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People have been adventurous in love, and with aphrodisiacs, for as long as our history has been recorded. In every land we continue to create love recipes to entice and seduce the opposite sex, and to enhance our performance in the act itself.

Although the reasons for attraction and desire are almost as much a mystery in today's dating (and increasingly  culture as they were in ancient times, we do know that the spur for sexual desire begins in the brain - in the hypothalamus, which also governs our appetites for food and drink.

The sea is one of the major sources of life. It is therefore no surprise that most sea creatures have the elements to form an aphrodisiac. All shellfish, the strongest aphrodisiacs, contain phosphorus, calcium, iodine, iron, vitamin B and glyco­phosphates, basic essentials for an aphrodisiac. All oily fish, such as salmon, tuna, shark, eel, herring, mackerel and sardines, and many forms of white fish, including sole and turbot, contain phosphorus, calcium and vitamins A, B and D, important elements in a variety of aphrodisiac treats.

Oysters have always been highly prized for their delicate flavour and there is much debate as to whether the native (also known as flat) oyster or the gigas (also known as Pacific or rock oyster) is superior. Traditionalists choose the native, but increasingly more people are recognising and enjoying the gigas, not least for its juicy, plump texture.

In the last 50 years, aphrodisiac food has been changing radically, along with our attitudes towards love and how to perform. Gone is the belief that men need rare steaks both to arouse desire and to keep up their stamina. Instead, Europeans turn to more subtle meats, although they are not necessarily to be found in the super­markets.

Bunderfleisch, for example, made in the Swiss mountains with a secret formula using mountain herbs and white wine, creates surprisingly sudden strength, and pastrami can do the same. Parma ham, delicious with green figs, is also good for providing instant energy. Lachsschinken (called Filet de Saxe in France) with Roquefort cheese was often eaten by Casanova before his famous conquests.

Vegetarians should also take heart. Peas, broad beans, radishes, artichokes, lettuce, leeks and onions are all confirmed as having aphrodisiacal properties. The Greeks noticed that onions “dim the eyes and excite amatory propensities” but also that even the onion “will do you no good if you have no strength yourself.”

Asparagus, an aristocrat among vegetables, still grows in its wild form along the sandy coasts of France, in Greece and profusely on the Russian Steppes. Witte goud (white gold), the seasonal asparagus of Brabant and Limburg - sturdy white shoots towering above their foreign cousins - has become the favourite Dutch treat.

“Asparagus seems to work magic on the Dutch taste buds,” says Joop van Zantvort, owner of Auberge de Koets in ‘s-Hertogenbosh, where a new asparagus menu is offered daily in season (May and June).

Fruit delights the senses in many ways. Figs, like oysters, need nothing but their own inimitable qualities. The pale golden quince was said to be the original apple which lured Eve, while the serpent that tempted Eve hid in a bunch of bananas. Banana blossom also appears in Filipino recipes as an aphrodisiac.

Good sex needs plenty of energy. Raw food processes far more minerals and vitamins than cooked food. For a better sex life, eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and drink ginseng tea. Al fresco food - a watermelon on a hot day or piping hot soup washed down with malt whisky in the depths of winter -  make an equally memorable and appropriate meal. The primitive pleasure of eating with one’s fingers is itself a sensual experience.  

Recipes

Irish Oysters Chinese Style

The oysters are steamed open, then seasoned with a simple oriental sauce. Serve as a starter or as part of a Chinese meal

1 small carrot, peeled and shredded

3 spring onions, trimmed and shredded

1 thin slice fresh ginger root, peeled and shredded

3 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 tablespoon sherry

1/2 - 1 tablespoon Tabasco pepper sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

a few leaves fresh coriander or parsley

1/2 small fresh red chilli, deseeded, finely chopped (optional)

1 dozen Irish gigas oysters

1) Blanch carrot in boiling water for 1 minute, add ginger for the last few seconds.

Drain. Mix soy sauce, sherry, Tabasco sauce and sesame oil together, add the carrot, ginger and spring onion

2) Scrub oysters, place in a saucepan with a little boiling water, cover, bring back to the boil and simmer until the shell opens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

3) Insert a short bladed knife between the shells and twist off the top shell. Slip a knife under the oyster to free the oyster from the bottom shell

4) Arrange the oysters in their shells on a bed of rock salt and spoon over a little of the sauce

SERVES: 2                        TIME: 10 minutes           

 

Zarda Palau

This pilau dish for the main course comes from Afghanistan and is very sensual with just sufficient sustenance for an hour or so of exciting activity

25g/loz blanched almonds

25g/loz pistachio nuts

2 tablespoons oil or ghee

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 chicken breasts, quartered

1 teaspoon saffron

125ml/4fl oz light chicken stock or water

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 tablespoons water grated rind of one orange

lOOg/4oz long grain rice

1) Fry the onions and pistachios in the oil or ghee and set them aside. Fry the onion lightly and set aside.

2) Fry the chicken until golden, add the saffron and the stock and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender. While the chicken is cooking, cook the rice in plenty of boiling, salted water. When just tender, drain and keep warm

3) Dissolve the sugar in the water, add the orange peel and boil to make a thick syrup.

4) Arrange the chicken pieces on top of the rice with the onion, and nuts, add the chicken liquid and finally pour the syrup over

SERVES: 2                  TIME: 30 minutes                

 

Asparagus Pudding

This dessert recipe was devised by Harold van Boven, chef at Auberge de Koets, Korte Putstraat, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Brabant, the Netherlands

lOOg/4oz cooked, chopped white asparagus

5 tablespoons cream

5 tablespoons milk

5 tablespoons of the asparagus liquid

25g. gelatine

20g/8oz caster sugar

4 egg yolks  

2 thick white asparagus stalks, cooked in advance

1) Bring the milk and asparagus to the boil, add egg yolks after they have been well beaten with half the sugar.

2) Warm until everything binds but be careful not to let it boil. Stir in the gelatine and allow to cool.

3) Beat the cream and the rest of the sugar.

4) Fold gently into the cooled mixture, carefully adding the finely chopped cooked asparagus.

5) Place in individual moulds and allow to set in the fridge for an hour.

6) Just before turning out and arranging on dessert plates, sprinkle sugar in a pan, add the asparagus, cut in medium-sized pieces and caramelise slowly.  

CHEF’S TIP: This dish provides a different and complementary texture and flavour when served together with a mix of other desserts or fruit.

  SERVES: 2                        TIME: 90 minutes           

RECIPES BY THE IRISH SEA FISHERIES BOARD, MAX DE ROCHE, AUTHOR OF THE FOODS OF LOVE, PUBLISHED BY DORLING KINDERSLEY, AND HAROLD VAN BOVEN

Timothy Foster

BUYING AND STORING OYSTERS

When buying oysters, make sure that the shells are firmly shut. If any shells are open slightly, tap sharply. Any that do not close immediately should be discarded. Although best eaten on the day of purchase, oysters will keep for 5-7 days if properly stored. They should be kept cool and loosely covered with a damp cloth or seaweed in the bottom of the fridge, with the flat shell uppermost to retain the juices.

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