"Hello," says the beautiful lady. "What's your name?"
"Where do you live, Tony?"
"What's in that pie?"
"Do you like chocolatl?"
"As it happens, I've got more chocolatl than I can drink myself. Will you come and help me drink it?"
Northern Lights, Philip Pullman
Regular readers will perhaps remember that I have gone on (and on) about my love for Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy in previous posts. It's one of my very favourites, a series that I dip in to regularly - often on long winter evenings in the bath. It's a world I know intimately, one that continues to delight. Perhaps even more so now that I am an adult, but certainly one I loved as a child too. Before I leave London in the next couple of months, I have put time aside to watch the National Theatre's production of His Dark Materials at their archive; something that's been on my London to-do list for years.
I was recently having dinner with a friend when I happened to mention that hot chocolate always makes me think of Mrs Coulter. She looked at me blankly and I realised, with a jolt, that she hadn't yet read the books. She had them all ahead of her. I was instantly jealous.
As we wandered back to my flat for a cup of tea, I launched into an impassioned introduction. The Gyptians. Iorek. The Mulefa. Dæmons. And Will. I love Will. Alongside The Secret Garden's Dickon, he was my dream husband when I was 12 (not much has changed, to be completely honest - I imagine they both grew up to be brilliant people).
By the time we reached my front door, I was dreaming about making the perfect hot chocolate - one that was dark, rich, sweet and heavily spiced. I spent the next week playing around with recipes, enjoying the warmth that the thimblefuls of differently spiced hot chocolate provided. The recipe below is a new favourite. The perfect weapon for Mrs Coulter - or, if you have slightly less sinister plans, dessert for you and a friend.
1 bay leaf
4 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
Pinch sea salt
1tsp golden caster sugar
75g very dark chocolate (I used 90%)
Mortar and pestle (or heavy knife)
1. Pour the milk and cream into the saucepan. Bash the cardamom pods to release the seeds. Add the pods and seeds to the milk, along with the cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Place over a low heat.
2. Bring the milk almost to the boil. Allow to sit for a minute to cool a little. Break the chocolate into pieces and add to the milk. Allow the heat of the milk to melt the chocolate, not stirring until it has cooled for ten minutes. Whisk vigorously, then add the salt and sugar. Put back over a very low heat until hot. Serve immediately.
ps. Lindt UK very generously sent me a box of chocolate blocks (including some terrifically delicious dark ones - my favourite). They're perfect here.