I have always been a chocoholic and, as a keen chef, am constantly baking with copious amounts of it. However, there are only so many chocolate cakes, cookies and melt-in-the-middle puddings you can make without feeling ever so slightly guilty. So, I thought I would try something a little different. Last Christmas, my brother gave me a chocolate recipe book entitled 101 Best Loved Cfrom Hotel Chocolat, containing divine recipes for all sorts of teatime treats and puddings.
However, there is also an ‘à la carte’ section for those brave enough to attempt a chocolate recipe for starter or main. Naturally, I over-excitedly concluded that one day, I would use this god of a book to create an eight-course chocolate menu (including chocolate cocktails to start and hot chocolate to end!).
This week I attempted one of the mains: Sweet and Sour Chicken. With a slight sense of trepidation, my flatmates and I sat down at the table to eat…but we were pleasantly surprised to find that the 85% dark chocolate does not overpower but actually enhances the meat and combines with the other flavours to produce something truly delicious. I would definitely recommend this recipe: a perfect party-piece and, being very simple and easy, one that won’t leave your guests thinking ‘oh dear, that is the last time I try her cooking…’!
Hotel Chocolat's Sweet and Sour Chicken
Serves four people
– 4 chicken breasts
– 50g butter
– 75g sliced pancetta, cut into thin strips
– 2 garlic cloves, crushed
– 2 bay leaves
– 4tbsp dark muscovado sugar
– 200ml chicken stock
– 25g dark, bitter chocolate (85% cocoa solids), chopped
– 25g pine nuts, toasted
1. Melt half the butter in a big frying pan. Add the pancetta and garlic and fry until the pancetta starts to brown and crisp. Push to one side of the pan.
2. Add the remaining butter. When melted, add the chicken (you could leave the breast as whole or cut into smaller pieces if you want it to go further). Fry on both sides until golden.
3. Add the bay leaves, red wine vinegar, sugar and stock, and heat until bubbling. Reduce the heat to slightly simmering and cook for 20-25 mins.
4. Add the chocolate (yum) to the pan and stir until it has melted. Season to taste and serve. Scatter with the toasted pine nuts.
I served this with a creamy rustic mash and peas, but any green veg would do. The original recipe added sultanas, but I don’t like them so missed them out. It also suggests frying some fennel at the start and adding that, but I couldn’t find any fennel when I went to buy my ingredients, and to be honest, the dish is perfectly good without it. Chocolatey goodness as a main course – enjoy!
Recipe adapted from 101 Best Loved Chocolate Recipes by Hotel Chocolat