Main Event: High cocoa solid chocolate bars studded with an inspiring array of gourmet ingredients.
Is it worth the calories? With antioxidants, calming endorphins and evidence that it protects again heart disease too (in moderation) it’s more than a value added treat.
Last summer’s fact-finding trips to food fairs yielded some local treasures, among them Ildiko’s chocolates. It’s hard to resist the allure of intensely red and purple berries nuzzling into white, vanilla speckled chocolate for long. The eye-catching tummy rumbling pull of gorgeously displayed slabs of dark, milk and white chocolate dotted with the familiar and unexpected led me, months later, to a little kitchen in Surrey.
When Ildiko was growing up in Hungary she used to bake with her grandmother. If there were any leftover ingredients she loved to create chocolate treats for her family. Studying science at university and stimulated by nature Ildiko became an environmental engineer. It never occurred to her that one day she would leave it all behind to help start an artisan chocolate company. After marrying Tamas they moved to the UK with their young family and he followed his career in hotel management. Not sure what to do and needing something to fit in with a young family Ildiko started to make confectionary and in particular, pralines. These didn’t seem to have the same appeal here as they did at home but when Tamas suggested chocolate slabs with freeze dried fruits and they decided to give it a whirl.
First they sourced their chocolate experimenting with a few suppliers until they felt they had the base for their eclectic toppings. With high cocoa solids quality chocolate perfected, they started to experiment with flavours. To differentiate they searched out ingredients that flirt and tease the chocolate giving it a quirky edge. Starting with freeze dried fruits Ildiko soon found that strawberries, raspberries and blueberries were a hit with their growing customer base. Later they added dried goji berries, coconut and pomegranate seeds combining them with smoked sea salt wasabi peas, rose, violet and mint leaves. Their product list demonstrates their devotion to ‘out of the ordinary’. My current favourite is a sultry, sweet caramelised chocolate with raw cocoa nibs and smoked salt. It has texture, a subtle salty crunch offset by the sweetness of the chocolate and a bitter note from the raw cocoa nibs.
When I visited this artisan producer at home in Walton-on-Thames they had just started to make a batch of caramelised white chocolate which is achieved by slowly baking the chocolate in the oven for several hours. It must be stirred regularly so it doesn’t split and is cooked evenly. We did a blind tasting of their product against Vahlrona and it’s simply better in every way. Creamy, mouth meltingly smooth, it has a delicious caramel note taken to the exact point of no return. Ildiko’s preparation methods are precise – she says her science background has helped. The slabs are crafted from expertly tempered chocolate left plain or flavoured and coloured with natural extracts (strawberry, lime, orange and vanilla). Once poured into waiting moulds they are hand decorated with precision.
Wrapped, labelled and packed freshly for each order or event Ildiko and Tamas run stalls at farmers markets and supply some independent shops in Surrey. These Chocolatiers constantly have a keen eye out for new ideas. Their fascinating store of blackcurrant pepper, chocolate-coated goji berries, dried organic pomegranate seeds and Himalayan pink salt is, I hope, just the tip of this creative culinary iceberg.
- Farmers markets
- The Naked Grocer in Walton-on-Thames
- The farm shop co-operative at the Medicine Garden in Cobham
- On-line – click here to visit their shop