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Easy recipe for a first date

SO you're not a great chef but you've offered to cook for a new partner. Can you pull this off without embarrassing yourself -- or putting your new relationship in danger?

The most important thing is not to panic. It's really not that hard to make a lovely dinner that will impress your date.

PLAN AHEAD: First of all, make sure that your date isn't allergic to anything. There would be nothing worse than slaving over a meal to have your date tell you that they are allergic to your main-course ingredient. This will also show that you care. More brownie points here!

DON'T GO OVERBOARD: If you are on the fence about whether to cook a two- or a three-course meal, make it a two-course meal and just have some cheese and crackers for your guest when they arrive.

PREPARATION IS KEY: Buy as much as you can the day before, and keep all the ingredients together so they are at hand. Read your recipe and see what can be prepped in advance so you have less to worry about on the day of the date.

HAVE FUN: Remember, cooking is all about having fun and your date will appreciate having dinner cooked for them.

Here are some simple recipes to help you with your date night. A simple soup that can be made the night before to start off, followed by a great braised dish and finally a dessert that can also be prepared the night before. All recipes serve two!

>ROASTED HEARTY TOMATO SOUP

Sometimes the simple things are the best. Start the evening by giving your date a warm and cosy feeling in their tummy.

Ingredients

700g ripe tomatoes, cut in half

6 tbsp olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tsp dried rosemary

1 tsp dried thyme

1½ litre chicken stock

½ tsp dried crushed chilli flakes

Small handful basil leaves, torn

instructions

>Preheat the oven to 200°C

>Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, on a large baking tray. Drizzle half the olive oil over the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until the tomatoes are tender and have browned.

>Tip the tomatoes and any accumulated juices into a food processor or blender and blitz for about 30 seconds until blended.

>Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan over a low-medium heat. Add the garlic, rosemary and thyme and sauté for about 30 seconds, stirring until fragrant and the garlic is golden. Pour the tomatoes on to the garlic in the pan and add the chicken stock and crushed chilli flakes.

>Bring to the boil and then reduce to simmer for about 20 minutes until the soup thickens slightly. Garnish withthe basil leaves

Tip: This soup can be made the night before; store in the fridge, covered, and reheat the next day.

>VINEGAR MUSHROOM BRAISED CHICKEN

This dish is so simple; it requires only a few ingredients and serving it on a bed of polenta makes a fresh change from the spud.

Ingredients

½ tbsp canola oil or vegetable oil

2 chicken breasts, skin on

Salt and pepper

1 clove garlic, chopped

100g mushrooms, sliced

80ml chicken stock

80ml red wine vinegar

1 tbsp parsley, chopped

Polenta, cook as directed on the package and set aside -- covered

instructions

>In a large saucepan, heat oil until hot.

>Rinse then pat chicken dry with a paper towel and season well with salt and pepper.

>Add the chicken breasts into the pan, skin side down. Cook for about 6-8 minutes until browned. Turn over.

>Add garlic and cook for one minute, then add mushrooms and cook for a further one minute.

>Now add the stock and vinegar together. Using a wooden spoon scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan (this is where the flavour is).

>Keep on a simmer for about 6 minutes until sauce thickens.

>Add parsley and serve on a bed of polenta. Spoon sauce and mushrooms on top.

Tip: Make the polenta first, keep it covered with kitchen foil, so that you won't have so much going on at once.

>HAZELNUT CHOCOLATE MOUSSE

Ingredients

200g chocolate hazelnut spread, Nutella is good

125ml crème fraîche

1 tbsp brandy (or other favourite liqueur)

250ml double cream

25g walnuts, crushed

instructions

> Place the chocolate spread, crème fraîche and brandy in a large bowl and beat together until smooth.

>In a separate bowl, whisk the cream until stiff. Gently fold the cream into the chocolate mixture until well combined.

>Spoon the mousse into two Martini glasses and scatter the walnuts over. >Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Tip: This can be made the night before and chilled in the fridge.

Visit www.stuartokeeffe.com


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