If you want to make this Valentine's Day really special, why not take a gourmet stand and make one of these romantic aphrodisiac meals? While going out is fun, sometimes you can be even more romantic at home – if you know what I mean! The way I figure it, I can take the Better Half out to dinner any time, but it takes a lot of thoughtful effort to make someone you love a feisty, sexy meal that will lead to an even more romantic evening. Just take a look at these aphrodisiac meals and see what you think!
1. Asparagus, Mozzarella, and Prosciutto Parcels
As you'll see, asparagus is definitely considered an aphrodisiac. That surprised me, but since asparagus is my very favorite vegetable and my Valentine loves it too, I'm not complaining! It features in a lot of aphrodisiac meals, but this one is just elegant. You can't beat fresh, crisp asparagus and fresh mozzarella. Serve this as an appetizer with a complementary glass of wine and you're well on your way to a very romantic meal!
16 asparagus spears, trimmed
125g ball mozzarella, sliced into 4
8-12 slices prosciutto
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
a small bunch basil , finely shredded
salad leaves to serve
Blanch the asparagus for 2 minutes then refresh under cold water. Cut each mozzarella slice in half and sit both pieces on top of 2 spears of asparagus. Top with 2 more spears then wrap the asparagus in prosciutto so the mozzarella is enclosed (you will need 2 or 3 strips).
Heat a little olive oil in a pan, then carefully fry the parcels until the prosciutto has crisped and the mozzarella oozes.
Whisk together the olive oil and vinegar and add the basil. Serve each parcel with salad leaves and a little dressing drizzled over.
2. One-Pan Salmon with Roast Asparagus
Told you! Not everyone has time to slave for hours over the stove, not even on Valentine's Day, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy a gourmet quality meal with your lover. This recipe doesn't require that many ingredients and it definitely doesn't take that much time. That means you'll have ample opportunity to make yourself va va voom gorgeous before dinner!
400g new potatoes , halved if large
2 tbsp olive oil
8 asparagus spears, trimmed and halved
2 handfuls cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 salmon fillets , about 140g/5oz each
handful basil leaves
Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Tip the potatoes and 1 tbsp of olive oil into an ovenproof dish, then roast the potatoes for 20 mins until starting to brown. Toss the asparagus in with the potatoes, then return to the oven for 15 mins.
Throw in the cherry tomatoes and vinegar and nestle the salmon amongst the vegetables. Drizzle with the remaining oil and return to the oven for a final 10-15 mins until the salmon is cooked. Scatter over the basil leaves and serve everything scooped straight from the dish.
3. Creamy Wild Mushroom Soup
Basically, you can use any kind of mushroom you like for this recipe. Mix and match if you like, because there are subtle flavor and texture variations between Porcini mushrooms, Morels, and others. This soup is lovely and earthy, a wonderfully light dish that won't fill you up, just in case you want to make it an appetizer or have a full soup course.
1 ounce dried wild mushrooms, such as Morels, Cepes, or Shiitakes
7 cups defatted chicken broth (canned or homemade)
1/4 cup tawny port
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup coarsely chopped onions
1-1/2 pounds fresh white mushrooms, cleaned, stems trimmed, coarsely chopped; reserve 8 whole mushroom caps for garnish
1 teaspoon ground allspice
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup heavy (or whipping) cream
3 Tablespoons snipped fresh chives
Rinse the wild mushrooms well in a strainer under cold water to remove any dirt. Place the mushrooms in a bowl. Bring 1 cup of the chicken broth and the port wine to a boil and pour over the mushrooms. Let the mushrooms soak for at least 1 hour. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid, and set aside. Strain the liquid through a double layer of cheesecloth.
Melt the butter in a heavy soup pot over low heat. Add the onions and cook until wilted, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms, increase the heat to medium-low, and cook to bring out their flavor, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
Add the remaining 6 cups chicken broth, the allspice, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes. Add half the reserved wild mushrooms with all the soaking liquid. Cook, partially covered, 15 minutes longer.
Puree half of the soup in a food processor or blender and return it to the pot. Add the remaining wild mushrooms along with the cream. Heat another 10 minutes to warm the soup through. Julienne the reserved mushroom caps and garnish each serving with the julienne mushrooms and snipped chives.
4. Easy Baked Stuffed Lobster
I know lobster's a little controversial, but it is a classic Valentine's Day dish. If you can stand cooking your own fresh lobster, or if you opt not to get a live one, you'll love this relatively simple dish. If you simply can't stand the thought of cooking a live lobster, in the first place you're not alone (I think that's going to keep me from being a proper gourmand but I'm kind of okay with that), and in the second place I think you could probably adapt this using lobster tail. It just takes a little ingenuity and experimentation.
1 (1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds) live lobster
1 cup crushed buttery cracker crumbs (such as Ritz or Club)
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/8 cup minced celery
1/8 cup minced sweet onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided use
Salt to taste
Sweet Hungarian paprika
Additional melted butter for serving, optional
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Plunge the tip of a sharp knife straight down just behind the lobster's eyes to cut the spinal cord and humanely kill the animal.
Place fresh lobster on its back. Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears cut the lobster's body cavity open. Remove and reserve the tomalley (yellowish-colored liver). Remove stomach and intestines, being careful not to rupture them, and discard.
Combine cracker crumbs, melted butter, tomalley, celery, sweet onion, garlic powder, lemon pepper, 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan, and salt to taste. Pack the cracker mixture into the body cavity. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and dust lightly with paprika.
Bake stuffed lobster in an uncovered 2-inch deep baking pan for 30 minutes. If needed, increase oven temperature to the Broil setting and broil for another 2 minutes to brown stuffing. Serve baked stuffed lobster with optional additional melted butter.
5. Rib-Eye Steak with Basil Hollandaise
I'd never heard of a basil hollandaise before trying this, and I wish I'd discovered it sooner! This recipe is just richness from start to finish – so, you know, you'll sort of need to engage in a little Valentine's Day exercise with your lover! The rib-eye's easy, it's hard to ruin a good cut of meat, but make sure you keep a close eye on that sauce!
1 bone thickness rib-eye steak , about 600g
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, left in their skins
handful thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
100ml white wine vinegar
small bunch basil , stalks roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
2 egg yolks
250g unsalted butter , melted and skimmed to give about 200ml (See 'Know how' below)
squeeze lemon juice
Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Put the steak on a plate and rub with 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil and plenty of black pepper and flaky sea salt. Leave to marinate at room temperature for about 10 mins. Heat a heavy-based ovenproof frying pan until searingly hot.
Add the meat to the pan, with oil from the plate, the garlic cloves, thyme and bay leaf. Sear the steak for 3 mins on the first side until well browned, basting with the oil and herbs as it cooks. Carefully tip off the oil, add another 2 tbsp, then sear the second side of the steak in the same way. Quickly brown around the edges, then slide the pan into the oven and roast for 15 mins, turning over halfway through.
Take the steak from the pan and sit it on a rack over a roasting tin. Tip the oil, herbs and garlic from the pan over the steak, then leave to rest for 15-20 mins. Leave the steak uncovered - covering with foil will make the steak steam and lose its crisp crust.
Meanwhile, start the hollandaise. Put a medium pan of water on to boil. Put the vinegar, basil stalks, bay leaf and spices into a small pan. Boil down to about 3 tbsp, then strain. Put the egg yolks into a large, deep bowl, add 1 tbsp cold water and 1 tbsp of the vinegar reduction, then whisk briefly until light and frothy.
Put the bowl over, but not touching, the simmering water, then whisk to a light, airy foam. Now gradually add the butter, little by little, whisking all the time to make a silky yellow sauce. Prevent the sauce overheating by lifting the bowl on and off the pan, adding a splash more water if it starts to get too thick. The sauce can be kept warm for up to 30 mins by sitting the bowl in a bath of just-warm water. If it gets too hot, the sauce will split. Just before serving, finely chop the basil and stir into the sauce with the lemon juice and seasoning to taste.
HOLLANDAISE TIP: This recipe makes enough reduction for three batches of sauce - keep what's left over in the fridge for several months. We make huge batches in our restaurants, reducing to 100ml, adding a little water and storing in a squeezy bottle. Leftover hollandaise will keep well in the fridge for up to 2 days. Try stirring it through some mash to top a fish pie.
6. Baked Oysters and Spinach
Oysters on the half shell are the big aphrodisiac, but ewww! I can't handle that, no matter how much I love seafood. Here's an alternative to raw oysters that you and your Valentine are sure to love. The spinach really complements the earthy, gritty freshness of the oysters, and that dill makes all the difference! When the oysters are in the skillet, make sure you take some time to spoon some of the mixture over them; it's a small touch that really adds to the flavor.
1-1/2 pounds fresh spinach, rinsed well and left wet
1/4 cup butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
Large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup fine dried bread crumbs
1 quart shucked fresh oysters
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill or 2 teaspoons dried
Place the spinach in a large saucepan, cover, and steam over moderate heat for about 5 minutes or until tender. Drain the spinach, refresh under cold water, squeeze dry, and chop finely. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large skillet, heat half the butter, add the onion, and saute over moderate heat for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the spinach, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and cream. Stir well and cook over moderate heat for about 2 minutes, stirring in a few bread crumbs if necessary to thicken the mixture. Add the oysters and dill and stir well. Spoon the mixture into a well-buttered baking dish, sprinkle the top with bread crumbs, dot with the remaining butter, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
7. Decadent Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Sauce
What's Valentine's Day without a decadent dessert? From the chocolate to the raspberries, this one will put both of you in the mood for love! The richness of the chocolate and the tartness of the raspberry glaze pairs wonderfully, creating a double threat and a fabulous flavor combination.
1 (6 ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips (1 cup)
1/2 cup butter or 1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter or 2 tablespoons margarine
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup whipped cream
fresh raspberry, if desired
1 (10 ounce) package frozen raspberries, thawed, drained and juice reserved
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon orange liqueur (to taste) or 1 tablespoon raspberry liqueur, if desired (to taste)
Heat oven to 325?F.
Grease bottom and side of springform pan, 8x2 1/2 inches, or round pan 9x1 1/2 inches.
Melt 1 package chocolate chips and 1/2 cup butter in 2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat; cool 5 minutes.
Stir in flour until smooth.
Stir in egg yolks until well blended.
Beat egg whites in large bowl with electric mixer on high speed until foamy.
Beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until soft peaks form.
Gently stir chocolate mixture into egg whites.
Spread in pan.
Bake springform pan 35 to 40 minutes, round pan 30 to 35 minutes (top will appear dry and cracked) or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean; cool 10 minutes.
Run knife along side of cake to loosen; remove side of springform pan.
Turn cake upside down onto wire rack; remove bottom of springform pan and cool completely, about 1 hour.
Place on serving plate.
Heat 1/2 cup chocolate chips, 2 tablespoons butter and the corn syrup over medium heat until chocolate chips are melted.
Spread over top of cake, allowing some to drizzle down side.
Place whipped cream in decorating bag fitted with tip.
Pipe a rosette on each serving. Serve with Raspberry Sauce.
Garnish with fresh raspberries.
Add enough water to reserved juice to measure 1 cup.
Stir together sugar and cornstarch in 1-quart saucepan.
Stir in juice and raspberries.
Heat to boiling over medium heat.
Boil and stir 1 minute; strain.
Stir in liqueur.
Refrigerate any remaining sauce.
Maybe aphrodisiacs really work, maybe they don't. If, however, you're making a delicious meal on the most romantic day of the year, I guarantee that your Valentine's evening will be sweet. How do you prefer to celebrate Valentine's Day?