Cooking with Chocolate on National Chocolate Day

July 7th sees the return of National Chocolate Day in the UK, and although we could use this as a wonderful excuse to eat lots of Yorkshire chocolate, we’re planning to see how we can put it to good use in the kitchen. And we’re not talking about sweet desserts – we’re more intrigued to see how we can use chocolate in savoury dishes.

Here at Mr Pickles’ we like to add a little dark chocolate to our homemade chillies – it adds a lovely depth of flavour and enriches the dish. Our current favourite recipe is taken from from the Serious Eats website and we’ve shared our version with you at the bottom of this post. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients – it really is the best chilli we’ve ever tried and well worth the effort!

Sticking with the Mexican theme, another good dish to try is the mole poblano which uses chocolate to counteract the heat of the chilli, but does not allow it to dominate the flavours. Typically containing around 20 ingredients, it can be difficult to source everything you need to make a classic mole, which is why we like the sound of this BBC Good Food chicken mole recipe.

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We’re also keen to try the pairing of chocolate and pork in this Cocoa-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs recipe. It combines warming spices including cinnamon, allspice and ginger with cocoa powder to create a truly delicious rub. Perfect for both our baby back ribs and Yorkshire pork chops, especially now barbecue season has arrived!

Vegetarians will be glad that chocolate doesn’t just work in meat based dishes and the humble cauliflower gets the cocoa treatment in this Charred Cauliflower and Shishito Peppers with Picada Sauce recipe. The picada is a Catalan sauce – made with almonds and parsley it’s quite similar to a pesto. Here the addition of chocolate adds a lovely touch of bitterness that doesn’t overpower the dish.

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If you want to experiment using chocolate in savoury dishes, you’ll find a wide range of chocolate from the York based Choc Affair in store. With the classic milk, white and dark varieties, as well as a few unusual combinations such as lime & sea salt, we think our range will inspire you to try something new!


The Best Chilli Ever

5 400g tins of red kidney beans
5 to 6 fresh chillies, finely chopped
3 or 4 beef short ribs, with the bone in, but trimmed of any excess fat
Salt and pepper for seasoning
2-4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 litre chicken stock
2 whole anchovy fillets
1 tsp marmite
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted in a dry frying pan, then ground
1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted in a dry frying pan, then ground
2 cloves, toasted in a dry frying pan and ground
1 star anise, toasted in a dry frying pan and ground
1 tbsp freshly ground coffee
25g dark and unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 large onion, finely diced
3 bird’s eye chiles, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
2 400g cans chopped tomatoes
60 ml cider vinegar, plus more to taste
1 tsp Khoo’s Northern Beacon Sauce
2 tbsp dark brown sugar

Serves 6-10

1) Season the short ribs with salt and pepper.

2) Add a little oil to a large casserole dish and place over a high heat until the oil starts to smoke. Brown the short ribs on all sides, in batches, reducing the heat if the fat starts to smoke excessively. Remove the ribs and transfer to a plate to cool. Reserve the rendered beef fat in a small bowl to be used later.

3) Meanwhile, return the casserole dish to a medium-high heat and add 250 mls of the chicken stock. Using a wooden spoon scrape the browned beef bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the chillies. Cook until they have softened and the liquid has reduced by about half.

4) Transfer the liquid, and the chillies, to a blender along with the anchovies, marmite, soy sauce, tomato puree, ground spices, coffee, and chocolate. Blitz until you have a completely smooth puree. Set this to one side.

5) Heat 4 tbsp of the reserved beef fat, topped up with vegetable oil if needed, in the casserole dish over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened. Add the bird’s eye chillies, garlic and oregano and cook for a minute or so, until fragrant.

6) Add the blended chilli puree and stir as it cooks for around two to four minutes. Add the remaining chicken stock, the short ribs and the bay leaves. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cook, covered, for about an hour. Add the chopped tomatoes and cider vinegar and continue to cook for a further three hours or so, until the sauce is rich and thick. Add the drained kidney beans for the last half hour of cooking. If the mixture appears a little dry at any time, add a little water.

7) Once cooked, the meat will simply fall off the bones, so remove them along with the bay leaves and discard. Now taste the chilli and add the brown sugar and hot sauce to your taste. Check the seasoning and also add a little more vinegar if required.

8) For best results, chill the chilli down and store in the fridge overnight. On reheating the next day the flavours will have developed even further. Serve with a selection of sides and condiments such as salsa, soured cream, cheese, guacamole, jalapenos, rice and tortillas.

Recipe adapted from Serious Eats.

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