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Issue 27 - Go on... treat yourself!

Scotland Magazine Issue 27
June 2006


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Go on... treat yourself!

Chocoholics beware: Sue Lawrence is playing temptress

Itried. I really did try. I avoided pushing my trolley down the confectionery aisle in the supermarket. I immediately brushed my teeth after meals so I wouldn’t be tempted. I hid all bars and boxes and tried to banish from my memory their whereabouts. But I couldn’t do it.

Having been challenged by my cynical children to give up chocolate for a month – yes, only four weeks - I failed miserably. By day nine I gave in and devoured a huge slab of chocolate cake at a party. And delicious it was too.

I know this woeful tale will cause shrugs of “so what?” among non-chocolate fetishists. These are the people who will readily tuck into a chocolate pudding or happily nibble on a postdinner chocolate truffle, but could just as easily go without .

Perhaps they would find it just as difficult to give up cheese and onion crisps, although I find that extremely unlikely. There is something seriously addictive about chocolate, something that perhaps explains why grown men and women will open a box of chocolates and devour the lot, even though the nauseous feeling begins to settle in after your fifth strawberry cream. And you don’t even like strawberry creams.

It’s all down to phenylethylamine, the natural substance in chocolate that acts in a similar way to amphetamines – as anti-depressant and stimulant. It helps create emotional highs and feelings of euphoria similar to being in love.

Which is probably why Casanova allegedly rated chocolate above Champagne for its aphrodisiac qualities. It might be a good idea to have both, however, in case he was wrong.

Try these easy recipes here, never forgetting that the better quality chocolate, the better your end result. The soufflé miraculously becomes a mousse if you do not bake it, but leave it to chill overnight.

The sorbet must be made only with top-quality white chocolate, not one of those cheap brands that are cloying and overly sweet. And the hot croissants are ideal for brunch, but do ensure you provide napkins as they are very messy indeed.

And if you are unclear about what constitutes quality chocolate, then look on the label for over 50 per cent cocoa solids ( preferably 70 per cent) for dark chocolate and 30 per cent for milk chocolate. It also means you can nibble as you cook, safe in the knowledge that a little of what you fancy does you good!

This chocolate pudding is not only delicious , it is also extremely versatile. Once made up, the mixture can be baked at once, as a hot chocolate soufflé, or can wait around for a couple of hours before being baked. The mixture can also be refrigerated overnight, where it miraculously becomes dense, fudgy chocolate mousse.

When serving as a hot soufflé, I like to spoon in a little ice-cream or passionfruit or pomegranate seeds, if you prefer.

(serves 4) 150g/51/2oz dark chocolate (55-65 per cent cocoa solids) 2 medium free-range egg yolks 4 medium free-range egg whites 50g/13/4 oz caster sugar optional garnishes vanilla ice-cream, or the seeds of 1 passionfruit or 1/2 pomegranate

1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or microwave, cool slightly then beat in the egg yolks.

2. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, fold in the sugar and continue whisking until glossy and thick.

3. Gently mix two spoonfuls of the whites into the chocolate mixture then carefully fold in the rest.

4. Divide between four 8cm/3”ramekins. Those to be baked should be buttered first. Place these on a baking tray and either bake at once (for the best rise) or keep in the refrigerator for up to two hours.

5. Put in a preheated oven (220ºC/425ºF/Gas 7) for 12 minutes (no more) until puffed up. To serve, make a tiny hole in the top and spoon in ice-cream. Dot with the jam or seeds. To serve as mousses, chill overnight.

This is best made in early spring, with the tender, pink, delicately-flavoured young rhubarb.

(serves 4) 250g/9oz quality white chocolate, chopped 140g/5oz liquid glucose (available from chemists) 700g/1lb 9oz young rhubarb, trimmed, chopped 50g/13/4oz caster sugar 3 tbsp grenadine (or water + 1 tsp vanilla extract)

1. For the sorbet, melt the chocolate and glucose together (I do this in a microwave on medium for five-six minutes).

2. Pour in 250ml/9fl oz warm water and whisk until smooth.

3. Cool then pour into a freezer container and place in the freezer (on fast-freeze if possible) for about five hours, removing after two, then again after three hours and beating vigorously.

(Or churn in an ice-cream machine).

4. For the compote, place the rhubarb, sugar and grenadine in a saucepan. Bring slowly to the boil then cook, uncovered, for three-four minutes or until the rhubarb is just tender.

5. Remove from the heat, cover and cool to lukewarm. Serve the compote warm with a scoop of sorbet on top.

Use regular or large croissants for this, not mini ones. And, if you prefer, use ground cinnamon instead of cardamom : a generous 1/2 tsp should suffice.

(serves 6) 6 croissants 125-150g / 41/2- 5oz dark chocolate (50-60 per cent cocoa solids), grated 10-12 large cardamom pods Greek yoghurt, to serve

1. Halve the croissants, leaving a hinge, then fill one half with chocolate.

2. Snip open the cardamom pods, tip the seeds into a pestle and mortar and grind briefly.

3. Sprinkle the seeds over the chocolate and top with the other half. Wrap each one loosely in a foil packet and place them on a baking tray.

4. Bake in a preheated oven (180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4) for about 10 minutes or until the chocolate is just melted.

5. To serve, place a croissant on a plate, open up and tuck in a spoonful of yoghurt, close the croissant and devour messily at once.