I used to be a Valentine’s Day curmudgeon; a killjoy that resented the tacky card and naff chocs industry and a snob that found the whole thing rather American, like Trick or Treat. In my view, expensive clichés (does anyone really enjoy a bunch of red roses?) is a turn off, not on. The real cure for the Valentines cynic is a bouquet of originality.
If you must give roses, give the type you can eat. A rose infused dish has more fragrance than most sold by florists. Try scattering edible pink Moroccan rose petals on dinner plates (£5.95/50g from The Spice Shop, www.thespiceshop.co.uk) or serve roast lamb with Belazu’s intensely deep red Rose Petal Harissa (£3.59/90g www.mybelazu.com).
Have care if going down the aphrodisiac route. It may be that garlic increases desire, but the smell of aioli lasts far too long. White truffles, in all their various incarnations, are more beguiling. My favourite is the truffle infused honey, delicious dribbled over one of those heart-shaped cheeses. Poddi Truffle Honey is available from Luigi’s, £12; visit the shop in Fulham Road, London, SW10, or see www.luigismailorder.com.
Oysters are a sensuous food, the best natives leaving a tingling, clean ocean taste in the mouth that lasts for several minutes even if sipping wine. If you are confident about opening your own – and do use a proper oyster knife to do this – you can order the best of all native oysters from Cornwall. The Cornish Native Oyster company are offering a dozen of mixed types, serving two people, for £21.50; harvested, most romantically, by sailing boat in the Fal River. Ask about delivery times (www.cornishnativeoysters.co.uk, 07791 378503).
For many, Valentine’s is simply an affirmation of love, and can begin at breakfast. There is something lovely about Hsiu-Li Yeh’s Green Tea Hearts; little heart-shaped lozenges of compressed tea that, once in boiling hot water, unfurl to make fragrant tea (£6.50/30g box, from Harrods, www.harrods.com).
There’s more charm in the form of a heart-shaped shallow pan cooker in which to make loving buttermilk pancakes and serve with blueberries, Greek yoghurt and maple syrup. Brush the heart mould with oil or melted butter and place in a similarly prepared pan. Make a pancake mix - whizz or whisk together 200g fine plain white or “00” pasta flour, 2 eggs, 1 tbsp butter, 3 level tsps baking powder, 60g caster sugar and 300g buttermilk. If you cannot find butter milk, use milk with the juice of half a lemon stirred into it before adding to the batter. Pour batter into the mould, over a medium hot pan; cook until bubbles rise to the surface, lift away the mould and flip the pancake over. Serve two pancakes stacked with the berries and cream, syrup spooned over the top. Heart-shaped shallow pan cookers are £12.50 from Jamie At Home (www.jamieathome.com, 0844 871 2010).
Valentine’s teatime will be cheered with the help of Biscuiteers, a London-based bakery that has taken the biscuit to dizzy creative heights. Iced by hand in cheerful colours – they will even stick a heart-shaped biscuit to a card and send it to your loved one (from £9). My favourite, however, is the pretty biscuit tin, filled with iced biscuit letters that spell 'I Love You’ (plus iced love hearts). £38.50 for 16 biscuits, and well worth the money. Finally, those in love who live near Bristol should make a trip to the special Valentine’s Day Love Food Festival tomorrow (February 12) where they will find, among many good things, a champagne lounge and an oyster bar, a pop up restaurant and stalls selling local food and cider. 10.30-4pm, entrance free; at The Paintworks, Bath Road, Bristol BS4 3EH www.lovefoodfestival.com.