You only have to watch one episode of Masterchef to realise that what separates a good home cook from a chef isn’t just how fancy the meal, but how it looks on the plate. And with good reason – scientific studies show that the appearance of a meal directly affects how diners experience its flavours.
Whether you’ll be clinking glasses with your partner of 40 years, gazing into the eyes of a new love, feeding titbits to your fur baby or enjoying the guilty pleasure of a cheesy film alone in your jim-jams, you can make your Valentine’s dinner a gourmet experience thanks to our quick and easy tips.
In honour of Valentine’s Day, when we feel everyone deserves to treat themselves (and partners, too, of course!), we asked one of our in-house food photographers, Abi, for some trade secrets about beautifying your servings. Here’s what she told us:
Meals with toppings and crusts are a little trickier but there are still some tricks to pull off a pristine plate. A quick solution is to use a turner utensil that fits the whole width of the tray (if, like me, you’d not heard of these, they’re wide-based spatula-style implements, and your largest slice or spatula may suffice) to gently lift a meal out of its tray. To make the meal look even more professional, prepare a bed of roasted veg or salad on the plate and nestle your meal carefully on top. This method is easier with smaller portions!
The other option is to use an attractive oven-proof dish which can be placed directly onto a plate alongside neatly portioned sides for a real restaurant experience. If you’re using a ready meal such as Gourmade’s butternut lasagne which features in the Sweets for your Sweet vegetarian Valentine’s hamper, you can remove its tray while still frozen and place in a similarly sized dish of your own to cook. The meal will settle into the dish while it cooks and make for a fancy finish. Try Cheesy, Peasy, Lemon Squeezy for this option, too – both Mac n’ Cheese and lasagne work well served next to garlic bread or salad, which both look great next to a separate serving dish on a plate.
Wipe the splatters off your plate or bowl with a piece of kitchen towel before serving – just as they would in a restaurant. It takes seconds but really makes a difference.
This Valentine’s season, Gourmade have created hampers with some of our favourite mains, sides and desserts, so you can practise restaurant-level plating up without the faff of making dinner first. Make your ready meal an incredi-meal with our incredi-deal! We have no fewer than six Valentine’s hampers to choose from, all with a whopping 20% off. I’ve already mentioned our four couple’s choices (including two for vegetarians), but we haven’t forgotten singletons! I’m planning on wooing myself with the Me, Myself and I hamper, which includes two of my absolute favourites – the Macaroni Cheese & Bacon and Beef Bourguignon plus two scrummy sides and an indulgent dessert. There’s also a veggie option for one – the Je M’adore which is equally mouth-watering. There’s simply no excuse not to treat yourself this Valentine’s – and with these tips, any meal you serve is bound to look and feel like an intimate restaurant experience, in the comfort of your living room!