Sweet chocolate can blend with savoury

Honey-cured bacon, Stilton and chocolate sandwich, from Adventures with Chocolate by Paul A Young
Honey-cured bacon, Stilton and chocolate sandwich, from Adventures with Chocolate by Paul A Young
Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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It’s hard to imagine that Stilton and chocolate go together like strawberries and cream or ginger and lemon. But cocoa aficionados say it’s a tasteful sweet and savoury mix.

And it isn’t just the experts embracing new and unusual chocolate combinations. A rising number of consumers are reaching for chilli, sea salt and even Marmite chocolate bars.

One of the pioneers of adventurous flavour combinations is chocolatier Paul Young. About to open his fourth chocolate shop in London, he has also published the book Adventures With Chocolate.

There are plenty of recipes for those who like unadulterated sweet treats, but there are several savoury ideas too. These include chocolate water biscuits for cheese and dark chocolate and chilli gnocchi, with mascarpone and pecorino.

Sue and Holly Newland, who own Coco Chocolatiers in Southsea, aren’t surprised by Paul’s recipes. The mum and daughter met the master years ago when they trained with him at his London home.

‘It’s quite funny actually. He taught us how to make his sea salt caramels and shortly afterwards he won a gold award for them,’ says Sue.

Coco Chocolatiers sell classic and slightly more unusual flavour combinations, as well as decorated chocolate gifts. Sue says: ‘I don’t think Southsea would embrace all the flavours that you find in London. But quite a few people are trying some of the better-known things.’

She says their sea salted caramels are good sellers and a salted chocolate dipped fudge was very popular, But she adds: ‘Someone came in and said ‘‘chilli chocolate, that’s a novel idea.’’ But it’s not unusual any more.’

Paul Young has been creating innovative flavour combinations for years and his sea salt caramels and Marmite truffles are well-known. He also produces a green peppercorn dark chocolate bar and a white chocolate, sesame seed and sea salt bar, as well as more classic sweet options.

He hopes people embrace his book, saying: ‘If people can grow to love making dark chocolate and chilli gnocchi, I will be very proud.’

Sue welcomes the rising interest in quality chocolate. ‘I think more people are preferring good quality hand-made chocolate and they are becoming more adventurous.’

And that seems to include tasting it with cheese.

‘People see what’s in front of them and think they know what something tastes like,’ says Sue.

‘I went to a blind chocolate tasting once and we were given these amazing cubes. They were cheese dipped in milk chocolate and everyone loved them.’

Honey-cured bacon, Stilton and chocolate sandwich

(Serves 2)

· Ingredients

4 thick slices of hand-cut, crusty white bread

Soft salted butter, for spreading

50g Venezuelan 72% dark chocolate

6 rashers honey-cured bacon

75g very ripe Stilton

· Method

1. Preheat the grill until very hot. Lightly toast the bread on both sides, then spread with butter. Grate the chocolate on top and return to the grill briefly to melt.

2. Remove and immediately put the bacon under the grill until the edges are crisp and caramelised. Place on top of the chocolate and finish with a crumbling of Stilton. Lay the remaining buttered slice on top and press firmly. Cut diagonally and enjoy.

Recipe from Adventures With Chocolate by Paul A Young, published in paperback by Kyle Books