Every now and then it feels justified to send you a curve ball. So this one is nothing to do with ballet (well, almost nothing, as you’ll read later), and instead it’s chocolate -coated.
In April 2009 I wrote about the irrepressible Willie Harcourt-Cooze and his incredible proper chocolate. You might remember him from several Channel 4 series, featuring his hacienda in Venezuela where he grows his own cacao beans in the cloud forest. When I say proper chocolate, I mean at least 70% cacao, as compared to the fat + sugar that is really confectionery.
Last time I wrote about the health benefits of eating great quality chocolate – how it gives you energy and was prized for that very reason by the Aztecs – more so than gold.
This time I want to tell you how fabulous it is ! Just one square will give you a million different flavours – lemons, fruits and nuts depending on which bar you go for. You can cook with it, and Willie has written a second chocolate book with 150 of his favourite recipies, Willie’s Chocolate Bible. I can’t rate it highly enough, and the same goes for his first book, Willie’s Chocolate Factory Cookbook, which I still refer to often. It’s part cook-book, part history of chocolate, and a great read in it’s own right. And the photographs……
Willie has a great, innovative website, and if you click on the section called ‘Willie’s Whoppers’, a TV will pop up and you can watch a hilarious clip of Willie talking about ‘the turkey incident.’
Of course, there is a loose connection to ballet here. The chocolate does have these energy-giving properties, and as I reported last time, has been scientifically tested on atheletes and shown to enhance their performance. So ditch that Red Bull and Snickers bar and have a go with Willie’s Cacao – it comes in 72% Venezuelan if you are really hard core chocolate, and 70% Peruvian for something altogether more fruity.
In the early days, because the chocolate was so popular, you had to organise your shopping expedition with absolute precision, timed to co-incide with deliveries which you’d only know about via a tip-off. I can recall collecting a batch in the pouring rain, and somehow it tasted even better ! It rains a lot in Venezuela – maybe that’s why !
Willie Harcourt-Cooze grew up on a windswept island off the west coast of Ireland where a childhood spent making cheese, smoking fish and pickling fruit inspired his enduring passion for food and adventure. After travelling in Asia and South America, it was in Venezuela that Willie discovered his lifetime passion for chocolate, bought a hacienda and planted 10,000 cacao trees. His first book, Willie’s Chocolate Factory Cookbook, was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2009. He lives with his wife Tania and their three children in Devon and makes chocolate from bean to bar.
Willie talks passionately about the ‘chocolate revolution’ and how people are enjoying real chocolate and using it in different ways.