Chocolate flavours from a Cornish alchemist, lifting chestnut soup

Chocolate made using foraged ingredients from Cornwall

Michael Longman has been making artisan bean-to-bar chocolate for three years in Cornwall after learning his craft as a pastry chef. Before starting his company Chocolarder, Michael began experimenting happily in my own kitchen, “making small batches from raw beans and getting intimate with the processes of roasting, grinding and alchemizing to produce fine chocolate from scratch”.

Many chocolate makers melt down high quality chocolate buttons to create their own blends, add some flavours and a signature shape and call themselves chocolatiers. Not Michael, though, who in a secret location in the county is building his Chocolarder brand by experimenting with flavour combinations, winnowing, roasting and grinding real beans.

Chocolarder's Cornish honeycomb chocolate
Chocolarder’s Cornish honeycomb chocolate

With organic beans being imported from single estates, family run plantations in Venezuela, Java, Madagascar, Peru and the Dominican Republic, every step of the Chocolarder process is ethical and sustainable, says Michael. However, having found that his profession is so niche, Michael had to basically invent his own machinery to handle his beans. Using such curios as a car jack, his team hand-make bars from entirely organic ingredients. The only additions come from the flora and fauna sourced from the fields, hedges and coastline of UK’s most southerly tip.

Although real honeycomb is hard to come by these days, Michael’s Cornish Honeycomb milk bar uses traditionally made, locally sourced honeycomb; with honey gathered from bees who feast on the Lizard peninsula’s wild heather, gorse and clover. Similarly, the Wild Gorse Flower bar uses handpicked gorse from the tops of cliffs overlooking Kynance’s mineral rich serpentine cliffs.

Here’s a recipe Michael has developed, adding add a new dimension to soup …

Chocolate, chestnut and celeriac soup

Now that November has brought in the darker skies, it also heralds in the chestnuts, celeriac, and hardy plants like sage. This soup is seasonal, warming and adds a hint of festivity to your winter walks or lunches. The sweetness of the chestnuts works really well with the woodiness of the celeriac, and the chocolate adds a deeper and more complex level of sweetness. For this recipe, Michael prefers using Peruvian chocolate to Dominican for its better level of sweetness and the earthiness that these beans impart. It ends up a rather 1970s mushroomy brown colour, so is best brightened up with some garnish, perhaps with some of the sage leaves, or even deep-fried basil.

Serves 4

2 celeriac
2 large red onions
50g butter
250g chestnuts
A handful of sage
50g (Peruvian) dark chocolate
1 pint vegetable stock
50ml single cream

Salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 200°C

Prepare the chestnuts by making a cross on the top with a sharp knife. This not only stops them from exploding, but also makes them easier to peel. Once scored, roast for around half an hour. The shell and the husk should come away easily, releasing the soft ‘meat’ inside.

Whilst they’re roasting:

Finely dice the onion and cube the celeriac, sweating them both off in the butter for about 10 minutes to create a so-called‘ sofrito’ mix, well-known in Spanish and Latin American cuisine. Add the sage and some salt and pepper and take off the heat whilst you:

Peel the chestnuts. I love this bit, as it feels so festive and warms the hands up, but do watch out not to scorch yourself on them!

Add the peeled chestnuts to the sofrito mix in the saucepan and cover with stock. Cook this on a medium flame for about 20 minutes, to soften the chestnuts and allow the flavours to fuse together.

Whilst this is happening, break up the chocolate into small pieces in a jug and add some boiled water. About half a pint should be plenty. Then, using a stick blender, turn this into a liquid. This method means you’ll avoid getting lumps in the soup and the chocolate is distributed more evenly. Add this to the soup.

Remove from the heat, add the cream and blend.

Garnish with deep fried sage leaves and serve with a crusty bread for a truly warming and fulfilling lunch.

Bruce McMichael

Food writing, discovering food stories, meeting producers, chefs and food enthusiasts are all part of desire to inspire, inform my readers and fellow food lovers. I am a freelance writer, journalist and published author focusing on the international world of food and drink, culture and travel. In 2019 I graduated from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy with a Masters in Food Culture, Communication and Marketing. I am now a visiting Professor at the university teaching Food & Drink Writing. Based in London I travel widely, particularly across western Europe. I have chaired many conferences and meetings, spoken at conferences and events and often appear on radio and TV talking most about food, the business of food and being an entrepreneur. In 2017 I won an episode of the ITV (the UK-based national television channel) cooking competition show, 'Gordon Ramsay's Culinary Genius'. I took my children on holiday to Sicily with the prize money. As an experienced farmers' market manager and operator of a small marmalade/ preserves company, I am very familiar with the issues surrounding local food, farming, enterprise and the environment.

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