Go over to the dark side
I don't usually feature desserts in this column, as they are far from being 'slim pickings'. However, it's been known for some time that chocolate is actually very good for you -- studies have found that a substance in cocoa helps the body process nitric oxide, a compound critical for healthy blood flow and blood pressure -- and the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you.
Therefore, I have no qualms about recommending this really excellent dessert from Rachel Allen's latest cookbook, Rachel's Food for Living, published to coincide with her engaging new television series.
Chocolate and Rosemary Mousse with Rosemary Shortbread
For the Chocolate and Rosemary Mousse
100g (4oz) good-quality dark chocolate
100ml (3.4fl oz) single cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 eggs, separated
For the Rosemary Shortbread
300g (11oz) butter, at room temperature
150g caster sugar, plus 2 teaspoons for the topping (optional)
250g (9oz) flour
75g (3oz) rice flour (available at health food shops)
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
First make the mousse: Chop the chocolate finely, put the cream and rosemary into a medium-sized saucepan and heat up to the boil.
Turn off the heat and leave to infuse for five minutes. Then strain into a bowl, discard the rosemary and rinse out the pan.
Place the cream back in the cleaned saucepan and bring back up to the boil, add the chocolate to the cream. Whisk in the egg yolks.
Whisk the egg whites in a separate medium-sized bowl until just stiff. Stir a quarter of the egg whites into the cream and chocolate mixture and then gently fold in the rest using a metal spoon, being careful not to knock out all the air. Put into little bowls and leave for an hour or two in the fridge to set.
To make the shortbread, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas mark 4. Cream the butter in a large bowl until pale yellow and light.
Add the sugar, and continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy. Add both flours, the salt and the rosemary, and mix until thoroughly combined.
The dough will be somewhat soft. Refrigerate it for a few minutes if necessary, so that it is firm enough to roll.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface to form a rectangle about 5mm thick. Cut the dough into 4 x 8cm rectangles, or any other shape you like, and place them about 1cm apart on two baking trays.
Sprinkle with a little sugar if desired, and bake in the centre of the oven for 12--16 minutes, until the edges are gold.
Remove from the oven, and transfer to wire racks to cool. Serve with biscuits on the side.
Rachel's Food for Living, by Rachel Allen, is published by Collins.