Paul and I went Christmas shopping at the weekend to our local shopping “mall”. We figured it would be sensible to go early and avoid large crowds but we forgot that there’s one thing that malls attract at any time of the year and that’s large crowds. No matter. We had lunch at Yo! Sushi, a rather overrated fast food Sushi Bar that promises far more than it can offer, particularly on a Sunday lunchtime. Our fast sushi was followed rather curiously by some Krispy Kreme donuts which do not taste the same over here as they do in the US. Why is that?
Anyway, to cut a long, tedious story slightly shorter, we popped into Hotel Chocolat. I am already a member of their tasting club and often spend many a lustful lunch hour drooling over their expensive looking chocolates, which are actually quite reasonably priced, considering their admirable ethical policies, which can often price other chocolate brands out of the “normal” buyers market.
After 10 minutes spent running around like a child in a candy store (that would be an oversized grown up in a posh chocolate store then), we purchased a gift for one of Paul’s employees, an advent calendar for me and several of their mini slabs of chocolate. At this point, Paul is trying frantically to usher me over to the cashier when I spot a selection of rather unusual cooking ingredients. Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar? Cocoa Pasta? Cocoa Bean and Chilli Olive oil? These guys really are putting their neck out selling this kind of artisinal (read: slow selling) ingredient.Never did this seem truer than when the cashier asked me to let him know how the pasta tastes as they “don’t seem to sell a lot of it”.
So, I picked up a packet of the cocoa pasta, intruiged by its rich colour and £5.00 price tag (possibly what puts other customers off). Would it really taste of cocoa or just dye all my other food brown? I couldn’t wait to try it and find out.
I was tempted with a savoury sauce but Paul wanted Macaroni Cheese for tea. OK, so we’ll have Macaroni Cheese followed by Cocoa Pasta Pudding for dessert.
He set to work on the Mac and Cheese and I pondered the Chocolate Pasta sitting in front of me. I have always had a soft spot for my mum’s baked Macaroni Pudding which is a derivition of Rice Pudding, which is to say, rice (or pasta) baked in milk with sugar in the oven over a low heat. Sounds plain and I suppose it is, but it’s good plain. Comforting, nursery food.
So, to keep things simple (and dodge the flying pans and flecks of grated cheese as Paul prepared his meal), I simply poured the dried Cocoa Pasta into a baking dish and covered it with a mixture of cream and milk, then sprinkled it with some soft brown sugar. I cooked it in the oven at a low temperature (150c) and checked after 30 minutes to see if it needed any more milk. It did.
After a little while in the oven, the kitchen was filled with a rich aroma of chocolate. Imagine if you were baking a chocolate cake – this is exactly how the pasta smells. Intruiged at how deeply chocolately it promised to be, I managed to eat a large plateful of Mac N Cheese and then wondered at how I could possibly eat yet another pasta dish that night.
But in the spirit of the experiment, I managed to dish some up and try it. As you can see from the picture below, it looks a little gruesome, a little gungy and a lot unappetising (and this was one of the better shots of it), and I felt that it needed an extra chocolatey hit to make it “pop!” flavourwise, so I added a sprinkling of choco-caramel chips and these melted quite delectably over the pasta, adding a further dimension to the dish.
My opinion of the pasta served as a pudding is somewhat mixed. The pasta didn’t taste strongly enough of the cocoa to flavour the dish discernably and this was my reasoning behind using a fairly bland, creamy sauce. I wanted to taste the pasta and to be knocked out by it. Unfortunately this didn’t happen. However, I suspect that it may work better with a spicy tomato sauce, something that the cocoa can enhance rather than be the main ingredient.
So, stay tuned for Part 2 of our Cocoa Pasta Experiment – The Savoury Course and, if you’ve tried Cocoa Pasta, I’d love to know what you thought of it and how you prepared it!