Wednesday 16 January 2019

What’s cooking?

Buying her dinner is one thing, but making it is another thing entirely. Even if you're not a whizz in the kitchen, you can still win her heart with these simple and quick recipes, writes Donal Skehan

The way to a man's heart may be through his stomach, but the same applies to a woman.

I do most of the cooking in my house and I can safely say that once I produce a good meal, my girlfriend soon forgets to nag me about leaving my clothes on the floor, not putting out the bins and the other housework jobs that I'm pretty rubbish at. I have put together one of the easiest romantic menus to win you serious brownie points in the relationship stakes.

The delicious light starter of baked shellfish with chilli, lemon and garlic takes only a few minutes to prepare and not long to cook. For the main course, a spicy chicken tagine heats things up. You can make it the night before and just heat it up when you are ready to serve with a little couscous.

For a delicious dessert, try the strawberry and rhubarb oaty crumble. If this doesn't wow your lady I don't know what will . . .

>> Baked tray of Shellfish with lemon, chilli and garlic

(Serves 2)


•250g (9oz) live mussels (about a handful)

•250g (9oz) live clams (about a handful)

•4 tbsp butter, softened

•6 tbsp olive oil

•A few fresh thyme sprigs

•4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

•1 red chilli, finely chopped

•6 crab claws

•4 shelled scallops

•6 large raw prawns, unpeeled

•Sea salt

•Juice of 1 lemon, plus extra to serve and lemon wedges to serve

•Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, to serve

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F), gas mark 6. Place the mussels and clams in a sink filled with cold water and scrub away any dirt or beards.

Discard any shells which are open at this point and which don't close when tapped on a hard surface. Place butter, olive oil, thyme, garlic and chilli on a plate and mash together with a fork.

Arrange the shellfish on a large baking tray and coat with the butter mixture as well as you can. Sprinkle with a little salt and the lemon juice. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until all the shellfish are cooked. Discard any shells that are still closed.

Serve with an extra squeeze of lemon juice, lemon wedges and a sprinkle of fresh parsley.

>>Moroccan Chicken Tagine

(Serves 4)


•1 tsp ground ginger

•1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

•1 tsp turmeric

•1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

•2 tsp paprika

•10 chicken thighs, skinned, boned and cut in half

•50g (2oz) dried apricots, finely sliced

•50g (2oz) sultanas

•1 tbsp sunflower oil

•2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped

•8 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

•1 tbsp honey

•2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

•1/2 tbsp vegetable bouillon powder

•250g (9oz) couscous

•A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped, to serve

Mix all the spices together in a small bowl. Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl; add half the spice mixture and toss until the chicken pieces are thoroughly coated. Cover and place in the fridge for 1-2 hours to allow the spices to permeate the meat.

Place the apricots and sultanas in a bowl and cover them with boiling water. Heat the oil in a large high-sided frying pan over a high heat, add the marinated chicken pieces and fry until browned all over. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

Add the onions and garlic to the pan and fry for 1 minute over a low heat, and then add the remaining spice mixture and fry until the onions are soft. Add the apricots and sultanas and the soaking liquid, along with the honey, chopped tomatoes and bouillon powder.

Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened. Add the chicken pieces and toss until coated in the sauce then cook gently for 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Prepare the couscous according to packet instructions and serve with the chicken, sprinkled generously with chopped coriander. This is also good served with bulgur wheat.

>>Strawberry and Rhubarb oaty crumble

(Serves 4)


•150g (5oz) plain flour

•150g (5oz) jumbo oat flakes

•175g (6oz) soft light brown sugar

•200g (7oz) cold butter, cut into small pieces

•Single cream, to serve


•600g (1lb 4oz) fresh strawberries, hulled

•5 medium stalks of rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 2.5cm (1in) pieces

•1 tbsp plain flour

•60g (2oz) soft light brown sugar

•Juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F), Gas mark 5. Place flour, oat flakes, brown sugar and butter in a large bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the ingredients together until the mixture resembles chunky breadcrumbs.

In a large baking dish, toss the strawberries and rhubarb with the flour, sugar and lemon juice. Add the crumble mix and spread over the top of the filling until evenly covered. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until the crumble topping is golden brown and the fruit is soft and bubbling beneath. Serve in generous portions with a drizzle of fresh cream.

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