Butter them up nicely

Perhaps for the first time in human history, the ability to cook is no longer an essential survival skill.

There are so many ready meals and takeaway options that the ability to remove a hot container from a microwave without burning your hands (not as easy as it sounds) are the only techniques you need to master.

And intriguingly there are more men cooking than at any time in living memory and in this more egalitarian age, cooking is no longer seen as a female preserve. Then there’s the fact that it is therapeutic, creative and intensely satisfying. But let’s not kid ourselves, most men learn to cook in order to impress the ladies.

Whether you are cooking for your wife, your girlfriend or someone who you hope will become your girlfriend, a beurre blanc sauce takes just 10 minutes and goes beautifully with salmon, sea bass and many other fish. These can be cooking in the oven or under the grill while you whisk. It provides richness combined with acidity and manages to retain a lightness which is remarkable considering that it is almost 100 per cent butter. (If your significant other is weight conscious, on no account mention this fact.)

To prepare the sauce, get out a heavy-based saucepan and, seeing this is a special occasion, remove all vestiges of last night’s curry. Then pour in 60 ml of dry white wine, 60 ml of white wine vinegar and a finely chopped shallot. Reduce the liquid over a medium heat until there is barely a puddle left in the pan. Meanwhile chop 120g of unsalted butter into small chunks.

When the liquid has reduced, take off the heat, add two tbsp of double cream and stir. This should stabilise the sauce and eliminate any embarrassing curdling. Then start whisking in the butter a chunk at a time. If the pan seems to be getting too cool, reintroduce it to a very low heat. When all the butter has been incorporated, you should have a sauce with the consistency of cream. Then all you need to do is customise it with some herbs.

Tarragon, dill and chives all work beautifully — and create the illusion of something healthy.
Pour the sauce over the cooked fish and serve with asparagus or some other posh vegetable and a bottle of something bubbly. And for dessert? Microwave something.

Last updated: 2:50pm, July 11 2013