Stylist spoke with Rachel Khoo to find out more about her new show, which sees the chef and broadcaster dive into the wonderful world of everyone’s favourite ingredient – chocolate.
There’s a reason why chocolate is one of the world’s most beloved ingredients.
Not only is it bloody tasty, but it’s actually a lot more versatile than you might think. We’re not suggesting you melt a bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk over your roast dinner, but when broken down to its raw components, chocolate is an ingredient that can be used in a wide range of ways.
That’s the basis of a new show from chef Rachel Khoo, whose new show Rachel Khoo’s Chocolate sees her explore “the spectacular world of chocolate,” with topics ranging from the first hot chocolate recipes at Hampton Court Palace to the artistry of ‘bean to bar’ chocolatiers across the UK.
With the show now available to stream on Discovery+, Stylist spoke with Khoo about what to expect from the series, and find out one of her favourite recipes (which is included at the bottom of this article).
From chocolate sausage rolls to her top tips for incorporating chocolate into savoury cooking, here’s what she had to say.
What made you want to explore chocolate as an ingredient?
“I pitched this series last year and I was thinking chocolate is something we all love and have a connection to but it’s also something which has great historic, cultural and psychological aspects to it. So I wanted to explore that part as well not just the deliciousness of chocolate and cooking.
“But then I kind of noticed that over the last five years there’s been a big renaissance in chocolate making in the UK. So we have the history of Cadbury’s, Roundtree’s, Terry’s – a long history of confectionery making – but over the last five to ten years, there’s been a big surge in ‘bean to bar’ artisan craft making of chocolate, and I wanted to highlight those small businesses as well.
“Particularly more so now with the current situation, it’s great to be able to kind of show people that these small businesses are doing really delicious chocolate, because these businesses are just so important to the industry.
“In fact, what I noticed from meeting all these people along the series is that they’re just so passionate about what they do and they really put their heart and soul into what they’re making. It’s not soulless – most ‘bean to bar’ makers will source their cocoa beans from a particular farm, so they know the farmer and they really advocate for paying their farmer a fair wage.
“This is important because the unfortunate part of the chocolate business with a lot of chocolate – like the main, mass market chocolate – is that there’s a lot of slave labour involved, and we address that in the programme as well.”
What was the most interesting thing you learnt?
“One of the things I found really amazing was that I got to go to Hampton Court palace and we filmed at the Royal chocolate kitchen – I actually didn’t know there was a chocolate kitchen before I went there, and they make hot chocolate.
“So I spoke to the historian there about the history of hot chocolate and how it was a beverage for the very rich or the noble because when it first arrived, it was expensive.
“And he showed me how they actually made it – they used cocoa butter instead of dairy back then – so it was interesting exploring that historical aspect of it.”
What are your top tips for people who want to start cooking with chocolate but aren’t sure where to start?
“If you take cocoa nibs or just cocoa powder and taste it, does it taste sweet? No, it doesn’t – you get the bitterness, then you get that lovely chocolaty flavour and then maybe you get some fruitiness coming through too. So you get all these other notes which you get in spices.
“With this in mind, just think about it as if it’s a spice. And then what’s great about cocoa is you don’t need a lot, so sometimes when I’m making these really lovely rich kinds of meatballs I add a little bit of cocoa in there and that just amplifies the tomato flavour and brings out the flavours for a richer experience.
“So just think that you don’t need a lot – it’s not about making everything taste like chocolate, it’s about switching how you see it to view it as a spice.”
What was your favourite dish you made on the show?
“It’s another savoury dish, and I knew it was a really big success because the crew were like ‘I wanna eat it all’. So in Chinese cuisine they have this chilli crisp, which is a condiment which is made of crunchy peanuts, spicy chillies, shallots and oil, and you can literally just put it on your fried egg noodles, whatever.
“So on the show I make a version of that but I put in some cocoa nibs because actually the cocoa nibs give it an extra crunch which is nice because sometimes the peanuts go a little bit soft in the oil. It also adds that kind of fruity bitterness, and that tossed in some thick rice noodles with some green pakchoi on the side is really easy actually.
“What I loved about it is it’s kind of interesting but really easy to do, so it’s kind of something you could do at home and then have it in the fridge and then give your daily dishes a bit of a punch.”
Rachel’s Vegan Cacao Chilli Crisp with Noodles and Pak Choi
Makes 500g jar of chilli crisp
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
- 1 dried ancho chilli
- 1 dried chipotle chilli
- 3 tbsps Sichuan peppercorn
- 3 tbsps cacao nibs
- 60g salted peanuts
- 25g dried chilli flakes
- 2 tbsps sea salt flakes
- 2 tbsps caster sugar
- 30g fresh ginger
- 4 shallots
- 500g peanut oil
- 2 pak choi
- 150g Flat rice noodles
- 2 tbsp chilli crisp
- 2 tbsp Chinese black vinegar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
To garnish: thinly sliced spring onions, thinly sliced chilli, thinly sliced radishes, julienned carrot.
To make the chilli crisp
“Take the stem off the ancho and chipotle chilli and blitz with the Sichuan peppercorns in a spice grinder until a fine powder. Add this to a large heatproof bowl. If your cacao nibs are still rather whole then crush the cacao nibs in a pestle and mortar or use the spice grinder to blitz a little further. You want to retain a bit of their texture, like a chunky peanut butter. Do the same with the peanuts. Add both to the bowl with the chillies. Mix in the chilli flakes, sea salt and sugar.
“Peel the fresh ginger using a spoon and then slice into 2mm slices. Cut the slices into 2mm matchsticks that are roughly a centimeter long. Add these to the bowl.
“Peel the shallots and finely slice into 2mm thick slices. Add them to a large pot with the oil. Place this on a medium hot heat. Stir continuously until the shallots start to get a light golden colour. Use a slotted spoon to remove the shallots and place into a separate bowl. Take the oil off the heat and pour it into the bowl with the chillies. Be careful as the oil will bubble up (that’s why it’s important to use a large bowl) and gently stir so not to get any splashes of hot oil on yourself. Leave to cool for 30 minutes before adding the crisp shallots. Once the mix is completely cool you can add them to a jar and keep in the fridge. It’ll keep for a month.”
“Halve the pak choi, add to a non-stick frying pan cut side down with drizzle of oil. Allow to heat up and once it sizzles cover and cook for 3-5 minutes until the pack choi is soft.
“Cover the noodles with boiling water in a heatproof bowl and allow to soak until soft (or prepare according to the directions on the packet). Drain, rinse with cold water and add to the frying pan. Remove from the heat and toss together with the chilli crisp, vinegar and soy sauce. Dish up into 2 bowls and serve with your choice of garnishes.”
Rachel Khoo’s Chocolate, available to stream now, exclusively on discovery+