At my parents’ house, when I was growing up, everybody had their task in the kitchen, one that was playing to their strength. My mom would make the soup because she can make a soup out of anything and it is always good. My dad would usually make the meat component of the meal. He is fearless in the kitchen and dreams up and executes the most evolved dishes, deboning a chicken to make a roulade stuffed with a herbed omelet and what not. I would usually be in charge of salad and dessert.
My sister – well, she would carefully avoid the kitchen until the meal was ready so as not to be put to work. And then she would eat a lot. Now, like then, she hates to cook and loves to eat, her super model build belying her fondness of food.
When my parents visited two weeks ago, we easily slipped into our old routine, everybody taking on the task they are best at.
On Wednesday we invited my in-laws over for dinner (we are pretty lucky and everybody in the family gets along well, despite the language barrier). My father made a complicated pork roulade because for once, vegetarians were in the minority. Since the main dish was pretty heavy, I decided the dessert had to be relatively light and include fruit, but it also had to hold its own: chocolate pudding with strawberries marinated in red wine fit the bill. The pudding is seriously chocolatey: there’s both cocoa powder and melted dark chocolate. But it’s not heavy because it’s just thickened with cornstarch – no cream or eggs.
And the strawberries – for one, they look pretty, the wine syrup giving them a slightly translucent quality. The fruit is not really cooked, just added to the warm syrup and left to macerate. They are good on their own, but perfect with the chocolate pudding.
Dark chocolate pudding with strawberries in red wine syrup
Adapted from Deborah Madison:Seasonal Fruit Desserts: From Orchard, Farm, and Market
Serves 4 to 6
500 ml (2 cups) milk
30 g (1 ounce) dark chocolate (60% to 70% cacao), coarsely chopped
60 g (½ cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
100 g (½ cup) organic sugar
¼ tsp salt
30 g (¼ cup) cornstarch dissolved in 60 ml (¼ cup) milk or water
Warm half the milk together with the chocolate in a heavy-bottomed pan over low heat. Combine the cocoa, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Stir in 80 ml (1/3 cup) water to make a smooth paste and add the paste to the warm milk. Mix the dissolved cornstarch into the remaing milk and add it to the pan.
Raise the heat to medium and cook the mixture until it thickens, stirring constantly. Lower the heat a bit and cook a few minutes more.
Pour the pudding into ramekins, small bowls or heat proof glasses. Serve topped with the strawberries or have the strawberries on the side.
Strawberries in red wine syrup
250 ml (1cup) red wine*
70 g to 100 g (1/3 cup to ½ cup) organic sugar
1/8 tsp peppercorns, lightly crushed
300 g (1 heaping pint or about 2 ½ cups) strawberries
Put the wine together with the sugar and peppercorns into a small saucepan. Bring to boil and let simmer until small bubbles form around the edge of the pan – this should take about 15 minutes. Do not boil too long or the syrup will become too thick.
Meanwhile wash and hull the strawberries. Set them on a clean dishtowel to soak up excess moisture. Slice small strawberries in half and cut bigger ones into quarters or eighths. When the syrup is ready, pour it through a strainer over the strawberries. Cover and let sit for at least an hour, turning the berries occasionally with a spatula. Keep any leftover strawberries in the fridge. They will loose their electric shade of red after about six hours but will still be delicious to eat.
*Note on the wine: Deborah Madison recommends Beaujolais, Valpolicella or Pinot Noir but helpfully says that it does not matter that much since the strawberries will mellow the wine anyway. I just used the wine my parents were drinking, not worrying about its origins.