I’m just watching the first episode of the BBC’s new series Raymond Blanc’s Kitchen Secrets. It’s about chocolate. Great.
As usual with most BBC programmes featuring fine chocolate, my hopes of something informative are dashed. The BBC have a misinformed policy of not naming brands in their programmes. (Unless the company is larger enough to turn their products into ‘news’, so Cadburys Creme Eggs are ok to feature in the main evening news, apparently).
This policy is understandable if we’re talking Coke or Nike or Kellogs. It doesn’t make much sense for fine chocolate though. In fact, it completely blurs the message and in this case, the point of the programme.
Take the mousse, the first recipe. Only three ingredients are needed – chocolate, sugar, eggs. Blanc tells us “It is actually the quality of the chocolate that is very, very important … if you have a great chocolate, you have a great chocolate mousse.” I absolutely agree, the difference is enormous.
Does choice of ingredients matter?
Do we get to find out what the chocolate Blanc is using is? No, of course not. (Though the sharp-eyed will have spotted ‘Valrhona’ on some of the blocks – which most of the time are childishly turned upside-down.) Raymond Blanc is clearly a Valrhona man, but we’d never find that out without recognising the chocolate or being very canny with our pause buttons.
Do we get any clue what makes the quality of chocolate or how to choose it? No, of course not. Couldn’t we have at least been told it was French?
If we were being shown a matching wine to go with the mousse, we’d be told the region, vinyard, vintage. Here, nothing. We just get the extremely patronising “There are hundreds of varieties of chocolate on the market, and for Raymond, 100% dark chocolate is irresistible”. Is it? Any 100%? Paste chocolate, as Valrhona would call it, has to be pretty good to be eaten at 100%. Manjari can just about do it. That’s not true of many others.
I feel sorry for Raymond giving his staff Dairy Milk. If you can’t win people over with Manjari 64%, then you’re definitely doing something wrong. Or was that ‘reality’ editing?
We get to the Delice. “For this, Raymond’s using a dark chocolate with seventy per cent cocoa solids” we’re told in the sexiest drama-doc voice possible, as if this is somehow a sign of quality or is going to give viewers any idea of how to create this recipe. Percentage is not a sign of quality in chocolate. (For those who do want to know, the chocolate he used is almost certainly Valrhona Guanaja.)
Fine chocolate IS about the brands, and it’s about the artisans behind those brands. It’s not about random bulk packaged chocolate bought from supermarkets. The taste is completely different.
So a whole programme of chocolate recipes from a great chef, with no hint at all allowed about how to choose the prime ingredient.
We’re told all the time how easy these recipes are. Well, maybe, but they’re sure not going to taste very good if you’ve just popped down to Lidl and spent £0.89p on on 100gs of unbranded 70% ‘dark’ chocolate.
By the end we’re at William Curley’s Richmond shop – great of course to see Raymond and William together. Knowing William, I am pretty sure he will have talked about the quality of chocolate he uses. (William exclusively uses Amedei). Obviously this is edited out.
We have a nice time in William’s kitchen, but no mention at all of ingredient quality, no mention of freshness. These are key to the modern chocolatier, choice of chocolate is king. No clue at all why William is one of the UKs best. Doing it ‘by hand’ is apparently enough according this programme.
It was good to see Blanc in action, but all we got was chocolate fudge.
I would like to be reassured by the BBC that next time I watch a wine programme, they’ll be no mention of the names of any vinyards or companies, no matter how prestigious. Or perhaps we could have a more grown up policy about fine chocolate?