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A hot date night at home to impress

ARE you suffering from re-entry anxiety? When a national lockdown was introduced in March this year, many of us felt that staying at home 24/7, apart from making short trips out to buy food or medicine, was unthinkable.

A brown stew of mazondos (cow trotters) with its delicious thick, sticky, gelatinous gravy is a popular delicacy in Zimbabwe

Gradually we got used to the idea of WFH, doing our own housework, and keeping in touch with the outside world through WhatsApp and Skype, and listening to the news on radio and TV. But while restrictions have been eased and it is now possible to go out for a meal or a hair cut, the loss of social skills through isolation and the lurking fear of catching Covid-19 can make re-entry into public places challenging.

So if you feel that you and your partner are in need of a treat, and are reluctant to book a table at your favourite restaurant, why not organise a hot date night at home? Plan the meal carefully – nothing less than three courses will suffice if you want to make the right impression on your partner.

A starter of oysters, among the most famous aphrodisiacs in history, would be ideal. Not readily available in landlocked Zimbabwe, consider substituting seafood with kapenta, also rich in the vital ingredient of zinc. Crisp-fried and sprinkled over a salad of avocado and asparagus, dressed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt, this would get things off to a good start.

Prawns, however, are readily available in the supermarkets, and you could play it safe with another starter option – a classic prawn cocktail, popular in the 70s and still a favourite with foodies. Cut down on prep time and buy ready cooked prawns and store bought mayonnaise. Tear up a few leaves of lettuce, and place in small individual glass bowls. Place shelled prawns on top of the lettuce and cover with mayonnaise seasoned with tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce. For some ‘giddyup’, to borrow a phrase from @CakeBossBuddy Buddy Valastro, add horseradish, a splash of Tabasco sauce and a squeeze of lemon juice. Sprinkle with paprika, garnish with chopped chives, and top with at least two whole prawns. A few slices of brown bread would pair well with either of these starters.

A brown stew of mazondos (cow trotters) with its delicious thick, sticky, gelatinous gravy is a popular delicacy in Zimbabwe, widely thought to boost the libido, although there’s no scientific proof of this. If you decide to serve mazondos as your main course, take care with preparation and presentation. Unless you have a friendly butcher who can supply you with clean trotters, spend some time scraping off the burnt, black bits on the skin, and wash thoroughly with vinegar and water. Fry sliced onions until golden, then brown the trotters, before adding chopped tomatoes, crushed garlic, salt, black pepper and tempering with vinegar. Sprinkle with a few pinches of chilli flakes, and pour in boiling water to just cover the trotters. Stir, cover the pot, and simmer for at least two hours until cooked. At this point, add a tin of drained and rinsed butter beans, season to taste and garnish with chopped spring onion. This is delicious eaten with sadza, rice or fresh white bread.

If your partner has a sweet tooth, he’ll have been looking forward all evening to dessert. After spending so much time in the kitchen, you may have decided to serve store bought ice cream, topped with a coulis of raspberries and blueberries. While fresh berries, grown locally in Marondera and Shamva, are classified as super foods, there’s an opportunity to impress with a fancy dessert like Pavlova or chocolate mousse.Practice beforehand making anything requiring moderate skill, or your hot date may turn out to be lukewarm.

Serving the right wine with each course is important. Prosecco, a sparkling white wine, would be the ideal choice to pair with either the prawn or kapenta and avocado starter, showing that you meant business. Complement succulent mazondos with a full bodied Shiraz, such as Black Granite from @DarlingCellars in the Western Cape, and present a bottle of sweet Eiswein, made from frozen grapes, to enjoy with the Pavlova.

If all goes well, your date night will be a success. Until such time as you feel ready to re-join society, practice your culinary skills and enjoy fine dining at home.

A Matter of Taste with Charlotte Malakoff

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