Every year, there's a new food on the edible aphrodisiac list. The latest addition seems to be watermelon for its high levels of the amino acid citrulline, which is thought to deliver magical effects on the old libido!
In addition to oysters and asparagus, chocolate has long been considered one of the original foods of love. Probably due to the phenylethylamine - chocolate has the highest concentration in any food of phenylethylamine, which is the chemical produced in the brain when a person is in love; or perhaps it's because chocolate contains tryptophan, a chemical that has been applauded for increasing sexual arousal.
Some say that it's less about the stimulants and more about the fact that chocolate literally melts in the mouth (or anywhere else, at body temperature) that adds to its oo-er magical powers. Whatever the reason is, there's always time for something divine and chocolatey, and what better day than Valentine's to put your culinary spells to work?
A simple chocolate mousse is one of the easiest desserts to make and no less impressive because of it. Enhance the flavour with a little alcohol or orange zest if you fancy, and serve simply, with a drizzle of cream sitting over the top, or add some shortbread biscuits to dip into your chocolate pots of love.
This chocolate cocktail might be just what you need. Sweet, smooth and strong - now, there's nothing wrong with that.
Makes about 12 truffles
You will need:
4 green cardamom pods, seeds removed - see Rachel Recommends
75g white chocolate, chopped
125g icing sugar, sifted
1 Put the cream in a small saucepan.
2 Open the four green cardamom pods and extract the seeds inside, discarding the pods. Crush the seeds using a pestle and mortar, and add the ground seeds to the cream.
3 Bring the cream and the ground cardamom seeds to the boil, and then set the saucepan aside to sit for two minutes to allow the cardamom flavour to infuse.
4 After two minutes, bring the cream back up to the boil, then take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the chopped white chocolate until it has melted. Now pour the cream, cardamom and chocolate mixture into a shallow bowl and leave it to cool in the fridge for about an hour.
5 When the mixture has completely set, you can shape the truffles. First, sift the icing sugar into a bowl. With a teaspoon, scoop out pieces of the chocolate mixture. Roll each piece in the palms of your hands to make balls 1cm to 2cm in diameter. Drop each ball into the icing sugar and toss so that each truffle is coated. Place the truffles on a pretty plate and serve.
You will need:
50g dark chocolate (anything from 55pc to 75pc cocoa solids)
1-2 teaspoons brandy, whiskey or orange liqueur or half a teaspoon of finely grated orange zest
1 large egg, separated
1 Chop the dark chocolate quite finely. Put the cream in a small saucepan, bring it up to the boil, then turn off the heat, and add in the finely chopped dark chocolate. Stir until the chocolate melts.
2 Add the brandy, or whiskey or orange liqueur, or the finely grated orange zest, whichever you're using, and whisk in the egg yolk.
3 In a clean, dry bowl, whisk the egg white until it is just stiff, then pour the flavoured cream and chocolate mixture into the bowl, aiming it towards the side of the egg white - don't pour it right on top of it as that can deflate the egg white.
4 Fold the two mixtures together, then spoon the mousse into two small bowls, glasses or cups. Place the chocolate pots in the fridge and leave them to set for at least two hours, or overnight.
You will need:
30g dark chocolate
2 tablespoons water
25g caster sugar
2 tablespoons softly whipped cream
A grating of dark chocolate or a dusting of cocoa powder
1 Melt the dark chocolate in a bowl that is sitting over a saucepan of barely simmering water, then take the bowl off the heat and pour in the vodka, the water and the caster sugar, whisking to mix everything together.
2 Allow the cocktail mixture to cool completely, then shake it with some ice and strain it into two Martini glasses.
3 Pour boiling water into a cup or jug, and warm up a tablespoon in the water. Use the warm spoon to drop a dollop of the softly whipped cream on each cocktail, and finish with a grating of dark chocolate or a dusting of cocoa powder, whichever you're using.
4 Serve straight away.
In the white chocolate truffles recipe, far right, if you can't get whole cardamom pods to open for the seeds, use a pinch of ground cardamom instead, but you'll find the whole seeds, freshly crushed, will give more flavour.
Rosemary and chocolate work really well together. In the truffle recipe above, use a small sprig of fresh rosemary, which is in season now, in place of the cardamom, for a herbal twist.