Three Simple Recipes to Cook Your Way to Love
They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. We’re not sure who ‘they’ are, maybe disqualified surgeons, but we do know that whatever your gender, being passionate about cooking can help you get a date.
However, not all of us are a whizz with a wok, or have a bachelors in using spatulas (well, you try to come up with better), so we asked the fantastic food experts at London Piggy to share three top recipes which will impress a date, and can be made even if you don’t know your lemongrass from your elbow.
Slow cooked chili beef shin
This is a great dish to cook for your date. It’s flavour packed, easy, and best of all, most the work can be done well ahead of time. On date night all you’ll have to do is heat and eat. Oh, and convince him/her that you actually made it from scratch.
I’d like to be able to say that using beef shin in a chili was our idea but it’s actually something that we ‘borrowed’ from Jamie Oliver. It’s a great value cut and when it’s slow cooked like this because the meat becomes melting and succulent. If you can get it on the bone, all the better. Our shin was de-boned and weighed in at a whopping 800g. Unless it’s a double date you’ll have plenty of food left over for another day (trust me, that’s a really good thing).
Cooking a shin of this size would usually take at least 5 hours at 160°C, covered in the oven. Realistically though nobody has time for that so we’ve managed to cut the cooking time in half by using a pressure cooker on a steady boil. It worked an absolute treat.
We like to eat our chili in corn (or flour) tortillas with some natural yoghurt,grated cheese and rice but this can prove a bit messy for a date. If you want to be more traditional, it’ll be equally as delicious in a bowl with rice and sour cream (or even polenta/mashed potato).
Preparation time: 3 hours 30 mins (or 6 hours if oven cooking)
For the chili
- 800g (approx.) shin of beef
- 1 tbsp. rapeseed oil
- 1 red onion (diced)
- 1 white onion (diced)
- 5 cloves of garlic (minced)
- 2 medium chillies (chopped)
- 1 generous handful of coriander (stalk and leaf)
- 2.5 heaped tsp. of smoked paprika
- 2.5 heaped tsp. cumin
- 1.5 level tsp. cinnamon
- 1 level tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 level tsp. oregano (preferably mexican)
- 3 dried red chillies (finely chopped)
- 1 squirt of tomato ketchup
- 400 ml. of good quality dark ale (stout or porter)
- 400g. tin of San Marzano tomatoes
- 400g. tin drained pre-cooked white or red kidney beans
- 15g. high-quality dark chocolate
For the extras
- 100g. long grain rice
- 6 store bought, soft corn or flour tortillas (optional)
- 100g. grated mature cheddar cheese
- 100g. natural yoghurt (or sour cream)
Season the beef with salt and pepper and brown in a heavy bottomed pan on a high heat with some rapeseed oil until a nice crust starts to built up. This should take around 3-4 minutes per side.
Remove the beef and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium and soften the onions and garlic (5-10 mins.). Now add finely chopped coriander (stalks only), fresh chillies, smoked paprika, cumin, cinnamon and oregano. Carry on cooking for another 3-4 mins, stirring constantly then tip the mixture into the pressure cooker.
De-glaze the heavy bottomed pan with a little of the ale and pour the pan juices into the pressure cooker with the onions. Add the tomatoes, the remaining ale, brown sugar and the dried chillies. Add the beef too, then pour in extra water until the top of the meat is almost submerged. Close the pressure cooker and cook on a low-medium heat for around 2 hours 30 mins or until the meat is able to be easily pulled apart. You may want to check on the pressure cooker occasionally to make sure it’s working correctly.
When the beef is done, pour in the the pre-cooked kidney beans (but not the liquid from the tin) and the grated chocolate. Add a squirt of ketchup and adjust seasoning to taste. Continue to cook for five minutes with the lid off, stirring occasionally. Finally transfer the chili to a large bowl and set aside to cool. It should then rest in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
On date night, heat half of the chilli in a saucepan over a moderate heat and save the rest for another day. Chop some more coriander and add to the mix as you take it off the heat. Cook rice as per packet instructions and toast your tacos (if using) for ten seconds on each side in a fairly hot, dry frying pan. Serve with grated cheese and yoghurt or sour cream on the side.
Spiced lamb chops with pearl barley risotto and flower sprouts
This dish is influenced by Diana Henry’s excellent cookbook “A Change of Appetite.” It’s all about a lighter, healthier style of cooking, without compromising on taste.
It’s a good date dish because it requires very little prep and as long as you cook the meat properly, there’s really no way it should go wrong. It’s also a good chance to show off your kitchen skills as you cook the lamb on a griddle.
Preparation time: 45 mins (saffron and lamb need to be prepared 2 hours prior to cooking)
For the meat
- 4 trimmed best-end lamb chops
- 2 tsp. ras el hanout
- 1 tsp sumac
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- Salt and pepper
For the risotto
- 120g. pearl barley
- Pinch of saffron (optional)
- 1 large leek, thinly sliced
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 500ml. chicken stock, hot
- 1 small glass med/dry white wine
- 1 small bunch coriander
- Salt and pepper
Serve with flower sprouts or other greens
Place the lamb chops on a chopping board, cover with clingfilm then beat them out a little with a tenderising mallet. Rub with the ras el hanout and sumac then cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Make sure you take them out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before you start cooking.
If you’re using saffron, place a good pinch (approx 20 strands) in 2 tbsp. of water to infuse for at least two hours and set aside. Pour the pearl barley into a sieve and rinse under a cold tap for a minute.
On a medium heat, sauté the leeks and garlic in a little rapeseed oil for a few minutes until soft. Add the pearl barley, stir for another couple of minutes to toast, then add the white wine. Pour in ¾ of the chicken stock and saffron water and stir.
Cover and leave to simmer gently for around 30 mins, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. When most of the liquid is absorbed, taste a grain or two to check the firmness. I like it nice and al dente but it’s up to you. If you think it needs longer, add the remaining stock and put it back on the heat for additional 5-10 minutes. Season to taste.
When you’re happy with the risotto, put it to one side. Heat a heavy griddle pan until it’s searingly hot. Rub a little olive oil onto the chops, season well and and place them in the pan. For medium/medium rare, cook for 2 – 2 ½ minutes on each side then set aside to rest. Steam the greens for 3 minutes. Now put the risotto back on heat and add finely chopped coriander. Drizzle a little olive oil over the greens and serve.
Baked New York Cheesecake
Don’t be scared by the thought of baking. Cheesecakes are super easy and this one should really meet with your date’s approval.
This is my interpretation on the amazing cheesecake I had at Junior’s in NYC a few years ago. Since then I’ve made quite a few tweaks to the recipe to make it even simpler. Chiefly, rather than baking it in a water bath, I now just use a low oven temperature (110℃). The end result is a cheesecake that’s so much softer and lighter than the ones you’re used to.
For the base
- 250g. (50/50) mix of digestive and ginger nut biscuits
- 100g. unsalted butter (melted)
- Pinch of salt
For the filling
- 840g. (3 large packs) Full fat cream cheese, at room temperature
- 170ml. extra thick double cream/whipping cream
- 3 tbsp. cornflour
- 175g. caster sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 3 medium eggs
- zest of ½ lemon, finely grated
For the extras
- 90g. fresh berries
- Icing sugar to dust
Pre-heat oven to 170℃. Crush the biscuits in a freezer bag by bashing with a rolling pin. Mix the crumbs with the melted butter and press firmly into a 9 inch springform tin to form an even base. Place in oven for 10 minutes, then cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 110℃.
Put 1 tub of the cream cheese in a mixing bowl with ⅓ of the sugar and all of the cornflour. Mix on low speed until creamy. Add the rest of the cream cheese one tub at a time, making sure to scrape down the sides occasionally. You can do this by hand if you want but the mixer makes things so much easier.
Increase the mixer speed and beat in the rest of the sugar, then the vanilla. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Also beat in the cream and lemon zest until just incorporated. Be careful not to over mix. The finished mix should be creamy and light.
Pour the mixture over the prepared base and bake for between 1 hour 30 and 2 hours. Ovens vary greatly so you should check the cheesecake after 1 hour 30. This is where you will have to use your judgement. If it only wobbles slightly in the centre, it’s done but if you think it needs longer, just put it back in. Mine actually took 2 hours to bake. Allow to cool for couple of hours in the oven (to prevent any cracking). Refrigerate once cool.
On date night remember to take it out of the fridge an hour before use. Cut a generous slice, dust with icing sugar and serve with some fresh berries.
LondonPiggy was created in 2012 by foodie couple Lisa Cheung and John Coulson. The site focuses on restaurants, street food, recipes and features, both in London and beyond.
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