s Day meal next year, James suggests rolling up your sleeves and learning cooking from a local restaurant.
“Work in a restaurant – I keep saying that. Just stick your head through a restaurant, you’ll learn so much. If you spend two days in a restaurant you’ll never want to work in a restaurant again, but you’ll learn so much. The respect that you’ll have for, if you’re sitting and eating in a restaurant and something happens, you won’t go moaning at the waiter and that kind of thing, because you understand what happens. I think it’s really quite cool to look into a restaurant and see how it works.”
For a restaurant-quality dish that’ll impress your sweetie, try James Martin’s Beef Wellington With Wild Mushroom Madeira Sauce recipe.