This month I am hosting the Our Growing Edge blogging party, all about encouraging people who cook to explore. I am also living in a little hut in the jungle of Southern India. Today we ate shredded jackfruit cooked into a dry curry, coconut chutney, sour spicy beetroot pickle and -always- PLENTY of rice.
My theme for this blogging get together was going to be Easter-y, until I realised Easter fell in March not April. Thus we are talking about ‘foods you have grown to love’ (here is where you go to add your links). You know, those mushrooms you could never force down but now find your eyes drawn to on every brunch menu. The oysters that used to be ignored completely but now slip down your throat quite easily, helped only by the tiniest drizzle of lemon juice. The fried liver that… Nope, I still don’t like fried liver. One day.
Today is about bitterness. I could never understand it. Why eat something that both your brain and tongue reject as poisonously inedible? It must have been somewhere between the first negroni I sipped at nineteen, slowly, suppressing shudders, trying to look grown up, and the humble gin & tonics that fueled my early twenties that I found myself unconsciously seeking out that which is bitter.
Bitterness is a big flavour in India. Small children gulp down green (unripe) mangoes smothered in salt and chilli while I nibble tentatively, my face scrunching up against my will. Curries are made from bitter gourd. This is the place where tonic water was invented.
So it may be odd to find me talking about a caramel iced chocolate. But it’s because I bought a book some time ago, that I love and want to share. Because I made this drink at home in high summer when it was hot, I had my own kitchen at my fingertips and I’d bought some good dark chocolate. Because my offers of help in the kitchen here are, every time, met with ‘no no, you take rest, here, sit!’ I suspect behind this goodwill, the girls also find it easier to keep me out of the way, this white girl who doesn’t know how to gut a fish or what to do with a coconut. But I feel happy in my world of chocolate, eggs, butter, milk and sugar. So that is where I’m playing today.
And I also thought, while I am now navigating my way through endives and the darkest caramel you can get away with, there may be others who are taking their first steps into this world of bitter. What better guide than an indulgent iced chocolate? Comforting, familiar, just a lingering hint of what is to be found down the path marked bitter. There are only two rules: the caramel must be pushed to its limit and the chocolate must be very good and very dark.
This recipe comes straight from the pages of Bitter, a brilliant book from Jennifer McLagan that explores this flavour through history, science, stories and really good recipes. There is nothing in here that I don’t want to make. So thank you Jennifer and I can’t wait to see what you all come up with.
Happy creating and here’s to our ever changing taste buds.
ALMOST BITTER ICED CHOCOLATE
This can be a simple adult hot chocolate if you drink it straight from the pan, in tiny cups, in front of the fire on a blustery winter night (ideally). You can also blend the cooled chocolate with simple caramel if you haven’t the patience or energy to make the ice cream (but you should make the ice cream, it is tremendously good)- just use a high speed blender or it may not mix.
Makes one large cup.
Heat water, milk and chocolate in saucepan over medium-low.
Whisk until the mix begins to simmer.
Turn very low- barely simmering and cook for 5 minutes.
Leave to stand until cool.
Place in blender with caramel/ice cream and ice.
Blend well and serve in a chilled glass.
3 tbsp water
1/2 cup milk
45g 70% choc
1 scoop caramel ice-cream or a few spoonfuls of dark salted caramel
4-5 pieces ice