Food, love, romance, and sex have a long intertwined history; and it is rooted in our biology.
So, whenever I am looking for a romantic gift for my husband, it’s not really a surprise that I always end up including something food related in his gift bag—even if it’s just some dark chocolate.
This Valentine’s Day, however, I’ve stepped up the food element of my gift giving, and I’m creating an aphrodisiac basket.
I found myself struggling to think of a special and romantic gift for Christmas for my beloved, and then it occurred to me that instead of chocolates, I would create a basket filled with foods and delicacies reputed to have aphrodisiac qualities.
I didn’t want to just go out and buy a load of food from the supermarket; instead, I wanted to create some homemade goodies which I could lavish some love into the making of and also give some real thought and effort to. So my “aphrodisiac basket for a lover” is a mixture of shop-bought goodies and homemade ones.
My guide to creating an aphrodisiac basket.
Included in my basket is:
Homemade cherry brandy
Brandy-infused cherries (ideal for hand feeding)
Homemade black truffle tapenade
Homemade fig jam
Homemade dark chocolate & chili truffles
in 2009, an Italian research group published a study that showed a correlation between drinking wine (specifically red wine) and an increased sexual appetite in women. The study surveyed 800 Italian women who drank red wine, other alcohol, or no alcohol at all. The red wine drinkers scored two points higher than other alcohol drinkers and four more points than teetotalers.
Now, my husband is not a wine drinker. Instead, he’s a rum and cola man; but he loves cherries, so I’ve included a small bottle of red for me and a homemade cherry brandy for him.
Homemade Cherry Brandy Recipe.
This takes six weeks to infuse, but it’s well worth the wait. Not only do you get fabulous cherry brandy to warm you up on a wintery night, but you also end up with luscious brandy-soaked cherries that are great for eating by themselves—or, for a divine treat, dip them in dark chocolate.
1 kg cherries
1 litre brandy (I used the cheapest bottle on the shelf, because there is absolutely no point using a fine cognac in this recipe)
300g golden caster sugar
Find a jar that has a tight-fitting lid that is large enough to take the cherries and the liquid. Sterilise the jar; I wash my jar in warm, soapy water and then pop it in the dishwasher on a hot cycle.
Prick the cherries several times and place into the jar. Leave the stones in. Add the sugar and the brandy. Give the jar a good shake. Place the jar somewhere where you will see it daily to remind you to shake it every day for the next week.
For the remaining five weeks, shake the bottle weekly, tasting it occasionally to see if the taste is “cherry” enough for your taste buds. Once it is ready, strain back into sterile bottles. You can now drink it—or, if you can manage to keep your lips off it, leave it for 12 months to mature. The strained cherries are ready for eating or using in recipes.
For thousands of years they have been prized by humans as an aphrodisiac, but while a fresh black truffle may be a great culinary treat, it’s not great for including in an aphrodisiac hamper, so I have made a tapenade that can be spread on little crackers and fed by hand.
60g pitted black olives
1 Tablespoon drained capers
3 medium cloves garlic (crushed)
5 fresh basil leaves
1 Tablespoon loosely packed fresh oregano
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Extra-virgin olive oil, as required
50g black truffle slices
Place the pitted black olives, the capers, garlic, herbs, mustard, and lemon juice in a blender and pulse until smooth.
Add a little drizzle of olive oil as required to ensure a smooth paste is achieved.
Transfer the mixture to a sterile jar and top the mixture off with olive oil before sealing.
Label with recipe name and date and keep in a cool area until ready to use.
Refrigerate after opening.
This fruit contains citrulline, which relaxes the blood vessels in much the same way as Viagra does. It a great food for cutting up and finger feeding.
Fig and Brandy Jam.
This jam is thick—almost like a compote—and it’s delicious eaten with fresh bread and soft oozy cheeses. I really like to serve this with baked camembert or brie.
1kg soft, ripe figs
400g granulated sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp Liquid pectin
Remove the stalks from the figs, then slice them quite thinly. Place them in a heavy-based saucepan, with the brandy and water.
Cook them for five minutes on a low heat, so the juices run and the figs begin to break down.
Add the sugar, the lemon juice, and the pectin. The lemon juice and the pectin will help the jam to set.
Slowly bring the mixture to boil, stirring all the time so that the figs don’t catch on the bottom of the pan. This is a jam that requires constant stirring and attention. The mixture should become quite thick.
Boil for approximately five minutes. Keep stirring gently throughout. Reduce the heat if it bubbles too furiously and add a drop of water if the mixture looks to be drying out—but remember it is meant to be a thick consistency.
Turn off the heat, and let the jam cool down for five minutes.
Spoon the mixture into well sterilized jars, seal, and label.
Once cooled, this jam will keep for up to 12 months unopened. Once opened, they will keep for around two weeks in the fridge.
Pickled Tropea Onions.
Tropea onions are said to be such a strong aphrodisiac that in ancient Greece, priests were banned from eating them. If you are lucky enough to be able to buy these onions raw, then you can pickle them yourself. But if, like me, you struggle to find them raw, then you can either grow them from seed for next year or buy them already pickled, which is what I choose to do.
Dark chocolate is considered to be an aphrodisiac. Not only is it an energy booster, but it contains L-arginine, an amino acid that can be an effective natural aphrodisiac for both women and men.
It works by increasing nitric oxide and promoting blood flow to the sexual organs, which increases sensation, satisfaction, and desire, all of which make chocolate a must for an aphrodisiac basket.
Chocolate also stimulates and lifts the mood. Chocolate has earned its reputation as a libido food because it is a rich source of phenylethylamine, sometimes referred to as the “love supplement” or the “romance chemical.”
As a stimulant, phenylethylamine can induce sensations of euphoria—and it’s naturally released by your brain when you’re are in love. In turn, it promotes the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which increases feelings of well-being, joy, and pleasure.
I include not only a good quality block of dark chocolate in my lover’s hamper, but some homemade chili chocolate truffles. Chili peppers are said to aid the release of powerful endorphins and also to increase the heart rate
Chocolate Chili Truffles.
250g good-quality dark chocolate (minimum 70 percent cocoa solids)
125ml double cream
25g salted butter
1 pinch of sea salt
50g good-quality cocoa powder
2 teaspoon of chili powder
Break the chocolate into chunks and place them in a small bowl. In a saucepan, bring the cream to a boil, add the chili powder and butter, and take off the heat.
Pour the cream over the chocolate chunks and leave to stand for a few minutes, giving the chocolate a chance to melt. When you get the cream to the boil, you don’t want it boiling for too long; it’s just a case of bringing it to the boil, adding the chili powder and the butter, and then getting it off the heat.
Stir the mixture and leave it to cool for two minutes. Stir it again to make sure it’s mixed thoroughly, then cover and refrigerate for at least two hours or until set.
Place the cocoa in shallow bowl or cake tin. With a teaspoon, scoop out little balls of the set truffle mixture. Roll in the palm of your hand, then roll in the cocoa powder.
Once all the truffle mixture is used up, place them in the fridge to firm up for about half an hour before placing them into a gift box or serving them.
With your goodies made and lined up, simply place the items in a basket and write a note explaining the idea of a aphrodisiac basket. I like to include little cards explaining the properties of each ingredient.
Author: Seren Charrington-Hollins
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina