The pressure is on. I’ve just remembered it’s Valentine’s Day next week and I don’t know about you but my days are already filled with back-to-back meetings, so dinner is hardly going to be a four-course extravaganza. And I don’t want to go out. Eating out is a very enjoyable part of my job these days, while cooking and sharing a meal is a luxury that brings me great pleasure.

Years ago, Antonio Carluccio told me that for him the food of love is Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino. I wish you could hear him actually saying that; he made me blush like I haven’t done since high school. But enough about my crush on the charming and much-missed master of Italian cookery.

That dish translates as spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and chilli.  A dish that can be thrown together in a flash and devoured as a midnight feast for two. And we all know where Antonio was going with that. He suggested throwing in an anchovy or two to make it completely gastrogasmic.


These days the likelihood of the hubby and I devouring this as a midnight feast at home is unlikely – just the prospect of digesting those carbs at midnight would be enough to have us heading for the Alka Seltzer. Although we have been known to pop down to Soul Bar & Bistro for their salt and pepper squid, lemon, almond skordalia and chilli oil at around 9.45pm.

I’ve taught both the husband and the son to cook that simple dish of garlicky chilli oil and pasta and it is a classic that they pull out often when I insist on someone else doing the cooking. However, it’s my night to cook tomorrow night, which just happens to be the big V Day and I reckon Antonio was onto something with that notion of a simple pasta dish being the food of love.

My version will be our green herb and cockle pasta. A dish created for Cuisine magazine by senior food writer Fiona Smith that is simple to make and gives me pure joy with it’s salty, sweet taste of the sea and the vibrant fresh herbs stirred through at the very last minute. You can use your favourite shellfish here.

I might even follow that up with Emma Galloway’s blueberry thyme granita. Blueberries are extremely cheap at the moment and if I pull my finger out and spend five minutes prepping it tonight or in the morning, I can get it into the freezer before I go to work.

This won’t help you of course if you don’t have the blueberries to hand, so in that case, I suggest a good scoop of vanilla Ice-cream and a drizzle of Pedro Ximenez sherry and jobs done.

Or you could take the pressure off completely and go out and enjoy one of these outstanding romantic feasts…