Ever wondered what a real-life Willy Wonka is like?
Well, meet William Harcourt-Cooze – British Chocolate maker and enthusiast, and about as close to the quirky confectionary-obsessed Roald Dahl character that we all know and love.
It all started in Venezuela. Willie – who had never been one for sweets before – had his first taste of cacao, and he was addicted. And now, after popular documentaries and humongous success around the world, Willie still drinks his daily cup of hot chocolate the same way we might enjoy a morning cup of coffee, and enthusiastically infuses cacao into every part of his daily life.
I got the opportunity to have a quick chat with him whilst he was in Australia, and he related those early days when he first bought the plantation in Venezuela: the steep learning curve involved when taking chocolate from ground to table, to personally handling the 100% cacao cylinders, his first product simply because that was the only product he could make. And now, those cylinders have become a signature of Willie’s, used in a variety of recipes to impart an earthy depth of flavour, and avoiding the complications of using sweet chocolate in a savoury recipe.
He’s created a range of eating chocolates pairing carefully sourced cacao with a personally curated range of other flavours, just in time for the gifting season! I asked him what he would put together in the ultimate chocolate hamper, and besides his new range, he’s very nicely shared two recipes straight from his cookbook – Willie’s Chocolate Bible – which he thinks will give your Christmas hamper that special, personal touch.
- 500ml vodka
- 250g freshly picked sloes (you can use damsons or other tart flavoured plums)
- 100g granulated sugar (more if you prefer a sweeter drink)
- 200g Peruvian Chulucanas 70 dark chocolate, roughly chopped
- [img src=”http://188.8.131.52/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Willies-Cacao-chocolate-vodka.jpg”]
- Place all of the ingredients in a stainless steel saucepan.
- Heat very gently, over a really low heat, until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is hot, taking care not to let it boil.
- Carefully pour or spoon into a sterilized, wide-necked glass jar, seal and leave in a cool place for 2 months.
- Strain, then pour through a sterilized funnel into a sterilized bottle and seal.
- Always shake the bottle before pouring, as the chocolate tends to settle on the bottom over time.
- 16 long red chillies
- 4 large red capsicums
- ½ a teaspoon cumin seeds
- 150ml extra virgin olive oil
- 10g Willie’s Madagascan 100% Cacao (you can buy this from his online store)
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees Celsius.
- Wrap the chillies in a double layer of foil and place on a baking tray. Put the unwrapped red capsicums alongside them on the same tray.
- Roast in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the capsicums are slightly blackened and soft. Allow to cool slightly, then peel and deseed the capsicums. Remove the chillies from the foil, but leave whole, and remove stalks.
- Put both the chillies and capsicums in a blender or food processor and whizz to make a rough puree (don’t over blend – leave some texture), and set to one side.
- Toast the cumin seeds in a dry frying pan until they small fragrant. Tip them into a mortar and crush with a pestle to a coarse powder.
- Place the pureed capsicums and chillies in a large saucepan, add the powdered cumin and the olive oil. Bring the mixture to the boil over a medium heat, then simmer gently until the sauce has reduced by about half. You will find the oil separates out.
- Remove from the heat, add the cacao, balsamic vinegar and salt to taste and stir until well combined.
- Spoon the hot harissa into warm sterilized jars, allow to cool slightly, then seal.
- This sauce should keep for at least three months in a cool place.
I was very lucky to be given samples of the chocolate to try, and I was quite surprised by the bodacious punch of flavour that accompanied each bite. My favourite of the lot was the Venezuelan Rio Carib 44 with Sea Salt Flakes – the salt flakes were large enough not to fade into the background in the face of a 44% cacao milk chocolate, quite impressive considering that most milk chocolates only have something like a 20% cacao content.
The other chocolates were quite delicious (with the Dark Chocolate with Ginger and Lime being a favourite of my 4 year-old nephew). Though, since these are higher in cocoa solids (which bring you the marvellous flavours), it lacks slightly the luxurious texture that the mildly flavoured cocoa butter brings to the mix.
It was fantastic chatting to the enigmatic, enthusiastic and slightly eccentric Willie, and if nothing else, I’ve walked away with a new way to have breakfast in the morning:
Have you ever had eggs with hot sauce, finished with a grating of 100% cacao like you would grate truffles?
Recipes featured in this post are reproduced with permission, and can be found in Willie’s Chocolate Bible, available for purchase at selected retailers. Photos used with permission.
Willie’s Cacao’s range of chocolates are available exclusively at Coles.