Country Style - - CONTENTS - PHO­TOG­RA­PHY LISA COHEN STYLING LEE BLAYLOCK Steve Cumper was the first win­ner of Coun­try Style's Coun­try Chef of the Year Award and is the owner of the Red Vel­vet Lounge at 24 Mary Street, Cygnet, Tas­ma­nia. (03) 6295 0466; red­vel­vet­lounge.com.au

Steve Cumper shares the il­licit treat that in­spired his choco­late mousse with pep­per­mint pra­line.

FOR SOME PEO­PLE, sim­ply hear­ing the word ‘choco­late’ or read­ing it on a restau­rant menu can stim­u­late an ur­gent de­sire. Con­fes­sion time: I am one of those peo­ple. (How­ever, my love of choco­late does not ex­tend to or­der­ing dessert be­fore go­ing through the cha­rade of or­der­ing an en­tree and a main course just to get to it.) Per­sonal pref­er­ences aside, I don’t know many peo­ple who would forgo a bit of choccy — in fact, I can’t think of a sin­gle one — and if there’s a stand-by dessert that’s as uni­ver­sally ap­peal­ing as choco­late mousse, then I’m yet to hear of it. A good choco­late mousse will tempt most peo­ple, what­ever their cul­tural or gen­er­a­tional dif­fer­ences, be­cause as desserts go, it ticks all the right boxes. Choco­late, tick. Creamy tex­ture, tick. Sweet, tick. And, some­times, the hint of some­thing else be­yond that sub­lime com­bi­na­tion. Per­haps a faint but tan­ta­lis­ing prom­ise of an­other facet of plea­sure? Pep­per­mint and orange are, in my opin­ion, two flavours that com­ple­ment choco­late per­fectly. I first en­joyed the pep­per­mint and choco­late part­ner­ship as a child, hang­ing around the ta­ble at din­ner par­ties as the claret-soaked adults supped per­co­lated cof­fee and un­wrapped Red Tulip Af­ter Din­ner Mints. The scent of their dis­carded wrap­pers was in­tox­i­cat­ing and, as I licked them, they re­leased a faintly medic­i­nal waft of mint mixed with a cloy­ing aroma rem­i­nis­cent of caramel. While my par­ents fo­cused on their guests, my stealthy hands would lib­er­ate the choco­late squares from their en­velopes and I would de­vour them as I sat among the legs un­der the ta­ble. Orange and choco­late is an­other clas­sic com­bi­na­tion. I of­ten make a viscous orange trea­cle to serve with choco­late mousse — it’s my homage to one of Dawn French’s favourite sweet­ies, the Terry’s Choco­late Orange, and in­volves adding fresh orange juice to dark caramel, then re­duc­ing it un­til syrupy. In my ear­lier years, I favoured choco­late mousse made from milk choco­late. How­ever, my im­ma­ture self also thought a crown of canned whipped cream and a glacé cherry gar­nish was a suit­able em­bel­lish­ment for this dessert. Time and ma­tu­rity have taught me that a good choco­late mousse needs only the most har­mo­nious ad­di­tions, and that frothy whipped cream is not one of them. I have also learnt that glacé cher­ries are to desserts what timber lat­tice is to gar­den fences; they both even­tu­ally end up at the tip. Th­ese days I pre­fer mousse made from dark choco­late, but not the stuff with an in­cred­i­bly high per­cent­age of ca­cao that seems like it was in­vented to pun­ish us philistines for our pen­chant for the sweet com­fort of choccy. Once again, I blame those pesky hip­sters. Not con­tent with over-com­pli­cat­ing cof­fee, beer and bread, they’re now hav­ing a crack at choco­late!

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