Sunday, April 24, 2011

Monday Bites - Skye Gyngell

It's Chocolate Mousse.  YES.  Chocolate Mousse with Caramel Sauce.  Can you spell:  THICK-AS-A-BRICK????  Yet it is not heavy.  This dessert, like any good mousse, melts on the mouth and disappears before you hardly know it.  And YES.  Mr. Paradis ate THE WHOLE THING ALL BY HIMSELF!  (That big yellow dollop is English cream covered with caramel.)

Normally I am not a fan of these trendy salty-caramel plus anemic chocolate something variations that are everywhere unavoidable in order for people to prove that they are truly "gourmets" these days.  It's a bit of a bore to me, really.  (And if I have a bit of an attitude, it must be because I'm watching James May's Wine Travels and his stroppiness will have rubbed off on me.  Sorry.) But listen, really, THIS CHOCOLATE WITH CARAMEL combination is A DREAM.   And probably because the chocolate is not really very sweet at all.  While the caramel is what brings the sweetness, in a light seductive way.  It is not heavy salty caramel.  (Whew!  Thx Be to G-d!)

And how lucky are you today because I have the recipe for the marvel right here for you?  It appears in this book: 

(And sidenote:  remember that post I did the other week about the blue-green and red color story here?  Well NOW what do you think?  Could the inspiration have come from here?  It's a subtley striking cover, no?)

Which I brought home with me last summer and haven't really cooked out of.  (Did I really just say that?!)  If you don't know who Skye Gyngell is, you should.  She is a newly famous chef who just received a Michelin star and cooks at Petersham Nurseries.  Which I have posted about previously here.  And which I will post about again.  Her food is pretty unpretentious visually, which may be why the book did not get me rushing into the kitchen with it.  But I was reminded by my second visit to the Cafe that her flavors can make a person delirious with joy.  That comes from thoughtful, careful handling of ingredients, excellent quality ingredients (most of the vegetables are grown onsite at the Nurseries), and letting those ingredients speak for themselves in rustic-graceful ways.  This is NOT grill and garnish cooking however much you'd like to think it might be.  So.  Recipe?  Yes:

10 1/2 oz good quality dark chocolate min. 64% cocoa solids, broken into pieces
8 organic eggs, separated
1/2  cup superfine sugar
pinch of sea salt

For the salty caramel:  1 1/4 cups superfine sugar, 1 3/4 cups water, generous pinch of sea salt

So in Skye Gyngell's words:

Melt the chocolate slowly in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water, then remove from heat and let cool slightly.  Meanwhile beat the eggyolks and half the sugar together in a bowl until pale and thick.  Slowly incorporate the melted chocolate.

In a clean bowl, whisk the eggwhites with the salt until soft peaks form, then gradually whisk in the remaining sugar. Carefully fold the eggwhites into the chocolate mixture, a third at  a time until evenly combined.  Pour into a large bowl, cover and place in the refrigerator to set.

Salty Caramel:

Take this salty caramel as far as you dare.  It takes a little courage, but I take it to where I can just smell the burn.  Visually I love a rich, dark caramel; one that is too pale looks - and tastes - insipid.  This is a good example of all our senses playing a role in our cooking - sight, sound, smell, and of course, taste.

For the salty caramel place the sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small heavy pan over very low heat, and without stirring, let the sugar dissolve.  Once dissolved, turn up the heat till fairly high and bring to a boil.  Cook until the caramel begins to color; this will take at least 5 minutes.  When it starts to brown around the sides - watch it carefully - as it will then darken quite quickly.

Once the caramel has reached a deep mahogany color, quickly and carefully pour in the remaining 1 1/4 cups of water.  Cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes to loosen the caramel and ensure that it doesn't set hard.  Finally, throw in the salt, stir once or twice, then remove from the heat.  Pour into a heatproof bowl, let cool and then let chill.

To serve, spoon the chocolate mousse onto plates and serve with the salty caramel and cream (which Skye Gyngell assumes you must always have on hand in your frig as any proper English person does, because it is not called for in the ingredients list!)  Looking at the picture closer, and remembering my little taste - I don't think this is really like most kinds of cream you'll find in the U.S.  So you could experiment with whipped cream, mascarpone, Devon (clotted) cream from your gourmet store or creme fraiche.

Sadly it may be that the Petersham Nurseries Cafe has been spoiled by its success.  Reviews you may find seem to class the service as not so great, the menu overpriced for food that is just, "fine".  I remember my first meal there two years ago was one of those that I still crave and dream about.  This last time it was good, but despite a huge number of cooks in the kitchen (maybe that was the problem) my main course was not as memorably exquisite.   If you're in doubt, on both occasions, Skye Gyngell was on the premises which was reassuring, and hubby - who can be a tough customer - was very happy with his meal.


On the other hand, you could just buy the book, published in the U.S. by Ten Speed Press here.   Do yourself a great favor.  And channel your inner Skye.


  1. Miam, cette mousse au chocolat a l'air vraiment dé merci pour la recette..Très bonne journée

  2. Un appel à la gourmandise ! Je m'en vais quérir plus doué(e) que moi pour réaliser cette recette !!!
    Une belle journée pour toi.

  3. J'en ai l'eau à la bouche ... bises chocolatées !!

  4. Oh me! Oh my! Oh me! Oh my! --that is what the Cat in the Hat would say!
    Thanks for your kind comments.
    Yes sweet lemons. Best is juice of course, also if you like lemon with your tea. And there is an easy lemon + saffron (or turmeric) + chicken --it's a Persian recipe. Really easy with a few herbs. You can find the recipe here :
    I like to make it either with a whole roasted chicken or breast. As you wish!

  5. that´s one serious dessert! i think one bite would be enough :)
    p.s. i have a secret crush on james may...

  6. I am gaining weight just looking at your photo!

  7. oh that dessert looks seriously good :)

  8. I was going to comment on the Kate/Wills thing but that mousse kind of got in the way... I can almost taste it.
    Fab post per!
    LOve the books, love the chef and the place ...must be awful to have to hold such a reputation... can see that inviting trouble...
    and yes... suspect you are very right ... they have a much higher chance of happiness because of their deftness and reserve.