Food makes a fantastic gift. I’ll tell you why, and then I’ll give you the recipe for the chocolates I made as a gift for two fantastic friends of mine.
First of all, it’s very easy to make a food gift meaningful. Almost everyone has some specific taste or restriction you can exploit, and it doesn’t take too much digging at all to find it. Then add a little imagination and you’ve got something that’s sure to impress. Have to find a gift for a vegetarian with a sweet tooth? Homemade honeycomb is one easy hit, since most commercial honeycomb has gelatine added. Someone with coeliac disease (can’t have gluten)? A nice fruit tart with a good gluten-free pastry will go down a treat. A kid whose love you’re trying to buy? The biggest jar of nutella you can find.
Next is affordability. A food gift can be as cheap or expensive as you’d like and be none the worse for it. To use an example from before, a big batch of homemade honeycomb will likely put you out around $7, depending on what’s in your cupboard. On the other hand, if you have a friend who likes to cook and want to go all out, you could do what my partner’s aunty did and make up a little hamper with things like porcini mushrooms and really good olive oil and other luxury ingredients.
Last of all, food is truly enjoyed and then it’s gone. That may seem like a negative, but especially for people who are not as close as some I think it’s actually an advantage. How many photo frames and other knick-knacks do you have hanging around in cupboards that you feel guilty about throwing away since they were gifts, and yet never ever ever ever ever use? The memory of fantastic food can last a lifetime, but you don’t have to find a place to pack it in boxes when you move. It doesn’t take up space in your drawers. It just does its job (bes delicious), and then gets out of your way.
Now for the chocolates.
My partner and I just got back from staying for a week with two brilliant Tasmanian friends (one of whom runs a blog called Over.Exposure, and if you’re interested in film or video games then I highly recommend it) and to thank them for their hospitality I took two batches of these chocolates, one ginger and one mint. You can use other flavourings of course, I’ve tried little bits of honeycomb, crushed nice biscuits and replacing this ganash with something very similar to this truffle recipe from Rough Cooking only with a raspberry fortified wine and they’ve all turned out splendidly. Just without any flavouring they’re still very yummy.
You’ll be hearing much more about my time down on the Apple Isle, but for now, on with the recipe.
Around 250g of couverture chocolate (you can use normal chocolate but couverture just works so much better)
100g-ish extra normal chocolate
100ml-ish pure cream (thickened cream will give you a bigger window for error, but since it is thickened with gelatine it’s unsuitable for vegetarians)
Glace ginger/20 fresh mint leaves/whatever
What to do:
~ Place in a bowl your couverture chocolate and butter.
~ In a small saucepan place your cream (and if you’re using mint, your mint) on a high heat.
~ As soon as it boils, pour enough into the bowl with the chocolate and butter that it just covers it. If little bits are sticking out that’s fine.
~ Cover with cling wrap. Leave to sit for a few minutes.
~ Slice your ginger into little chunks if you’re using it.
~ Remove the glad wrap and give your chocolate mixture a stir. It should come together into a smooth ganash. You can heat it a little bit more if there are still lumps of chocolate.
~ Mix in your ginger chunks or whatever you’re using.
~ Leave the mixture to set in the fridge for half an hour or so.
~ When it has set a little, roll it into balls and place them onto a tray.
~ Melt your extra chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave.
~ Now is the fun part. Using teaspoons, or your fingers if you’re as uncoordinated with cutlery as me, coat your pretty little balls in melted chocolate and pop them back on a tray. Move quickly because if you take too long they’ll start to melt.
~ Pop them back in the fridge to set again and before you know it you’ll have some deluxe homemade chocolates (or an empty plate if you don’t keep an eye out!).