Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten

St Valentine Day Magic

St Valentine Day Magic – All Year!

Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, but the beauty of sexual attraction is far more than skin deep. In the same way as make-up, hairstyles, clothes and perfume can set the seal on a romantic encounter; food too, can add its special magic. Everyone knows that there’s no such thing as a love potion, but all else being equal, the right food in the right situation at the right time can heighten awareness, provoke sensuality and act as the catalyst which, like the ancient alchemists, turns the lead of friendship into the gold of love and passion.

Many foods have legendary aphrodisiac qualities and, whether the effect is real or imagined isn’t material; it’s the end result that counts. If you believe the legends and you eat the food, you’re highly likely to reap the rewards.

Some have proven benefits: they improve circulation, which is essential for male performance and female enjoyment; they induce emotional states of well-being and happiness; and they contain nutrients which are essential for physical activity, hormonal functions and general vital health.

Vitamin E, a key ingredient for sexual performance, is found in avocados, nuts and seeds. Iodine, vital for the thyroid and without which this gland, that controls so many bodily functions, just won’t work well - you’ll get it from the fish.

Eggs are the universal symbol of fertility and provide the nutrients you need to achieve it. Tropical fruits like mangoes, pawpaw and pineapples are both sensuous and rich in the aphrodisiac enzymes you need.

Amorous eating must appeal to all the senses if it’s going to succeed. Food has to look good, smell good and taste good. Ideally, the perfect romantic setting is a beautiful tablecloth, fine crystal, elegant crockery and the best cutlery combined with flattering candlelight and soft music. These recipes are the ideal companion to these surroundings, but it’s worth remembering that if the chemistry’s right, fish and chips in a paper bag can also end in consuming passion.

Now for the recipes . . .

Make up your romantic menu from these recipes and you will enjoy a night to remember!

Passion Parlour – A Drink To Get You Started

The expression ’to ginger someone up’ means what it says: the volatile oil gingerol in ginger is a powerful stimulant to the circulation. So, for obvious reasons, this wonderful spice has a long history in folklore as an aphrodisiac. Add the passion fruit and garlic for a unique blend of liquid erotica. For the more mature lovers with the occasional creaky joint, celery is the natural remedy.

4 celery stalks
Half a clove of garlic
3 passion fruit, outer shells removed
400g/14oz radicchio leaves, thoroughly washed
2 pinches ground ginger

1 Put first 4 ingredients through a juicer
2 Pour into 2 glasses and sprinkle with ginger

Flirty Flan

Asparagus, the favourite of all European fantasy foods, is one example of the truth matching the folklore. Extremely rich in potassium, folic acid and the natural plant chemical asparagine, asparagus is particularly good for men. The boost to blood flow from cayenne and the vitamin E from sesame seeds are the icing on the cake.

1 sheet ready-made puff pastry
20-24 asparagus tips
2 small eggs
200ml/7 fl oz fromage frais
Half a tspn cayenne pepper
1 tbspn sesame seeds

1 Lay pastry in greased 20cm/8in flan tin
2 Arrange asparagus in a cartwheel with green tips facing the rim
3 Beat eggs into fromage frais. Stir in cayenne pepper
4 Pour onto asparagus. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 220C/425F/gas 7 for 25 mins

Three-Fish Carpaccio

Just looking at the colours of deep red, palest pink and pure white sets the tone for your romantic evening. But there’s more to this dish than meets the eye. The huge content of essential fatty acids in the salmon and tuna are nature’s gift to lovers and the iodine in the sea bass is a natural energy booster. All topped with the mood-enhancing essential oils in basil and washed down with a glass of pink champagne, this is a failsafe recipe.

225g/8oz fillets of fresh salmon, red tuna and sea bass
4 lemons
4 limes
6 tbspns best extra virgin olive oil
2 tspns capers
3 tbspns basil leaves, roughly torn
6 sprigs dill, stalks removed

1 Get your fishmonger to slice the fish into paper-thin slices - or see the tip below
2 Soak drained capers in milk for 10 mins then drain and crush lightly in your fingers
3 Juice 3 of the lemons and limes
4 Mix together the oil, citrus juices, crushed capers, basil leaves and dill.
5 Dip each fish fillet in oil and herb mixture and leave in a wide dish in the fridge for at least 6 hours.
6 Serve garnished with wedges of the extra lemon and lime and chunky wholemeal bread

COOK’S NOTE: If you aren’t lucky enough to have a knowledgeable and obliging fishmonger, there’s an easy way to prepare the fish yourself: Just put the fillets in the freezer for 15 mins and they’ll slice perfectly with a long, very sharp knife.

Rare-Rich And Nutty

My dear friend the late Dame Barbara Cartland was renowned for saying that red-blooded men needed lots of red meat in their diets, so here’s the perfect recipe. Packed with iron, B vitamins and protein, spine-tingling Tabasco sauce, essential minerals from the walnuts and the slightly mysterious flavour of anchovies combined with steak - it will be hours before you get round to dessert.

2 x 200g/7 oz fillet steaks, 1 cm/ half an in thick
4 tbspns peanut or rapeseed oil
115g/4oz chopped walnuts
Half a clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Half a can of anchovies, drained, soaked in milk for 10 mins and drained again
1 tspn Tabasco sauce

1 Whizz walnuts, garlic, anchovies Tabasco and 1 tbspn oil in food processor
2 Sear steaks in the rest of oil for 10 secs each side
3 Press the nut mixture into steaks. Leave in fridge for half an hour, then bake at 200C/400F/gas 6 for 20 mins

Mussel Power

All shellfish are known for their aphrodisiac properties - and although most aphrodisiac foods have more effect on mind than body, shellfish are super-rich in the mineral zinc, which is vital for male sexuality. This is such a simple dish and incredibly easy to prepare. For maximum rude food effect, serve in one large bowl and share the sensuous pleasure of feeding each other with these little molluscs out of their shells.

1 glass white wine
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 spring onions, finely chopped
4 tbspns curly parsley, finely chopped
Half a tspn dried oregano
25g/1oz unsalted butter
2 kg/4 and a half pounds mussels, washed and scraped

1 Put mussels into a very large saucepan. Cover and heat till all shells are open and liquid has drained out.
2 Strain liquid through a piece of muslin and reserve.
3 Put butter, garlic, onions and oregano into the pan and sweat gently for 2 mins.
4 Add reserved liquor, wine and 1 glass of water. Stir for another minute. Add mussels, cover and boil briskly for 5 mins
5 Empty into a large bowl and sprinkle with parsley

Dressed Breast

The romantic appeal of this dish has nothing to do with breasts - at least not on the plate. It’s the starch in the rice which encourages the release of mood-enhancing tryptophan from the brain and the high vitamin E content of pine kernels in the pesto which is so important for a healthy sex life. Another easy to prepare recipe, which is light and easy to digest.

2 skinned chicken breasts
55g/20z unsalted butter
4 tbspns red pesto - shop-bought or make your own
115g/4oz basmati rice
Half a green pepper, deseeded and very finely diced
3 spring onions, very finely diced

1 Cook rice as on instructions, with pepper and onions added half way through cooking time
2 Mix butter into pesto and rub into chicken with hands
3 Grill chicken 8-10 mins each side
4 Put rice on plates and drizzle with stirred surplus chicken cooking sauce
5 Arrange chicken on top

Naked Banana With Flakes

This banana split is definitely for adults only. It’s an X-rated dessert - and I don’t mean the calories. Loads of potassium in the bananas to protect you from cramp at inappropriate moments, the mysterious flavour of cardamom, which is widely regarded as aphrodisiac in the Far East and the heady aroma of sweet almonds from the amaretto will transport you to images of the sultan’s palace.

2 tspns ground cardamom
85ml/3fl oz orange juice
50ml2 fl oz lemon juice
2 tbspns caster sugar
3 tbspns morello cherry jam
25g/1oz butter
4 bananas, peeled and split lengthways
3 tbspns amaretto
4 tbspns flaked almonds

1 Warm through first 6 ingredients
2 Put bananas in oven-proof dish to fit snugly.
3 Pour over amaretto, then warm mixture
4 Sprinkle over flaked almonds and cook at 180C/350F/gas 4 for 20 mins

Berry Good

The popular romantic drink granita is served at every café in Italy - it’s a bit like a half-frozen lemon sorbet. But add fresh raspberries, not only the most romantic of fruits but abundant in essential minerals, and the sweet crispness of langues du chat biscuits and you have a deliciously light dessert guaranteed to create that loving feeling. This is top of its class - definitely 10/10 and a gold star

55g/2oz caster sugar
Juice of 4 un-waxed lemons
350ml/12 fl oz mineral water
1 punnet raspberries
4 langues du chat biscuits

1 Dissolve sugar in water and lemon juice. Cool.
2 Put mixture into freezer-proof container
3 Freeze for 2 hours, breaking up crystals every 30 mins
4 Put four raspberries in bottom of two champagne glasses or tall sundae dishes. Fill with granita mixture. Top with rest of fruit and served with biscuits on the side.


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