According to Chiff.com, 10% of people who get engaged each year actually do so on Valentine's Day. Are you about to become one of them, planning to pop the long-overdue question this 14th of February?
If so, you've probably booked that coveted table at the hippest / smartest / most expensive (delete as appropriate) restaurant in town months ago, spent weeks looking for the right ring (and are still nervous that one of her confidantes' engagement ring might sport a bigger gem), cut off an arm and a leg so the notoriously capricious and ill-tempered celebrity chef would finally agree to hiding said ring in her chocolate mousse (surely she wouldn't be able to resist that!) - but what if the unthinkable happens and the woman of your dreams comes down with a nasty cold on the big day and can't go out? You're not looking so smug now, are you?
You might be tempted to wing it and try to cook a fancy five-course meal at home (with a little bit of luck you've attended a cookery course exclusively aimed at men here or here) - but what to do if you're absolutely hopeless in the kitchen? Surely you'll be aware that as much as she might crave a take-away on a Sunday evening, Menu 1 from Taste of Raj won't be conducive to a successful proposal... If you are lucky, you might persuade a local caterer to drop everything they're doing to help you out of your misery (and it'll cost you an arm and a leg under those special circumstances, that's for sure) - but if you want her melting away over the efforts you've put into the whole proposal thing, you might want to consider getting your hands dirty, if only for one course.
The thought of creating a tantalising dessert might make you sweat, but there's no need to worry - here's the right thing for you: not only is this chocolate pudding something very few women could resist, it can also be prepared in a matter of minutes - thanks to the humble microwave.
We're not normally on speaking terms, my microwave and I... to be honest, I've never wanted us to get too close. Warming a bottle and defrosting sausages is about the only thing I do with it, but cook? Or even bake with it? You must be mad!
In my search for the most indulgent steamed chocolate pudding - with a vision of it self-basting in a rich, velvety chocolate sauce (and the search for the holy grail is far from being over) - I came across a recipe by Australian chef Roger Bayley - and since I was running terribly late to get an entry ready for Meeta's latest Monthly Mingle, a microwavable cake sure was the perfect fit.
The cakes were real easy to make and despite my initial doubts, they turned out moist and moreish. The only downside is that, it being a microwave cake, it needs to be enjoyed as quickly as it was put together, as it won't stay moist for long - but you've got more important business to get on with anyway, remember?
Microwave chocolate pudding*
(makes 2 cakes for gluttons or for sharing)
100 g butter (softened)
80 g caster sugar
2 large eggs
25 g cocoa
100 g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
100 g self-raising flour
40 ml milk
pouring or whipped cream to serve
Break up the chocolate and put into a heat-proof bowl over boiling water until melted. Remove from the heat, stir until smooth and leave to cool.
Beat the sugar and butter with an electric mixer until fluffy and pale. Add the eggs, then the cocoa and continue beating. Stir in the melted chocolate, then gradually add the flour and milk.
Butter two pudding moulds / cereal bowls / heart-shaped silicone flexiforms (make sure to check that they're microwaveable), fill half-way up with the cake mix, then cover with cling film. Pierce the film with a skewer or a fork several times, then place in your microwave oven.
Cook at 700W for 3 minutes, then leave to stand for another 2.
Turn cakes out onto a plate and serve immediately, with some pouring or whipped cream.
* Loosely based on a recipe by Roger Bayley.