Anyone familiar with Hotel Chocolat’s Rabot restaurant in Borough Market, and its pioneering Anglo-Saint-Lucian menu, knows there is much more to cacao than chocolate. However fine that chocolate may be, the cacao bean is capable of so much more to boot. Indeed, the Ancient Mayans called cacao the ‘food of the Gods’, such was its importance to their way of life.
While many of us still consider cacao to be synonymous with sweeter treats, the truth is cacao can be used in almost any cuisine. It triumphs in savoury cooking, as a spice, and can add depth and richness to everything from butter to oils and broths. It even shines in alcoholic drinks; from beer to cacao-infused spirits and liqueurs.
Truly, then, the food of the Gods.
What better time to harness the power of cacao than Easter?
These canapès will amaze the guests at your Easter party, provide plenty of talking points and tie the menu together beautifully, particularly if you take the opportunity to go full cacao.
While of course it’s fun to imagine oneself as a Mayan elder making food for deities, it’s not mandatory. These dishes will suit mortal and immortal palettes alike.
Cacao-Inspired Easter ‘Party of the Gods’ Menu:
Canapès of the Gods.
A mouth-wateringly delicious, fresh and zingy finger-food delight. These Gin-cured Salmon canapès are high on flavour and fairly low on difficulty. You will, however, need to factor in time for the curing process – a minimum of 12 hours should suffice.
Cacao Gin-cured Salmon
An electric blender of some kind would also be helpful for blitzing the zest.
2000g / 4 medium-sized fillets fresh salmon
500g x Salt Flakes
250g x Caster Sugar
100g x Fresh Dill
75ml x Cacao Gin
50g x Coriander Seeds
30g x Juniper Berries
10g x Black Peppercorns
75g / 2 Lemons
75g / 3 Limes
Salt cure mixture:
- Peel the lemons and limes and separate the zest.
- Lightly toast the seeds and spices, then blitz the zest along with the cacao gin, half the salt and the toasted spices.
- Fold the blended mixture with the caster sugar, chopped dill and crushed juniper berries.
Curing the salmon:
- Score the salmon skin of each fillet to allow curing.
- Separate the salt cure mixture and lay half of it on a tray.
- Lay the salmon skin-side down onto the tray and cover with the remaining salt cure mixture.
- Wrap tray in cling film and leave to cure for a minimum of 12 hours
Preparing the canapès:
- Unwrap the salmon fillets, rinse in water and allow to dry.
- Once dry, remove the skin and slice fillets into cubes for serving.
- Tell your guests they’re just a little something you rustled up, then bask in the soon-to-be-flowing compliments.
Braised Featherblade of Beef on White Chocolate Mash
Slightly more involved, this dish requires a little skill. It can easily be extended into a main course, or you can stick to the canapè option for an oozy, unctuous treat.
You’ll need some large pans and a large baking tray, and a 12-hour window to marinade the beef before cooking.
2kg x Featherblade of Beef. Substitute with Pork Shoulder or any other shoulder cut of meat if desired.
1kg x White Potatoes
800g x White Onions
400g x Carrots
200g x Leeks
150g x Cacao Nibs
100g x Unsalted Butter
15g x Table Salt
1 x tablespoon Black Peppercorns
Marinading the beef:
- Rub the featherblade with 100g cocoa nibs, a handful of salt, and marinade in the fridge for at least 12 hours. (Keep the nibs.)
- Slice the carrots, leeks, black peppercorns and 300g white onions.
- Bring to the boil in approx 2 litres of water, well-seasoned
- Add in the marinaded beef and the cocoa nibs, cover the pan and simmer on a low heat for up to 12 hours – perhaps overnight.
- Alternatively, you can use a slow cooker.
- Ensure you have enough water in the pan, so it does not dry out while simmering.
Making the jus:
- After braising, remove the beef from the pot, cool and refrigerate
- Add the 70% chocolate flakes to the pot and reduce until it has a shiny, medium-thick consistency
Making the white chocolate mash:
- Peel, slice and boil the white potatoes
- Add the table salt
- Meanwhile, heat the butter in a pan and add in the white chocolate flakes
- When the potatoes are soft and cooked through, drain thoroughly
- Mash the mixture, then add the chocolate butter until creamy smooth
- Reheat the beef by gently cooking in the chocolate jus
- Lay a small bed of white chocolate mash per serving and cover with beef
- Ramekins, shot glasses or any other small dish work brilliantly
Cacao Mac n’ Cheese
A true classic, given a cacao-canapè makeover; these little flavour bombs will give your guests that ‘OMG’ face. If you can make a roux and multi-task a little, you shouldn’t have too much trouble with this recipe and it should take no longer than an hour.
Pro tip: Make the roux with hot milk to prevent lumps forming.
500g x Macaroni Pasta
3l x Water
500ml x Whole Organic Milk
250g x Mushrooms
100g x Panko Breadcrumbs
100g x Cheddar Cheese
1 x Egg
30g x Plain Flour
30g x Unsalted Butter
Half a Shallot
1 x tablespoon Cocoa Nibs
1 x teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/4 x teaspoon Mustard Powder
Season to taste
Making the Macaroni
- Add the macaroni to a pan and fill with the water
- Add the table salt, stir and heat until cooked
- Drain the hot water and cool with cold water to avoid overcooking the pasta
Making the White Chocolate Cheese Sauce:
- Grate the cocoa nibs into the milk.
- Heat the milk in a separate pan or microwave and sieve through when hot to remove the ground nibs.
- Heat the butter, adding in the flour slowly
- Whisk the butter and flour hard while slowly and steadily adding in the hot milk
- Slice and fry the mushrooms and shallot until golden brown in a separate pan, then add to the roux.
- Add the cheese and stir in with the white chocolate flakes
- Stir in the garlic powder and seasoning
- Mix the sauce with the macaroni and leave to cool
Making the Mac n’ Cheese balls:
- Roll the Mac n’ Cheese mixture into balls
- Place the balls on a tray
- Freeze for 1 hour
- Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk until consistent
- Toss the Panko breadcrumbs into a second bowl
- Glaze the frozen Mac n’ Cheese balls in the egg mixture
- Roll in the Panko breadcrumbs
- Fry in a little sunflower oil until browned.
- Finally, heat through in the oven – Gas Mark 6 for 10-12 minutes
- Serve with ketchup on the side.
Hummus with Chilli Cacao-Spiced Walnuts Recipe
Most recipes use tahini paste, but we prefer the slight nuttiness of peanut butter and cumin, which work well with chickpeas. This recipe is great served with thin slices of sourdough.
2 x 450g tin of chickpeas
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated
Zest and juice of a lemon
2 x tablespoon smooth peanut butter
2 x teaspoon ground cumin
2 x teaspoon salt
4 x tablespoons olive oil
60ml x Chilli Oil
1 tablespoon x Cocoa Nibs
40g walnut pieces
2 x tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
- Place all the ingredients – apart from the chilli oil, walnuts and parsley in a food processor and blitz to a smooth purée
- Scrape the bowl occasionally to make sure everything is properly combined, mixing in the remaining liquid (from step 1) if needed for consistency
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl and drizzle over the chilli oil. Scatter with the walnuts and chopped parsley
We hope these canapès, created by our Executive Development Chef David Demaison, will set tongues-wagging at your Easter party and enhance your standing among the Joneses.
For even more cacao-inspired menu magic, why not pair with:
‘Cocktail of the Gods’ recipe: White Chocolat Martini
‘Dessert of the Gods’ recipe: Hazelnut & Pecan Brownies