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February is the perfect month for St Valentine’s Day. Never mind what tradition tells us about a saint, I think St Valentine’s Day was introduced by someone who had too much to eat at Christmas, went on a diet in January and then got fed up with eating no sweet stuff by the time February arrived! Instead of searching the shops for heart-shaped chocolates this year, how about sending your loved ones homemade sweets? Some are easy and some are not so easy, but they taste so much better than shop bought varieties. If some of the recipes are not for you, just try coating strawberries or other such fruit with melted chocolate and pop them in a gift box. The effect can be very affective and it shows just how much you care.

Buen Apetito

Apricot Fudge

450g granulated sugar

100g butter

150ml evaporated milk

150ml milk

100g ready to eat dried apricots

Place sugar, butter, milk and evaporated milk in a heavy based pan and heat gently until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil without stirring and then boil gently until the mixture is 116ºC (a sugar thermometer is best used for this). Stir occasionally to prevent the milk scorching. Chop apricots, remove pan from heat and add apricots to mixture. Beat with a wooden spoon for 10 minutes or until the mixture becomes grainy and thick. Pour into lightly oiled tin and leave to set. When almost set mark squares with a knife which allows for easier removal when completely set.

Traditional Butterscotch

75g butter

450g Demerara sugar

¼ tsp Vanilla essence

150ml water

Place sugar in a heavy based saucepan with the water. Heat gently, stirring until the sugar dissolves and then bring to the boil. Gently boil without stirring until mixture registers a temperature of 140ºC. Gradually add the butter in small chunks, stirring until it melts and blends into the syrup. Stir in vanilla essence. Pour the mixture into a prepared tin and allow to set.

Chocolate Marshmallows

A packet of Marshmallows

150g Chocolate

A packet of cocktail sticks

Hundreds and thousands

Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl over a saucepan of boiling water, stirring gently. When the chocolate is runny without lumps, take a marshmallow and put a cocktail stick into the top. Dip it into the chocolate and coat all over. Place on a kitchen towel and allow to set. Decorating with hundreds and thousands can be done when the chocolate is still wet. Fruit can also be used instead of marshmallows.

Rum Truffles

100g trifle sponges

4 tbsp rum

4 tbsp black coffee

25g slivered almonds

1 tbsp icing sugar

25g butter

100g strong chocolate

Chocolate strands to decorate

Dice the sponges and place in shallow dish. Grill nuts for 5 minutes, turning until toasted. Allow to cool. Put icing sugar and butter into a bowl and beat together. Add the sponge, juices and almonds and mix well. Set aside. Break chocolate into squares and place in a glass heat proof bowl over a pan of hot water. Leave until melted and stir until smooth.  Remove from the heat and mix into sponge mixture. Set aside to cool until firm enough to roll. Using a spoon, scoop out a small portion and roll into a ball. Roll in the chocolate strands and place in a paper case.

Marzipan Squares

225g icing sugar

225g ground almonds

1 egg

1 tsp lemon juice

Few drops of almond essence

Glace cherries to decorating

Place icing sugar and almonds in a bowl and mix. Beat the egg and add with the lemon juice and almond essence. Turn the mixture onto a dusted board and knead lightly until smooth. Press the marzipan into a flat sheet and then cut into squares. Place on a baking sheet and leave to dry overnight. Heat the oven to 200ºC and bake the marzipan for 8 to 10 minutes. Allow to cool and decorate.