Valentine Meals for Two

Valentine Meals for Two: Chiller shelves containing Supermarket’s Valentine’s Dinner Display
Supermarket’s Valentine’s Dinner Display – photo supplied by the author

Special Offers for Valentine’s Day

How about a romantic supper for two? In “The Grocer”, there is a mouth-watering review of the Valentine offerings from the major supermarkets.  Each offers a 3-course meal plus wine. How do you choose?

Click on a supermarket name to see its offering. Sainsbury’s and M&S weren’t included in the Grocer article, but they have been added here, using their company Website.

Aldi     Co-op     Asda     Morrisons     Tesco     Waitrose     Sainsbury’s     M&S

The choices above have not been copied in just to make your mouth water, or even to impel you to rush out and buy one of these meals. I want to use these menu lists as a reflection of the food that UK supermarkets wish to sell us, and point out a few problematic aspects. Sorry –  the romantic glow  will be put under the spotlight of criteria.

Packaging

Those hoping to save the planet need to watch out for over-packaging, especially black plastic trays and polystyrene. The display in the photo below shows the food either boxed in cardboard or in a foil tray covered in cling-film.

Meals for two on supermarket shelves… Look out for packaging! – photo contributed by the author

Seasonality

Most choices do not include unseasonal peppers, tomatoes or lettuce. One wonders where M and S get the aubergine and the asparagus in February.

Supply Lines

Some items boast of British origin (Lamb), Scottish salmon, Mature Cheddar and so on.  Some connect to French cuisine, like camembert. Many of the wines are either French or Italian, with one or two South African or Chilean options. None come from Kent’s famous Chapel Down!  None of the items seem to be from unsustainable sources, like avocado and Californian almonds.  But the prawns could be problematic from tropical fish farms.

Cosmopolitan or Patriotic?

As is expected of menus in British restaurants, there is the gloss of French menu language – Coq au Vin, profiteroles,  dauphinoise, and the Italian of pasta, lasagne. There is nothing to say whether that Coq actually came from a British factory farm or the dauphinoise potatoes from Lincolnshire. The chocolates, of course, are Belgian. There is a touch of Spanish in the tapas. But the menus do not range beyond Europe (with one S. American exception).  But then if one wants to eat “ethnic” just order from the Chinese takeaway, or go out and eat,  enjoy romance in the glittery local Indian eatery, Turkish, Ethiopian etc – depending on the local options.  As for halal or kosher – forget it. These supermarkets are providing menus that are basically British – Wellington features in most of them!

Extend the Taste Buds

It seems most of these Valentine offers roll over from year to year the same, with perhaps two or three new options per year. I suggest they are missing an opportunity to market tasters of new food. Each Valentine purchase could contain a surprise sample of something new – a tiny pot of a new jam  or sauce or cook’s ingredients. 

Animal Cruelty

The lamb probably comes from Wales so is unlikely to have travelled far alive.  But having watched the film Seaspiracy, I worry that the Scottish salmon and the prawns could have been raised in cruel intensive farms. As someone who prefers to buy meat only if it is clearly labelled for how it is reared, it is odd that even Waitrose assumes that romantic couples drop their standard on this.

Magic Words

  • “Vegan heart-shaped ultimate burgers”
  • “Millionaire Dessert Twin Pack”
  • “Wicked Kitchen Crispy M’shrooms with Smoky Ketchup “
  • “Billionaire pot”

Which supermarket would get the prize for selling food via their words?  How “ultimate” can a burger get, and how wicked the mushrooms ?

There is trite romance in scattering hearts, raspberries and chocolates through these menus. Heart symbolism comes from centuries of medical misunderstanding about physiology, but hearts also make bosomy ideographs, beautiful if then recreated from some mushy red or pink food. But how about some other ideographs from a female point of view: tips of bananas ? Chocolate sticks to bite ?

Health

First, it is notable that some supermarkets have more varied non-alcoholic choices than others, and one, Waitrose, forgets this altogether.  Then the cheaper the deal, the more unhealthy. Aldi’s cheapest is basically 3 courses of carbohydrate with very little protein.

The vegetable options are too few for my tastes. Living in South Africa, we got used to expecting each main meal to have 2 types of vegetables, the green and the orange (say, spinach and butternut) as well as the carbs(potato or rice or maize meal).  The menus, as seen here, fit the British expectation of  a protein, potato plus one veg in a main meal but here, some (Aldi and Waitrose) allow only one side.   Asda, Morrisons and Tesco allow two sides. . 

Potatoes and bread are the only calorie options: no rice, quinoa, couscous. The cooking of vegetables is mostly either with cheese sauce, or packaged veg to dunk  in boiling water, with only the more expensive menus featuring roasted or glazed veg. Salads of course are unseasonal at this time of year.

 I would also like to know what oil any fried food is cooked in – “triple fried” does not reassure me. Menus by convention allow a mention of butter or olive oil, but refrain from mentioning other oils.

We are warned against buying too much processed food, but most of these menus have some options which clearly come from factory kitchens. Several feature in the vegan listings. I dislike the attempt to mimic meat confections – why have a “beet Wellington” Why not just a good dish of recognisable beetroot ? Why can’t the vegan menus feature the protein better ? There is too much use of cheese (the staple of vegetarianism) and not enough use of beans or pulses in the vegan options.

In Conclusion

The supermarkets advertise these Valentine offerings with beautiful pictures.  I guess they get plenty of customers. But we should all be educating ourselves about food. even if we hope to enjoy a side-dish of romance! My biggest criticism is that all these deals are meals for two, packaged as two of everything.  But what if a couple have divergent food preferences, one vegan and one carnivore ?


Aldi – Choose one of 4 set meals, cheapest is £5.17

  1. “Heart-shaped” Theme – £5.17; £9.16 with Prosecco
    Starter – pizza; Main – pasta; Dessert – pancakes
  2. Vegan – £6.47; £10.16 with Merlot
    Main – “Vegan heart-shaped ultimate burgers” + vegetable medley
  3. Seafood – £10.27; £14.16 with Sauvignon blanc
    Main – “prawn and salmon wellingtons”
  4. Meaty – £10.47; £14.46 with Malbec
    Main – Two pies, triple cooked chips; Dessert – chocolate profiteroles

Co-op – choose from 20 dishes, for 3 course meal – £12
     £15 if with alcoholic drink (choice of cheaper wines)

Starter

Garlic bread to share
Scotch eggs
Prawn and salmon mousse
Veg tarts

Main

Meat (steak and red wine pie)
Fish  (sea bass)
Luxury lasagne
Cheddar Mac

Side

Roasted butternut
Potatoes
Garden medley

Dessert

Sticky toffee
Lemon cheesecake
Triple chocolate profiterole
Melt in the middle pudding
Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Velvet Virtual Tortes
+  a non-alcoholic drink rhubarb and ginger pressé or 4-pack diet Cokes


Asda £15 – A three-course meal, two sides and either a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates, plus a Sky Movies voucher.

Starter

Neufchâtel hearts (baked camembert cheese)
Gran Anti-pasto
Runny Scotch Egg, 
Tempura Prawns with Sweet Chilli Dip 
Vegan Crabless Croquettes.

Main

4 red meat (beef or lamb, of which 2 slow-cooked)
Chicken parmigiana
Pork shanks  
Smoked Salmon
Chicken-free coq au vin pie (for vegans)

Side

Potatoes (dauphinoise, or triple cooked chips etc.)
Creamy cauliflower cheese
Glazed carrots and parsnips
Green veg medley
Heart-shaped garlic bread

Desserts

 Sicilian Lemon & Raspberry cheesecake 
Raspberry & Vanilla Macaroons 
Raspberry Panna Cotta. 
Vegan Belgian Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Hearts Heart Shaped Sticky Toffee Pudding 
Millionaire Dessert Twin Pack.
Drinks Choice of 3 vegan wines, and 2 sparkly wines. No non-alcoholic mentioned


Morrisons  £15

Starter

Vegan Mushroom Pâté
Scallop & King Prawn Thermidors
Garlic & Cream Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms,
Scottish Mussels in Chianti & Iberico Chorizo Sauce
Camembert Tear and Share Bread.

Main

Beef Wellington
Matured Sirloin Steaks
Slow-cooked Coq au Vin
Pork wrapped in prosciutto
Beefless Wellington (butternut with cranberry, apricot, chestnut duxelle
Rolled sole filled with smoked haddock served with mature cheddar sauce

Side

Potatoes (dauphinoise or chips)
Cauliflower cheese
Green Veg medley
Carrots and Kale
Ciabatta sticks

Dessert

Vegan – boozy Jelly Shots laced with pink gin. 
Belgian Chocolate Brownie Puddings
Raspberry & White Chocolate Profiteroles 
Vanilla Cheesecake Wedges, 
Crème Brûlée
Pack of six Macarons

Drink

Choice of 7 wines
Or non-alcoholic   Sicilian or Raspberry Lemonade, Ginger Beer, Pomegranate & Pear or Lemon & Mint drinks.


Tesco £15 for club card members – or pay £30

Starter

Calamari with Chilli Jam 
Heart Shaped Camembert Sharing Bread 
vegetarian Feta & Red Pepper Tartlets 
Vegan Wicked Kitchen Crispy M’shrooms with Smoky Ketchup 
Italian Antipasti Platter

Main

Duck Breast Portions with a Raspberry Hoisin Sauce 
Chicken in Prosecco Sauce 
Veggie Butternut Squash & Goats Cheese Lasagne 
Burgers with a Heart Shaped Triple Cheese Melt, 
Rump Steaks with Pink Peppercorn Butter 
Smoked Scottish Salmon Fillets with Lemon, Chive and Pink Peppercorn Butter 
Chicken in Cabernet Sauvignon 
Vegan: Wicked Wellingtons – pea protein filling with porcini & chestnut mushroom duxelles encased in flaky pastry.

Side

Heart Shaped Potato Croquettes with roasted garlic and breadcrumbs
Triple Cooked Chips,
Potato Dauphinoise
Leeks, Petit Pois & Savoy Cabbage,
Three Cheese & Chive Cauliflower Cheese 
Green Vegetable Trio. 
Valentine’s Veggies and a Potato & Butternut gratin (Wicked Kitchen)

Dessert

Belgian Chocolate & Orange Pots 
Millionaires Twin pack with Red Sprinkled Hearts 
Raspberry & Passion Fruit Cheesecake Slices 
Belgian White Chocolate and Raspberry Pots 
Wicked Kitchen Chocolate Love Brownie

Drink

Wine and beer options
Non-alcoholic Belvoir.
Booze-free Passion Fruit Martini or Juniper & Tonic drinks, both vegan 


Waitrose £20 – some 40 dishes to choose from

 Starter

Scottish Mussels in Garlic Butter 
Smoked & Poached Salmon Terrines 
Bloody Mary Prawn Cocktail 
Chicken Liver Parfait
Bacon, Leek & Roquefort Tartlets 
Baking Camembert with Red Onion
Spanish Tapas Platter
Meat-free: Mushroom Arancini, or Vegan Spinach Ravioli.

Main

Lamb Rack with Garlic Rosemary Butter 
Gressingham Duck Breast in a Red Wine, Plum & Blackberry Sauce.
Fish, Steak and Chicken pies from the No.1 range
French: Coq au Vin, Beef Bourguignon, Ribeye Steaks+Béarnaise 
The Med (Sea Bass with Tomatoes & Olives)  
South American (Rump Steaks with Chimichurri Butter)
Vegan: a plant-based Beet Wellington.

Side

Potatoes various from plain to creamy
Peas, Cabbage and Tenderstem Broccoli Layers
Rainbow Salad, 
Mediterranean Roasting Vegetables 
Maple Roasted Vegetables.

Dessert

Espresso Martini Chocolate Tortes 
Chocolate Bucks Fizz Swirl Desserts. 
Cream Cheesecake Slices from the English Cheesecake Company,   
Fruity options (Sicilian Lemon Tarts, Raspberry Panna Cottas and Raspberry Cheesecakes) 
Caramel Chocolate Profiteroles 
Melt-in-Middle Chocolate Puddings.

Drink

Above the basic range, with choices of an organic Terre di Faiano Nero d’Avola, Finca Lalande Malbec, Beefsteak Club Malbec Rosé and Storie di Vite Pinot Grigio. 
Sparkling options include the rosé San Leo Nerello Mascalese Garganega and Cantine Maschio Calle d’Oro Prosecco DOC.
(Non-alcoholic not mentioned.)


Sainsbury’s – £15 (excludes NI) – Choice of 33 products. Only 1 side in the deal.

Starter – includes “Plant pioneers No Chicken Buffalo Wings”

Main – includes 4 British and one Scottish (salmon). 2 slow-cooked.

Vegan main – “Beyond meat plant-based burger” or a veg quiche.

Side – (one option allowed) 3 potato, Green Medley Veg and Cauli cheese

Dessert – (all seem to come boxed) 4 of them cheesecake varieties

Drink – Choice of red, white, rosé, and for non-alcoholic sparkling pressé, elderflower or raspberry


M & S £20 – Starter, Main, Side, Dessert, Drink or Chocolates

Starter – choice of 6 includes seafood and duck liver

Main – 2 steak options, Lamb rack, duck, chicken, vegan is “aubergine steak” and chilli cauliflower.

Side – 4 potato options, cheese pasta, asparagus, green veg medley

Dessert – Banana sponge, lover heart churros, raspberry profiteroles, Billionaire’s pots, “Nuts about you” cheesecake