It's especially fun to learn new words when they concern my favourite subject- food. In the case of these chocolate clusters they might be called, as the French say, mignardises; an after-dinner sweet typical in households and French restaurants alike – usually an elegant chocolate or delicate miniature pastry to accompany post-feast coffee or tea. Mignardises, however small, do require some care and attention to detail; taking the time to do so may even transport your guests to a post-feast state of nirvana.
One might call these clusters mignardises, but in truth, although they’re quite cute, their easy-to-make nature does not quite befit the title. The focus here is more on taste and texture than transporting people to other realms of being.
Their crunchy, complex texture and energy-boosting quality makes these clusters an intriguing snack, and if offered to guests after dinner, can satisfy either a brief craving for chocolate, or a full-blown chocolate appetite if given the chance.
And, not to detract business away from local coffee shops, but they’re also small enough to keep in your purse for that panic-ridden time of emergency when you’re craving a little something sweet, but are faced with the giant, not to mention glutinous, coffee cakes and cinnamon buns on the other side of the sweet case. I promise that despite it’s size, this subtle yet decadent treat will leave you feeling great…perhaps even a little naughty, and is best enjoyed mingling in the mouth with a meltingly hot drink.
Nut & Ginger Chocolates
3-4 pieces candied ginger
1 handful organic pumpkin seeds
100g (3.5 oz) dark chocolate at least 65% cocoa solids
Handful cashews (unroasted, unsalted)
Handful unsalted almonds or pistachios
Chop the ginger and pumpkin seeds together until very fine – this requires a few minutes of chopping but it’s worth it. (I found my food processor couldn't get the pieces small enough, but if you have a small processor or grinder it just might work.)
In a heat-resistant bowl melt the chocolate – either in the oven or over a hot water bath. When melted add the chopped ginger and pumpkin seed and stir thoroughly. Working quickly, add the cashews and, using your trusty fork, coat with the chocolate mixture. Remove two or three cashews at a time and drop them carefully, so they hold together nicely, onto a silicone mat or baking sheet. Repeat with the almonds. Sprinkle some cane sugar on top for a sparkly appearance and allow the clusters to cool until set.