A dish to fall in love with
Valentine’s Day is coming and there’s wooing to be done. Alluring perfumes, soft lighting and Barry White are all very useful, but you can’t wine and dine someone without the dining, and culinary Casanovas have been working on seduction through food ever since Eve was tempted by the apple.
There are a lot of foods out there that are claimed to have aphrodisiac properties; oysters and caviar spring immediately to mind, but there’s plenty of others.
Asparagus spears are one (for fairly obvious Freudian reasons), and for the more adventurous there are plenty of choices. One example is balut — a fertilised duck egg partially developed then boiled with an embryo in the middle rather than a yolk. In the Philippines it is considered a natural Viagra.
Probably the most extreme is fugu, the Japanese delicacy of puffer fish. Parts of the fish (such as the liver) are so poisonous that in Japan it can only be prepared by specially licensed chefs who have gone through three years of dedicated training. Assuming all the toxic portions are successfully removed, you will experience some mild tingling and numbing of the mouth while you eat it, but no catastrophic respiratory failure. The excitement of risking your life and the relief of surviving gets the blood pumping well.
Though these may all be highly effective, I know that if I were to serve my wife a duck foetus this Valentine’s Day I would not be getting lucky that night. So I strongly recommend another known aphrodisiac with almost universal appeal: chocolate.You can prepare as fabulous a meal as you like, but dessert is the flavour that will be lingering in your partner’s mouth at the end of the meal and setting the tone for the rest of the evening.
Spotted dick (a steamed sponge pudding) is not a winner, despite the fantastic name. You need something delicious, sensual and light. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you . . . the profiterole.
Feather-light balls of choux pastry filled with cream and smothered with chocolate, they’re incredibly good, look extremely impressive and are surprisingly easy to make. All it takes is a little elbow grease in the stirring — then you’re away.
Best of all, everything can be prepared a day or two in advance and assembled in a matter of moments so all your focus can be on your loved one. To add an extra little Valentine’s touch this recipe contains rosewater and white chocolate in the cream, but you can leave them out if you wish.
¼ cup milk
¼ cup water
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
120g beaten eggs (about 3 eggs worth)
- Heat the milk, water, sugar and butter in a saucepan. As soon as butter has melted and the water and milk start to simmer, stir in the flour and salt. Cook the roux over a low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Remove from heat and stir in the beaten egg a little at a time, mixing completely before adding the next splash. (This is the elbow grease part.)
- Transfer to a piping bag or a sturdy sandwich bag with the corner cut off. Pipe blobs of dough 4cm wide on to a baking tray lined with baking paper, leaving some space between them for expansion.
- Bake at 220C for 20 minutes or until deep golden brown.
- Let them cool then use a small knife to gouge a hole in the base of each one. Bake hole-side-up at 180C for a further 10 minutes to dry out the inside.
- Let cool completely then freeze in airtight containers if not using the same day.
Dark chocolate sauce
3 Tbsp cream
3 Tbsp water
150g good dark chocolate (ideally around 70% cocoa), broken into pieces
Bring the cream and water to the boil, then remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate. Keep stirring until all the chocolate has melted and the sauce is smooth.
If you’re making this in advance, chill it in a sealed container. To reheat, microwave on full power for 40 seconds, stir, then heat it another 30 seconds on full.
White chocolate cream
1½ cups cream
1 Tbsp rosewater
1 leaf (or 1 Tbsp powdered) gelatine, soaked in cold water for 2 minutes or until soft
40g white chocolate, broken into pieces
½ tsp vanilla extract
- Bring 150g of the cream and the rosewater to the boil. Remove from the heat. Pick the gelatine out of the water, squeeze the excess water from it and stir into the hot cream, along with the white chocolate. Leave to cool for 5 minutes.
- Whip 250g cream and the vanilla until it forms soft peaks, then fold into the warm cream mix.
- Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight, then transfer to a piping bag/another sandwich bag. Keep chilled until ready to use.
- Take the profiteroles out of the freezer.
- Fill them with cream by piping it through the hole.
- Heat the chocolate sauce.
- Pour it all over the filled profiteroles — instant defrost!
- Serve casually, like you make this sort of thing all the time.
- Don’t spoil the effect by getting chocolate sauce all over your face.
- Bask in adulation.
British-born, Queenstown-based Will Eaglesfield is executive chef of No5 Church Lane and Eichardt’s. Out of the kitchen you will find him foraging for bounty for his impressive range of preserves or pottering in the garden with his chooks.