Hidden underground are some of the world’s most exciting flavours – it’s not all turnips down there! Ginger has become a staple ingredient for sweet and savoury dishes in so many cuisines …. certainly my fridge would be lost without it. Given its gnarly, knobblyness it is probably pretty obvious that it’s a root. To be super precise it is a rhizome, but that isn’t the point, it tastes great in chocolate!
Less obvious, (unless you’re Scandinavian and have grown up with it or live around the Mediterranean and grow it), is that liquorice is the root of a graceful member of the pea family. In the late autumn you cut the feathery top from its roots and keep the crown for replanting. Nature has gifted this root with flavonoids and antioxidants meaning it has been used in herbal medicine since the earliest of times. It was found in the tombs of the Pharaohs – precious stuff! To see what is does for you, make liquorice tea by pouring boiling water over the root, ideally having stripped its bark off. You can add in a little cinnamon or mint, it’s a flavour that loves companions.
Have you got your Flavour Map? This month we are tasting chocolates on all sides of the wheel. We are going for all out variety.
Let’s start with Surabaya 69 and move on to ones with nutty then fruity notes. I happen to prefer tasting nutty cacaos first and fruity ones after, but that could be habit. I don’t really think it makes a difference, but in this case the fruity ones will lead us better into the flavoured chocolates.
Let’s try and taste at least one of the chocolates properly... more melting than chomping! Have a drink of water, make sure your chocolate is at room temperature then place a square in the middle of your tongue and wait. Wait and breathe. Let it melt with as little biting as you can manage and allow the chocolate to spread round your mouth. The breathing is critical because so much taste is actually perceived by your nose.
The Surabaya 69 is the marmite of my cacaos. I love its deep caramel notes, but for some people its smouldering intensity is too much. What do you think? Next up is Rio Caribe 72, a wonderfully complex trinitario from the palm fringed Paria Peninsula. Let the layers of coffee, nutty notes roll in. At this point you could reach for Almendra with its perfectly roasted almonds nestling in smooth nutty 70% Sur del Lago. A heavier bean would overwhelm the gentle almonds.
San Agustin 70 comes next with its honeyed nutty notes and glimpses of red fruits. This leaves the juicy fruity Sambirano 71 from Madagascar. As I say on the box, it is sometimes hard to believe all that flavour comes simply from the cacao.
Pistachio Date is a peach of a chocolate with all the sweetness coming naturally from the fruit and nuts. No sugar here and I bet you can’t notice! Both Luscious Orange and Ginger Lime are made with a bean from Baracoa in Cuba – this is a triumph of a paring as its natural honey notes dance joyfully with citrus fruits and ginger.
Each month I made two handmade chocolates to go in each tasting box. These are my Magnificent Creations.
Cloud Forest Friends. Baracoa 65 dark chocolate with lemongrass and ginger
On my farm in Venezuela that steeps up into the Cloud Forest, I just have to walk out of the house to find ginger growing under the shade trees and lemongrass not far away. Could it be because they grow together, that they taste so great together?
Scandi Noir. Las Trincheras 72 dark chocolate with liquorice
Liquorice has an off bean taste much loved in Scandinavian countries… its aniseed flavour is naturally sweet with a rich mellow spiciness. Chocolate is its natural dancing partner, rounding out all its quirky edges. One of my all time favourites!