February 14th, St. Valentine’s Day – the day of love - is intrinsically linked to food: restaurants are full of couples and countless others cook feasts for one another, while singles host elaborate dinner parties for their friends and families.
Plus, many foods are synonymous with love and passion. There might be little-to-no science behind any of it, but why let that stand in the way of serving things traditionally associated with love?
Oysters, for example, are widely believed to be an aphrodisiac – although whether this is simply an Old Wives’ Tale or scientifically sound remains to be seen. Casanova, the world’s most famous lover, is said to have guzzled 50 of the molluscs for breakfast. People are often wary of preparing oysters at home: keeping them at a safe temperature, knowing if one is ‘bad’ and the shucking process all put would-be shuckers off. Rules of thumb we live by are: keep them in a fridge for up to two days maximum and never put them in an air-tight container as the lack of oxygen will kill them. We also advise discarding any oysters which are not tightly sealed or if it has damage to the shell. Lastly, smell the oyster. If it smells unpleasant, chuck it.
For how to shuck an oyster, look no further than this guide, which includes a video. For dressing, a squeeze of lemon and a dash of Tabasco works for us.
Rocket, the spicy, peppery leaf often used in salads was also used as an aphrodisiac by the Romans: might be worth adding it to any side salads you serve up. It is, however, with puddings that romantic food comes into its own. Strawberries are always considered an amorous treat; the shape, colour and sweetness are evocative of love hearts.
We’ve got a few favourite strawberry-based recipes, including this buttermilk and strawberry dish, which not only tastes dreamy but is a joy to behold in individual ramekin dishes.
A fondue might seem too elementary, but we think the sharing component is totally in the spirit of the day. This white chocolate and strawberry recipe is indulgent and snug.
Then, this jelly recipe - provides a little sweet treat for the end of dinner. Beware the Tabasco, however!
Finally, a note on champagne. Expensive, delicious and relaxing – champers has endless romantic links to recommend it. James Bond woos with Bollinger, while Marilyn Monroe was rumoured to have taken baths in bubbly. But you don’t have to drink it: champagne works well in a variety of recipes. We love a champagne sorbet as a light and refreshing pudding. This simple recipe works well, although you will need an ice-cream maker.