The best way to beat the mid-January blues? For any cocoa nut, it’s got to be indulging in a lorra lorra choc. In my first post of 2016, I shared five fine ways to get more out of all those treats you eat, and now I’m tempting you to explore even more. A resolution to eat well and wisely will be the best one you make all year – so get stuck in and enjoy each and every morsel.
Explore your origins
You’ll no doubt know that where cocoa grows has a huge impact on a chocolate’s ultimate flavour profile; Papua New Guinea’s smoky, earthy examples through to Madagascar’s red berry-noted numbers. Take Cocoa Runner’s clever quiz to reveal your preferred cocoa characteristics, then treat yourself to a few different makers’ bars using beans from that origin, with similar cocoa percentages, and sample them side-by-side – you’ll find it astonishing how diverse seemingly-similar specimens can be.
Mad for Madagascan? Compare & contrast…
Menakao Dark Chocolate 72%
Rozsavolgyi Csokolade Madagascar Trinitario 72%
Pump Street Madagascar 72%
Madecasse 75% Cocoa
Chocolat Madagascar 70% Dark Chocolate by Chocolaterie Robert
Chocolate Tree 70% Madagascar Sambirano Unroasted
Feed your friends
Don’t be selfish – spread the love and turn your friends into fellow cocoa nuts. Invite a gang over and keep it sleek and simple with a selection of fine chocolates served on slate, or take inspiration from a the most lavish cheeseboard you’ve ever encountered and wow guests with a Bacchanalian spread including fruits, nuts and anything else you think might work well (including, surprisingly, cheese). You might like to theme the event around a specific maker, style, or upcoming event – European examples for Eurovision, Brazilian bars ahead of the Olympics – or just use it as an excuse to revisit your own top chocs. Or perhaps go for potluck, and get each attendee to bring something to the tasting table. Should you get a little overwhelmed, water, plain crackers and apple slices are perfect palate cleansers.
Chocolate: not solely for sweet recipes
100% stuff, in particular, lends itself superbly to savoury cooking, but almost all kinds of fine chocolate will work wonderfully in the right recipe. Try white chocolate with salmon, scallops or asparagus, in horseradish or Hollandaise, or indeed anywhere where a vanilla note would be nice. Milk, meanwhile, is marvellous with caramelised garlic or in lieu of butter to round out a sauce. When it comes to dark, the world really is your oyster – from using it to enrich Mexican moles or Gallician-style slow-braised octopus to grating it over a salad of watercress, blue cheese and crisp bacon. Get inspired by taking a look at Paul a. Young’s ‘Adventures With Chocolate’ cookbook, booking a table at one of Hotel Chocolat’s cacao-centric Rabot restaurants, or exploring the same brand’s Cocoa Cuisine range.
Savour(y) the flavour: For easy ideas for savoury cooking with chocolate, click here
Numbers aren’t everything
It’s high time to rethink the notion, ‘the higher the percentage, the better the chocolate’, because it simply isn’t true. Provided it starts with quality raw materials that are treated well by a maker who knows their craft, good chocolate is good chocolate; irrespective of whether it’s mild and milky or devastatingly dark. In fact, the ‘dark milk’ category is a burgeoning one where many intriguing examples lie – including Damson Chocolate’s Trinidad Buffalo Milk 60% made by Dom Ramsay, Mikkel Friis Holm’s Nicaragua Dark Milk 65%, and Original Beans’ Femme de Virunga. Remember, percentage merely denotes cocoa content; it’s definitely not a sliding scale to indicate how much you might enjoy it.
Make time for (afternoon) tea
A little mid-afternoon indulgence makes dreary winter days that bit more bearable – especially when the entirely-frivoulous eating occasion includes chocolate. If you’d rather buy than DIY, treat yourself and anyone else who’s sharing the spread to a selection of B Is For Brownie‘s rich, fudgy single-orgin Madagascan and Columbian brownies, washed down with a haute hot chocolate from Jaz & Jul’s. Fancy yourself as the host with the most? Grab a copy of Will Torrent’s ‘Afternoon Tea at Home‘ cookbook (out 11th Feb), and master fine chocolate fancies from both the master patissier and a host of high-end venues.
- For more inspiration on new ways to enjoy chocolate, click here
- For fantastic chocolate and cheese pairings, click here
- To read about Menakao’s Madagascan chocolate, click here
- To read a review of Will Torrent’s ‘Chocolate at Home’ cookbook, click here