With Valentine's Day just around the corner, it's the perfect time to tell your loved ones how much you care. The expected box of chocolates? The bunch of flowers? That's not what we want this Valentine's Day!
Here at the Pure Package I want to help you avoid the traditional Valentine's Day clichés. So instead of a shop-bought card, why not try commissioning a local artist's work in card forms, depicting an event or venue special to your relationship. There's nothing more romantic than reminiscing about a special moment or event that has meaning to your relationship. The traditional dinner for two is also an obvious choice, being wined and dined, but in reality, romance is often forced into a jam-packed restaurant and over-priced. I recommend dinner a deux at home, prepared in your kitchen by your own fair hands. This is not only an intimate way to enjoy each other's company in the comfort of your own home, but you also create meals from that special holiday or romantic getaway and have an all round more personal experience than you would get in a busy restaurant.
Instead of a tedious bunch of flowers, try whisking your loved one off on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Paris to see Monet's Blue Water Lilies in all their splendour at the fabulous Musee d'Orsay. It would certainly get the romance flowing; and what better gift to pair it with than a bottle of custom-made perfume? I love this idea as a gift because it's a bit of fun, and you find out in the process just how well you know your loved-one. This certainly beats a bottle of off-the-shelf perfume any day! Try Floris bespoke perfumery in London, or have a look in Neals Yard for some 'do it yourself' books.
However, if you really want to soak up the ambiance of Valentine's Day in London, there's no better place to enjoy a glass of champagne than Mayfair's Gigi restaurant. Whilst your there, check out the "Gigi's" champagne cocktail, it's only £9,000 a glass!!
However, along with each of these thoughtful ideas to get the romance flowing this Valentine's Day, like most women, I like to indulge in chocolate now and then, especially this time of year. Believe it or not, as well as being delicious, a good quality chocolate can also be good for you.
It contains flavonoids, which is known to improve the body's ability to fight disease and aging. So as we get older, it's a great excuse to get tucking in to the quality stuff! By 'quality', I mean the cocoa content, the higher the cocoa percentage, the more antioxidants it has, this may help prevent heart disease, reduce blood pressure, and lower cholesterol. It's a win, win situation in my opinion.
Chocolate is also a sure way to keep in good spirits, especially during the colder darker months. The cocoa contains an essential amino acid that increases the production of serotonin, which is the body's natural anti-depressant. Who needs a partner anyway, when you can spend the evening with good company and chocolate!
One of my personal favourite benefits chocolate has is that it contains the chemical phenylethylamine, which occurs naturally in our bodies when we fall in love! More of a reason to indulge this Valentine's Day! But best of all is the psychological effect; by "allowing" yourself an occasional treat, you will inevitably also boost your mood.
So there's no excuse why we can't enjoy a little chocolate now and then, just remember my golden rule: keep it little, keep it luxurious!
With this in mind, I will share with you one of my favourite chocolaty recipes. A good chocolate sauce is one of life's simple luxuries and it's one of my essential recipes which can be used in dozens of ways.
This Valentine's Day, a great way to indulge is to pair it with oranges steeped in decadent boozy syrup; originally published in our best-selling book, The Balance Diet, it's now a firm favourite with friends and clients alike! The Balance Diet is available from Amazon.
Boozy Oranges with Chocolate Sauce Recipe
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Wheat Free, Gluten Free, Vegetarian
You will need:
- 50g dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa solids, broken into pieces
- 60ml semi-skimmed milk
- Put the chocolate and milk in a non-stick pan, and place over a low heat.
- As it starts to warm through, the chocolate will slowly melt into the milk. Stir regularly to blend and to prevent lumps.
- Without allowing it to come to the boil, take the pan off the heat once the chocolate has completely melted into a smooth sauce.
You will need:
- 2 oranges, peeled, pith removed, and sliced
- 150ml orange juice
- 50ml Cointreau (or other orange liquor)
- 1 portion warm chocolate sauce (above)
- Place the sliced oranges, the orange juice, and the Cointreau / liquor in a small non-stick pan, and slowly bring to the boil over a medium flame.
- When just at the boil, reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 5 minutes, to allow the flavours to infuse.
- Remove the oranges from the warm syrup with a slotted spoon, and divide between 2 serving dishes.
- Meanwhile, increase the heat under the syrup and return to the boil, until the syrup is reduced by half, to a thick syrup.
- Spoon the warm syrup over the oranges, and top with warm chocolate sauce.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted pistachios, chopped.
- Sprinkle with the chopped pistachios and eat while still warm.
This chocolate sauce is perfect for coating pieces of fruit, as it hardens slightly as it cools. Strawberries are an obvious and delicious choice, but I personally think blackberries, blueberries and cherries make a stunning alternative.
For more delicious recipes like this, my book 'The Balance Diet' is available from Amazon.