All posts by Alyson Brooker

Mango-glazed Ham

Sorry I haven’t been able to blog for awhile; I’ve been taking a quick holiday on the Isle of Skye and the rules were made pretty clear that we should be keeping work and the Internet to the bare minimum! Ever since then, I’ve been trying to get some new recipes up but my WordPress app has not been playing ball. 

More on our trip another day….

As we were staying self-catering, we went to the butcher on the morning we left. On Sunday afternoon, I made my mango-glazed ham, which always seems to go down well. I’ve made this twice for Christmas and once as a hostess gift and it’s a much thriftier way of acquiring enough cold meat to see you through. You’ll need to pay attention to the cooking time on the packet, as this will depend on the size and type of ham.

You will need:

1 smoked gammon joint

1 litre orange and mango juice

1/2 litre chicken stock 

1 bouquet garni

2 bay leaves

Mango chutney, enough to cover the top of the ham – about 3/4 of a small jar or half a largish jar


large stock pot


1. Unwrap the ham and remove any film or paper. Check the cooking time suggested. I normally knock off about 10 minutes from the boiling time as it will be baked as well.

2. Put the ham in the pot and add the juice and stock. If there isn’t enough liquid to cover the ham, top it up with water until the gammon is just covered. Add the bouquet garni and bay leaves. 

3. Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer. Check on the pot every now and again to make sure the ham stays covered. After the recommended cooking town, allow to cool for 10 minutes or so then carefully remove the ham. 

4. Allow to sit to cool a bit more. Trim off the rind and some of the fat. And preheat the oven to about 190C.

5. Score into the fat, but not all the way through, into a criss cross pattern. Stud each corner of the squares you have made with cloves. Spoon on the mango chutney until coveted. This will require some patience as it will melt and drop off the sides a bit when gravity takes hold – just scoop up and pour back over. 

6. Pop on a foil lined tray in the oven and bake for 40 minutes or until the glaze is golden. You might want to take it out half way through to scoop on any chutney that has come off and turn. 

Carefully slice when cool and enjoy with chutney, crusty bread and salad!


Oven-Baked Baked Potato

When I moved into my flat, I made the decision not to buy a microwave. I finally had my own kitchen with pretty much as much worktop space as I could possibly need (although we all know it’s never enough) and I simply didn’t want to give up any of that precious surface area to a microwave. Plus, it’s not something I ever used that often. Though there’s one thing I do miss it for – saving a lot of time in baking a potato.


To be honest, you’ll need a lot of time and patience for this guy. We’re talking at least an hour, plus time to pre-heat the oven. I had to call EE about getting a new phone so I did that after I’d stuck this in the oven. Once I was done, I had enough time to make up the filling and then it was done and ready to scoff.

Preheat your oven to 200C.

First, you want to brush your potato down (clean it if you’re into that but I don’t bother) and spike it through in various places with a paring knife or skewer, or prick all over with a fork. This lets the heat penetrate more quickly (but it will still take an age!).


Next, make a little tin foil basket on a bashing tray for your potato to sit in, but use enough foil to make sure there’s enough extra to wrap the potato in once the heat has started to penetrate. Rub the potato all over with olive oil then salt. Put into the oven and leave it alone for 20 minutes or so – but if you’re busy it will forgive you!

Turn and wrap up in the excess foil.

Put it back in the oven for 20 minutes or so then uncover for the final 10 or so. Give it a few stabs with a knife to determine whether it’s cooked enough for you….you may want to put it back in for 10 minutes for a time until you’re happy with it.


Cut through twice, into four sections, but not all the way through the bottom skin.


Fill with your favourite filling – I like tuna mayo and sweetcorn.


Pad Thai


If you’ve never tried Pad Thai, you really have to. This is insanely good. Researching this recipe, I came across a host of different ways to make this dish, and I’m sure a lot (most/all) of them are more authentic than mine, but I’m a fan of switching ingredients to what you have in your cupboards or what’s available at the supermarket at a better value price. Traditionally, Pad Thai is for prawns or tofu, but I’ve had a lot of fish recently so I thought I’d try it with sliced turkey steaks. These are much better value than chicken fillets, as well as being leaner so better for you, plus they really benefit from a good flavoured sauce. You could, of course, add more veg if you’d prefer a veggie version.


You will need:

1 pack ribbon rice noodles – the straight to wok variety is easiest.

2 turkey breast steaks, sliced into strips

1 clove garlic

1 chunk ginger

2 tbs soy sauce

3/4 tbs sesame oil

1 tbs lime or lemon juice

1 tbs honey

2 tbs siracha or other chilli sauce – I used some tomato and chilli syrup I had in the fridge

beansprouts, peppers, bok choi or cabbage, carrots, broccoli – use whatever veg you’d like. I used a pre-prepared stir fry veg mix then added extra pepper and boiled some broccoli to serve alongside

1 egg

2 tbs peanuts, crushed. Ideally, you should use plain, unsalted ones but they (weirdly) were £2 whilst the salted ones were 48p so I used those and crushed in kitchen towel to dab off some of the oil and salt.


1. Heat a small amount of oil in a big pan or wok. Grate the garlic and ginger and add to the pan.

2. Add in the chopped vegetables and cook at a medium heat for 5 minutes or so. If you’re serving broccoli, put it on to boil.

3. Mix up the oil, soy, honey, lemon or lime juice and chilli sauce in a bowl and add a tablespoonful or so to the veg.

4. Push the veg to one side and place the strips of turkey into the pan where it is clear. Leave to brown slightly then turn.

5. Mix the turkey in with the veg and add in the noodles and the rest of the sauce mix.

6. Sprinkle in two thirds of the crushed peanuts (to crush, place in kitchen towel and fold it around them then batter with a rolling pin), saving the rest for a crunchier garnish.

7. Clear a space at one side of the pan and crack in the egg. Allow it to set a little on the bottom, then start to stir it in, allowing it to scramble, but don’t overcook it as it will turn to rubber. Don’t worry if the sauce bleeds into the egg – it will make it creamier and season it (it seems wrong but it’s so right).

8. Mix in together, make sure everything is nice and hot and serve, adding the broccoli on top and sprinkling on the rest of the peanuts.

I only managed to eat about 2/3 of mine so I have the rest to take to work for lunch tomorrow. I’ll definitely be adding this to my regular rotation though – it’s just so easy and delicious.


King Prawn Spaghetti

You might have guessed by now that I can’t live without carbs. This recipe is great though – you get a good spicy tomato sauce in minutes without any of that sharp metallic taste. The King prawns add a meaty sweetness without adding heaviness, and the peppers add some veggie goodness that keeps things nice and fresh.


You will need:

around 8 king prawns per person

1 clove garlic

chilli flakes

1/2 tin cherry tomatoes (or chopped but I think these work better)

splash white wine


salt and pepper

a couple of drops of lemon juice

1/2 red pepper

a few green beans (optional)

spaghetti or linguine

olive oil


1. Put the spaghetti on to cook in salted water. Grate the garlic and fry in a pan with a little oil in it. Add the chilli and chopped peepers and green beans. Fry a little until everything starts to soften.

2. Add the wine and cook out.

3. Add the tomatoes and squash the lumps down a little to help break them down.

4. Add the seasoning and simmer for 5 to 10 mins.

5. Add the prawns and cook for a few minutes on each side until pink and plump.

6. Drain the spaghetti and add to the pan. Mix everything together and serve.


My Sewing Machine and Other Animals

I’m sure anyone who has ever used a sewing machine has, at times, found the whole process to be extremely frustrating.  I’ve always assumed it was down to my own lack of knowledge in part, but also partly due to some sort of karmic twist which gave my machine a cruel sense of humour.  No matter, we plough on regardless, even when the walking track grabs all the little threads on the underside of your work and snatches them like the troll under the bridge, or when your needle insists on repeatedly unthreading itself, despite your best efforts to make sure there is always plenty of thread pulled through.


Up until about a month ago, I was sharing a sewing machine with my Nana, as I’d been using her new one (because she didn’t like the new one as much), but her old Pfaff has now been lowered 6 feet under in the landfill so she’s taken that one back.  However, she spotted a new Singer on sale when she was out with my Grandad and he bought me it.  Brilliant, right?!  The workings were fairly similar, but the dials and reverse lever were in different places, and it has a horizontal spool pin, rather than a vertical one.  All in all, it’s a much stronger machine, and I’ve been teaching myself to use it ever since (you learn from your mistakes right?  anyway, I’ve decided to work my way through The Great British Sewing Bee books, starting with the simpler projects and moving up, whilst also finishing everything I had planned to make for my flat.  Oh, and I have a quilt in mind too!

So far, I have had two relatively major dramas with the new machine.

The first came when I was making my kitchen chair cushions and somehow hit the zip tab with the needle. Crack, split, ching: needle broken.  this resulted in panic, and a lot of huffing and puffing as I tried to unscrew the screw which holds and releases the needle using my fingers alone.  It wouldn’t budge.  Grr.  Ouch.  I tried a knife in the little indent, then a screwdriver, and plier, to no avail.  Then I tried a hand sewing needle thinking it would be narrow enough to fit into indent, which it did, but it immediately snapped.  Great – two broken needles!


As Google is my usual go-to for all things troubleshoot, that was my next bet  – “needle screw too light”…”how to loosen needle screw”… dice!  Finally, remembering there was a weird metal tool in the accessories pack for my old machine (I had to use it to undo a different screw to oil the machine in the past), I had a rummage around for that. Lo and behold, the narrow edge was perfect for the screw’s indent, so out came the old needle, in went the new (keeping the flattened side tot he back) and it was easy enough to tighten the screw up again.  First lesson learned.


Lesson numero dos.  The details will have to remain sketchy for the time being as this happening was part of  a new project I’ve been working on over the last week or so, but it’s a present so I don’t want to advertise it just yet (pattern will follow in due course).  Anyways, I was stitching on a patch pocket when my needle decided to unthread itself repeatedly, no matter how many times I rethreaded and started again.  The fourth or fifth time this happened, I Iooked at the end of the thread and realised it had been almost chewed up and stretched.  That’s when I realised that I was trying to coax thread at a normal sewing tension through 4 layers of fabric (due to the pocket having a double hem).  So I turned the thread tension wheel down a notch from 3 to 2,and tried again, and the needle passed through as easily as it would have through 2 layers of fabric.  I suppose you have to think of the sewing action as a sort of wave – loosen the tension and the wave will deepen; tighten it and it’s grow shallower, pulling the fabric tighter.

Coconut Cream Cake

Hey everyone, sorry this is a bit late. I’ve been in a training session at a hotel all day today (where the heating was turned up way too high) and ended up being seated next to the Directors at lunch so no break for me! At least I’m going on holiday in 10 days, but more about that soon. In the meantime…..cake!

This is a beautiful, light, not too sweet cake, which is perfect with a cup of Earl Grey, and a lovely break from chocolate cake, cupcakes, cookies……not that they aren’t great in their own way! Plus, you get to use up that tin of coconut cream that has been lolling about in your cupboard for awhile.

A tip for using coconut cream – if you live somewhere cold or it’s winter, you may find that your coconut cream has split into solid parts and watery parts due to the cold temperatures. To fix this, gently heat it in a saucepan, stirring to combine, then take it off the heat and allow it to cool a little before using it.


You will need:

175g softened butter

175g golden caster sugar

3 eggs

2 tablespoons coconut cream

175g self-raising flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

50g desiccated coconut

For the icing and filling:

100g softened butter

3-4 tbs coconut cream

280g icing (confectioners’) sugar

jam to fill the cake, I like the sharpness of raspberry

50g or so desiccated coconut

glitter sugar, I used gold (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan. Prepare 2 sandwich tins by lining with greaseproof paper and greasing with butter.

2. Cream the butter with a hand/standing mixer until soft and fluffy. Add the sugar and cream again. Mix in the coconut cream and beat.

3. Crack in the eggs and beat until the mixture is full of air and almost mousse-like. Add the coconut and mix in.

4. Fold in the flour and baking powder, gently, trying to keep the air in, and stop mixing as soon as the flour has been properly combined with the mixture.

5. Divined the mixture between the tins and bake for 15-20 mins, or until golden and only just springy to the touch, with the cake coming away from the edges. Allow to cool a little then turn out, peeling the paper from the bases. It’s a good idea to run a paring knife around the edge to stop sticking and breaking first. Set aside to cool completely.

6. Best the softened butter until lighter and fluffy. Add the coconut cream and icing sugar (bring careful not to let it puff out all over you and the kitchen) and cream until combined and fluffy.

7. Once the cakes have cooled, place one upside down on a plate or board. Spread a good layer of jam on it then sandwich the other layer on top.

8. Spread the coconut icing over the top and sides of the cake with a knife or spoon then decorate with sprinklings of coconut and glitter sugar.

Roasted Tomato and Pepper Soup

This weekend, the snowdrops popped out and the sun winked at us for the first time in a good long while. I had a sudden feeling that Sunday might just be the last soup Sunday in awhile. So, for what might be the last hurrah, I had to take on a classic, in a rather majestic way. The secret to the strength of flavour that comes with this smooth, dark orange soup is the oven – pre-roast the veggies and everything intensifies.


This recipe makes about 6 portions, so plenty to share or put in the freezer.

You will need:

2 large red onions, or 4 small ones

1 1/2 red peppers

3 cloves of garlic

1 large carrot

1 punnet cherry tomatoes

6-8 tomatoes on the vine

12 salad tomatoes

Note: use wherever tomatoes you like in whatever quantity. I tend to mix up the types by what looks good in the supermarket. The salad ones are cheapest and give you bulk, but I like the cherry tomatoes for a sweeter, deeper flavour. Beef tomatoes work well too.

olive oil

chicken or vegetable stock, 2 cubes or about a litre plus extra water

salt and black pepper

oregano, basil, paprika, chilli powder

lemon juice

a pinch of caster sugar

Worcester sauce – just a dash.


1. Heat the oven to about 200C and line a couple of baking trays with tin foil, then add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and place in the oven to heat.

2. Quarter the onions and chop the the peppers into chunks. Don’t peel the garlic – it’ll roast nicely inside the skin. Chuck into a tray, carefully (don’t burn yourself) and season. Half the tomatoes and add to the trays.

3. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, chop the carrot into fine pieces and sauté without browning and prepare the stock.

5. Take the first tray out of the oven when the onions are starting to look vaguely translucent and the skin on the peppers is starting to shrivel. Allow to cool for a short time as this will help you to remove the pepper skins more easily. Chop up the onions, peel and chop the garlic and peppers, add to the soup pot and sauté.

6. The tomatoes are a bit fiddly, but it will help everything go more smoothly if you roast them until the skins have started to come away themselves, and if you let them cool a little so you can pull the skins off with your fingers. Then chop the larger ones and add to the pot.


7. Add the stock and seasoning, stir, put a lid on and allow to simmer on a medium heat for around 40 minutes, stirring every now and then to prevent sticking.

8. As you’ve removed the skins, most of the stuff you would normally need to sieve out has been taken away, however, you’ll still need to blend with a stick blender and sieve out the tomato seeds and any bits of stringy pulp. Be patient – your soup is worth it!

The soup will keep well in the fridge for around 4 days, and is great frozen and reheated.


Rib Eye Steak with Oven-Baked Chips

This is a great weekend night supper. It doesn’t take that long to cook, but it’s a nice treat to cook for people you love, and to enjoy with a nice glass of red wine.


There are a number of cardinal rules for steak:

1. Buy the highest quality beef your budget allows. I like rib eye because it’s marbled with fat which adds more flavour to the steak, but you have to heed how thick it’s been cut when you’re considering the cooking time.

2. Take it out of the fridge at least half an hour before you intend to cook it. To get flavour, you need colour, and to get colour, you need the steak to sear on the outside, not boil.

3. Season. Salt and pepper always, but I think paprika adds an extra something delicious to the mix.

4. Oil the steak on both sides after seasoning, not the pan.

5. Heat the griddle/pan until it’s smoking hot. Cook for max 2 mins each side for a medium steak (depending on the thickness). But be careful not to burn yourself like I did.

6. Rest. It might be a cliché but it’s really important to let the grain relax, preventing a chewy steak.


For the chips, you need an oven as hot as you dare, about 200 – 220C should do it. Pour a couple of tablespoons of oil on a tray and pop it on the top shelf of the oven to heat. Cut a couple of large potatoes into narrow wedges and season. Once the oil is hot, chuck them in the tray, carefully toss them around and put in the oven. They should take about 30- 40 minutes to get nice and crisp, so keep an eye on them and turn once when they’re more than halfway ready.

Serve with caramelised onions, mushrooms, cubed and cooked in butter and mustard or ketchup on the side. Also great with roasted peppers!


Kitchen Chair Cushions

My kitchen came with a tiny square breakfast bar which is perfect for sewing at, eating at, and having extra space available if I’m doing an especially large bake. Trouble was, all the bar stools I could find were far too heavy/chunky for the space. The solution presented itself when I bought my dining set, as it came with 6 chairs, but any more than 4 made the furniture look at bit too big for its space. My Mum suggested moving the extra two to the kitchen, which has been a perfect solution. However, given the breakfast bar is as high as my worktops, the chairs were a few inches too low. My solution was chair cushions, but nothing I could find quite matched my colour scheme or preferred style.


Although I bought the fabric for these a good few months ago, I’ve only just got round to making them. They can be a bit fiddly (challenging I suppose) but I think the results are worth it. As ever, this was entirely self-taught, so you’ll have to bear with me, but this pattern is a great starting point.

You’ll need:

1 cushion pad, of a size of your choice

cotton or upholstery fabric, cut to about an inch narrower and shorter than the size of your cushion, so that it gives you a nice snug fit while also factoring in your seam allowance

1 fat quarter sized piece of fabric in the same fabric, or in a contrasting colour or pattern. This will be for your piping, ties and covered buttons

1 zip, 4-5 inches shorter than the width of your cushion fabric

1 reel of cotton thread in a matching colour

piping cord, about 4 times the length of the fabric’s side

8 plain domed buttons with shanks

sewing machine, pins, regular sewing needle, large sewing needle (the kind you get for doll making, for stitching the buttons through the finished cushion), thicker thread or polycord

The buttons and ties are of course optional! This pattern makes great scatter cushions – I just adapted it to make them more fit for purpose.

1. Cut 1.5 inch strips from your fat quarter…3 should be enough to cover your piping.

2. Pin the strips together at right angles, pinning on the diagonal from side to corner then sew along the line – when folded back, this should give you a continuous strip. Once you’re sure you have sewn in the right place, trim the excess triangle to reduce bulk.

3. Pin the strip around the binding, leaving you with an even amount of fabric overlapping above and below that can be pinned together – this will be your seam allowance.

4. Change the presser foot on your sewing machine to a zip foot – this is perfect for getting the stitching as close to the piping as you can. Most machines come with a zip foot as a standard accessory, but you should be able to buy one online or at a fabric shop. Sew along the piping fabric, close to the piping , reverse stitching at both ends to secure your work.


5. Next, pin your covered piping along the edges of what will be the front of your cushion, pinning on the right side of the fabric. The seam allowance will end up on the inside of the finished cushion. I find it helps to notch the seam allowance of the piping fabric a little when you come to the corners to help you get round the corners without pushing the piping out of shape. I’m afraid this photo is from a previous project so the fabric doesn’t match the rest of the photos, but I thought it was a good example.  Getting the ends to match up can be a little tricky.  I usually pin one end down first, pin around the cushion and then match them up once I’ve made it back to the start.  My method involves trimming back the loose end, measuring it up against the piece that’s there.  What you’re aiming to do is trim back the piping inside the starting end of the piping, but leave the fabric intact, whilst also threading an extra couple of cm of the other end into the fabric tube – you may need to unpick the end of the stitching a little.  Then what you want to do is fold the end of the fabric tube inwards to avoid having a cut edge before wrapping this around the other piping tube – you can use either side here – whichever looks neater.  Once it’s nicely overlapping, pin across the join. The stitching you’ll do next will secure it plenty.

6. Keeping your zipper foot on the machine, stitch all the way round the piping, as close to the piping as you can get. Reverse stitch at the start and end to secure. If you’d like, you can zig zag stitch outside the straight stitching to make things extra secure.

7. The ties. These guys are one of the extras I added to these cushions to turn them from regular scatter cushions into kitchen chair cushions. You just need a couple of strips of fabric for each one – length will depend on the width of the chair legs you are tying them around, plus your seam allowance to stitch them in. I just wrapped the fabric round the chair back posts and cut to eye. They need to be just over double the width of the final ties as you are going to hem these bad boys all the way around, then fold each side into the middle. This is where your best hand stitching will come into play! You can machine stitch if you’d like but the stitching would be visible on the visible, right sides of the ties.


8. Lay the ties on the edge of the piping, facing inwards. The positioning width-wise will again depend on the chairs you are making them for. Try to flatten out the ends so the hand stitched seams face towards each other. Pin, then stitch into place. Leave them facing inwards so they’ll be on the outside when you turn the cushions out.


9. The zip! On the same edge as your piping joins and your ties have been sewn on (I like to keep the scrappiest parts to one side….they should end up looking pretty seamless, but still!) lay the zip along, centred, teeth and tab facing downwards, so the teeth are sort of buried in the piping. Pin, then see, zipper foot still attached, as close to the teeth as you can manage but bearing in mind the zip will have to run along the teeth.



10. Once you’re happy with the zip – if it’s not as perfect as you want it to be, feel free to unpick and redo it (a seam ripper is best for this job) – the next stage (we’re nearly there…sort of) is to stitch on the back panel. Take the panel you’ve been working on and lay it out on a flat surface, making sure the seam allowance and piping seam
allowance are folded out flat too, inside of the zip facing upwards. Lay the other panel on top and pin all the way round, skipping the zip. I find it easiest to start at the non-zip tab end of the zip and pin all the way round to the other end of the zip. Leave the gap unpinned for now. You’re aiming to sew all round the outside of the piping, again, with the zipper foot, as close as you can get, so try to feel for the piping when you’re pinning. When you reach the corners, take extra care. You may wish to leave the needle down and lift the foot when you’re cornering to avoid the fabric gathering. If there are uneven gaps between the corners and the stitching, you may wish to go back over things so your corners look neater when you turn the cover out.


11. Here’s the really complicated part! This is where we sew the other half of the zip to the back panel. The photo above shows how the pinning should work. You want to pull open the the unsewn part of the top panel, push the top of the zip downwards, and pin where the two naturally meet. To sew this, you might want to unzip the zip after it has been pinned in place. I’ve tried this both zipped and unzipped and find it easier to see unzipped, but it can cause issues with visibility of the ends of the zip when you turn the cushion out if you’re not super careful. After you’ve stitched the zip, fold everything back down and secure the ends of the zip from the top panel by stitching back across to the corners.


12. Cut across the excess fabric on the corners (cutting off a triangle of fabric layers from each corner but still leaving a bit of seam to keep things secure. Unzip and turn out. You may need to grab the zip tab from the inside by pinching it in a bit of the fabric to work it loose. Give it a good iron and it’s ready for your cushion pad!


13. Stuff the cushion in, zip it up and you’re ready for the covered buttons, which are of course optional. I forgot to take photos when I was making these though I’m afraid, but this is a handy tutorial. You could buy them instead, of course, if you find the right colours. I just made them so I could get them to match the piping exactly. I bought plain domed buttons on amazon and traced around a milk bottle cap to get the right size of fabric. Then, I tied a knot in some thread and tack stitched all way round, keeping the needle in when I was finished. Then I popped the button in the middle and pulled the fabric circle right and sewed through the ruffles to secure.

14. Again, I didn’t take photos of this part, but I learned from this tutorial. Using those principles, measure the cushion to make sure your buttons will be evenly spaced, whether you’re using one or four, and mark with tailor’s chalk. You’ll need to do this on both sides. Take a medium doll-making needle and thick thread or cord, double over and thread the doubled end through the hole in the button shank. Thread the end through the loop and pull to secure. Loop round again and tie. Thread the loose end through the needle and push the needle through one of the chalk marks, finding the corresponding spot on the other side and pull through. Your button should be pulled snugly in so the cushion will puff around it. Thread through the other button and knot as close as you can. I like to wrap the cord around a couple of times and see into a knot. Cut the cord and repeat for the rest of the buttons – sorry it’s a but fiddly.


15. If you used the handmade ties, cut strips of Velcro and stick to either side, bearing in mind they well wrap around each other so one strip should be on the smooth outside whilst the other should be on the sewn inside. You could use ribbons instead, of course, meaning you’d just tie these to the chair rather than velcroing, but I didn’t want loops hanging at the backs of my chairs. So here’s the finished product! Sorry this was a lot to take in. Please feel free to leave any questions you may have in the comments section, or tips if you have any better techniques to share!


Happy Valentine’s (from one without a Valentine)

So here’s to another February 14th. I know that most people have a love/hate relationship with this day (or a hate/hate relationship if your name is Charles) but nevertheless, happen it will every year.

I, personally, forego this holiday every year because my boyfriend doesn’t believe in its commerciality. It’s fair enough, he treats me better than any girl deserves, but still, I love love and if we think we’re a good together, then we should be nailing Valentine’s Day, not shunning it. And all girls like to find a man on their doorstep holding a bouquet big enough to block out his head.

For those of you who criticise the commerciality of the day, spare a thought for the local florists, gift shops, butchers, bakers and restaurants who rely on this day every year to make up for the January slump. It is always lovely to see a man walking down the street with a stunning bouquet for his lady. Supermarkets, confectioners and Hallmark, though, you guys are vultures. If you’re going to do it, gentlemen, here are some tips for you:

1. If you’re going to buy her flowers, go for a single rose from a local florist, or a completely unrelated bouquet variety.

2. If you’re going to buy her a trite old teddy bear or other cliched gift, think again! Get her something she would want any day of the year: a book, perfume, a candle, something for her home. True romance is about what’s in your heart, not your wallet.

3. If you’re going to feed her, take her to a local restaurant (not a chain!) or make her something from scratch (not a dine in for two meal deal!) preferably from local produce.


4. Don’t watch 50 Shades of Grey.

5. Don’t propose! It’s just as clichéd as a New Year proposal.

So what do you do if you aren’t in a relationship and that ‘secret admirer’ hasn’t turned up to surprise you at the last minute? Don’t wallow! Remember, the ones who are taking part are probably doing so reluctantly, or because they want something from their special lady. If they can’t love you every day or treat you as you deserve, they’re not worth your time.

Have the girls over, put on a DVD and drink wine. Maybe cocktails. No ice cream. Ice cream is for wallowers. If all your girls are on dates, treat yourself, on your own. Cook yourself your favourite dinner, have a hot bubble bath with music, a book, candles (don’t burn the house down) and a glass of wine. Don’t cry. Make yourself pretty, put on your favourite pjs and watch a comedy. Or a horror. Whatever. Don’t cry. It’s just a day. Tomorrow will swing around soon enough. And if all else fails, it’s Pancake Day on Tuesday!