Blokes in their mid-20s are difficult to buy for, especially ones that are working full-time; anything they need/want, they pretty much buy themselves. So that’s how I ended up getting Eoghan a half day chocolate-making course for his birthday. Plus, his tooth is almost as sweet as mine so I figured he would at least enjoy the eating part!
The workshop is run by Fabulous Food Trails, who do loads of cooking days – Japanese Days, Cocktail Evenings and (the next thing on my hit list) Thai Days – in Dublin as well as food trails throughout the country.
This one was headed up by award-winning chocolatier Benoit Lorge. He makes beautiful artisan chocolates in Bonane, Co Kerry, and runs adult and children’s workshops there too, but this was his first time traveling up to Dubin to give one.
Put simply, it was pots and pots of chocolatey fun. Over a cup of hot chocolate (made on the spot) with cinnamon and orange zest, Benoit talked us through chocolate history – from the ancient Aztecs, who, it’s thought, used cocoa beans as currency, through to Columbus who brought it back to Spain’s royals, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella (apparently, they didn’t like it much. It wasn’t until twenty years later, when notorious Spanish conquistador Cortez re-introduced it, this time with sugar and vanilla, that the courts fell head over heels for the stuff, even trying to keep it a secret!).
Benoit then discussed cocoa production today – where most of it comes from, where the good stuff comes from; he even gave us the names and details of chocolate suppliers in Ireland who would probably be willing to sell you small quantities of high quality raw materials like cocoa buttons and cocoa powder.
We then got stuck into some delish chocolate mousse, served with juicy strawberries and a glass of organic Prosecco. Mmmm.
After that, the fun messy bit got underway – melting chocolate down, tempering it, adding fillings (honey grenache for one and rum for the other), pouring it into moulds. There was lots of messiness, lots of chocolate-stained faces and sticky fingers.
Benoit is a brilliant chef, really passionate and enthusiastic about what he does – I’ve never met someone so eager for me to eat good chocolate! He points out that even though Ireland has lots of chocolate guzzlers (back in 2006 we had the highest per capita consumption of chocolate in the world and I’m guessing we’re still in the top three), most of us just eat the crap stuff, filled with vegetable oils, milk solids and very few health benefits. He optimistically added that this is very rapidly changing and, thanks to our maturing choccie palate, business for him is booming.
In between greedily scoffing the chocolate, I managed to take a few pics (you should have seen the state of the poor camera – chocolate finger prints everywhere!):