Were you intrigued by our guests this month? Salted Lemons, crunchy black jalapeno peppers, kimchi...
We were thrilled to welcome Sam and Pan to our chocolate kitchen, the dynamic culinery duo behind Belle and Herbs Fermentary. It was intriguing to learn a bit more of their back story, a friendship that has threaded through their professional experiences. Pan has worked in the prestigious Cafe 21 Group, and has an impressive restaurant kitchen CV. Sam has been in the restaurant business for over 20 years, including the (former) lovely Belle and Herbs Cafe on Heaton Road, and being involved in setting up Dil and The Bear in Tynemouth. If you've had the pleasure of visiting either of those places, I think you'll agree they have something quite special about them.
Belle and Herbs Fermentary evolved when restaurants closed down a few years ago, and Pan lost her job.... and conversations with Sam brought together all their expertise to create one of the most exciting food businesses in the north east. I say that, because I am so impressed by the tastes and flavours their products exude. But I am doubly impressed that by doing so, they are offering their customers incredible opportunities for improving gut health through the probiotic nature of their fermented fruit and vegetables.
But how does this all relate to chocolate? Well, this month's #Chocollaboration was to find out what we could concoct, and the results were rather interesting...
After hearing from Sam & Pan, we cracked open several of the brightly coloured jars for some tastings, and with guests that had never tried kimchi, to those that LOVE it, we enjoyed sharing the experience of tasting the salted lemons, the pink Mouli, the black jalapenos, the purple kraut and the kimchi.
Jane Williams demos possible uses of Belle and Herbs preserved lemons.
We started the chocolate experience by making some dark chocolate discs, and each guest chopped and blended their choice of inclusions. We used pretty transfer sheets to create a 'herb' themed pattern on them too. My favourite was the chilli jam, but there were so many taste explosions - the dark chocolate holding its own well with the salty sour notes.
The second task I gave our guests was to give texture and flavour to a shortbread biscuit. My creation was to top the biscuit with shavings of the preserved lemons, and to dip the whole thing in dark chocolate - and I couldn't have been happier with the result, it was as delicious as I'd hoped it would be. I have to say, I was hugely impressed with the creative gusto embraced by my guests for this episode. There were shortbreads topped with kimchi and cabbage before being topped with chocolate.
The third task was a free style one. Now familiar with the tastes and textures, I gave my guests free reign to create chocolate bars, chocolate truffles or chocolate discs with any of the wonderful ingredients on hand. Other flavours and inclusions included rose petals, cinnamon, Szechuan peppercorns, lime, popping candy.
I demonstrated using cocoa butter colours to flick and splatter to create a 'jackson pollock' effect of decoration, and colour transfer sheets were used too. I think the chocolate bar with a rainbow of picked cabbages stood out to epitomise the evening - absolutely full of colour and creativity.
My huge thanks to Sam and Pan for introducing us to their wonderful jars of colour, flavour and goodness. It was an unforgettable evening, and such a fascinating chance to collaborate with you. You've definitely gained more fans, I think we all are excited to eat more of your products, and will be sharing stories of this evening for weeks to come!
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