Both/And not Either/Or… Black Olive Chocolate Truffles

This week­end a bril­liant new exhib­i­tion opened at the Vic­toria and Albert Museum in Lon­don — Post­mod­ern­ism: Style and Sub­ver­sion 1970–1990. I’ve writ­ten before about the chal­lenges of teach­ing Eng­lish lit­er­at­ure under­gradu­ates about post­mod­ern­ism. Ask them what it is and they’re more likely to say what it isn’t. The V and A’s entran­cing exhib­i­tion makes it all clear.

The post­mod­ern archi­tect Robert Ven­turi, designer of the Sains­bury wing at London’s National Gal­lery, clev­erly cap­tured his concept of post­mod­ern­ism, describ­ing it as ‘both, and’ rather than bor­ing old ‘either, or’. As far as I’m con­cerned, that’s a notion to glory in. Instead of choos­ing one or the other, you com­bine both.

The per­fect post­mod­ern edible ver­sion of ‘both, and’ has to be black olive and chocol­ate truffles. I’ve just been invited by Olives from Spain to watch the Span­ish chef Omar Allib­hoy cook tapas dishes with olives. Omar trained with Fer­ran Adria at elBulli, so is most def­in­itely a ‘both, and’ kind of cook. I par­tic­u­larly loved his flash fried sea bass with sherry, gar­lic, sweet red pep­pers, black olives and caper ber­ries. But the post­mod­ern stars of the even­ing were his black olive and chocol­ate truffles. Build­ing on the idea that salt enhances car­a­mel, he figured that the salty fla­vour of olives could only make chocol­ate bet­ter. Here is his recipe, which I found made around 35 truffles:

BLACK OLIVE CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

  • 150g pit­ted black olives
  • 150g double cream
  • 220g best qual­ity chocol­ate — 70% cocoa solids
  • 40 grams but­ter, cut into small pieces
  • Finely grated zest of one orange
  • Cocoa powder for dusting

Pro­cess the drained black olives to a rough paste. Heat the double cream over a low heat and just before it reaches boil­ing point, remove from the heat. Break up the chocol­ate and add to the cream. When the chocol­ate has melted, add the black olives, but­ter and zest and stir to com­bine thor­oughly. Place the bowl in the fridge for around 6 or 7 hours. When the mix­ture is firm, scoop out small quant­it­ies with a dessert spoon and roll in your hands to make truffles. Roll the truffles in a bowl of cocoa powder.

The fin­ished truffles are creamy, del­ic­ately salty and rather deli­cious. But in case you’re think­ing that a black olive chocol­ate truffle is a step too far — and that’s cer­tainly the view of my chil­dren who refused point-blank to try them — think of them this way. The olives not only make the truffles cheaper to make, they also make them health­ier to eat. Now if that isn’t the per­fect embod­i­ment of ‘both, and’, I don’t know what is. And if the French chocolatier-patissier Pierre Herme can make macar­ons fla­voured with foie gras as well as a grapefruit and was­abi ver­sion, how can any­one recoil in panic from olives and chocolate?