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Top tips: Cooking with Chocolate and Pairing Wine

Cooking with chocolate, or more specifically cacao, can add a whole new depth of flavour to food and often it can make it more approachable to more interesting wines. Coming up are a few ideas of using cacao in savoury cooking and what we think would be a good wine match.

 

Venison rolled in licorice and cacao with La Clape wine.

 Venison and chocolate are great partners. The gamey-ness of the venison works really well with the richness of the cacao, go for a strong cacao that has a bitter taste. The licorice element adds a hint of sweetness and earthyness that rounds everything off. I would suggest using a strip of venison loin and use licorice powder and grated cacao. Oil the meat and roll in the licorice/cacao mix and ensure it is fully coated. Sear in a hot pan and cook until pink. Serve with kale or beetroot to enhance the sweetness and earthyness. The wine to go with this dish is Mas du Soleilla "Les Bartelles" 2007 from La Clape in the Languedoc area of France. It is predominantly Syrah with a portion of Grenache . This sumptuous wine exudes character and is full of complex layers and depth. There are notes of sweet blackberry and strawberry, clove, coffee and thyme all harmoniously wrapped up with smooth body and firm tannins. 

 Hot smoked salmon served with cacao bread and wine from Pommard.

Hot smoked salmon has deep, earthy, seriously savoury flavours so it's a good idea to serve it with something that acts as a contrast to make the taste buds tingle. Making a bread with cacao in the mix adds a slighty sharp bitterness which balances the smokyness of the fish. There are a lot of flavours going on with the food so I would match it with a wine that has similar elements. Domaine Parigot Pommard 'Clos de la Chaniere' Premier Cru is a truly exceptional Pinot Noir that exudes layers of complexity. There is just the right amount of rustic-ness on the nose along with plenty of ripe red fruits such as strawberry, cherry and cranberry. The palate is silky smooth and mouthfilling with a lovely smoky, spicy quality that really lingers on the clean, fruity finish. Overall the rich smokyness of the fish and bitterness of the cacao is balanced by the luscious fruit and smooth texture.

 

Celeriac and spinach soup topped with crispy pancetta and cacao served with wine from Burgundy

 Celeriac is an incredibly versatile root vegetable packed full of nutrients and accessible in the autumn months. It soups beautifully with a lovely creamy, silky texture. Add another layer to it by adding spinach for minerality and a hint of nutmeg for warmth. The topping then finishes the dish off with crispy sweet cured pancetta and a grating of bitter cacao. That's a lot of flavour and texture going on so to bring it all together and round it off I suggest enjoying a glass of Meursault 'Les Vireuils Dessous' 2011 by Domaine Parigot. It has several layers of complexity thanks to exceptional quality fruit and a proportion of fermentation and maturation in oak. This delicate yet robust Chardonnay exudes typical characters from the region. The nose hints at apples and almonds whilst the palate displays deeper complexities. White peach, citrus and a hint of blossom are balanced by a creamy texture and nutty, toasty notes from the time spent in oak. A delightful elegant, clean finish rounds off the experience by bringing the textures and flavours of the soup and wine together.   So there we have it, some different ways to use 'chocolate' in cooking and wines to match with them. It doesn't always have to be sweet food and sweet wine, chocolate in savoury works as a fabulous ingredient.

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