Soft chocolate with almond prailine.
Soft chocolate with almond prailine. Photo: Marina Oliphant

Almonds always take me back to Andalusia in southern Spain. The versatile nuts were introduced by the Moors, and they are now Spain's second-largest export crop, behind olives.

This sweet-and-sour chicken dish is fantastic. The opposing flavours of honey and sherry vinegar blend beautifully with the white flesh of the chicken and the toasted almonds. In the restaurant, we use farmed rabbit instead of chicken.

The soft chocolate is a custard, to which you add so much chocolate, while it's still hot, that it almost sets. This gives it a dense texture and helps it hold its shape. It is an easy mousse to make.

I am particularly fond of the extra depth of flavour the amontillado sherry brings to the mix. You could also infuse the milk and cream with different herbs or spices to give the recipe your own touch.

Once the praline has cooled, place it in an airtight container, otherwise it will quickly become sticky.

SOFT CHOCOLATE WITH ALMOND PRALINE

200ml milk

200ml cream

100g sugar

4 egg yolks

500g chocolate

100ml amontillado sherry

400ml semi-whipped cream

Place the milk and cream in a heavy-base saucepan and heat until just about to simmer.

Whisk sugar and yolks together, pour in warm cream mix, then return it all to the saucepan. Stir over heat until mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat.

Add the chocolate and sherry, stirring until well combined. Fold in the semi-whipped cream before mix is cool and pour into a 20x20 centimetre glass dish.

Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. To serve, warm a large spoon and scoop a spoonful of chocolate onto a serving plate. Sprinkle with almond praline (see recipe below), making sure you have a few larger pieces for extra crunch.

Serves 8

 

ALMOND PRALINE

70g sliced, roasted almonds

220g castor sugar

80ml water

To roast almonds, place in a preheated 175 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned.

Scatter browned almonds on a baking tray lined with baking paper.

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Caramelise without stirring - just swirl the pan - until it's dark golden. Keep a close watch because it can burn quickly.

Quickly pour the caramel over the almonds and cool until set. Break praline into pieces and crush slightly in a mortar and pestle.

 

ALT

AGRI DULCE CHICKEN WITH CARROTS AND ALMONDS

400g shallots

4 garlic cloves, chopped

150g honey

3 bay leaves

100ml sherry vinegar

900ml chicken stock

100ml olive oil

10 chicken thigh fillets, skin on

1 tbsp thyme leaves

16 dutch carrots

200g blanched almonds, roasted

 1/2 cup of raisins

Gently fry shallots and garlic in a heavy-based saucepan until lightly golden. Add honey and caramelise.

Add bay leaves, deglaze the pan using the vinegar, then add the stock. Bring to the boil, skimming off any impurities.

Place another large heavy-based saucepan on the heat and add olive oil. When hot, place seasoned chicken skin-side down to colour and seal the meat.

When it's golden, sprinkle with thyme and pour sauce over the meat, then cover with baking paper and foil. Turn heat down to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes. When cooked, lift meat out gently. If the sauce is a bit thin, return to the boil and reduce it.

Blanch the carrots in salted boiling water. When ready to serve, add almonds and raisins to the sauce, then place the chicken and carrots on top.

Bring to a simmer for 5 minutes to let the flavours come together. Serve with polenta, couscous or roasted vegetables.