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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Have chocolate with everything!

If there is any other date in the calendar that fills you with dread and sends a chill to your soul other than Christmas, it has to be Valentines Day...

Chocolate photo
Chocolate chilli gnocchi, with mascarpone and pecorino

It seems compulsory that we all have to mark it with our loved ones, making an extra-special point of showing how much we care for them – however lovey-dovey we might be on every other day of the year.

Like Christmas, we have to buy cards, like Christmas, the cost of everything (flowers, chocolates, underwear) rockets and you can’t get a meal at a restaurant without forking out a small fortune.

Experimental chocolatier Paul Young has created some mouthwatering dishes to enjoy at any time, but if you have a couple of practices now, you’ll be able to serve up some choccy delights that are deliciously different for your Valentine.

He proves that chocolate doesn’t have to be kept to the pudding course and has cooked up some fabulous savoury dishes with an ingredient long praised for its aphrodisiac qualities.

His dishes include a pesto sauce to go with pasta or with a strong red meat such as steak, venison or duck and chocolate biscuits that partner blue cheese fantastically well (no, it’s not crackers, try it), that or it could just be a rich and warming mug of chocolate after a romantic walk.

The chocolatier who trained in Marco Pierre White’s kitchen, is credited with inventing the first Marmite-flavoured chocolate and is about to open his fourth chocolate shop (www.paulayoung.co.uk).

Here are some recipes to whet your partner’s appetite this February 14...

Paul’s Aztec-style hot chocolate (makes 2 very large mugfuls)


25g light muscovado sugar (more if you like it sweet)

20g dark cocoa powder

100g Caribbean 66 per cent dark chocolate

Spice of your choice, e.g. chilli, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom or ginger


1 Heat 500ml water, the sugar and cocoa powder in a pan and simmer for three minutes. Break the chocolate into pieces and add to the pan.

2 Using an electric hand mixer, blend for one minute, adding any spices that you are using at this point.

3 Bring the hot chocolate back to simmer for two minutes and serve.

Dark chocolate and chilli gnocchi, with mascarpone and pecorino (makes two main course portions)

Ingredients for the gnocchi

65g plain flour

20g cocoa powder

1/2tsp chilli powder (choose your preferred heat level)

Pinch of sea salt

325g cooked mashed potato (floury-textured potatoes work best)

1 egg yolk

1tbsp extra virgin olive oil

To serve

200g mascarpone

Freshly ground black pepper

10g fresh oregano leaves

25g pecorino cheese, grated


1 In a large mixing bowl or food mixer, blend together the flour, cocoa, chilli powder, salt and mashed potato.

2 Add the egg yolk and knead to form a smooth dough; if using a food mixer, then use the dough-hook attachment for this stage. Wrap the dough in cling film and rest in the refrigerator for one hour.

3 To shape your gnocchi, cut the dough into two and begin to roll a long sausage shape, sprinkling flour on your surface if the dough gets sticky.

4 Cut the dough into even-sized pieces, roughly 2.5cm long.

5 You can leave your gnocchi this shape or, to give an attractive finish, roll the back of a fork over each little dumpling to give a lined pattern and rounded shape.

6 Place the gnocchi on a plate covered with cling film until you’re ready to cook them.

7 Bring a large pan of salted water to a simmer. Plunge in the gnocchi and wait until they float to the surface.

8 Once they’re floating, remove from the water and place on kitchen paper to drain.

9 Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and cook the gnocchi on each side. They should look golden and be springy to the touch.

10 Remove from the pan and keep warm.

11 Season the mascarpone with black pepper and mix well. To serve, place the gnocchi on warm plates with small spoonfuls of the mascarpone, and grated pecorino and oregano leaves sprinkled over the top.

Honey-cured bacon, Stilton and chocolate sandwich (serves 2)


4 thick slices of hand-cut, crusty white bread

Soft salted butter, for spreading

50g Venezuelan 72 per cent dark chocolate

6 rashers honey-cured bacon

75g very ripe Stilton


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.

3 Place on top of the chocolate and finish with a generous crumbling of Stilton. Lay the remaining buttered slice on top and press firmly. Cut diagonally.


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