Monday, 4 April 2011

Chocolate with Trish Deseine

About five years ago, I had some wimmin's health problems and had to spend time in hospital. As a single parent, I was obliged to find people to look after my daughter at home. One of the things that got us through this difficult period was a book called 'Chocolate' by Trish Deseine. The photos were sober, plain, in natural shades of grey, brown, slate, pebble and cream while the recipes were simple, do-able. My daughter, with her babysitters, and myself when I was home, cooked our way through this book; mousses, soufflés in a cup, chocolate fondant cakes. Cooking is a bonding healing activity. It provides a homely anchor during times of stress and anxiety.
Twitter enabled me to 'meet' Trish: we became friends, partly because we have alot in common; we've both lived in France and the fathers of our children are French. We both love and despair of France, it's attitude to women. Trish personifies her main ingredient, chocolate, being earthy, addictive, glamorous, humorous, rebellious (in the naughty sense and also concerned about social justice) and flirtatious.
On Saturday we cooked together for The Underground Restaurant. Every course, from cocktail to dessert, would contain chocolate. I've always been interested in chocolate as a savoury ingredient, (one of the reasons I was willing Thomasina Miers onto victory during her year of Masterchef).
After some telephone conference calls between Paris and London, where I was surrounded by chocolate books, chocolate samples, a feathery pen to take notes and a sparkly notebook, Trish and I came up with this menu:

Kir photos by Paul Winch Furness
Creme de mures with vermouth, white wine and a dusting of dark chocolate around the rim.
Pecorino and dark chocolate wafers

Wild mushrooms on toast with tonka bean and grated dark chocolate
Aubergine, butternut squash, plum tomato, blood orange in chipotle and chocolate with 
Purple potatoes roasted in chocolate salt Photo: Paul Winch Furness

Goat's cheese rolled in cocoa nibs
Gorgonzola cheese rolled in chocolate
Chocolate water biscuits
Chocolate fondant cake
Chocolate caramel truffles with candied yuzu
White chocolate and passion fruit soup
Chocolate peppermint creams

Preparing the main course I thought about the New World origin of chocolate and of most of our modern diet. For a few weeks I lived, spoke, dressed and ate like a Tudor at a first person history event. We mostly ate worts and drank beer. Pre the discovery of America we didn't have potatoes, tomatoes, tobacco or chocolate. Here is a fantastic timeline of when foods came to Europe.
During my year long sojourn through South America, during my time in the Bolivian jungle I tasted cacao fruit from the tree. The pendulous yellow rugby-ball shaped fruit had the texture and creaminess of custard apples. The large seeds were dried and ground into cocoa. Higher up in Bolivia I visited Lake Titicaca. At night it was cold, I found a little cafe that sold rough disks of unsweetened chocolate from which they made hot chocolate. This sustained me on the long rowing trips to Island of the Moon and Island of the Sun, in the middle of the vast lake, the highest and largest in the Americas.
Chocolate is good for you. Katherine Hepburn once said, referring to her figure "what you see here, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of eating chocolate"


  1. Absolutely incredible how you managed to do that. Most would have struggled with soup etc.! You photos, by the way, are fab.

  2. Fantastic, so seductive; I can diet, cut out all kinds of stuff, but chocolate remains a vice I cannot live without. I so want to read your autobiography; I mean, 'This sustained me on the long rowing trips to Island of the Moon and Island of the Sun' - that raised goose bumps!

  3. Gorgeous photos! Really looks like a delicious supper! And South America too eh? Someone should write an autobiography me thinks? Though I suppose your book may tell

  4. What an incredible chocolate menu with bejewelled photo's. Well done to all concerned.

  5. Fantastic. Well done you and Trish both. It sounds like something I should have been a and I bet it was a great success.

    I know you are a fan of salt, but chocolate salt - what, how, when? We grow purple potatoes so they aren't a problem but I need the salt.

    Also congratulations on your book, I bet it's a really interesting read.

  6. If Katherine Hepburn promoted it's good enough for me. A wonderful menu. Congratulations.

  7. The creativity that goes into your menus is always amazing and I love the research and historical context you put with it. Inspired by many things in this piece.

  8. Thanks everybody. It was a real honour to work with Trish...

  9. Wow, what a treat! Aside from the chocolatey wonderment, that mushroom toast looks about good enough to die for.

    And, as others have said, lovely photo's, too!

  10. Looks like a fantastic chocolate-lover's event, bet you and Trish had a grand time cooking together x


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