Chocolate! Just that one simple word is enough to set my mouth watering – and I’m certainly not alone. The average brit eats around 11kg of the wonderful stuff every year, a figure that places us top of the choc-loving-pops amidst our European cousins.
After January’s purge the celebration of chocolate really takes off with Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter all delivering the perfect excuse for indulging in our favourite bean. How many other food stuffs do you know that say ‘I love you’, ‘I’m sorry’, and ‘Well Done!’ all in one easy to gift box (or egg!)?
In recent years our palates have become more sophisticated and we’ve begun to demand higher quality, ethically produced chocolate that leaves the sickly sweet, commercial bars of yesteryear pining on the sweetie shelf. Personally, I think the shock of the American’s obliterating their way through our dear, darling Cadburys made us all sit up and pay attention! Couple this with the likes of Green & Blacks offering 70% (and higher) dark chocolate in a commercial environment and you will see why, as a nation, our taste buds are hungry for that wonderful bitter, rich flavour.
Far from being bad for you, cacoa beans come with impressive health attributes including high levels of immune-boosting antioxidants, flavonoids and polyphenols. Be warned though – this is only true for dark chocolate as the minute you start adding fats and sugar to the situation, everything changes. Unfortunately, you can’t scoff down mars bars in a bid to get healthy, and what we call white chocolate isn’t even technically chocolate! I’m talking about a few small squares of dark chocolate, perhaps sprinkled with nuts and dried fruits for a little extra lift.
For me, the versatility of dark chocolate is why I love it so much and I will always add a little square to a game sauce or beef chilli. It is the perfect vehicle for spices, citrus or tropical fruits and makes the perfect accompaniment to a short, strong espresso.
However, I’m not quite as advanced as the Mayans, who used the cocoa bean as currency as it was considered to be worth more than gold dust. That people, is what you call civilised living!
On The Menu at 63 Tay Street
- Dark Chocolate Cremeux with Blood Oranges and Poached Rhubarb. Amazing.
Try It At Home
- For great quality chocolate – either to munch by the bar or to cook with – visit our pals at Provender Brown. They really do know a thing or two about quality.
It is super easy to make a simple chocolate ganache; place in a dry, clean bowl over boiling water, and break your chocolate into chunks. Gently heat – this stuff melts in your mouth remember so no need to go wild or it will split – until it starts to melt. Stir in double cream (about 50% of your chocolate volume) and add sugar to taste. For an amazing family treat, layer into individual trifle dishes with fresh fruit, ice-cream and crumbled shortbread.
With thanks to the photographers: