While most people think about chocolate as an indulgent ingredient in some of their favourite sweet treats – everything from cakes and brownies to a warming cup of hot cocoa – there is a growing culinary trend for using it in savoury dishes too.
Of course, cooking with chocolate is nothing new. In South America, where traditionally they celebrated the health properties of cocoa, people have been using the rich, bitterness of dark chocolate in savoury dishes for hundreds of years.
The popular Central American dish mole, which dates back to the sixteenth century, still uses it as a central ingredient today, combining it with onion, garlic, chilli and other spices as a marinade for chicken or turkey.
In fact it was only when it was imported to Europe in the sixteenth century that sugar was added to cocoa and we began to think of it as a ‘sweet’ treat. Before that it was considered a spice and used to add a depth of velvety flavour to savoury foods.
Now, finally, we in Europe are catching up. The trend for using cocoa to enhance savoury dishes is spreading through European kitchens. From the warm, buttery flavour of cocoa butter squares, to the bitter velvet of 85% varieties, cooking with chocolate is becoming increasingly popular.
If you want to encourage your friends to find out what the nation’s favourite treat tastes like in a savoury dish, here are some delicious recipes you could recommend them to try.
Perfect for chilly winter nights, a warm bowl of chilli has long been a family favourite. Now they can add another layer of flavour with a square of dark chocolate, such as Divine’s, made with 85 per cent cocoa solids. If they’re not brave enough to put in a whole square, then suggest they try just a few shavings and to discover how the flavour compliments the spices of the chilli to add a new depth.
The great thing is that cooking with chocolate doesn’t need to be complicated. By adding a little cocoa powder to salt, pepper, ginger, allspice and cinnamon, it is possible to create a delicious, fragrant rub perfect for barbequed ribs. In fact, cocoa works so well with a range of spices they could use it to season a number of meats.
Curried Cocoa Butter Couscous
Cocoa butter creates a delicious buttery richness in vegetable dishes, giving a depth of flavour which naturally balances the sweetness of root vegetables. Combine this with a little curry powder and your customers’ favourite spices and you’ll create a dish that will be completely unique. It’s worth reminding them that cocoa butter squares, like those produced by Venchi, contain no cholesterol or hydrogenated fats, making them a good healthy alternative to other oils.
Once you have discovered the intensity and depth of flavour cooking with chocolate can create, you’ll find a whole new culinary market for your dark chocolate and cocoa butter ranges. You never know, cooking with chocolate might even be something you’d like to try out at home too.