Over the past 10 years, all my work in food – writing, cooking, teaching – has had a clear environmental focus. My passion for climate-friendly cuisine began as a teenager, when I lived and worked on intensive, agro-ecological farms, and became my core focus in 2011, when I created my first zero-waste banquet for the Thames Festival on Southwark Bridge in London. That’s when I coined the term “root-to-fruit eating”, a food sustainability philosophy that forms the structure of both this column and my new book, Eating for Pleasure, People & Planet, which comes out next week.
Root-to-fruit begins with zero-waste, but is actually a holistic approach to food that considers how we farm, trade, eat and dispose of food, broaching topics such as Fairtrade, seasonality and biodiversity. One of my go-to recipes in the new book, and one I’ve been demonstrating at food festivals for the last couple of years, is the simplest, yet tastiest: truffle made with only chocolate, salt and water. It’s designed to bring out and maximise the flavour of the chocolate, so you can taste the true, intense flavour individual to each and every bar. It’s a great way to save and transform old chocolate that has become discoloured into a truly remarkable treat.
This recipe is adapted from my new cookbook. It’s a great way to revive old chocolate that has lost its smooth texture and colour into a fantastic taste experiment and a delicious treat. Below, I give details about how to taste chocolate, so you can obtain maximum pleasure from it.
The biodiversity and growing conditions or terroir of a plant and product affect its flavour, nutrition, aroma and even its appearance. Chocolate is a perfect example of how biodiversity is expressed in taste. While much of the flavour of cacao is attributable to the genetics of the plant, the fermentation and drying of the cacao beans post-harvest, along with each region’s soil composition, climate, altitude and other factors, contribute to regional differences in flavour.
As a meditative eating experiment, I’ve designed this chocolate truffle recipe made from a simple water ganache, which brings out the natural and intense flavours of the chocolate, to taste the biodiversity and terroir of a single-origin chocolate. Take your pleasure seriously, taste slowly and contemplate the origin of the chocolate’s nuanced flavours. Immerse yourself in the experience, imagine the jungle and nature that surrounds you.
1 Think Before and during the tasting, think about the country, region and even the farm where the chocolate has come from. Try looking up images of the location to help you visualise it. Research and consider the growing conditions, altitude, type of soil and, importantly, the cacao species.
2 Look Study the chocolate’s appearance – what hints of colour can you see? How light or dark is the chocolate? Can you see hues of red, orange or purple?
3 Feel Close your eyes, pinch your nose and pop the chocolate on the front of your tongue, because this will cut off your sense of taste. How does the chocolate feel in your mouth? Is it creamy, smooth or textural? Is it fatty and unctuous?
4 Taste Release your nose, keeping the chocolate on the front of your tongue, let the chocolate melt and fill your mouth with flavour, then chew and swallow. Consider the longevity and complexity of the flavour. Is it sweet or bitter? Does it have a high or low acidity? Is it astringent and sour or fruity and caramelised? Are there any other flavours it reminds you of?
Makes 20 small truffles
100g chocolate, ideally single-origin
1 sprinkle sea salt
Cocoa powder, to dust
Line a small container with unbleached parchment paper. Finely chop 100g chocolate and put into a bowl.
Add 50ml boiling water, leave for a minute, then gently stir until the chocolate has melted.
Pour into the container, sprinkle lightly with sea salt and refrigerate for two hours, or until set.
Turn out on to a board, cut into rectangular pieces and dust with cocoa powder to finish.
• Tom Hunt’s new book, Eating for Pleasure, People & Planet, is published next week by Kyle Books at £26. To pre-order a copy for £21.84, go to guardianbookshop.com