Food, for me, is about so much more than something we need to consume to stay alive. It has the power to evoke memory: to immediately transport us back to a particular time or place. Nutella, for example, instantly takes me back to childhood summers spent in France. My friend and I would secretly stuff ourselves with as much fresh baguette smothered with far too much Nutella as we could before our parents caught us.
So Nutella was the inspiration for this mousse. As any Nutella addict will tell you, chocolate and hazelnuts make a good team. I have made many a chocolate mousse in my time, but never tried adding hazelnuts. It makes sense: the earthy sweetness of the roasted hazelnuts complements the dark bitterness of the chocolate. And the occasional crunch from the nuts alongside the velvety smoothness of the mousse is a winner.
I made this to serve at a dinner party for my birthday. It’s ideal for this, as it can be made the day before and left in the fridge to firm up – just remember to take it out of the fridge a little before serving, so that it’s not too cold. We had a mushroom and pesto lasagne, followed by rather ridiculously large helpings of the mousse. We had such a lovely time, so from now on the taste of chocolate mousse will instantly bring me back to that evening.
Serves 6, generously
250g dark chocolate
300ml double cream
80g whole hazelnuts
50g dark chocolate for drizzling over the top (optional)
First, prepare the nuts. Preheat the oven to 180C and place the nuts on a baking tray. Roast for 5 minutes, until the skins start to flake off. Take them out of the oven, and, using a clean tea towel, rub the papery skins off. Crush the nuts roughly in a pestle and mortar, or chop them with a knife, leaving some whole.
Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Separate the eggs, and whisk the whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Whisk the cream into soft peaks. When the chocolate has melted, mix the egg yolks into the chocolate mixture. It’ll seize up and go stiff, but it doesn’t matter. Whisk in the whipped cream until smooth, then stir in about half of the crushed hazelnuts, reserving the rest for the top. Gently fold in the egg whites, taking care not to knock too much air out of the mousse. Spoon into a bowl, then sprinkle over the remaining hazelnuts. Melt the chocolate and drizzle that over too.
Leave in the fridge to set for at least 2 hours, or overnight.