This Valentine, stay at home!

Published: February 13, 2016

No venue can be more magical than your house where you both started a new life together

No venue can be more magical than your house where you both started a new life together No venue can be more magical than your house where you both started a new life together

­­­Kiss all your prior engagements goodbye, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. It has to be celebrated with fanfare as the tales spill over to the next day, being shared on WhatsApp, Facebook, etc. The wives boasting about how their affluent husbands took them for a very romantic, candle-lit dinner to a fancy restaurant becomes the talk of the town. The pictures are uploaded as proof. An open invitation to the green-eyed monster!

Reality check please.

Valentine’s Day (commercial) celebration is with your significant other at a restaurant having an overpriced, banal meal, surrounded by strangers with inquisitive waiters circulating like vultures. Conversation in this setting is elusive because of the noise level and the hawk-like presence of the staff eager to present you with the cheque even before you finish the meal. Romance is not the first thing on your mind as you hurriedly consume (yes, consume not enjoy) your food to do justice to the exorbitant amount your doting husband is paying.

The rushed quotidian experience is hardly conducive to a memorable, romantic evening. In a conversation about the purpose of Valentine’s Day with my grandparents, I was persuaded by them that love is not supposed to be materialistic, glamour, glitz and money can’t bless you with eternal happiness. On their 45th wedding anniversary I finally dared to ask how they still loved each other in a world where happy marriages only existed in fairy-tales. My grandfather laughed and replied,

“My child, we never complicated our lives. I don’t recall taking her to lavish restaurants, buying her exuberant gifts or doing God knows what kids these days do to please each other. We have our dinner together every day and every part of my body enjoys it.”

Convinced, I now question this whole farce celebration of love on Valentine’s Day. What can be more enchanting than a romantic meal prepared with love and dedication by your benevolent partner? Surprising your partner with a homemade three-course meal served amidst a bouquet of their favourite flowers, scented candles and fancy tableware will definitely conquer their heart. This will definitely strike the right chords of their heart and soul. No venue can be more magical than your house where you both started a new life together. I have gone ahead and planned a menu to free you from the qualms of planning.

Starter: Tangy, clear green chili infused umami Thai soup (guaranteed to steam things up and curb that hunger too).

Main Course: The magical tangerine chicken with its battered, fried crunch drenched in a sweet, orange, chili sauce served with steamy oriental Chinese rice. This is fancy comfort food to discourage late-night refrigerator expeditions.

Dessert: The ultimate red velvet cupcake. It’s rich and light dressed with a smooth cream-cheese dollop promising euphoria marking the perfect end to a romantic meal.

If penguins propose to each other by offering a pebble why can’t you gamble your partners heart in less than Rs1500? Below is the key to the perfect Valentine’s Day meal.


Water – 1 litre

Chicken powder –2 tbsp

Green chilli – 4 to 5 (sliced and seeded)

Rice – 1 tbsp

Lemons – 2

Salt – To taste



1. Boil water

2. Add marinated chicken, green chilli, lemon juice and chicken powder.

3. Stir fry rice and add to the soup.

Ingredients for marination

Chicken breast – 100 grams (sliced)

Corn flour – 1 tsp

White flour – 1 tsp

Oil – ½ tsp

Ingredients for chicken

Chicken – 500 grams (boneless)

Flour – 1 cup

Olive oil – 1½ tablespoon

Ingredients for sauce

Soya sauce – 2 ½ tbsp

Vinegar – 1/3 cup

Brown sugar – 1 cup

Red chilli – ¼ tsp (crushed)

Garlic – ½ teaspoon (crushed)

Lemon juice – ¼ cup

Orange juice – 2 to 3 tbsp

Orange zest/peel – 1 tbsp

Salt- to taste

Green onion – 2 tbsp (chopped)

Water – 1 ½ cup

Cornstarch -3 tbsp with water


1. Put all the ingredients for sauce except for cornstarch and green onion in a pan.

2. Bring it to a boil. Let it cool for ten minutes.

3. Pour half a cup of sauce in an airtight box and marinate chicken in it. Place the box in the fridge.

4. After 1-2 hours take the box out. Add flour and oil and shake well to coat the chicken  evenly. Pop it back again in the fridge for at least ½ an hour.

5. Heat oil in a pan and fry the chicken

6. Once fried, take it out in a plate lined with tissue paper.

7. Put the leftover sauce on the stove and heat it. Add the corn flour mixture when it comes to a boil.

8. Add the fried chicken to the sauce.

9. Serve with stir fried rice

Ingredients (Cupcakes)

Flour – 3 tbsp (less than one and a half cup)

Corn flour – 3 tbsp

Baking soda –  ½ tsp

Vinegar – ½ tsp

Buttermilk – ½ cup

Red colour – 2 1/2 tbsp

Cocoa powder – 1 tbsp

Vegetable oil – ½ cup

Butter – ¼ cup

Eggs – 2 (seperated)

Sugar – 1 cup

Vanilla essence – ¾ tablespoons

Ingredients (frosting)

Icing sugar– 2 cups

Cream cheese – 200 grams

Milk/cream – 1 to 2 tbsp

Butter – ¼ cup

Vanilla extracts – 1 tsp


1. Pre-heat oven at 180 degrees.

2. Sift flour and cocoa powder in a large bowl.

3. Beat butter and sugar together. Then add in oil.

4. Stir in egg yolks ,vanilla and  food colouring.

5. Add buttermilk altering with dry mixture to the eggs mixture.

6. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold in the mixture.

7. Lastly, mix the baking soda and vinegar, and quickly add it to the mixture.

8. Put the mixture in a muffin tray and pop it in the oven.

 Instructions for frosting:

1. Beat cream cheese and butter together.

2. Add icing sugar slowly, followed by milk/cream and vanilla essence.

3. Put the mixture in a piping bag, swirl and pop. I don’t put too much frosting since red velvet cupcake has its own charm for me, but you might do anything you like.  

Romance away!

All Photos: Mahrukh Nadeem

Mahrukh Nadeem

Mahrukh Nadeem

The author is an A level student who plans on becoming an architect in the future. She is a complete foodie and dreams of opening a restaurant someday. She tweets as @nadeem_mahrukh

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.