Did you know that the average Brit will eat up to 7,560 chocolate bars in their lifetime? That’s not including the 8,316 chocolate biscuits and 2,269 slices of chocolate cake we enjoy on top of that (British Heart Foundation). Clearly we’re a nation of chocolate lovers, and with 7th July being World Chocolate Day, we’ve certainly got something to celebrate. And you can even cook with chocolate!
While we usually think of chocolate as a sweet treat, many cultures and cuisines use chocolate to boost the flavour profiles of their main dishes. Adding just a small amount to any meal can help transform any weekday dinner into a taste sensation.
To help you get the most out of your favourite snack, Denby have shared five unusual recipes you can try — you might even find a new favourite!
1. Mix it into your chilli con carne
Who doesn’t love a pot of homemade chilli con carne? This delicious dish is guaranteed to spice up any weeknight. To liven things up even more, why not throw in a touch of dark chocolate? This is a common practice in Mexico, as the bitterness of the chocolate will help cut the acidity of the tomatoes and the heat of the chilli. As a result, you’ll get a much more rounded, well-balanced flavour.
All you need to do is add a teaspoon of roughly chopped dark chocolate to your simmering chilli. Stir the pot and let the chocolate melt into the sauce before serving in a beautiful dish with a good helping of soured cream and fresh guacamole — your guests are sure to be impressed!
2. Use it as a marinade for meat
While it’s not one of the most common combos (you’ll more frequently see chocolate and venison together), chocolate and beef pair surprisingly well. So next time you prepare a steak, why not try something new and marinade it in a touch of dark chocolate?
To make this unusual yet delicious sauce, simply melt a tablespoon of dark chocolate into 325ml of boiling water. Add a tablespoon of brown sugar and a pinch of salt, along with some of your favourite herbs and spices. Paprika and cayenne pepper work well, as does a few sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf. Want to take it one step further? Add a touch of espresso powder for an extra depth of flavour.
Let the mixture cool before adding your steaks, then leave it to rest for a few hours as the meat absorbs the flavours.
The great thing is you can use any remaining marinade as a delicious sauce. Just reduce it in a pan and drizzle it over your dish before serving.
3. Dip your bacon in it
It might come as a surprise, but chocolate and bacon are a match made in heaven. The smoky saltiness of the bacon brings out the sweet creaminess of the chocolate for a delicious, albeit a little unusual, dessert. Better yet, it only takes two ingredients to make it! This is a real treat to cook with chocolate.
Simply cook your bacon in the oven until it is nice and crispy, drain the fat, and let it cool. You may need to pat it with some kitchen towel once it’s cooled to get rid of any remaining fat. Then, melt your chocolate (dark chocolate works best) and dip your bacon in it. Place your chocolate covered bacon in the fridge to set for about 15 minutes and enjoy.
If you want, you can sprinkle over some tasty toppings before you let it set. Some popular options include chopped nuts, flaked sea salt, desiccated coconut, and dried or crystalised fruits.
4. Add it to your Bolognese
Ever wondered why chefs sometimes add cream or butter to their Bolognese sauce? The creaminess of the dairy cuts through the acidity of the tomatoes and adds a delicious velvety texture to the sauce. Dark chocolate does the same thing, and the bitterness can add an extra depth of flavour to your dish. So, next time you prepare a pan of spaghetti Bolognese, why not grate a teaspoon of dark chocolate into the sauce? Give it a little stir and let it melt before serving on top of a heaping pile of spaghetti.
5. Turn it into pasta
Speaking of pasta, did you know you could make your own dessert version? Chocolate pasta might seem unusual, and can take a little bit of prep, but the result is sure to wow your guests at your next dinner party.
To make your own chocolate pasta, simply mix three parts plain flour with one part cocoa powder and add a teaspoon of caster sugar. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add two eggs. Mix this together using your hands until you have a firm dough. Then, knead it for about 10 minutes before rolling into a rectangle and feeding it through your pasta machine. If you don’t have a pasta machine, you can always make it by hand using a rolling pin, then cut into 1cm wide strips with a knife.
Chocolate pasta works best if you leave it to dry slightly before cooking, so it’s a good idea to lay each piece of spaghetti out on a baking tray for half an hour before adding to your pan of boiling water.
Once it’s cooked, add any sweet topping you like. Melted chocolate and berries work well, but you could also add a touch of creamy mascarpone.
“We’re a nation of chocolate lovers. But, while many of us enjoy this delicious confectionary as a dessert, we don’t consider how much more potential this little ingredient has.
“The smooth yet bitter taste of dark chocolate can add can extra dimension of flavour to any dish, particularly those that include meat, and it can help cut the acidity of your favourite tomato-based sauces.
“Whether you’re looking to elevate your next dinner party, or you just fancy a change from your usual midweek dinners, why not add a touch of chocolate to the mix?
“The kitchen is the perfect place to get creative and see what kinds of culinary delights you can come up with. Plus, there are so many unique recipes online that there’s plenty to inspire you.”
- Hayley Baddiley, Global Marketing Director at Denbyhttps://www.denbypottery.com/