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Our esteemed food columnist Mark Hix says sharing dishes on Valentine's means more time for romance...

Over the years I've had a few ideas that make home entertaining on Valentine's Day a bit more fun than getting your butcher to cut a pair of heartshaped steaks or chops! Create a dinner for your lover where all the courses are designed for sharing – then there's less washing up to do, too.

One thing I love is roasting a duck. Pre-cooking, take the legs off and cook them for an hour or so on 180°C/Gas 4. Shred them and toss them into a salad with some blood orange segments. The breasts can then have a hot roast for about 30 minutes. A good quality chicken is always a safe bet, too. To impress, serve it on a ceramic chicken stand like we use in the restaurants (ours are from Hundred-Aker-Wood Pottery). Or, how about a large veal chop (weighing 600-800g), that can be simply cooked on a cast-iron griddle and sliced and served at the table. Again, a salad works well with this, as does roasted endive.

Another classic is a rack of lamb, French trimmed, which is simple to carve. You can eat it with your hands with a tomato-flavoured hollandaise or salsa verde. Most good butchers can give you a good steer on these cuts. If you really want to push the boat out you could do a bit of surf and turf, and grill a lobster and serve it with a small fillet steak or even a piece of grilled veal fillet. Whatever you choose, the key is simple cooking, so you spend more time at the table with your lover.

When it comes to presentation, a simple, goodlooking bit of wood and a nice sharp carving knife will certainly do the trick. There's no need for any added frills, except a nice sauce and maybe a salad. Oh, I almost forgot the most important bit. Shake a nice cocktail before dinner and make damn sure you have a top-notch bottle of vino to wash it all down.


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