Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
Reading Willie Harcourt-Cooze's book, Willie's Chocolate Factory Cookbook, you realise what a fascinating upbringing the man has had. His parents lived a very alternative lifestyle, who believed in self sufficiency well before it became the trendy thing to do. Much of his childhood was spent on a small island farm in a lake in the South-West Ireland, milling flour, smoking fish, making cheese and pickling fruit. Willie relates the hardships that the lifestyle brought, like having to cut peat when it was freezing, or having to take the cows to market by tieing them to the boat and making them swim behind as he and his father rowed across the lake. With this in mind, he probably didn't enjoy the same things that kids his age enjoyed and his family didn't have the resources to spend vacations in resorts or establishments that are as posh and extravagant as blackpool hotels.
When he grew up, Willie knew that he wanted to follow this lifestyle, but somewhere hotter. So, when he was shown a cacao farm on his travels in Venezuela, he knew he had found his calling, and managed to, finally, buy a cacao farm. This books relates the extrodianary story that follows Willie's journey to produce some of the best quality chocolate in the world.
This book is fascinating and informative, taking you well beyond the basic facts of chocolate and creates a greater apreciation of the amazing cacao bean and its properties. Willie uses his chocolate as a spice adding it like you would pepper. His bars are 100% cacao, so it is highly versatile ingredient suitable for both savoury and sweet dishes. Willie has always been passionate about cooking and in his recipes it shows.
His dishes allow you to experiment with cacao, from Cacao Salt & Pepper Squid and Lamb Tagine with Dates & Chocolate as some of the savoury dishes, and Cloud Forest Chocolate Cake and Quince Chocolate Cheese as sweet dishes. One of my favourite recipes is Willie's Venezuelan Breakfast, this includes black beans with cacao, eggs fired in chilli oil with a little grated cacao over the top and accompanied by avocado and tomato. What a fabulous way to start the day! the easy-to-follow recipes are accompanied by fascinating and informative narrative, mouth watering photographs and lots of tips.
Willie Harcourt-Cooze has suceeded in this book to bring his excitement for cacao to the reader. I have plenty of books about chocolate but this book stands on its own, as an autobiography and a great cookbook.