A FEW years ago I was invited to be in the audience of the TV show Hell’s Kitchen as an expert chef and taster, to judge and enjoy the food and to support my friend, the celebrity chef Gary Rhodes. He was competing against Jean Christophe Novelli whom I also knew well … he was linked to having an ‘over-friendly’ relationship with my ex-wife!
JC barely looked my way, pretending not to recognise me, although I had worked with him for many years. In the team of ‘actor chefs’ was Anthea Turner (another good friend of mine. She always had a hard time from the public but that was because she handled things badly, not because she is a bad person. In fact she is lovely.)
Anthea called out to me and I ducked under the kitchen unit to see her but was promptly ushered out by BBC guerrillas. ‘Sorry, no public in here’, they said. I was hardly ‘public’. I was Anthea’s friend, and a Master chef trying to help her and the teams out! And clearly Anthea was stressed.
‘Give me your chocolate pot recipe’, she whispered. Not knowing what she wanted it for but seeing her panic, I wrote it out on a paper napkin, slid it over to her and went to sit at my allocated table with some of the other guests.
The presenter came over to our table and said, ‘Hello, what time is it?’ ‘Chico time’, the audience responded on cue and I immediately remembered one of the table guests from X Factor.
‘Didn’t you knock Madonna off the number 1 spot in the charts?’ I asked. ‘Sure bro’, he replied, ‘but how could she compete?’ Lol!
Chico is a very intelligent man with a passion for religion, peace and love, almost hippy in his ways, though of Moroccan origin. He said, ‘My wife ( Danni) is a real fan of yours, she watches every show and has the hots for you!’
‘Really?’ I said. ‘How can she have the hots for me when you have a perfect male physique?’ ‘Yes man but you cook with love and passion and I can’t do that… I am jealous bro.’
So that night Chico and I became bosom buddies. Most people didn’t get why but this guy is genuine and he can laugh at himself, which many of us find difficult.
‘Did you give Anthea your telephone number?’ he wondered. When I told him it was a recipe Danni (a real foodie) wanted a copy, so I started to write it out all over again on the back of a Hell’s Kitchen menu. The guy on the next table wanted it too. He was Aled Jones, the Welsh boy treble whose Christmas song, Walking in the Air, was a smash hit in the Nineties. ‘Shut up Aled and stick to singing carols’, quipped Chico.
Every time I hear that song at Christmas, it brings back the memories. And seeing as that little pot of chocolate was such a hit with Hell’s Kitchen, here it is for you to enjoy at home. I’ve even added a festive twist to give it some X-mas Factor!
Steven’s petit pot au chocolate
(Because this recipe is so rich I often serve it in little espresso cups)
Ingredients (makes approx 8-10 small pots)
• 4 bars (125-150g) of dark chocolate
• 750ml of thick cream
• 4 egg yolks
• 4 heaped dessertspoons of white sugar
• 4 dessertspoons of Amaretto or Tia Maria
Heat the cream but do not boil it.
Break the chocolate into bite-sized pieces and melt either on a low heat in the microwave or over a small pan of boiling water.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until smooth and creamy.
Gently pour in the melted chocolate, whisking as you do this.
Now gradually pour in the heated cream, continuing to whisk until it’s light and airy and the colour of milk chocolate.
Finally stir in the Amaretto or Tia Maria.
Pour the mix into small pots or espresso cups and allow to sit in the fridge for at least two hours before serving.
For Christmas I buy cooked chestnuts and caramelise with a little sugar in a small pan over heat, watching and stirring all the time until glazed and sticky but not burnt!
Top the pots with the chestnuts, drizzle with a little Amaretto on top of each pot and serve.