Five Fail-Safe Recipes For First Date Dining

Crossing the, at times intimidating, threshold to the dating world is like opening a door to opportunity. I just made that sentence up. And as lame and Tony Robbins-ish as it sounds, dating really is a great opportunity to make new friends, lovers and even soul mates by gosh! First dates are all about making an impression, and really what better way to make an impression than whipping up a gorgeous meal for your intended?

Whether you’re women or man, there are few activities more alluring than those that involve kitchen utensils, rice wine vinegar and five sensual words: I made it from scratch. First date cooking isn’t child’s play though, so we consulted an expert.

MasterChef graduate Ellie Paxton-Hall is not only a food expert but also, as a single woman, she’s had the chance to put her own recipes to the test. We asked the Melbourne based Pedestrian’s Bachelorette Of The Year nominee for her guide to fail safe first date recipes.

Notebooks ready, everyone…

ELLIE: “First date foods need to be clean to eat so you don’t have sauce all over your face or down the front of your shirt, or an awkward size burger that you can’t get your mouth around. Here are a few tips I have to help you out on your next first date!”

Asian Platter
1. Tempura prawn sushi rolls.
2. Pork dumplings

For the sushi…
4 Nori sheets
1 cups sushi rice
2 tbs rice wine vinegar
200 gm raw prawns
1 cup plain flour
1 cup soda water
250ml of vegetable oil
Japanese mayonnaise
Soy sauce

1. Start by cooking your sushi rice. Put one cup of rice into and pot and cover with two and a half cups of water. Simmer for around 15 minutes until al the water has been absorbed and then turn the heat off and cover with a lid to steam for around 10 minutes. The rice should be soft and fluffy. Season the rice with the rice wine vinegar. You may need to add a little bit more depending on your taste. Alternatively, you can buy sushi rice seasonings.
2. To make the tempura batter, simply combine flour with ice-cold soda water and gently mix together without mixing completely. You still want to have lumps of flour in the batter.
3. Dip each prawn into the batter and gently fry in vegetable oil until the batter is golden in colour.
4. When assembling, it’s important to have everything ready to go. Have the nori sheets lined out and place the sushi rice at the bottom end of the nori sheet. Line the Prawns in the centre and drizzle with Japanese mayonnaise. Roll the sheet up (this may take some getting used to). Cut them into bite size pieces and they can just sit in the fridge until you’re ready to go.

Pork dumplings
250gm pork mince
2 tbs coriander roots
¼ cup spring onion
¼ cup soy sauce
1 knob ginger
1 clove garlic
1 red chilli
1 tbs palm sugar
juice of 1 lime
1 tbs rice wine vinegar

1. Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl and season with soy sauce.
2. Spoon the mixture into each wonton wrapper and place in boiling water for 4 minutes.
3. For the dipping sauce combine lime juice, palm sugar 2 tbs soy sauce and rice wine vinegar.

Cool serving idea:

Steak, Mushroom and Polenta
2X Porterhouse steak (or whichever type of steak you prefer)
1 lemon
300gm button mushrooms
1 sprig fresh thyme
100gm knob butter
2 cloves garlic
1 tin diced tomato
2 tsp capers
3 anchovies
1 brown onion
2 tbs olive oil
1 cup polenta
7-8 cups of water
1 cup grated Parmesan

1. Heat 50gm butter in a pan with the garlic and then throw in the mushrooms with the thyme and stir until the mushrooms are soft. This will usually take around 3-5 minutes. Set aside.
2. To make the tomato sauce, finely dice the brown onion, and sauté in a hot pan with garlic, anchovies and olive oil. Pour in the diced tomatoes and the capers and simmer for around 10 minutes or until it becomes thick.
3. To cook the Polenta boil water and pour the polenta in a thin, steady stream and stir constantly. Keep stirring until the polenta is all combined. Add 50 gm of butter and Parmesan cheese. Keep warm until you need to use it.
4. To cook the steak, season it well with salt and pepper and olive oil. Make sure you’ve got a very hot pan and sear on both sides for four minutes. Drizzle with lemon and let it rest for 8 minutes.
5. To assemble the dish, layer the dish with polenta, mushrooms, sliced steak and top with tomato sauce.

Please do not take steak eating tips from Yami Bakura:

Salmon with Buttermilk Sauce and Beetroot Salad
2x salmon fillets
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch basil
1 bunch mint
3 anchovies
2 tsp capers
2 lemons
¼ cup buttermilk
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tin baby beetroots
1 tin chickpeas
1 bunch green beans
50 gm of feta or parmesan

1. To make the buttermilk sauce, throw the herbs, anchovies, capers, juice 1 lemon, buttermilk and 2 tbs olive oil into a food processor and whiz together. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Set aside in the fridge. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can use crème fraiche or sour cream.
2. Cut the green beans into even pieces and cook in salted boiling water for 2 minutes. You want them to be a little bit crunchy still. Half the beetroots and mix everything together in a bowl. Crumble the fetta on top and dress with juice of 1 lemon, olive oil and season well.
3. Cover the salmon with olive oil and season well. Cook on a high heat in a pan for 4 minutes on each side. You want the salmon to still be a little bit pink in the middle.
4. For the garnish, julienne green apple and radish and mix together with plenty of dill.
5. To assemble, place the salmon on the plate, dress with the sauce and garnish and serve the salad on the side.

This bear knows what’s up:

Spinach, Ricotta and Fetta Tortellini
“This dish is full-proof! It will impress anyone coming over and they will think that you have spent all day in the kitchen slaving over it, when you actually haven’t! it’s clean to eat plus it’s light so it won’t leave you feeling like you need to spend the whole night on the toilet.”

1x packet of lasagne sheets
200gm ricotta
1 packet spinach
100gm fetta
1 clove garlic
¼ cup olive oil
1 packet cherry tomatoes
1 lemon
1 egg
1 handful of parsely

1. To make the filling for the tortellini, sauté the spinach in a pan with olive oil and crushed garlic. Mix together the ricotta, fetta and spinach, lemon juice and season well. Lie the pasta sheet out and spoon the mixture onto it, leaving a gap in the middle. Whisk the egg together and brush in between the mixture. Lay the second pasta sheet on top of the mixture and stick together. This will make it easy for you to cut around. Then fold the pasta together. You can choose to make it ravioli if you like (probably a lot easier actually)!
2. Heat a 180 degree oven. Drizzle the cherry tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for around 10 minutes or until the tomatoes have burst.
3. To serve, put the ravioli first, tomatoes on top sprinkle with fetta, parsley and olive oil.

History indicates pasta has high pulling power as a first date meal:

Banoffee Pie
“This will win anyone’s heart! I swear!”

375gm gm butter
1 cup plain Flour
2 1/3 cups caster sugar
4 eggs
250gm chocolate
3 very ripe Bananas
1 ¾ cups of cream
2 tbs icing sugar

1. To make the pastry, combine 125gm of very cold butter with plain flour, 1/3 cup of caster sugar and 1 egg. Cover with glad wrap and set aside in the fridge until ready to use.
2. To make the banana mousse beat 1 ½ cups of pouring cream until it’s light and fluffy. Puree bananas with icing sugar. Whip 3 egg whites and fold everything together. Set aside in the fridge for 30 minutes.
3. For the salted caramel, heat 2 cups of caster sugar and 3 tbs water (just enough to cover the sugar in a pan. Allow the sugar to dissolve and the colour to turn a golden brown. Chop up 250gm of butter and have that ready to go beside you. When it gets to the colour you want, start putting in cubes of butter and stir. This will turn into a thick caramel – yum!! (Try to save some for the pie)! Add in 1 tbs salt flakes and set aside.
4. Butter a pastry tin and line with baking paper. Roll out the pastry until it is 1/2 cm thick. Line in the tart case, cover with baking paper and pour rice in the middle (this is called blind baking and the reason for this is so you don’t have raw pastry at the bottom). Bake in a 180 degree oven for 12 minutes.
5. Finally make the ganache. Put 250gm of chocolate and 1/3 cup of cream in a bowl over hot water, stir until all the chocolate is melted.
6. To assemble, it is important that everything is cold (I learnt this the hard way, or everything will fall out of the sides). Start with the salted caramel, banana mousse, and then the ganache. Serve with ice cream for extra fat!

Banoffee pie can lead to love, actually.

Meet all the 2012 Bachelorette Of The Year nominees HERE.