I am very easily seduced into buying cookery books, so find it best just not to look at them. However, a few weeks ago, I foolishly ended up one rainy lunchtime browsing through the cookery section of a bookshop. This was definatily not a good thing for my purse! I came across a fabulous book by Paul A Young and fell in love with it on the spot. I have since found out, of course, that he is a well known and respected choclatier in London dabbling in the more exotic and innovative end of things. Whilst I was umming and aahing over this one, I noticed a little chocolate book by the Tanner brothers and as they are local, how could I not do my local food supporters bit? I'd also long had Willie's much feted book on my wanted list, so why not go for broke I thought? I thus ended up with not one but three new books about cooking with chocolate.
Adventures with chocolate / Paul A Young
According to the front cover, this contains 80 sensational recipes and I have to say they are certainly unusual recipes. A true chocolate alchemist, Paul is not shy of trying out some very strange chocolate combinations. The book itself is a joy to handle, it is beautifully presented and darkly redolent of alchemy and mystery. He starts off with what you would expect from any good chocolate book: how to buy, taste and identify chocolate; two methods for tempering; moulding; also storing and how to make a basic truffle and ganache. More unusually, he goes on to talk about experimentation, making tea powders to decorate truffles and which flavours go best with what sort of chocolate: Madagascan goes particularly well with tangy flavours such as lemongrass and passionfruit whereas Ecuadorean is more suited to fresh coconut or garden mint - apparently! So let me give you a flavour of some of the more exotic recipes contained within: wasabi and green apple ganache, chocolate, ginger and cardamom teabread, sweet thyme and sugar-cane muffins, blackcurrant and liquorice truffles, honey-cured bacon, Stilton and chocolate sandwich, salted black olive bars, chocolate martini, goat's cheese and lemon ganache. There are some wonderfully delicious sounding recipes in this book which I haven't mentioned, so I hope this hasn't put you off.
For chocolate lovers: from truffles to tiramisu / The Tanner Brothers
The Tanner brothers are a local phenomenon - as well as appearing on various TV cookery programmes (apparently), they have two restaurants in Plymouth. Tanners is a classy restaurant set in the Prysten House, the oldest surviving domestic building in Plymouth (1498).
Willie's chocolate factory cookbook / Willie Harcourt-Cooze
Need I say more? I've browsed through this every time I enter a bookshop and have read about it on other blogs. Even though I don't have a television and missed his Channel 4 series, his reputation is hard to avoid. Be prepared for some heavy duty reading as a considerable proportion of his book with its 223 pages describes his adventures in Venezuela and Devon in pursuit of the best quality cocoa. This included buying a cocoa farm in the Cloud Mountains of Venezuela and setting up his own chocolate factory in Devon. His collection of recipes includes both sweet and savoury dishes. As a vegetarian I didn't take much notice of the meat dishes in the savoury section, but the cocoa dressing for Puy lentils sounded good as did the porcini & chocolate risotto. Some time ago I bought one of Willie's blocks of 100% cocoa, but have hardly dared use it for more than grating over a couple of dishes as it is fiendishly expensive. Now I have bought the book, I think I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and make something soon - probably his Cloud Forest Chocolate Cake as I have heard so much about it!
So, you may wonder, why haven't I made anything from any of them yet? Suffice it to say, it usually takes me a while to savour and get to know new things a bit before I feel comfortable with them. I have been planning to make Paul's cocoa nib biscuits as a first off, but as many of his recipes involve tempering chocolate it could take me some time to give them a go. I've got plenty of books giving instructions on how to do this and advice from various bloggers but I still feel rather nervous of trying it "all by myself" - I'm not really sure why. I think it's like the bread course, I just needed something to give me a kick start - unfortunately I haven't heard of any chocolate courses down in this part of the world.