Tag Archives: truffles

REVIEW: Chocolates by The Chocolatier (Aneesh Popat)

24 Oct

One of the highlights of Salon du Chocolat‘s London debut was Aneesh Popat’s impassioned talk and tasting session, introducing his exquisite chocolates and ganaches.

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Aneesh Popat at Salon du Chocolat

Applying chemistry to his art and challenging tradition – much like a certain Mr Blumenthal – Popat has quickly made a name for himself with his unorthodox techniques and experimental flavours.

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Talking chocolate with evangelical passion: Aneesh Popat

“Chocolate is a superfood and we should eat it everyday!” proclaimed the artisan chocolatier during his fervoured presentation – immediately gaining my approval and agreement. Not that I need any encouragement to partake in a daily chocolate fix: I’ve had that one down pat since I was seven!

However, I now have a reason to feel less guilty… Under the brand name of The Chocolatier, Popat produces his critically-acclaimed confectionery without any cream or butter – making them far healthier alternatives to other chocolates on the market.

Able to produce the most velvety creations using only chocolate and water (the trick is in the emulsification process and the generation of small particles), Popat’s dairy-free treats contain approximately 40% to 50% less calories than traditional chocolate. Depending on if you’re a glutton or a weight-watcher, you can choose to eat twice as much or stick to a healthy diet. I’m Team Glutton all the way!

Despite these vegan roots, the omission of dairy in no way impairs the flavour or quality of Popat’s chocolates or ganaches (believe me, my palette can detect even the slightest flaw within my fix of chocolate). In fact, so delicious are these dairy and gelatine free truffles, it’s not unusual to find them being showcased within Michelin-starred restaurants; a testament to the quality and flavour of The Chocolatier range.

Surprisingly, Popat isn’t from a science or food background … the former Mathematics graduate (he earned his degree at Nottingham university) went on to study Philosophy, in India, before returning to the UK to launch The Chocolatier, only two and a half years ago.

Pining for Fir Tree Truffles (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun)? Or how about a delicious Baked Bean Truffle instead … all the flavour but without the gas and bloating afterwards? Popat produces these unconventional truffles using no more than chocolate, water, fruit or vegetable purees, herbs, spices and lots of science. Incidentally, the Fir Tree Truffles were flavoured by obtaining a pine tree, removing the needles, boiling them and capturing the aroma (steam) to infuse with the chocolate. I told you the dude liked chemistry.

For the tasting session at Salon du Chocolat, Popat presented three unique flavours to sample, beginning with a smooth, sensuous Raw Coconut Bean which, Popat revealed, wasn’t tempered above 42 degrees to ensure its delightful texture and flavour: another nugget of science for you.

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Raw Coconut Bean Truffles by The Chocolatier

Our second treat was an eye-wateringly acidic Beetroot, Red Wine Vinegar and Hazelnut ganache (the first bite was mild but the second packed one heck of a punch). All the flavours came through in stages, unfolding like a three course meal, reminiscent of Willy Wonka’s bubblegum – quirky and definitely fun!

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Beetroot, Red Wine Vinegar & Hazelnut Truffle by The Chocolatier

To finish, we devoured a marvellous Mince Pie Truffle, produced with an actual Mince Pie (pastry included) and caramelised banana ganache – a triumph and my favourite treat of the day!

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Mince Pie Truffle by The Chocolatier

Provenance, of course, is paramount to The Chocolatier and his ingredients are all carefully sourced, including working with chocolate brand Duffy’s original beans to produce a truffle especially for Salon du Chocolat. I would’ve expected nothing less from such a master of chocolate.

Quirky, fun, decadent and healthy, The Chocolatier‘s confectionery deserves to be on any Christmas wish list this December. It’s the ideal gift: you can eat them as an indulgent treat during the festive period or hold off until January, when you’re trying to lose the extra kilos you’ve gained from troughing through all that turkey, stuffing and cake. Now, it’s not often I get to say that about chocolate!

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Salon du Chocolat in London: The Gala Evening Review

23 Oct

As Brits rejoiced in celebrating National Chocolate Week, partaking in a range of cocoa-themed events in honour of our nation’s favourite confection, an indulgent finale was unveiled to the media on Friday 18th October: Salon du Chocolat. The world’s largest chocolate show opened its doors at the Kensington Olympia National Hall – its first London outing, despite gracing no less than 23 locations across the globe since its launch in 1994.

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Pralus' amazing praline bars

Attending the exclusive Gala evening, the exhibitor list encompassed esteemed UK and international brands, led by Rococo, Prestat, Demarquette, Lindt, Divine and Vahlrona. High expectations and greedy appetites were fulfilled within minutes of arrival: an assortment of Chocololo treats at the stall for Peckham-based chocolate shop, Melange; Château Vert truffles with citrus and caramel undertones at Chocbox; and Fudge Kitchen’s creamy Caramel Swirl. A sighting of chocolatier Paul A. Young in the crowd raised hopes that he was also exhibiting, but sadly not.

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Comptoir du Cacao at Salon du Chocolat

Samples of velvety truffles, crunchy pralines, chewy nougat, and decadent sauces were flaunted on every stand and it was difficult to move more than three paces without succumbing to a new temptation.

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Chocolate Treats at Salon du Chocolat

Notable discoveries ranged from a salted caramel chocolate slab from Au Palais des Gourmets to nougat made with lavender honey by La Maison du Nougat. A pistachio praline bar by French chocolatier François Pralus was superb, rivalled by Comptoir du Cacao’s Croustines (chocolate-coated crystal pieces with fruit and caramel) and Sparkling Chocolate Spread from Charles Chocolartisan.

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Delicious nougat by La Maison du Nougat

The media frenzy at event sponsor Hotel Chocolat’s stand was entirely justified – the sighting of a bath tub filled with molten chocolate heralded a provocative display. A bikini-clad blonde slid into the tub and proceeded to bathe seductively in the warm liquid, much to the delight of mesmerised photographers. The pheromones released from within the excited crowd were palpable, emphasising the aphrodisiac properties of the confection.

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Chocolate Spa Bath at Salon du Chocolat

Almost as awesome as the spectacle itself was the restraint of the model, who somehow refrained from insatiably slurping handfuls of the intoxicating, vanilla-scented river (willpower of which Rosemary Conley would heartily approve).

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Hotel Chocolat’s Chocolate Spa Bath

The evening’s highlight was a much-publicised Catwalk Show, hosted by pastry chef Will Torrent, where stunning female models, clad in chocolate couture, paraded innovative collaborations between esteemed chocolatiers and fashion designers. Whilst the addition of handsome men in praline loin-cloths or nougat waistcoats would have perhaps balanced the evening’s titillation, the beautiful dresses were clever and inspired.

Favourites included: a cupcake-studded head-turner by French chocolatier and pâtisssier Madame Trignon (it took six months to perfect); a Macaron-encrusted slinky number from baker Loretta Liu of On Cafe, made using Original Beans’ rainforest collection; an earthy, feather-themed gown from Demarquette, featuring a show-stopping headpiece by Vivien Sheriff; and a funky steampunk dress from bridal wear designer Hannah Wilkins-Webb and award-winning Shropshire-based chocolatier Julia Wenlock (owner of Toot Sweets).

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Cupcake Dress at Salon du Chocolat

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Cupcake Dress


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Demarquette's Chocolate Dress

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Real Choc Leaves on Demarquette's Dress


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Steampunk Dress - Bodice Front

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Steampunk Dress at Salon du Chocolat

A playful night of fashion, flavour, borderline eroticism and humour, the Salon du Chocolat Gala was a feast for all the senses … and a heavenly, if fattening, excursion for chocolate lovers!

Verdict: ★★★★★

RECOMMENDED: Secret Garden Confectionery

16 Oct

It’s National Chocolate Week and, in the spirit of showing support, I have been indulging in every kind of chocolate, stuffing my face without restraint. Trying to pick a favourite variety or bar was proving difficult, until a visit to the Tuesday food market in Thomas More Square, close to historic landmark and tourist attraction, The Tower of London.

I came home with a bag of Rocky Road chocolates by Secret Garden Confectionery – blocks of creamy, milk chocolate, studded with soft marshmallow and crunchy, puffed cereal. I was hooked after one bite. Challenged not to devour the entire bag in one sitting, I had to force myself to remember that I’d actually purchased the chocs to share with my two nieces, aged 5 and 7.

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I gave them half a block each, and remembered my manners long enough to reluctantly offer the bag to their grandparents. The problems started when they all began pestering me for more, declaring the moreish treats to be “delicious” and “yummy”. Secret Garden‘s Rocky Road is far too good to share, but denying them further access to such unbelievably tasty chocolate would have been exceptionally cruel. Fearing I’d be reported for some kind of human rights or domestic abuse, I had no choice but to succumb to their requests. Note to self: hide the next bag I buy at the back of the cupboard and tell no-one.

Secret Garden Confectinery is a regular at food festivals and Shepherds Markets’ sites across the Capital, where lovely co-founder and self-taught chocolatier, Belinda, braves the elements to showcase and sell a mouthwatering display of truffles, lollies, tablets and blocks.The seductive smell of cocoa, vanilla and spices draws you towards the stall just as much as the decadent vision of melt-in-the-mouth milk, white and dark chocolates.

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Made using ethically-sourced products, each beautiful treat is handmade – including the toffee and honeycomb centres – at Belinda’s base in Hertfordshire. The butter and cream used within each chocolate batch (produced in small quantities to ensure freshness), is also produced locally.

Despite such high-quality ingredients and an emphasis on fair trade, Secret Garden’s product range is reasonably priced – items start at a mere £2.50: a steal for artisan chocolate! With additional special offers available for multi-buys, it’s worth stocking up if you’re planning to put together some gorgeous food hampers for family and friends this Christmas.

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The smooth and tangy Milk Chocolate Orange Truffles are particularly addictive and the different flavoured tablet bars – crammed with fruits, spices or nuts – are sinfully sublime. There’s a luscious white chocolate Cranberry, Lemon & Macadamia; a heady Crystallised Ginger set in milk chocolate; a delectable Lime & Coconut white chocolate; a milk chocolate studded with tangy Sour Cherry, Orange and Hazelnut; and a superb Toffee Apple bar, also made with milk chocolate.

While Secret Garden‘s Rocky Road is the pathway to chocolate heaven, I also love the Chocolate Honeycomb blocks and large Chocolate Lollies – flavoursome, indulgent and rewarding; you can almost feel your brain cells doing Olympic somersaults in response to the Conga your tastebuds inevitability start dancing upon first bite. Nothing makes the body celebrate quite like the taste and feel of velvety, silken chocolate … a guaranteed high without the low of a hangover or withdrawal.

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Confirming my thoughts is the word of two discerning little girls. Having sampled Secret Garden‘s Rocky Road bites, some of the glorious tablet bars and the milk and white Chocolate Lollies, my nieces have given the range their official seal of approval: “Yummy”. Truth from the mouths of babes … you really can’t argue with that.

To find out where you can purchase Secret Garden Confectionery visit here.

Please follow @SGConfectionery on Twitter for details of their upcoming presence at Shepherds Markets locations across London.

Baker Street Quarter Food Market

11 Sep

The bustle of Baker Street gets an extra injection of excitement on the second Wednesday of every month – a thriving Food Market offering everything from sandwiches to truffle oil. 

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Located in the outdoor atrium of 55 Baker Street, the market features a variety of stands showcasing foods from across the globe. Attracting hungry diners happy to queue for a lunchtime treat, there’s plenty to choose from:

Sandwiches & Wraps

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Greek Cypriot outfit Petros Produce dished up Grilled Halloumi Wraps (£5), a popular choice from a menu which also included Smoked Ham. Watching the thickly sliced cheese grilling slowly over a hot plate, it was easy to see why queues had formed!

A fundraising meal-deal from The Radisson Blu Portman Hotel offered a homemade sandwich, a piece of fruit and a smoothie for £3.50 – with all money going to Variety, the children’s charity.

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Large, soft baps housed fillings of Chargrilled Vegetables & Hummus or Chicken Chilli Mayo & Rocket – both looked very tempting!

Curries

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An array of vibrant-looking curries from Fire & Spice Bar & Kitchen attracted quite a crowd. The Marble Arch based restaurant dished up meat and veggie options of its signature dishes: Chicken Chettinad infused with coconut; Vegetable Korma made with yogurt and saffron; Lemon Rice; and Poppadoms.

Baked Goods – Breads, Pastries, Tarts, Cakes & More

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Samples of Karaway Bakery‘s beautiful breads and pastries all tasted superb – particularly a Lithuanian Scalded Rye and a Pumpernickel loaf.

I brought home a bag of Pancake Biscuits, priced £1.20. The vanilla flavoured, bite-sized puffs have an airy texture and are exceedingly moreish!

For something sweeter, visit Galeta‘s stall. The bakers are well known for their chewy, giant cookies and an award-winning, decadent chocolate brownie (£2).

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Giving the latter strong competition is their Pastéis de Nata (Portugese Custard Tart): layers of light, flaky pastry containing a scrumptious egg custard. The tarts are priced at £1.50 each but it’s worth splurging £4 for four – restricting yourself to one could prove difficult! 

Hush Hush Chefs‘ filo pies and tarts also drew crowds. Crisp triangle pastries filled with Roasted Aubergine & Peppers and Mushroom & Cheese were huge, while open topped tarts, sliced into giant wedges, included Caramelised Onion & Parmesan and Roasted Vegetables & Goat’s Cheese.

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I opted for a slice of Spinach, Feta and Nut (£3.50) pictured above. The flavour and texture of the cheese seemed more akin to an unsalted Ricotta, but no-one else seemed to notice!

Truffle Oils & Sauces

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Newcomer Marche Food was a great find at the market! Their delectable White Truffle Oil with Courgette was incredible, as was a sample of the oil served separately, Tartufo Bianco (£8) . Selling products from Marche, Italy, a region renowned for its produce, the quality of the oils was exceptional, with a luxuriously rich flavour.

Deli Items

Flying the flag for charcuterie was Picco Salumi, an Islington based outfit famed for its cured meat products, made with the finest free range, British pork.

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I couldn’t resist buying three varieties of salami: Soppressata, made with garlic, chilli, oregano and hungarian paprika; Saucisson, spiced with ginger, garlic, ground white pepper, and whole black pepper corns; and Salt & Pepper with Mulled Wine – all delicious!

An enticing array of plump Olives, Nuts and Turkish Delight were also on offer from another vendor which I cannot name.

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Unfortunately, their branding still needs some work – the stall didn’t carry a sign with a company name – but their produce is great!

Confectionery

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Simply Handmade Chocolates had a glorious assortment of truffles (from 95p), fudge (from £3.50) and macarons (£5 per bag) to choose from. I particularly enjoyed a smooth and intense dark chocolate Raspberry Fondant Heart and a creamy and crunchy milk chocolate Manuka Honeycombe Cluster. I’ll definitely be returning for some fudge and macarons very soon!

Tea and Coffee Blends

Bellevue Teas had a wonderful stall, with a fabulous selection of blends and gift sets.

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Both bags and loose leaf varieties were available to purchase, from classic Peppermint and Camomile to Nilgiri Silver Tip and Sweet Orange Rooibos.

An unexpected, yet welcome, discovery came in the form of a smooth coffee that wasn’t actually made from coffee beans!

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Innocente‘s Caffè d’Orzo is a caffeine free alternative made from roasted barley and produced by a family-run business in Tuscany. Looking like espresso, it lacks the expected aroma yet tastes just like decaf – but without any of the nasty chemicals used in the manufacturing process! You can buy a cup for £1.

Exotic Fruits & Juices

Toucan Fruit had the most colourful stall, showcasing exotic produce also available from their London store.

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I found a good mix of familiar and unusual fruits, from Coconuts and Melon to Cacao Fruit and Colombian Pitahaya. I recommend picking up an Exotic Fruit Pot – a healthy lunch or dessert option that will only set you back £2.50.

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Toucan also offered freshly squeezed juices: the only cold beverage available to buy at the market – great for washing down a hearty sandwich or chocolate treat!

Baker Street Quarter Food Market, is held on the second Wednesday of every month, from midday to 4pm.