It has been a little while since I posted a recipe. I have been floored with a proper flu, a real one, the kind of illness where you can’t raise your head from your pillow or leave your bed. I could feel that something wasn’t right in Lyon. I felt weak, tired and at times quite faint. My temperature was high, I felt exhausted and I couldn’t understand it. Then I came home and – BAM – that was it. I was knocked out and in bed for 5 solid days.
Still wheezy and coughing near constantly, and on the move since (I have just returned from 4 days filming in lovely Abruzzo – more on that soon), it is only today that I have felt well enough to start properly working again at my desk. Before I fell ill I had worked on a number of recipes, recipes that are perfect for cosy nights in and indulgence. I don’t care for Valentine’s Day but I appreciate that some of you might, and I certainly feel that I might like to treat myself right now.
One of my favourite indulgences is a classic chocolate mousse (with just egg and chocolate, maybe with some honeycomb on top, as in my cookbook Comfort & Spice). On this occasion I have made my chocolate mousse more luxurious, with cream, and I have added a little spice. I used cardamom, because I love it, and because it is great with chocolate, but also because cardamom is used to treat the common cold, cough and bronchitis, and is also great for stimulating appetite. I completely lost my appetite while ill and I want to coax it back.
When working with chocolate, it is important to bear in my mind how fragile it can be, and how easy it is to burn it, so always melt it in a double boiler (with the chocolate in a pot that fits snugly on top of another pot with boiling water in it). Heat it until just melted, if you let it get too hot, you might scramble the egg yolk when you add it. Otherwise, this is very easy, quick, rich and gorgeous.
Recipe: Chocolate & Cardamom Mousse
makes 4 polite portions – but you know, who wants to be polite around chocolate mousse?!
4 cardamom pods
200g good dark chocolate
4 eggs, separated into yolks and whites (ensuring there is absolutely no trace of yolk in the white)
100ml whipping cream (heavy cream in the US)
Split the cardamom pods and remove the seeds. Toast in a dry frying pan over a high heat for a minute or so, the grind to a powder in a pestle and mortar or in a spice blender.
Melt the chocolate until just melted in a double boiler, or in a pot or heatproof bowl that sits comfortably over a pot of boiling water, ensuring that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl or pot with the chocolate in.
While the chocolate is melting, whip the cream until thick, and separately egg whites as you would for meringue, until they have stiff peaks and a smooth texture. This is easiest with an electric whisk or in a mixer but by hand with a whisk will be fine, if a bit more work.
When the chocolate is just melted, remove the bowl or pot from the heat and stir in the ground cardamom, then quickly whisk in the egg yolks. If the chocolate is just melted the eggs won’t scramble when you add them (a risk when you overheat the chocolate only), but be quick with it anyway, to quickly incorporate the smooth rich eggs into the melted chocolate. Mix in the whipped cream, and then gently fold in the egg white, taking care not to knock the air out, until fully incorporated and a lovely mousse.
Divide the mousse into serving bowls and cover with cling film or similar. I like to serve it in my vintage babycham glasses, below. Leave to set in the fridge for an hour or two.