St Valentine's Day is just around the corner. Sending love notes or cards is thought to have originated in the 19th century in Britain, and copied soon after in America.
February 14 will be celebrated by many around the world - lovers expressing their thoughts for each other with cards and flowers - and if they are lucky enough to find tables, dinner in a cosy restaurant!
Menus will feature dishes with aphrodisiac properties, or what the restaurateurs perceive as such.
The obvious examples are truffles, chocolate, asparagus, mushrooms and seafood, notably oysters and lobsters. Pink Champagne and flowers, orchids being a favourite, will be in abundance.
However, aphrodisiacs have been around for a long time.
The Romans were very keen on potions made with frogs' bones, sucking fish and nail pairings, and more acceptably perhaps, mushrooms! These would be openly sold at the pagan festival, Lupercalia - an ancient rite connected to fertility - with over tones of romance, from February 13 to 15.
Those of you planning dinner à deux, at home might like to try an old favourite starter from the Friends' repertoire:
Asparagus & smoked salmon baked in wafer-thin pastry
Ingredients Serves 2
6 cooked, plump spears of asparagus, about 10 cm in length
2 thin slices of smoked salmon, about 50g each
2 sheets of filo pastry
25g melted butter
1 tbs finely cut chives
Few drops of lemon juice
Freshly milled pepper
2 sprigs of very fresh chervil
Method 1) Lay the filo pastry out on a flat surface, and brush both sides with
the melted butter. Place the smoked salmon in the centre of each piece. Lay three pieces of asparagus on each, add a little pepper and roll each one into a small parcel, leaving the tips protruding from the end. 2) Place on a baking sheet, in a moderate oven, gas mark 6/200ºC, for about 12 minutes until golden brown. 3) Mix together the yoghurt, chives and lemon juice, adding a little warm water if necessary, to the consistency of double cream. Spoon on to warm plates and place the asparagus parcel on top. Decorate with some lacy chervil.