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.
This month, 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.
Why don’t we start with Rio Caribe 72, a wonderfully complex trinitario from the palm fringed Paria Peninsula. This really is the classic chocolate, with layers of flavour and real complexity. Let the layers of coffee, nutty notes roll in and taste how it changes from beginning to end. At this point you could stay in the nutty world and 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. What I find intriguing about this bean is how incredibly multi-faceted its flavour profile is. No doubt the background notes are nutty but in a soft honeyed way, and its red fruits notes sometimes appear as a glimpse but are often quite prominent. This is the magic of cacao.
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.
Milk of the Stars and Sea Flakes are milk chocolates made with very different beans. You can catch the caramel notes of the Surabaya bean in the first and you’ll notice the Rio Caribe characteristics in the second. El Blanco and Raspberries and Cream should be tasted last because they feel the sweetest, but let’s put that in context, our white chocolate has only 30% added sugar which is the same as a 70% dark chocolate. Actually in Matcha I only use 20%. You’ll find many white chocolates with up to 50% sugar…hmmmmm!
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?
Mellow Liquorice. Rio Caribe 44 milk 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 favourite pairings.