The first time I bit into the crude chocolate bar I’d cobbled together with a bashed-up bag of pork scratchings and some melted dark choc, I almost did an Archimedes and skedaddled down the street shouting ‘Eureka’. Mercifully, I managed to rein in my enthusiasm. But even if I hadn’t, at least I’d have been fully-clad – unlike the philosopher who legendarily leapt from the bathtub in the buff.
Chocolate buffs will be no strangers to the strange notion of pairing sweet and savoury. Salted caramel has been the in thing for so long now it’s hard to remember a time when he who sprinkled a few flakes of Halen Mon into the mix would have been called weird. And, where chocolate is concerned, weird and wonderful flavour combos are really no cause for concern at all.
So to me, it kinda made sense that chocolate and crackling would be cracking. I’d already seen Nadia G do some spectacular stuff with bacon on Bitchin’ Kitchen, and relished the twang of my mate Marmite in Paul A. Young’s brownie. As with all the most thrilling experiments, the covert choc-peration felt a little bit dirty, a little bit wrong…and by ‘eck it tasted oh so right.
And as it transpired, everyone who sampled the slab found it inspired. Especially Food Urchin Danny Kingston, who ‘borrowed’ the concept (with full consent) in order to develop a dish for the Godiva Challenge. If he won, he’d be bringing home more than the bacon – he’d have his pud placed on the menu at Hix Soho.
Plus, of course, £500 and a trip to Brussels for his efforts, as awarded to all finalists; of whom Danny delightedly informed me he was one. From my own ersatz effort, Danny had evolved the initial idea into a rather more refined porky pastry – a candied bacon chocolate tartlet speared with a scratching ‘snap’, crowned with a quenelle of crème fraîche, all sprinkled with bacon bits.
If he was one bit nervous on the night, it didn’t show. No quavering hands forming those quenelles, no beads of perspiration decorating that shiny pate. Danny was the first to damn his pallid pastry, but his ganache was glossy and his presentation was damn good.
When the call came to choose a quartet of top tarts to send to the judges, fellow cheerleader Chrissie and I predictably offered ourselves up on a plate as the first pair. Tough decision for Danny; but in the end, it was a phwoarsome foursome of nigh-on perfectly-plated patisserie he very sensibly elected to send. Would Mark Hix, William Sitwell, Juliette Nothomb and Godiva‘s head chocolatier Thierry Muret like the cut of his rashers?
Well, as it turned out, not sufficiently so to crown the chap we were there to champion as the winner. Godiva pioneered the praline, and two of remaining recipes included an element of that very thing. A lovely pear evidently pleased the judges, because Heather Bennett’s winning dish, ‘A Conference of Chocolate’, was a fruity beauty with a honey-drizzled Kentish one at its heart.
Our unofficial and somewhat squiffy dessert debrief came to the conclusion that the pork just didn’t talk loud enough. The bacon flavour seemed to have slunk into the background as if sick of its starring role. Danny’s dessert was still delicious, just not as marvellously meaty as it could have been.
But don’t feel bad for him. Lest we forget, our dear old Danny romped home with half a grand in his hand and a lovely luxurious break to Brussels for him and Mrs Food Urchin– a pretty grand way to celebrate her brand new job. Not bad for a booby prize.
In fact, I might even enter my own effort into next year’s Godiva Challenge. Because that humble crackling-spiked chocolate bar that Danny dreamed up into his dainty dessert was really rather well-received by Mark Hix, William Sitwell, and whoever else I could corner when I sidled up to them like some scallywag pushing contraband on the streets of Camden to share a sample.
And, after all, I have got a whole year to make that chocolate-with-crackling concept into something really cracking…
- To view Danny’s Candied Bacon Chocolate Tartlet recipe in full on the Great British Chefs website, click here.
- To read more about the Godiva Challenge, click here.