Jessica Carter considers a less conventional lunch this Sunday…
I’m completely prepared for my annual Easter choc-a-thon – and this year’s is set to be of especially of epic proportions. I’ve discovered that it’s not just the traditional eggs and other sweet treats that can provide me with my cocoa fix – it would seem the Easter Bunny has been missing a trick.
Those who aren’t chocolate fans or have no sweet tooth to speak of (I know, I find it hard to believe they exist, too), you may be glad to know that you can still join in with the springtime chocolate-munching festivities. In recent years, chocolate has been used more and more in savoury dishes, with some delicious results. This isn’t a new concept; some kitchens have just been a bit slower on the uptake than others. But boy, am I glad they’re catching on. Savoury chocolate products have even made their way onto the high street. Last time I popped into Hotel Chocolat I found some lovely products, most notably the cocoa glazes for red meat, fish and poultry, the penne cocoa pasta and the cocoa nib balsamic vinegar.
Believe it or not, there is a whole world of flavour-related science out there, with teams of dedicated flavourists (or flavour chemists) manning its all-important microscopes. Research into successful flavour combinations indicates (if you’re willing to wade through all the fancy equations) that foods containing protein molecules of a similar structure can live together harmoniously on your plate, and will, theoretically, combine in your mouth to form a match made in culinary heaven. Thus, our favourite sweet treat has rather a few savoury pals, including red meats like venison and beef. It’s smoky, bittersweet properties also get on famously with similar flavours like cumin and chilli. I have yet to treat my tastebuds to the delights of a chocolate-covered steak, but the time has certainly come.
If you like the thought of even more excuses to indulge in this mood-enhancing treat, then take a look at the recipes below.
Steak with Chocolate Sauce
This recipe is really rather simple and adding the chocolate doesn’t even seem that unnatural… Next time you have steak for dinner, why not knock a bit of this sauce up; you’ve got nothing to lose as the chances are you’ll have all the ingredients kicking around anyway.
Beef Chilli with Bitter Chocolate
What did I tell you about chilli and beef, hey? This recipe comes courtesy of those oh-so-lovable yet oh-so-hairy bikers. It takes a bit more preparation, but the end results will surely be worth it – when have this dependable pair ever let us down before?
Cocoa-rubbed Baby Back Ribs
These will be great for barbecue cooking this summer, although luckily for us sun-deprived Brits, they work just as well in the oven. Rack ‘em up!
Chocolate Barbecue Sauce
This deliciously adaptable sauce is chipper with chicken, brilliant on beef and perfectly paired with pork. Again, the chocolate works wonders with those smoky barbecue flavours.
Vegan Chocolate Seitan Pie
No, I’m not forgetting about all you vegetarian and vegan chocolate-lovers out there; how could you think such a thing? You too can jump aboard the cocoa train with this comforting savoury dish. It looks like winter’s here to stay after all, so make the most of it and cook up some hot seitan pie to warm up with.
With all these recipes, it’s important to go easy on the choc; we’re not after some kind of main-course-dessert hybrid here, just some nicely enhanced flavours. And make sure what you do use contains at least 70% cocoa solids; unfortunately in this case, a Dairy Milk bar just won’t do.