Like ravenous sharks onto the scent of blood, it's our instinct that leads us down a leafy garden path towards a rich, balmy aroma. Pulses race as the door opens to release a wave of the exotic smell we all hold dear. We've been waiting for this moment for weeks: a workshop in Raw Chocolate Alchemy led by Sarmado Sibley.
Sarmado has worked all over the world with the likes of A-List celebs and bigshots in the food industry but today, he cooks for me and some girl friends as we learn how to tame what the Aztecs so accurately named, "Food of the Gods". We are not in Barcelona, famous for its chocolate, nor Belgium, in fact, these workshops are happening in our backyards up and down the country. Sarmado, a fountain of knowledge on the raw food phenomenon, is quite possibly the most (gastronomically) thrilling thing that has ever happened to the leafy town of Forest Row.
The Alchemy of Raw Chocolate Preparation
They call it "alchemy" because getting the formula correct is key, a heavy hand on the cacao nibs or a tight-fisted drop of honey could create a cake far too bitter for consumption. This leads many to dismiss it as just another tasteless new-age healthfood. But healthy for you it is! With the highest known antioxidants to man, raw chocolate comes free of the guilt, headache and nausea that you usually get from eating too much high-fat, sugar-laden Cadbury's and the like.
I've recently been smothering raw chocolate over my face instead of conventional beauty products for permaculture magazine (click here to see the results). There are new things being discovered about it in the lab all the time making it one of the most exciting ingredients to work with and the beauty industry hasn't cottoned on yet. I did rather enjoy the pampering side of things but naturally, I would much rather be putting it in my mouth.
Dairy-free, sugar free, gluten-free...
Sarmado starts us off with a milkshake of almond milk, raw chocolate, banana and honey and we suck it up through straws while watching him make the basic formula for a bar of chocolate. No dairy is used in these recipes, yet it still manages to hold the same melting, creamy consistency. This is because antioxidant-rich cacao butter is used rather than replaced with names that no-one understand on the back of ingredients labels. Coconut cream also softens the chocolate, the more you add, the gooier it becomes.
Sarmado tells us that coconuts and mother's milk are the only two foods in the world that contain the hugely beneficial nutrient, lauric acid. I'm beginning to feel a bit super-human, Belinda is giggling uncontrollably, Sylvy has gone bright red and everybody in the room, including our sceptical male participants have now got huge smiles on their faces. Our milkshake glasses are empty.
Chocolate without the sugar binge blues!
Four hours pass by very quickly, probably because there wasn't a moment where we weren't being fed like royalty. None of us feel heavy or groggy, in fact, quite the opposite, completely invigorated and ecstatic. We learned how to make fudge with nut butter, flavour and colour the chocolates with other raw ingredients like raspberry and spirulina and we tapped into what seemed like endless wisdom from Sarmado on the subject of raw food.
Was any of it too bitter? Absolutely not, and although not a gram of sugar had been measured out, there was a gentle sweet honey high in every mouthful without the epic low that usually comes after a sugar binge.
Half way through, he gave us slices of raw chocolate "cheese cake" to take home, but perhaps not wanting to share it with anyone else, or simply not being able to control ourselves, no one has managed to leave it intact. The cake melts the moment it feels skin temperature, a dark creamy mixture dissolves across tongues like a river that flows straight to your heart. Moods are lifted into a soft lilt and it's almost possible to taste the aroma of ancient magic. This is alchemy at its finest.
Make Your Own Raw Chocolate Tart
For the tart crust
3/4 Cup Cacao Powder
3/4 Cup Almond Flour
1/2 A cup Maple Syrup
1/4 Cup Coconut butter
Pinch of Himalayan Sea Salt
Mix the almond flour and cacao powder together in a bowl.
We want the coconut butter to stay a low temperature so it will still be "raw" so melt it in a bain-marie that has been taken off the heat.
Stir the coconut butter into the rest of the mixture along with the maple syrup.
Press the mixture into an eight inch lined cake tin and then leave to set in the freezer for the next 10 minutes while you make the other half of the tart.
For the filling
2 and 1/4 Cups Cacao Powder
1 and 1/4 Cups Maple Syrup
1 Cup Coconut Butter
In a food processor, blend all these ingredients together until you have a smooth truffle consistency.
Pour onto the base and allow to set in the freezer for 1-2 hours.
Just before slicing, dip your knife in boiling water, it will then glide through the tart effortlessly.
You can also find out more about Sarmado at RawLoveLife.com