Creative writing is all about connecting dots. Creative cooking is all about connecting dots. The dots are the experiences and the things we learn. And the dots may be light years apart in relevance to each other, initially at least. But as one thinks outside of the proverbial box and starts to see rare but valid commonalities the dots suddenly start connecting with each other. Very much like flavour pairings; take white chocolate and caviar, salmon and liquorice, banana and parsley, and oyster and passion fruit to name a few . On the surface very different and unlikely pairings, but as one delves deeper we see commonalities in chemical components with each that gives reason, both in theory and practice, as to why some very unlikely food pairings work together. This is an area I will explore more, but for today I am desperately trying to connect those dots to create a story about chocolate mousse.
OK, I don’t have any epiphany in my life where chocolate has been life-changing. Chocolate to me has always been a commodity that has been available when required; it has never been a friend to go to when in need. Maybe because I’m a bloke I don’t have this affinity with chocolate, and that could be down to the chemicals contained within, but regardless I enjoy eating it from time to time.
I have a travel memory with chocolate, a pretty hairy one too. It was in the depths of the steamy backwaters of Kerala in South India; the year was 1999, British colonialism was well past its sell by date on this wonderful land, but evidence of its existence was still abound in the buildings, and in particular the old style English journalistic reporting that could be read in the Hindustan Times.
We had embarked on an eight hour cruise, and as the boat ambled along the inland veins of rivers I sat with legs dangling over the side, mulling on a glass of sweet Indian rum and dragging on a Gold Flake, whilst watching the endless passing of palm trees, fishing rigs, and children splashing and screeching playfully under the midday sun.
At noon we disembarked for lunch, which presented itself as fried fish, sambals, lentil curries and coconut rice presented on a green and luscious banana leaf.
After a refreshing and cleansing tea after lunch, I then ambled around the local village, twenty minutes before being due to re-embark to finish the boat cruise. I stumbled across a purveyor of fine chocolate bars and procured one as a tasty snack. Yes, chocolate would finish off the lunch majestically. Like Charlie and his Wonka bar I opened the packaging in expectation. All seemed in fine shape and I proceeded thus to take a bite. Next I remember running twenty metres to a side grass verge and removing, with cacophany, the aforementioned chocolate. On inspecting the inside of that fine chocolate bar I found a colony of ants. Being rather disgruntled I revisited that fine purveyor and requested another bar – amazingly I was still in the mood for chocolate. This is when the trouble started. It was apparent that the ants had nothing to do with him, which was the antithesis of my view point. After verbally toing and froing that purveyor started to become quite aggressive, which was a little like a red rag to a bull, and therefore I reciprocated. Before we knew it a full blazing altercation was in swing, and unbeknownst to me the total population of 300 villagers had surrounded us and were getting real value for money. The local police arrived and decided to stop this cavalcade of entertainment before it descended into something a little more serious. I threw the chocolate covered ants down in disgust as I was gently escorted to the awaiting boat. The look on the faces of those fellow travellers as I arrived was priceless. The cruise continued, where the rum continued to flow and the story was told, retold and then embellished; my story of chocolate.
Back to present day and the chocolate dots have been linked, maybe not in the most appetising of manners, but such is the power of chocolate that it has never detracted me from eating it since. So why chocolate mousse? It was my wife’s birthday yesterday and I said that anything she wanted me to make I would. Her request was chocolate mousse, because to her it had memories; good memories of childhood. The dots again being connected (and not an ant in sight).
- ■ 150g dark couverture chocolate | My preference here is 70% cocoa solids. Great chocolate is a must.
- ■ 15g butter | I use French Lescure butter, but any good quality butter will be fine.
- ■ 1 large egg | Beaten. Free range.
- ■ 1 tbsp. Calvados | Adds a great subtle apple brandy note which for me just lifts this mousse to a more decadent level.
- ■ 2 egg whites from large eggs| Free range.
- ■ 45g castor sugar |
- ■ 250g single cream (whipping) | Single cream contains about 35% milk fat.
Over a pan of simmering water place a metallic or glass bowl ensuring that the bowl does not touch the water. Break up the chocolate in to small pieces and add to the bowl. Let the chocolate soften before stirring.
When completely melted add the butter and stir into the chocolate until melted. Remove the bowl from the pan of water and allow to cool for a few minutes. Now add the beaten egg and Calvados and whisk until smooth.
Now whisk the egg whites, whilst gradually adding the sugar. The whites need to be whisked until they become ‘peaky’ i.e. nice and firm. We want to get them nicely aerated as this is what will give the mousse its lovely light texture.
Once the egg whites are done add about one third of them to the chocolate mixture and whisk. This is a classic technique that loosens the mixture so it’s then easy to do the next bit. Now add the rest of the egg whites to the chocolate and gently fold until the ‘mousse’ is a consistent colour. Try and treat this with kid gloves as it’s really important to maintain the airy nature of the egg whites.
Whip the cream until ‘peaky’. Now add it to the chocolate mixture, again gently folding until the ‘mousse’ is consistent in appearance and texture. Spoon the mix into your desired containers – I use glasses – and cover with cling film. Put the mousse in the fridge for 4 hours or more to set. Bon appetite!