Love Valentine’s but hate the price tag? Try this budget three-course menu

March 20, 2024

With on the horizon, love is in the air… and so is crippling anxiety, spiralling costs and an overwhelming distaste for PDAs.

With romance and budgeting in mind, has put together a no-faff three-course menu to charm your special someone, your closest friends or simply to pamper yourself.

A vibrant beetroot and red onion tarte tatin is an effortlessly elegant starter to set the tone for a memorable evening. Follow it with tagliatelle with asparagus and mushrooms, which delights with its comforting richness and delicate balance of flavours.

For a sweet finale, a creamy, crackling Ballycastle brulee brings a welcome kick. Of course, no celebration is complete without a toast, so raise a glass to love (or singledom) with a Sweetie Martini, which is as refreshing as it is decadent.

Beetroot and red onion tarte tatin

A classic French tarte tatin with roasted onion and beetroot

Serves: 4 people

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cooking time: 40 minutes


50g light soft brown sugar

30g butter

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp salt

1 red onion, cut into wedges

400g cooked beetroot, cut into wedges

1 tbsp olive oil

1 x 375g roll puff pastry

½ bag of watercress, spinach and rocket

To serve:

50g feta, crumbled

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar


Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

Place the beetroot and red onion, with a drizzle of olive oil, on a baking tray and roast for 30 minutes.

Melt the butter and sugar together, when all the sugar has dissolved add the salt and balsamic vinegar and bring to the boil.

Pour the syrup into a 7-inch cake tin or an oven proof frying pan and the arrange the beetroot and onion on top.

Use a plate slightly larger than the tin to cut a round of puff pastry and place over the beetroot and onion.

Tuck the edges of the pastry into the tin and bake for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden.

Turn the tart out onto a serving plate, serve whilst still warm, and serve with the salad.

Sprinkle the feta over the salad leaves and drizzle over the oil and balsamic vinegar.

Tagliatelle with asparagus and mushrooms

The asparagus adds some great texture to this cheesy tagliatelle dish – perfect for a weekday treat

Serves: 4 people

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cooking time: 20 minutes


400g tagliatelle

2 x 100g packs asparagus tips

1 medium onion

150g chestnut mushrooms

200g lighter soft cheese with garlic and herbs

150ml single cream

100ml white wine

6g fresh parsley

40g salted butter

40g parmigiano reggiano


Black pepper

20ml extra virgin olive oil


Peel and finely chop the onion.

Wipe the mushrooms and chop finely. Finely chop the parsley. Melt the butter in a wok or large frying pan and sauté the onions for a minute.

Add the chopped mushrooms then cook for another couple of minutes.

Add the soft cheese, single cream, white wine and chopped parsley. Season with some salt and pepper then cook on a low heat for a couple of minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling water for about 8/10 minutes as per directions on the pack.

Cut the asparagus in half and sauté them in the olive oil for 2/3 minutes.

Drain the pasta and add to the mushroom sauce, toss in the asparagus and gently heat through.

Serve with shavings of parmigiano reggiano.

Ballycastle brulee

An alcoholic creme brulee that’s every bit as dreamy

Serves: 2 people

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cooking time: 45 minutes


40ml Ballycastle

3 large egg yolks

250ml double cream

45g caster sugar


Pre-heat the oven to 110C/225F/gas mark ¼.

Whisk the egg yolks with 30g caster sugar until thick, creamy and pale.

Put the cream and Ballycastle into a small saucepan and gently bring to the boil. Pour the boiling cream over the eggs and whisk well.

Divide the mixture between 2 large ramekin dishes or ovenproof bowls. Put these in a small deep baking tray – pour boiling water into the tray so it comes up to halfway on the sides of the pots.

Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, until the custards are set, but still wobble when shaken. Take out of the oven and allow to cool in the tin with the water.

When cooled, transfer to the fridge for at least an hour – if covered these will keep in the fridge for 4 days.

When ready to serve, sprinkle the remaining sugar over the custards – either put under a hot grill or use a blow torch to caramelise the sugar.

Serve immediately.

Sweetie Martini

Vanilla martini served with strawberries in a white chocolate dipped cocktail glass

Serves: 2 people

Prep time: 5 minutes


170g Strawberries, sliced

140g vanilla ice cream

2tsp vanilla extract

70ml vodka

150g ice

To garnish:

30g white chocolate

2 strawberries

15g dark chocolate, grated


Place the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt by heating in short bursts in a microwave.

Dip the rims of the 2 martini glasses in the melted chocolate and sprinkle with the dark chocolate shavings.

Place the martini ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth. Decant into the 2 glasses and top with a strawberry. Serve immediately.

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