Well, it’s Christmas!
So the naughty indulgence of loading myself with lots of rich, sweet, delicious and frankly dangerously indulgent foods seems almost righteous. Eat like this every day and I’ll die happy.
Nicky Grant is a seductress.
It might be the quick snap sensation of the dark chocolate shell breaking apart under my teeth, followed by the oozing creamy-rich, sweet caramel centre on my tongue that transports a feeling of rapture straight from my head to my toes; or possibly the guilty memento of sin touched with smudges of cocoa powder left on my fingertips to lick? However, what sets these caramels apart, and my taste buds spiralling into bliss, is the barely discernible flavour of sea salt. Don’t ask me why or how, but salt appears to add something quite remarkable. It turns a nod of approval into the tenderest proposal: ‘my heart is putty. I adore you’.
I met Nicky first at the Cornwall Food & Drink festival last September. Temptation brought me to her stand. She proffered a bowl of mouth-watering caramels in my general direction and I was irresistibly drawn in like a proverbial ‘carrot to the donkey’. Since then, like a ‘chocoholic’ possessed, I’ve not been able to get them out of my mind. In her home kitchen a few months later, I was treated to some of the most divine chocolates I have ever eaten. With coffee and conversation (meanwhile salivating over, sampling, ruminating and cogitating on half a dozen exquisite samples of Nicky’s beautiful chocolates) it took me literally hours to learn what it is to be a Chocolatier… and, believe me, to rush these things is to do them a terrible injustice!
It would be difficult to pick my favourite from the ones I tried. So many of them were like having a Heston Blumenthal experience. ‘Chilli and Lime’, for example, is pure culinary alchemy. First you get the taste of deep, rich, velvety dark chocolate and as that melts in the mouth it is followed by the sweetness of fresh lime. Then just when you think the pleasantness is over along comes a gentle warming sensation from the chilli as a postscript. It’s exciting in the way a lover’s kiss to the throat is thrilling rather than a pleasure-pain kick sensation delivered from some other chilli chocolate. But if you had to push me, I’d still linger indecisively over ‘Fennel and Ginger’ – it sounds wrong but is so right; ‘Earl Grey Tea’ – with an intoxicating aroma of bergamot; or ‘Raspberry Liqueur’ which is so unmistakably ‘raspberry’ I could have been picking them straight from their canes.
However, Nicky’s main business is in making wedding cakes and these have an enormous wow factor. Take a look.
Simply Cornish kindly sent me a box of their lovely goodies. I’m saving the Christmas pudding and saffron cake for Christmas with an amazing resolve, however I wasn’t so restrained when it came to their Stollen cake. I love Stollen cake. I adore the combination of sweet spice and fruit in a hot cross bun and Stollen is this as so much more. Made with a very sweet and rich bread dough, full of juicy raisins, spice and thickly dusted all over with icing sugar like snow. The secret inside is a lovely almond-flavoured white marzipan centre.
Simply Cornish bake a very special moist, fruity version with a captivating taste and aroma. I only have one grumble about it: the size, it wasn’t big enough!