Whether for a friend or a lover, this is what to cook for your next date

Katie Wright puts together a romantic menu from Skye McAlpine’s new book, ‘A Table Full of Love’

Wednesday 22 February 2023 07:00 GMT
Tangy rhubarb meets melted Cheddar in this delicious savoury tart
Tangy rhubarb meets melted Cheddar in this delicious savoury tart (Skye McAlpine/PA)

Rhubarb and Cheddar tart

“As much as you might associate rhubarb with puddings and nursery fare, don’t be fooled: this is very much a savoury business, and also very much a ‘grown-up’ dish,” says food writer Skye McAlpine.

“To go with it, you only need a salad: I can’t resist pairing this with a similarly pastel-hued salad of blush-pink radicchio rosa or dark red bitter chicory.

“One warning: this works best with long, thin, furiously pink rhubarb stems, rather than fatter ones, which take longer to cook and can taste a little too sharp.”

Serves: 4-6


325g sheet of ready-rolled all-butter puff pastry

1 egg, lightly beaten

250g mascarpone

2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese

400g thin stems of bright pink rhubarb

1 tbsp caster sugar

130g Cheddar cheese, grated

Small bunch of thyme

Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6. Line a baking tray with baking parchment and unroll the sheet of pastry on to the tray. Use a sharp knife to score a two to three-centimetre border around the edge, then prick all over the centre part with a fork.

2. Brush the pastry edge with the egg, then line with baking parchment and baking beans. Blind-bake in the oven for 10 minutes, until dry to the touch and lightly golden at the edges. Take out of the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes or so.

3. In a small bowl, combine the mascarpone with the Parmesan and season generously with salt and pepper. Spoon the mascarpone over the middle of the tart, and spread it out as evenly as you can. If the pastry is puffed up in the middle, don’t worry, just press it down gently with your hands and spoon the mascarpone on top. Cut the rhubarb into long-ish pieces, roughly 16 centimetres long, and arrange them snugly, side by side like soldiers, over the mascarpone. Sprinkle the sugar over the rhubarb, then top with the grated Cheddar. Lastly, scatter over a few thyme leaves.

4. Set in the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the rhubarb is tender. Serve warm.

Pollo alla Pizzaiola

Succulent chicken breasts in tomato sauce are topped with melted mozzarella in this Italian dish
Succulent chicken breasts in tomato sauce are topped with melted mozzarella in this Italian dish (Skye McAlpine/PA)

“While chicken breast is undoubtedly an easy, quick and uncontroversial option for supper, I often find it to be quite disappointing,” says McAlpine. “It can be a little bland, usually dry and a bit boring.

“Except when cooked this way: the meat is browned, then lightly poached in rich tomato sauce, so it stays exquisitely tender, and each piece comes enrobed in a blanket of melting mozzarella. Absolutely essential with this is some crusty bread, for wiping up all the juices on your plate.”

Serves: 4


2 tbsp olive oil

4 chicken breasts

460ml tomato sauce

2-3 tbsp capers

Leaves from a small bunch of basil, chopped

200g mozzarella cheese, sliced

Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan that has a lid; you want a pan that is large enough to fit the four chicken breasts. Brown the meat on both sides over a medium heat, then take the pan off the heat. Take the breasts out of the pan, set on a plate, and season generously with salt and pepper.

2. Put the tomato sauce in the frying pan while the pan is still off the heat, so the difference in temperature between sauce and hot pan doesn’t cause the sauce to spit, then put the pan back over the heat to warm through. Add the capers and basil. When the tomato begins to bubble, nestle the seasoned chicken in the pan.

3. Cook the chicken in the pan over a medium heat for seven to eight minutes, turning the breasts every now and then, until cooked through.

4. Lay a slice or two of mozzarella over each piece of chicken and cover the pan with its lid, or, if you don’t have a lid big enough, you can cover the pan with foil. Cook for a further minute or two, until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

White chocolate and pistachio tortini

Serve these individual baked puddings at the end of a special meal
Serve these individual baked puddings at the end of a special meal (Skye McAlpine/PA)

“A wonderfully fudgy dessert somehow in the same family as sticky toffee pudding,” is how McAlpine describes this sweet treat.

“The tortini, or ‘little cake’, is made from white chocolate, which gives it that intensely dense texture, then baked at its centre is a dollop of melting sweet pistachio cream. This you can buy in jars – most Italian delicatessens or specialist online suppliers stock it.”

Serves: 2


100g salted butter, plus more for the ramekins

100g white chocolate, finely chopped

60g caster sugar

2 eggs

2 tbsp (level) plain flour

2 tsp (heaped) pistachio butter, shop-bought pistachio cream, or chocolate-hazelnut spread, such as Nutella

Icing sugar, to dust (optional)

Finely chopped pistachios, to serve (optional)


1. Butter two 10-centimetre ramekins, making sure to liberally coat the bases.


2. Combine the butter, white chocolate and sugar in a small saucepan and set over a low heat to melt. Stir regularly to stop the chocolate from catching, and take the pan off the heat as soon as it is melted.

3. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Add the eggs to the melted chocolate and stir vigorously until well combined. Now add the flour to the chocolate and stir vigorously until you have a smooth, chocolatey cream.

4. Pour a quarter of the mixture into each of the prepared ramekins. Spoon a dollop of pistachio butter, pistachio cream or chocolate spread into the middle of each, then pour over the remaining white chocolate mix, dividing it equally between each ramekin so the pistachio or chocolate is completely covered. Cover and set in the freezer for a couple of hours (longer if you like).

5. When you are ready to serve, heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6.

6. Bake the tortini straight from the freezer, in the middle of the oven, for 25 minutes, until lightly golden on top and slightly risen in the middle. They should feel firm to the touch. Dust with icing sugar and/or a scattering of pistachios, if you like, before serving while still warm.

‘A Table Full Of Love’ by Skye McAlpine (published by Bloomsbury, £26; photography by Skye McAlpine), available now.

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