July 16, 2013
My work with a fantastic restaurant comes to its delicious fruition.
Over the last few months I have been engaged in a hugely enjoyable collaboration with Andrew Scott, wonderfully talented Head Chef of Michelin starred restaurant The Curlew in Bodiam, East Sussex. I have been tweeting and writing about the work in progress, and it has been hard to contain my excitement about the project.
What a thrill to hang out in Andrew’s kitchen, bring my knowledge of fine chocolate to such a receptive ear and palate, and then watch the master get to work.
Up to this point I have held off describing the dessert itself. That is partly because it wasn’t finished, none of us quite new what the finished article would be, and I wanted more of a reveal, how much more tempting if I saved the savour until now. You have only to look at the lead photo of this piece to see that it was well worth the wait!
We selected three exceptional chocolates to work with, and Andrew has devised a recipe that truly celebrates them. The dish has retained the three main elements that I wrote about in the first article on the project, a sea salt mousse, an ice cream, and a water based ganache, each of which showcases one of the chocolates.
The sea salt mousse manages to be both rich and delicate, it extends the pure deep chocolate flavour of the Grenada Chocolate Company 60% dark chocolate retaining its purity of taste, incorporating it into something of great subtlety. The salt is to the fore, but not dominant, doing what it does best, seasoning and developing the other flavours. This divine mousse truly compliments the deep and pure tasting chocolate with its edge of salt and a wonderful smooth aerated texture.
The ice cream is light and fresh and perfectly elevates the dish. It is a delight, cool and mousse-like, its creamy formula and milder taste play up the milkiness of the Duffy Sheardown Venezuela Ocumare 55% Dark Milk. It is a perfect foil for the darker elements of the dish, and the toasted caramel notes of this wonderful chocolate are still in evidence, but given a revamp in a lighter form.
Andrew has used the innovative technique of water ganache for the final chocolate. Using the unimpeachable French choice, Valrhona, the lack of dairy ensures that its transformation into the smooth indulgence of a ganache is all heaven rather than heavy. Valrhona Manjari 64% turned out to be the perfect chocolate to use here. Its bright fruity quality can make a traditionally rich element of pastry something entirely different. The raspberry and cherry notes of the chocolate are happily in evidence, the whole has something of the refreshing quality of a chocolate sorbet, but with more intensity and indulgence.
These elements are brought together by a trio of brilliant extras. The ganache sits on an exemplary Breton sablé, buttery and the right side of sweet, with the crumbly light texture of this classic pastry. Atop the ganache is an utterly moreish tuile disc studded with Valrhona nibs. It is darkly caramelised so has that smoke and crunch the perfect tuile should have. The final garnish is a paper-thin shard of caramel, given extra depth with some Valrhona cocoa powder. This is melt-in-your-mouth, and taken to the edge of caramelisation, just as I like it. All three of these elements work to link the chocolates together. Each part of the dish is something to savour on its own. Eaten together you have melting, cool, creamy, buttery, fruity, caramel, light, intense, crisp and unctuous chocolate joy!