With Mother’s Day and Easter round the corner, Graeme Pallister – chef patron of 63 Tay Street in Perth – cooks up a sweet treat
Chocolate. Just that one simple word is enough to set my mouth watering – and I’m certainly not alone. On average we each eat around 11kg of the wonderful stuff every year, a figure that places us top of the choc-loving pops amidst our European cousins.
After January’s good intentions, Mother’s Day (March 11) and Easter (April 1) deliver the perfect excuse for indulging in our favourite bean. After all, how many other food stuffs say “Thank you” and “Happy Easter” in one simple gift?
In recent years, however, our palates have become more sophisticated and we’ve begun to demand higher quality, ethically produced chocolate that leaves the sickly sweet, commercial bars of yesteryear pining on the sweetie shelf.
Cacao beans come with impressive health attributes including high levels of immune-boosting antioxidants, flavonoids and polyphenols. Be warned though – this is only true for dark chocolate as the minute you start adding fats and sugar into the equation, everything changes. Unfortunately, you can’t scoff down Mars Bars in a bid to get healthy, and what we call white chocolate isn’t even technically chocolate. I’m talking about a few small squares of dark chocolate, perhaps sprinkled with nuts and dried fruits for a little extra lift.
For me, the versatility of dark chocolate is why I love it so much and I will always add a little square to a game sauce or beef chilli. It is the perfect vehicle for spices, citrus or tropical fruits and makes the perfect accompaniment to a short, strong espresso. However, I’m not quite as advanced as the Mayans, who used the cocoa bean as currency as it was considered to be worth more than gold dust. That’s what you call civilised living!
It’s super easy to make a simple chocolate ganache: place a dry, clean bowl over boiling water, break your chocolate into chunks and place in the dry bowl.
Gently heat until it starts to melt. Stir in double cream (about 50% of your chocolate volume) and add sugar to taste. For an amazing family treat, layer into individual trifle dishes with fresh fruit, ice cream and crumbled shortbread.