Five chocolate recipes for Valentine's Day

Croydon Guardian: PA Photo/Kyle Brooks PA Photo/Kyle Brooks

Bored with munching shop-bought chocs on Valentine's Day? Here are five super-special chocolate recipes that will have your loved one licking their lips for more...

His favourite childhood moment was receiving a box of Thorntons Continental. He's credited with inventing the first Marmite-flavoured chocolate. And he once spent a school trip to France, aged 14, nipping off to find patisseries.

When it comes to Paul Young, the description 'chocoholic' is putting it mildly. But the obsessive, sweet-toothed Yorkshire man has had the last laugh, by putting his money where his mouth has always been.

About to open his fourth chocolate shop (www.paulayoung.co.uk), the experimental chocolatier who trained in Marco Pierre White's kitchen, can't get enough of roasted cocoa beans, after they've been ground into a liquid and cooled: "It's amazing how a humble bean can become such an intoxicating and complex experience," he says.

"I eat - and taste - chocolate every day of the week. This might mean a sea-salted caramel for elevenses, a Madagascan truffle at two o'clock to pick me up, and a dense nugget of my famous chocolate brownie in the afternoon."

Born in Yorkshire and raised in the small mining town of Trimdon Station, County Durham, Hayes points out that eating something sweet and indulgent at teatime is compulsory. But he's hoping chocolate lovers will also begin to be more experimental, which is why he's included savoury recipes in his book Adventures With Chocolate.

"If people can grow to love making Dark Chocolate And Chilli Gnocchi, I will be very proud," he says, grinning. "I hope this book will encourage people to become genuine chocolate aficionados!"

Here are five recipes to whet your partner's appetite this February 14...

Paul's aztec-style hot chocolate
(Makes 2 very large mugfuls)

25g light muscovado sugar (more if you like it sweet)
20g dark cocoa powder
100g Caribbean 66% dark chocolate
Spice of your choice, e.g. chilli, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom or ginger

Heat 500ml water, the sugar and cocoa powder in a pan and simmer for three minutes. Break the chocolate into pieces and add to the pan. Using an electric hand mixer, blend for one minute, adding any spices that you are using at this point. Bring the hot chocolate back to simmer for two minutes and serve.

Chocolate water biscuits for cheese
(Makes about 16 biscuits, 30 if canape-size)

250g plain flour
1tsp sea salt
20g cocoa powder
1/2tsp English mustard powder (optional)
Your choice of spice or herb (optional)
85g butter

Put a jug of water to chill in the fridge for half an hour.

Place all the dry ingredients (including any flavourings) in a large bowl and mix well, before rubbing in the butter until evenly combined.

Gradually add enough refrigerated water to form a pliable dough; this must not be too sticky, so be careful when adding it. Knead the dough gently until smooth. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes to rest and relax.

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.

Roll the dough on a well-floured surface to 3mm thick (or thereabouts). Use a round cutter to cut out circles of your preferred size, e.g. a 2.5cm cutter for canape-size biscuits, or 5cm for cheese biscuits. Alternatively, use a sharp knife to cut into squares or rectangles. Prick each biscuit with a fork and bake until golden and crisp (about 10 to 12 minutes). Place on a wire rack to cool.

The biscuits can be stored in an airtight container for two to three months.

Dark chocolate and chilli gnocchi, with mascarpone and pecorino
(Makes 2 main course portions)

For the Gnocchi:
65g plain flour
20g cocoa powder
1/2tsp chilli powder (choose your preferred heat level)
Pinch of sea salt
325g cooked mashed potato (floury-textured potatoes work best)
1 egg yolk
1tbsp extra virgin olive oil

To serve:
200g mascarpone
Freshly ground black pepper
10g fresh oregano leaves
25g pecorino cheese, grated

In a large mixing bowl or food mixer, blend together the flour, cocoa, chilli powder, salt and mashed potato. Add the egg yolk and knead to form a smooth dough; if using a food mixer, then use the dough-hook attachment for this stage. Wrap the dough in cling film and rest in the refrigerator for one hour.

To shape your gnocchi, cut the dough into two and begin to roll a long sausage shape, sprinkling flour on your surface if the dough gets sticky.

Cut the dough into even-sized pieces, roughly 2.5cm long. You can leave your gnocchi this shape or, to give an attractive finish, roll the back of a fork over each little dumpling to give a lined pattern and rounded shape. Place the gnocchi on a plate covered with cling film until you're ready to cook them.

Bring a large pan of salted water to a simmer. Plunge in the gnocchi and wait until they float to the surface. Once they're floating, remove from the water and place on kitchen paper to drain.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and cook the gnocchi on each side. They should look golden and be springy to the touch. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Season the mascarpone with black pepper and mix well. To serve, place the gnocchi on warm plates with small spoonfuls of the mascarpone, and grated pecorino and oregano leaves sprinkled over the top.

Honey-cured bacon, stilton and chocolate sandwich
(Serves 2)

4 thick slices of hand-cut, crusty white bread
Soft salted butter, for spreading
50g Venezuelan 72% dark chocolate
6 rashers honey-cured bacon
75g very ripe Stilton

Preheat the grill until very hot. Lightly toast the bread on both sides, then spread with butter. Grate the chocolate on top and return to the grill briefly to melt.

Remove and immediately put the bacon under the grill until the edges are crisp and caramelised. Place on top of the chocolate and finish with a generous crumbling of Stilton. Lay the remaining buttered slice on top and press firmly. Cut diagonally and enjoy.

Sweet chocolate pesto
(Makes 1 large jar - 250ml)

25g basil
150ml light extra virgin olive oil
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2tsp sea salt
60g pine nuts
100g pecorino cheese, grated
25g Venezuelan 100% dark chocolate, grated

Place all the ingredients into a small blender - or use a pestle and mortar - and blend until you reach your preferred texture - chunky or smooth, or somewhere in between.

Spoon the pesto into a sterilised jar, seal and keep airtight. Stored like this, the pesto will keep in the fridge for a month. Once open, use within one to two weeks.

:: Adventures With Chocolate by Paul A Young is published in paperback by Kyle Books, priced £14.99. Available now.

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