Motorboat My (Water) Melons

watermelon

Tipsy Watermelon, Gorgonzola, Prosciutto and Pecan Salad

There have been actual real-life academic studies into the aphrodisiac qualities of watermelon. Like practically every other ingredient, they were sadly cock-blocked by science. However, once again, they might just, if you’re lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it) be a potency aid.

The active ingredient in these fleshy orbs of watery goodness is called citrulline. Our bodies convert this to argenine, which boosts nitric oxide, which in turns relaxes blood vessels. So once again, basically natural Viagra. The downside is that the citrulline is concentrated in the barely-edible rind. They’re also a great source of lycopene, which is also good for heart health and circulation. But the proof of this one is definitely in the eating.

Maybe it’s that bright pink colour, or how wet and messy they get you when you dive into a big slice. Or how about spitting those seeds out, through moistened puckered lips. There’s just something inherently messily sexy about eating a watermelon.

So obviously there’s going to have to be a nice big slice of moist, juicy watermelon on the side, so that you can feel those juices dribbling down my chin, but otherwise this is a great starter or side salad, with maybe a nice juicy pink steak and a nice roughly ripped chunk of crusty bread.

 

Quarter of a watermelon, chopped into bite-sized cubes

A mix of salad leaves, I’ve used rocket and lamb’s lettuce

300g of Gorgonzola, or a similar salty blue cheese. Roquefort or Stilton are good stand-ins.

A large handful of pecans.

Three or four strips of prosciutto, or a similar cured ham.

For the dressing: A shot of vodka, white balsamic vinegar and olive oil

 

I often read recipes for salads and think “Really? People need instructions on how to put together a salad?” But apparently some people do. So here goes nothing. Put the ingredients in a bowl. Mix. Serve. Drizzle with dressing, which is equal parts vodka, vinegar and oil, mixed frantically in a cup with a fork. Eat.

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The World Is Your Oyster

I’ve mentioned oysters more than once before, and of course they’re currently out of season. But I’m missing them, so thought I’d post the first mention of them from my book, ‘Aphrodisiacs’.

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Let’s face it, the oyster is pretty much the daddy of all aphrodisiacs. It’s the first food people think of when they’re asked to come up with one. They also conjure up some pretty mystical and magical feelings, I mean there are very few other foods that have live streaming websites. I kid you not, you really can watch oyster beds live on camera.

But all this oyster-worship is a little odd, since Aphrodite herself is normally shown rising from the sea in a scallop shell, not an oyster shell. It obviously derives all its power from that sympathetic magic, My “E” number 2, the enigma. But there’s not much of an enigma about it, really. I mean they are stacked full of zinc, which is good for the libido, but you’d need to eat about half a ton to make any serious difference. But let’s just be honest from the outset. The oyster looks a bit like certain lady parts, and that moist, slurpy method of eating them that we generally prefer, is just, well, frankly somewhat cunnilingual, if I may just make up an adverb.

Now you can do plenty of things with oysters, but I’m afraid that for my money, you can’t beat them live and raw with just the teeniest splash of tabasco, accompanied by a lovely crisp white wine. Champagne completes the cliché, but I prefer something with fewer bubbles tickling my tonsils, like a Loire-valley Sancerre or Touraine.

We’ve even developed a rude-sounding word for the preparation of this salty, tasty, gooey little bivalve mollusc, and who doesn’t enjoy a damn good shuck? So here’s probably the easiest recipe you’ll read today.

Live Fresh Oysters (half-a-dozen each at least)

For the rash amongst you, perhaps a little lemon juice, tabasco or a light vinegar

Hold the oyster with the cup-shaped shell in the palm of your hand, and the flat shell face-up. Take your flat-bladed stubby shucking knife, or any flat, broad sharp knife. Find the hinge, and work your knife in (just the tip!) between the shells near one of the corners of the hinge. Ease it gently in, and run it all the way around to the other edge of the hinge before tilting the knife to make the hinge ‘pop’. Separate the shells, and run your knife underneath the oyster flesh to sever it from the shell. Be careful not to tip it, or you’ll waste all those yummy juices. Splash on whatever sauce takes your fancy (or don’t), and slurp the whole thing back in one go.

(Gar)Lick My Love Pump Soup

aka Cold Garlic & Celery Soup, or “How to get single women to start huffing (or at least sniffing) celery”.

Garlic soup 2

There are two reputed aphrodisiacs on parade in this baby. Believe it or not, garlic is meant to be an aphrodisiac. Personally, I blame the French, and I do so despite living with them in the heart of Normandy. I can’t complain, because I adore garlic, and would happily eat it raw like an apple given half a chance. Actually, I have eaten it raw like an apple, and I don’t recommend it, that papery skin gets stuck in your teeth. But I digress. I suspect it was a Frenchman who persuaded his paramour that garlic was an aphrodisiac just so that she wouldn’t complain when he smothered her with his aioli kisses.

Actually, like most ‘hot herbs’ (which is what garlic is classified as, weirdly, despite basically being a type of onion), it has a long history as an aphrodisiac, stretching back to the ancient Egyptians. Tibetan monks who had eaten garlic were refused entry to the monastery, on the basis that their ardours would undoubtedly rise, inflaming the (presumably highly homoerotic) passions of their fellow monks. It does actually qualify in a few ways, firstly, that Frenchman had the right idea – sharing the same flavours is a good way of creating a little crackle of sexual electricity, so it has some ‘environment’ credentials. The fact that it is quite hot, and oh so tasty, gives it a bit of ‘experience’. But it also does have some real-life physiological ‘effects’ too. There is the slight medicinal value – it really can help improve blood circulation, so (over many years) it might help to open up constricted veins and arteries.

Now I’ve gone into the differences between an aphrodisiac and a potency aid before, but just to recap, those idiots who think tiger penis or rhino horn is going to make them harder for longer don’t belong in the same sentence as aphrodisiacs. Potency aids are not aphrodisiacs, unless your idea of a seduction is a bit on the ‘rapey’ side. But if getting it up is a problem, it could be because the veins in your groin are constricted, so garlic could help. The other thing is that like other hot herbs, the active ingredient, in this case Allicin, activates certain chemical receptors inside your body to cause a reflexive cooling response. That means your heart rate will go up and you may start to sweat a little more, two things that also happen in the heat of passion, so once again we have a little bit of that ‘sympathetic magic’.

Celery, on the other hand, is apparently phallic. I got very confused when I first read that, and started worrying why my own parts weren’t green or ridged. But again it’s actually one of those few little critters that actually has some physiological effects, though largely for women. Celery apparently smells like androsterone, the primary male pheromone. One of those hormones that is naturally produced by men, that when sniffed by women stimulates sexual arousal. So celery is quite literally orgasmic. I defy you ladies now to walk past the celery display at Sainsbury’s without having a teeny curious sniff.

Raw celery root, which you probably won’t find outside of a Chinese herbalist, has been used as a cure for impotence for centuries, because it does stimulate the pituitary gland, which in turn releases several of the main sex hormones. The closest you’re likely to find in your local supermarket is that ugly great knobbly brute, celeriac. Who knew?

Anyway, white Anglo-Saxon culture isn’t very big on cold soups. In fact I’ve had a guest return his bowl of gazpacho because ‘it isn’t even warm, let alone hot’. But if you’re used to living in the hotter, flesh-revealing, passion-inducing climates of the Mediterranean or Caribbean, cold soups are something of a regular on the menu. This one makes a fabulous summer starter, just right for when it’s getting all sultry and you’re peeling off all your clothes.

1 bunch roughly chopped celery
2 finely chopped shallots
1 large garlic bulb, finely chopped (that’s bulb, pop-pickers, not clove)
500ml chicken stock
250mg butter

Melt the butter in a large pan over a medium-low heat. Add a handful of the garlic, and stir it in for a minute or two before adding the rest of the garlic, the shallots and celery. Cook on the same medium-low heat, stirring regularly, for about 15 minutes.
Add the chicken stock and bring up to a simmer. Then cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes.

Remove the soup from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes before puréeing it with a hand blender for several minutes until it is silky smooth.
Cover and chill the soup in the fridge. Overnight is best, as it lets all those yummy garlic juices to practically ferment. Serve it nice and crisply cold. Best yet, chill it in the freezer for 5 minutes before serving.

A Blonde, A Brunette & A Redhead Walk Into A Kitchen…

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It’s about time I gave you some actual aphrodisia, one from the book, no less. As I may have mentioned, the only actual aphrodisiac with any real effects is booze. So on tonight’s dig-in-and-share menu, it’s three ways with beer, and it’s all about the environment – sharing, sticky fingers and getting messy.

We’re kicking off with a big pot of moules en biere blonde (mussels poached in lager).

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For our main, we have slowly Guinness-braised sticky beef ribs with a crunchy spring salad.

sticky ribs

And finally, feed one another some raspberries while you dig your spoons into a white chocolate and Framboise (raspberry beer) mousse.

mousse

Moules
– 1kg (2lbs) of mussels
– 4 shallots
– 2 pints (or 1.3l) of biere blonde/light lager
– 1 teaspoon of coarse grain mustard
– 250ml of cream
– 1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley
– 1/2 cup of fresh chopped thyme

Ribs
– 2.5kg (5lbs) of bone-in beef ribs
– 2 pints (or 1.3l) of Guinness
– 1 bay leaf
– Worcestershire sauce
– a tablespoon of brown sugar
– 100mg of butter
– 50mg of flour
– some cloves
– 2 shallots
– some black peppercorns
– 500ml beef stock
– 2 cloves of garlic
– 1/2 cup of freshly chopped chives

Salad
– half-a-dozen radishes
– a big handful of spring onions
– 1/4 cup of freshly chopped coriander
– 1 red onion
– a handful of red cabbage leaves
– 1 stick of celery
– 1 teaspoon of creamed horseradish & a glug of olive oil for the dressing

Mousse
– 300g white chocolate
– 8 egg whites
– half a lemon (for juice)
– 50g caster sugar
– 500ml of Framboise (raspberry) beer
– 10g of milk or dark chocolate
– a sprig of freshly chopped mint
– some raspberries

So let’s get started. Like several of the best stories ever told, we’re going to start in the middle. We need to get that beef going, because it’s going to melt off the bone and dissolve slowly in your mouth. Place a rack of ribs in roasting tin with a couple of halved shallots, a couple of cloves of peeled garlic, and a bay leaf. A teaspoonful of peppercorns and three or four cloves won’t go amiss. That should be enough seasoning, but feel free to add a little salt.

Now mix 500ml of beef stock, a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of brown sugar, and a pint of Guinness. Keep the rest of the Guinness to one side, since you’ll need more when it reduces during the amount of time it’ll be in the oven. Pour over the beef – it should cover it to about 2/3rds the way up, and cover. Place in an oven pre-heated to around 170 degrees (340 in old money), and immediately turn the heat down to 130 (260) degrees, for about three hours. Every 30 minutes or so, add a little more Guinness and baste. You probably want to remove the cover with about 15-20 minutes of cooking time to go, and push the heat back up to about 170 degrees.

Next up, it’s time for the mousse, because it’s going to need the fridge time to set. We want to melt 400g of white chocolate into 100ml of the Framboise beer. Break it up in a bain-marie and melt it slowly, mixing it into the beer as it melts. Whisk up 8 egg whites with a squeeze of lemon juice until they form soft peaks. Add the sugar and keep whisking into peaks – be careful not to overwhisk. When the chocolate is melted into the beer, add one-third of the egg-white mix and whisk it together quickly. Now fold the remaining egg-white mix slowly in. Spoon the mix into two glass bowls or glasses, and leave to set in the fridge, probably around 3 and a half hours, so should be timed to perfection after the ribs are done. Soak the raspberries in a glassful of the beer. Serve with some shaved or grated milk/dark chocolate, those raspberries and a little chopped mint.

Finally, at T minus 15 minutes, it’s time to get the beef out, and prepare the mussels.

Take the ribs out and lay them on a serving platter, being careful because they may just drop apart (if you’re lucky). Melt the butter in a pan with the flour, stirring continuously to ensure it cooks through and doesn’t burn. Take whatever liquid is left in the bottom of the roasting pan and strain into the pan with the roux, and the remainder of the brown sugar. Keep on a medium heat until the sauce is reduced to a glossy, sticky mix. Pour this over the ribs, and sprinkle over the chopped chives. Cover to let rest while you get on with the mussels.

Scrub and trim the mussels’ beards, and discard any open ones, then tumble them into a nice big pot with a lid. Pour in the lager, together with the rest of the ingredients finely chopped, saving just the cream, the mustard and half the chopped parsley. Whack on the heat, cover, and bring to the boil. Probably 4 or 5 minutes of boiling should be enough to cook the mussels. Stir the mustard into the cream, and add this as you bring off the heat, stirring well into the beer. Discard any mussels that haven’t opened, chuck on the rest of the fresh parsley, and serve in a big bowl for you to both plunge into, with a nice big tearable piece of crusty bread between you.

By this time, the ribs should be hot but not scalding to the touch, allowing you to dig in with your fingers into all that stickiness. The salad should be all nicely chopped, with the horseradish whipped with a fork into the olive oil dressing.

This is meant to be one of those playful meals, rubbing shoulders with one another, and licking the sticky sauces off one another’s fingertips. You could always pair each course with the beer used in it’s preparation (I would certainly do so with the framboise at the end, since there should be plenty left over), but I’d probably stick with a fresh sauvignon-style crisp dry white with the mussels, and a nice big fruity red wine with the beef.

 

 

 

Pastry Loopy, Nuts Are We

Lunch beckons. Having been playing with pastry a lot this weekend (small things…), I’ve gone for a savoury tart (which is sooooo unlike me…), an experimental tart in fact (ditto…)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s ham, a couple of different types of mushroom, and softened, roasted walnut, with a fair bit of walnut paste in the cream sauce too.

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You may have heard or read that walnuts are an aphrodisiac, but whoever said this needs to get themselves a dictionary. Walnuts are a male potency enhancer (as in so many cases, only in industrial quantities), and these so-called ‘potency’ foods aren’t in the least bit seductive. If anything they’re just a bit ‘rapey’, and of course the vast majority of them are just superstition anyway. When my ‘Horny Chef Around The World’ show gets commissioned, I’ll be sure to visit some rhino poachers, shark fin fishermen and tiger hunters to disavow them of their utterly preposterous ideas.

Anyway, I digress, this works, really really works. Actually, might work even better without the ham as a (god forbid, spits off to the side) vegetarian dish.

Les Huitres

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“He was a bold man that first ate an oyster”, or so said Jonathan Swift. I suspect that when most people are asked to name an aphrodisiac, this humble little bivalve shellfish is in the top three, if not first. With good reason, since it’s one of the few foods that ticks more than one box in my ‘five elements’ test.

We’ve even created a verb, ‘shucking’, with a certain naughtiness to its rhyming qualities (it wasn’t used about oysters until the late 19th century). And, let me tell you, if you have a badly shucked one, there is something quite impressive (so I’m told) to the act of wrestling the little bugger free of its shell using nothing but your tongue. And that’s part of the point, once opened (and they open with a flower-like quality to them) it’s the ‘sympathetic magic’ that strikes you first, the enigma. It has a certain something to it, a resemblance, some say, to female body parts.

It’s also (for most of us, anyway) expensive. I’m lucky, as I live 30 minutes away from this place…

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…and Cancale oysters are simply some of the best you can find anywhere in the world. Consequently I don’t have to worry about the cost or food miles involved in keeping them refrigerated in just the right way (4 degrees celsius, in 100% humidity, but not underwater). But if you pop to an oyster bar in London or New York City, you’ll be paying a fair amount more than the €10 a dozen I pay at the quayside. After all, you’re probably accompanying it with a delicious Loire valley white, or better still, a glass of Champagne’s finest, and neither of them come cheap either.

Amazingly, they’re also one of the few foods that could be argued to actually have a physiological effect. Massive zinc levels encourage the production of testosterone in both sexes, and the selenium and several of the amino acids they contain have been proved to stimulate the production of a range of other sex hormones. Now admittedly, you’d probably need to eat about three dozen before there was any significant effect, but that sounds like an interesting challenge.

So obviously I love oysters, ideally with a fresh, crisp glass of Touraine (which is the closest thing to a ‘house wine’ I have). But their salty taste, which I find to be unlike any other shellfish, can be wonderful in ways other than just fresh and live.

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The ‘three ways with Oysters’ I have on my menu includes the obvious freshly-shucked ones with a squeeze of lemon, but also a deep-fried option and a grilled one. And the combination of the three, both texturally and flavour-wise, complement one another delightfully.

So number two is to grill them. After shucking and removing from the shell, replace it and sprinkle a crumble of blue cheese (ideally a dry, hard one like Stilton, as the saltiness of a French Roquefort or Bleu d’Auvergne can overpower the oyster itself) and finely-ground walnuts into the shell, and grill it on a high heat for two or three minutes.

Alternate this with the deep-fried hot variety. Take the little fellows out, roll them in flour, followed by egg wash, and finally a mix of fine breadcrumbs, a pinch of white pepper and a pinch of mild cayenne pepper or paprika. Deep-fry them for no more than a minute and a half, and serve with a splash of tabasco or a sweet chilli sauce.

Refresh your palette with a slug of that crisp white wine and a fresh live one, and start over again. I enjoy serving a mini-platter like this as an hors d’oeuvre, especially if Champagne is the apéritif du jour.

The Aphrodisiac Cliché

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince it’s relaunch time, it’s probably worth mentioning that the most oft-quoted aphrodisiac food does play a special part in my life. The sun is shining, it’s a lazy Sunday afternoon, so what better to break up the afternoon? A couple of fresh fresh fresh Cancale oysters with a glass of bubbles to be going on with.

More musings on oysters later this evening.