Daniel Clifford Kitchen Confidential

We all love chocolate desserts, but why not add a dash of cocoa to your savoury dishes too, says Daniel Clifford, head chef at Midsummer House

Cooking With

Chocolate is one of the most diverse ingredients I know. Not only when it comes to cooking – you can use it for both sweet and savoury dishes – but each chocolate out there is unique. You have different varieties of trees, grown in diverse soils and weather conditions; the beans can receive different treatment or conch times. Chocolate can be seasonal, with some types being made only a few months each year, when particular beans are ready for harvest.

The first time I tried cooking savoury dishes with chocolate, I combined chicken liver parfait with extra-bitter chocolate – and the sweetness of the liver went perfectly with the intensity of the chocolate. That was it – I was hooked. I spend about four hours each day in my test kitchen developing new recipes, often featuring chocolate used in a savoury way.

Chocolate, especially dark and bitter blends of 70 per cent cocoa and up, go very well with red meats and game, so autumn and winter is a great time for cooking with it. I pair venison with extra bitter – I often slow-cook the meat, then serve it with Savoy cabbage, cream and Stilton (Colston Bassett is a great pairing with chocolate, believe it or not!). I’ll top it with a sauce made with venison bones, redcurrant jelly and freshly grated chocolate.

Duck also works well with 70 per cent dark chocolate – I serve it with sweet potato purée and cherry – but I particularly love using wild grouse, because the meat’s bitterness provides a lovely contrast to the chocolate. I poach, then roast it, and serve with elderberries and freshly grated chocolate.

When it comes to fish, white chocolate is best. We used to make a tremendously popular dish at the restaurant that featured salmon, white chocolate, cauliflower and almonds.

Who i'm using

I could never pick a favourite chocolate; I try to experiment as much as I can. But, I’m a big fan of Valrhona, especially Madagascar. This summer they released a fruity, tropical white chocolate, which is beautiful for the hotter months. If I’m in the mood for chocolate, I’ll get my fix from Wiliam Curley, Jason Atherton or Damian Allsop – they are master chocolatiers, and sometimes make me feel like I’m just learning!



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