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Saturday, 18 February 2012

Honeycomb-peanut chocolate bites

This is based on a Nigella Lawson recipe – that I saw on one of her TV shows Nigella Kitchen, one I think that was mainly created for screening in the US, and so I am not sure when it appears in the Nigella chronology.  In my last Nigella-based blog I said some quite negative things about her unnecessarily sexualised presenting style. While I do find it a bit too ‘wink wink nudge nudge’ sometimes, I really do think that she is great.  She is a fantastic writer and the recipes are lovely, and maybe there is something we can learn from her confident, real-womanly sexuality. 

A while back I read an interview with Nigella where she said that during the TV series she made shortly after the death of her first husband (the wonderful writer John Diamond) she was incredibly depressed, and regretted making the show – I think it was the Forever Summer one. Whenever I watch repeats of that show, and infact any Nigella TV appearance, I find myself scrutinising her, looking for any signs of her depression.  And of course I can’t see anything. This got me thinking a lot about the masks that people wear in public, and the way that most people ‘expect’ them to be worn. My flatmate Hannah told me a brilliant line the other day, to use in response to people who comment about the lack of smiles in others – please give me permission to experience my emotions. Obviously this is really hippy and probably not something you could say to most people, but there is such truth in it. Maybe we all need to be more open to others, to show them that we understand the ups and downs in life. And then maybe this emotional freedom will help people to repress their feelings a little less.

And this brings me quite nicely to the theme of this post – the wonderful combination that is salt and sweet. In the way that the best comedies have a touch of sadness, or Shakespeare’s sweet sorrow, experiencing that edge, or those tears, seems to make everything else that little bit sweeter. The combination of the two in food is just magical – fans of Thai food or chocolate-covered pretzels will know this one already. I recently had an amazing chocolate truffle that had been decorated with a few crystals of sea salt. As well as looking beautiful, the taste was just amazing. In a recent TV series Heston Blumenthal said that salt actually makes chocolate taste sweeter.

600g dark chocolate – broken up
200g unsalted butter - cubed
4 large crunchie bars – smashed up, with some big chunks, and smaller bits of rubble
150g salted peanuts

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a large bowl balanced on top of a saucepan of simmering water. Be careful with this so that it doesn’t seize – let it melt slowly. Once it is melted and shiny, mix in the crunchie pieces and peanuts. Pour the whole thing into a square foil-lined dish (roasting tray, cake tin) and leave to set. If you are very clever (which sadly I wasn’t) when the chocolate is half-set you could take a knife and score bar shapes in it - making it easier to break up later. Once it is set, cut the chocolate into bite-sized pieces and enjoy!

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