I first came across Aneesh Popat (aka “The Chocolatier”) at London’s Southbank Chocolate Festival a couple of years ago. At that time, he was just starting out and had some quite unique flavours – including his famous “baked bean” chocolate. I have to confess, that wasn’t really my thing, but I was impressed with his other flavours.
What sets Aneesh part though is his distinctive style of water ganache based chocolates. Where most chocolate ganaches are made with cream, Aneesh uses water. That’s more difficult to do because chocolate and water don’t naturally mix well, but when done properly you end up with a chocolate that puts flavour front and centre. With no cream, butter or preservatives to get in the way, you get to taste more of the natural flavours in the chocolate.
I caught up with Aneesh at the BBC Good Food Show a couple of weeks ago and he gave me a few chocolates to try. They’re all quite small, round and distinctively finished with flecks of colour. As you can see, they are all quite similar looking and I made the mistake of not writing down the chocolates I was given. But with a bit of detective work, I think I’ve managed to identify them!
Here’s some of the stand-outs from my selection.
This is an interesting take on the salted caramel that has the texture of a ganache but the flavour of a caramel. It’s sweet, yet subtle and light. Very tempting.
Clementine & Clove
A deliciously warming chocolate that’s Christmassy and citrussy with just the right amount of clove.
Cinnamon & Vanilla
Another warming ganache, this time in a white chocolate shell. The soft, smooth centre has a great flavour balance. Again, it’s not too sweet, not too spicy.
Beetroot & Red Wine Vinegar
As the name suggests, this one is a bit unusual and packs a bit of a punch. It’s tangy, intense, and works really rather well. Certainly not one for those who love subtle flavours, but I enjoyed it!
Chilli & Lime
This chocolate looks innocuous, and when you pop it in to your mouth, the first flavour is a rather citrus but pleasant citrus note. Then the chilli hits you, and it’s pretty intense – certainly one of the strongest chilli chocolates I’ve had lately. A little too much for me, but proves the theory that Aneesh isn’t one to do things by halves.
Overall, I really like Aneesh’s chocolates. He’s not shy with flavour, and that does mean that they won’t all to be everyone’s taste, but I think that’s a good thing. I love the texture of the ganaches – they’re soft and light, and the size of the chocolates is just right.