Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Moules Chocolat

This is not a culinary blog, but I have to share with you James Hamilton-Paterson's exquisite recipe for Moules Chocolat, from his book 'Cooking with Fernet Branca'. We had this on Easter Day, sitting in shirt-sleeves on the terrace watching the lambs play in the Spring sunshine, and it was in a class of its own.

2 dozen fresh mussels, shelled and cleaned
Good quantity olive oil
Soy sauce
100 gm finely grated Valrhona dark chocolate

Heat the olive oil until small bubbles appear. Toss in a handful of fresh rosemary. Meanwhile, dunk each mussel in soy sauce and roll it in the bitter chocolate. Put the mussels in the deep-fryer basket and plunge them into the oil for one minute and fifty seconds. Lift them out, drain on kitchen paper, and shake them into a bowl of pale porcelain 'to set off their rich mahogany colour'.

As J H-P suggests, the result rustles like 'dead leaves in a gutter' - a consequence of the action of soy sauce on chocolate at high temperatures. I would only take issue with his recommended glass of Nastro Azzuro beer as an accompaniment. We reckoned this to be a bit on the dark side. Instead I would suggest chilling one of the drier Madeiras, such as a Sercial or Verdelho - if possible from the central 'Valley of the Nuns', the Curral das Freiras, where the wines have an astringent, chestnut nose. The bitterness imparted by heating after the first fermentation, coupled with the addition of cane brandy, make this a perfect partner for this subtle dish.


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