Chocolate! Most of us love it and indulge in this treat just as it is, in the form of a chocolate bar, gift boxes and truffles. However, many wouldn’t realise that is an amazing ingredient that can also be used to take your cooking to another level by adding a sense of richness and complexity to a dish. Don’t worry, I’m sharing some of our chefs secrets and how you can get you inspired at home.
FLAVOUR CHARACTERS OF CHOCOLATE
Depending on the type of chocolate, each kilogram will contain 300- 600 cocoa beans. These cocoa beans have distinct and rich aromas and taste depending on the region, climate and soil of the cocoa tree. It is during the process of separating the cocoa into cocoa butter and mass, these unique flavour characteristics will develop further.
The trick to pairing is about finding the right chocolate first. Whether it is dark, milk or white they will be slightly different. Remember everyone is different in what they taste (there is no right or wrong answer. Half the fun of food and wine is discovery and exploring depending on your own palate. Once you know these key flavours and aromas you can begin to pair those flavours with one other key flavour that will work together, and then your dish has already started forming. Here are some examples below.
These have a bitter undertone and a crunchy texture. For me, I love these on my homemade granola for breaky or scattered on my salads. Why not try blending these and using them as a crust on salmon or lamb.
This chocolate will have more caramel, nutty flavours or vanilla and has the balance of bitter and sweetness. Sometimes you might also smell some cheesy characters due to the use of the milk. Chocolate and berries are a classic combination but why not try passionfruit for a bit more exotic combination. Just like wine, acidity cuts through sweetness.
This is the most versatile of the chocolate. In our chocolate dinner, we used dark chocolate to add depth to our Jus with slow cooked beef. When I am cooking at home, I add a couple of squares of dark chocolate to chilli con carne. Trust me, it transforms the dish to another level. You want to add only a small amount, as too much will over power the dish. It can also be used with other ingredients to make a marinade or can also work with spices.
When white chocolate is made correctly, it shouldn’t be too white. Instead ivory or pale yellow and not be too sweet. If it is too white, it means they have removed some of the cocoa butter in exchange for oil and more sugar.
It can be used to add creaminess to sauces or balance out saltiness. Shave it onto peas for a unique finish or try a Heston Blumenthal's creation of serving it with caviar.
Or if you are wanting something sweet, you cant go past strawberries and champagne off course!
Have fun cooking and enjoy your chocolate.