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003 the perfect carbonara   anita murphy 2019
Main image courtesy of Anita Murphy

What to cook for Valentine's Day dinner – according to Il Vicolo's head chef, Megan Nolan

The head chef offers her professional advice for the perfect February 14th meal.


Megan Nolan, head chef of Il Vicolo restaurant and wine bar in Galway has given us an essential guide to help you create the perfect Valentine's Day meal.

This Valentine’s Day we’ll be recreating our favourite date night at home. But to help you really pull out all the stops this February 14, we quizzed Il Vicolo's head chef, Megan Nolan on all things Valentine's Day dinner related – including easy recipes to cook. 

Megan's top tips:

1. The first thing is to be realistic in your own ability - trying complex dishes to impress can easily end in failure. Make sure to practice if you haven’t made the dishes before. It’s important that you are comfortable cooking each dish so that you can be relaxed throughout the cooking process.

2. When selecting your dishes, try not to choose anything too spicy or too messy. Also make sure to check if your date has any allergies or special requirements before planning your menu.

 3. Be practical. Decide which dishes you want to prepare well in advance and write a list. Check the ingredients you already have in your pantry to save you buying things you already have and to prevent any last-minute panic when cooking.

4. Assess your timeframe and make a plan. You’re setting yourself up to fail if you’re trying to prepare a three-course meal in 30 minutes. The plan doesn’t have to be regimented, you just need a rough guideline of how long each step will take. And be realistic, allowing yourself ample time.

5. Another idea is to weigh out all of your ingredients before you start cooking. This will save time later on and keep you organised.

6. Prepare the starter or dessert the day before if possible. Having this done in advance will make your life a lot easier on the day.

7. Think about including a nice drink or a cocktail to balance the meal and add a nice touch to your romantic evening. Try to choose a drink that will flatter but not overwhelm the food. For example, if you’re cooking lamb you should go with a more robust red wine but if you’re cooking fish a crisper Pinot Grigio would work nicely.

8. Clean as you go. The last thing you want before your date arrives is a sink full of dishes! By doing this you also create a more organised and relaxed cooking environment.

9. For Valentine’s Day, the atmosphere is as important as the food. Make sure to leave time to set the table, light some candles, and put music on. This will elevate the overall dining experience.

10. And most importantly have fun. Try not to panic if something doesn’t go to plan - it may not feel like it at the time, but you will look back and laugh!

What to cook: 

Because if there's one certain you can count on this valentine's day, your date loves pasta (possibly even more than they do you – and hey, no judgement!). Pasta Carbonara is a perfect choice as not only is quick and simple to make but your valentine will love it too. Try Megan's very own recipe, here.

The perfect carbonara/ Image: Anita Murphy
The perfect carbonara/ Image: Anita Murphy

And what would Valentine's day be without dessert? Megan's dish of choice is a lush white chocolate pannacotta, you can try her recipe, here. 

READ MORE: 10 recipes that are perfect for Valentine's Day brunch