Posts Tagged ‘walnuts’

On chocolate

More Nanny Rhino today…

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I’m not one of those girls who’s mad on chocolate. I like it, don’t get me wrong. But whenever I think of chocolate lovers, I think of a girl I went to secondary school with, Gwen, who would go around the common room in sixth form, asking if anyone had chocolate with them and could she buy it from them. She’d be brandishing a fifty pence piece to back up her request and asking around desperately. At the time, I was a bit young to wonder why she had such a thing for chocolate. I just thought it was a little strange.

 

Alternately, a girl I went to junior school with, Louise, was allergic to chocolate! Allergic! It’d be a pretty sad existence if you couldn’t give in to the odd chocolate moment.

 

When my brother and I were younger, I distinctly remember being a massive fan of Yorkie bars. It was always my favourite. If we got given 50p by a generous relative, we would scuttle off to the sweet shop around the corner and giggle excitedly, while we looked at all the sherbet sticks and flying saucer sweets and fried egg sweets and Mr Freezy flavoured ice sticks. A lot of the time, though, I’d get a Yorkie. Now I think about it, I fear I may have been wasting a fantastic opportunity for potential sweetie-induced happiness. I just wanted a big bar of solid chocolate. Then Yorkie brought out these adverts on TV which said, “Yorkie! Not for girls!” So I had a little-girl-tiff and stopped buying them. I switched my allegiance to Dime bars, which were about half the price anyway, and shook my proverbial fist at the the Yorkie makers, knowing they’d notice my missing custom and regret their silly no-girls advert.

 

Speaking of chocolate, actually, there are lots of new weird and wacky things happening with chocolate, which take inspiration from it’s original use as a savoury drink, mixed with chilli, when first discovered and drunk in South America. So chilli chocolate bars abound the shelves of high end delicatessens or your local Whole Foods. I like the idea of liking chilli and chocolate together. I have tried, and failed, to get myself to like it. I just cannot stand the prickly heat in the back of my throat after I have swallowed a lovely mouthful of sweet melty chocolate. My senses scream at me to stop. It is just wrong, I’m sorry for those of you who love this combination.

 

Another thing which doesn’t work for me is chocolate pasta. I had originally thought that it would be great with something savoury. A friend told me he had it with a veal dish. Great, I thought, let me be gourmet and get into this chocolate pasta scene! Then someone told me that I had it all wrong. Chocolate pasta was a dessert and I must warm some cream up, add walnuts, cook my pasta and then add it to my warm cream and walnuts, mix around and then serve up, as my dessert. Ok, I thought, that sounds interesting, I can do that.

 

And I did it.

 

And it tasted like…. pasta with cream and walnuts. Normal regular pasta with cream and walnuts. In all honesty, cream and walnuts are not my usual accompaniment to pasta so I put it aside, disappointed. All that anticipation, all that planning… and it just tasted like regular pasta. Maybe I got it from the wrong company. Maybe I should have looked around for a really great quality one or asked for recommendations. Anyway, that’s the end of the road for my chocolate pasta journey, I think.

 

Now, another chocolate thing that I have reached the end of the road with is chocolate mousse. Not eating it! No, I am of course still eating it. Making it myself at home though, no more! In the early days of cooking in my kitchen, I didn’t have an electric whisk so I whisked my egg whites by hand. I would get severe arm ache and give up before it had quite finished being whisked. I’d just keep on with the recipe, in blind hope that it would be fine. It wasn’t. It would come out to dense and hard, instead of soft and fluffy. I tried it a second time, having convinced myself that the eggs must have been rubbish or something. The same thing happened. So I stopped making chocolate mousse. Maybe that’s silly, because now I have an electric whisk so I could try it again. I think I have a mental block with chocolate mousse now though.

 

I did go through a stage of drinking unsweetened hot chocolate not too long ago. It was an unexpected pleasure which grew on me. I used Bournville cocoa powder, steamed milk and vanilla or almond extract. I occasionally used orange oil but it tended to overwhelm the whole thing. Peppermint did the same and almost tasted toothpaste-ish. So I stuck to vanilla or almond. Because it’s bitter, it takes a few times to get used to it but I started really looking forward to my evening vanilla hot chocolate after a while.

 

Another of my favourite things to do with chocolate when I have guests over is a kind of help-yourself thing. I grate a load of dark chocolate, finely chop some mint, mix them together and put it in a small dish. I grate some more and zest an orange in with it and put that into a dish. Sometimes I do one of plain dark chocolate grated. You can play around with what flavours you want to add. Then I get loads of those mini pots of icecream and tell everyone to pick a pot and top it with whatever they want from the dishes of chocolate. Or you could go even simpler, get a huge bowl, half some strawberries and throw in some cherries, then get some dark chocolate and break it roughly into pieces and throw in aswell and get get nibbling.

 

With Christmas approaching, I am guessing my chocolate intake will increase drastically. Not because there is far better chocolate around at Christmas and I will be unable to control myself. It’s more because it will be there, freely available and right in front of my face (of course, I could choose not to stand directly in front of the Christmas chocolate and sweeties aisle at the supermarket but I like it there, ok?). So I will eat it. Because I can see it. Advent calendars, not a favourite or any special memories but a nice reason to eat chocolate first thing every morning. A selection box, again no amazing memories, just that my grandfather used to get us one every year, without fail. But if I bought all those individual chocolate bars in a shop and ate them all in one day, people would judge me, quite harshly I should think. Wrap it in a plastic packet with a fun Christmas picture on the front and call it a ‘selection box’ and it’s suddenly fine! Eat them all, no problem!

 

In Namibia, my friend Lucy and I, used to get a chocolate bar called Top Deck, if we had any spare money. This was an exciting time for us, when it happened. It was white chocolate on the bottom and milk chocolate on the top. It looked beautiful and we loved it, although I’ve no memory of how it tasted.