The Way to the Heart…
February hails in a month of love, affection and impious pleasures. Don’t think that going through the motions of purchasing flowers and chocolates for your lover is going to cut it this year. Oh no, no, no! Today, Valentine’s Day expectations are much higher – we aren’t talking anniversary worthy, but a nice dinner, some romance and a gift of love is certainly in order!
While restaurant dining unquestionably remains the most sensible Valentine’s Day preemptive wooing option (see our sparktacular Valentine’s Day specials here), when it comes to the foods of love, there’s nothing like offering sweet temptations you’ve masterfully created on your own, or even together if you’ve been practicing your Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore pottery wheel scene from Ghost and are ready to move it into the kitchen… (but we’ll keep it G-rated with Disney’s Lady and the Tramp…)
It’s that time again everyone – where the debate of the aphrodisiac is ignited.
As true foodies, we are believers! There’s nothing more sensual than an oyster slipping down your throat, but hey, we know not all agree. However, just for this special time of the year, let’s indulge ourselves a little.
Notoriously Wicked Aphrodisiacs :
Aphrodisiac is a name being derived from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, and are themselves a hotly debated issue, either vindicated by studies that prove they exist, or expelled by science refuting claims that any particular food can increase sexual desire. So, do aphrodisiacs work by triggering a biochemical response or are they the result of enduring cultural or psychological conditioning? Let’s not lose the romance of wonder, because either way, the list of alleged aphrodisiacs is increasingly longer and while some suggestions are obvious, others are deviously more suspect.
Few will argue that we experience amounts of pleasure from consuming chocolate. Italian researchers found that women who consumed chocolate daily reported a higher degree of sexual satisfaction and a study reported by the BBC suggested that melting chocolate in one's mouth increased brain activity and one’s heart rate more than that associated with passionate kissing.
Why? Chocolate contains phenyl ethylamine and serotonin, which are naturally occurring mood-lifting hormones released in the human body which bring about feelings of excitement and increased levels of energy. It can also contain theobromine – a stimulant with mood improving effects. Cocoa or dark chocolate may also positively affect the circulatory system. With its array of aphrodisiac properties, chocolate promises to turn even the seemingly innocent into hot blooded Valentines. Chocolate makes us feel good all over - much like being in love!
When seducing with chocolate, truffles are a sure favourite, as is a wickedly delightful chocolate fondue. Try Laura Cassai's Chestnut Forest (a Modern Tiramisu) recipe for a taste of something sweet, boozy and sumptuous that will melt in the mouth and if you're really ready to make this Valentine’s Day one to remember, Belinda Jeffery's deep, dark chocolate and praline mousse has intrinsic seductive qualities. If you're looking to be a little more creative in the kitchen, check out our list of dessert recipes with chocolate as the main ingredient.
Any food, lovingly hand fed to your partner certainly has the potential to ignite the flames of passion, but strawberries have an added advantage in that they are an edible Valentine - red, juicy, and with a hint of adoration cascading from your heart. Dipped in lashings of thickened cream, strawberries take on a whole other dynamic. Touted as an aphrodisiac since 200BC, the strawberry was an historic symbol of Venus and gained its reputation due to the large number of tiny seeds embedded within - symbolising fertility.
In art and literature, the strawberry is usually portrayed as a symbol of sensuality, while throughout provincial France it was custom to serve newlyweds cold strawberry soup to help promote honeymoon romance. Strawberries contain more vitamin C than any other berry, much needed to supply energy and keep the fires burning. Try our strawberry recipes here. Legend also has it that if you break a strawberry in half and share it, you will soon fall in love with each other.
Ever considered cooking up strawberry risotto?
"Muy caliente" is a common Spanish expression of excitement; muy means very, caliente means hot – VERY hot! It makes for the perfect expression when it comes to describing chillies as an aphrodisiac, both for their shape (let's hope none of you are thinking Birds Eye chilli right now) and their heart racing qualities. The phallic shape is not unique to chillies as numerous other fruits and vegetables have gained love-inducing reputations for similar reasons but it’s the chillies ability to get us all hot and bothered that firmly fixes its reputation as an aphrodisiac.
"Capsaicin” is the active ingredient found in chillies responsible for stimulating our nerve endings to release pulse raising chemicals and prompting the release of endorphins; this serves our bodies with a pleasurable feeling and natural high. I recommend always having a bottle of chilli oil ready on hand in the kitchen for whenever the moment calls. Wok tossed chilli crab makes for a delicious meal, while chilli choc bites are sure to have you identifying the link between the heat of food and ensuing passion - you'll find gourmet chocolate providores offering an array of chilli and chocolate combinations, if weather permitting, maybe you could give our chilli hot chocolate a go? If it's too warm of a night... just add some ice.
Casanova, whose name remains synonymous with the art of seduction, is often credited as having been the world’s greatest lover - he famously feasted on 50 oysters every day. Speculation about the powers of oysters centres on the powers of their high zinc content. Salty, sensuous and seductive, no other food is more frequently linked with desire than the humble oyster.
Oysters are best at their simplest, freshly shucked and served on a bed of crushed ice with just a squeeze of lemon. For something a little different, try a French inspired eschallot vinegar or a Japanese dressing of mirin and grated white daikon. Alternatively, you can serve them hot as Kilpatrick or with a creamy Mornay sauce. Any which way, oysters by candlelight then finished with an array of strawberries and chocolates, accompanied by glasses filled with chilled champagne, are a sure hit. We also can't get enough of oysters with Vietnamese dressing, crispy shallots and baby coriander. If you rather make it a night out to remember, be sure to stop by your local seafood restaurant for fresh and local oysters, we recommend trying a combination you've never had before!
It may be a stretch to call Marilyn Monroe’s favourite drink an aphrodisiac, but there is no argument that it has lowered plenty of inhibitions. Thanks to a steady stream of delicate bubbles, Champagne is absorbed into the blood stream more rapidly than still wine, inducing affectionate and amiable biological reactions. Dubbed by many as "liquid love", Champagne is an excellent idea for Valentine’s Day. After all, Champagne is for celebrations and Valentine’s Day is the celebration of love, romance and pure ecstatic sexiness.
For your consideration, since Champagne is in fact copyrighted, the term "liquid love" can be expanded upon to be a bit more inclusive. Champagne per se only originates in the Champagne region of France, in the circumference of two historical towns called Epernay and Reims. Australia, however, produces some excellent sparkling wines and when combined with foods that have aphrodisiac qualities... the desired stimulating effect is inevitable.
By Gordan Zola.