There are certain friendships — they’re very rare, in my experience — where, no matter how much time has passed between meetings, no matter how far away from each other you live, you can pick up right where you left off at every encounter. It’s as if you live next door to each other, really; or as if you speak on the phone every day. And yet you don’t. There is simply empathy, sympathy, understanding, which transcends the miles and the years. So it is with my friend T., who descends on our house every so often from Australia, where he lives now; we’ve known each other for nigh on 30 years (heavens!).
However, it must be admitted that when T. and I first met, he was different in one significant way (I, of course, remain completely unchanged): he was not, in those olden days, gluten or lactose-intolerant. But he is now. When he visits, my cooking skills get a pleasing ramp-up as I attempt to rise to the challenge of these boundaries. He can, however, take a pill of some sort to address the lactose issue, so, with that in mind and feeling freed of the no-milk-no-cream restriction, I had planned a delicious chocolate mousse to follow supper, adapted from Mary Berry’s recipe. And yet: the Fates — and some really great conversation — intervened to ensure that T. would be able to eat my mousse without resort to any drug… except the drug of a really, really fantastic mousse.
Mary’s “Wicked chocolate mousse” calls for:
225g plain chocolate “such as Bourneville”
a knob of butter
1 tbsp brandy “optional” — I agree
3 large eggs, separated
150 ml double cream, lightly whipped
But first of all — I’m sorry, Mary, but Bourneville? Really? I give up. We can do better than that. At the moment I’m pretty keen on Lidl’s J. D. Gross Amazonas 60% (Bourneville dark is only 36% cocoa, btw). (And yes, I know that link goes to the 70%; but if you can find the right link, hats off to you. Lidl: bless.)
Now you’ve got the right chocolate, break it up, and put in a bowl set over simmering water until it melts; add the butter, the salt and the espresso powder. Keep on a very low heat.
Stir in the egg yolks one at a time, and then take off the heat and allow to cool a little.
Now whip the egg whites. At this point you are supposed to fold in the lightly whipped cream to the whites, before folding the chocolate into the egg white/cream mixture. BUT! I got so carried away in my conversation with T. that I SIMPLY FORGOT TO ADD THE CREAM.
I only realised this when I looked at the amount in the bowl I’d just put in the fridge — it needs a few hours to set — and thought, hmm, that’s not very much for four people. And then I spotted the as-yet-even-unwhipped cream on my counter!
Well, let me tell you — this is one fantastic, cream-free mousse. As for the quantity, or lack of it: you don’t need very much — an espresso-cup-ful is plenty — because it’s so rich and dense. How much nicer, too, I thought, for the lactose-tolerant to dollop lovely spoonfuls of cream over their fine dark mousse, if they so choose; while the slightly-less tolerant (at least as far as comestibles are concerned; T.’s a frightfully tolerant fellow in other respects) can slather the mousse over a Mrs Crimble’s coconut macaroon?
So here’s to an engrossing chat with a darling pal — the legacy of our discussion will live on in my Mistaken Mousse, no matter how many miles of ocean lie between us.