Today is Fête des Mères, or Mother’s Day, in France. Since my mum is French, we always celebrate French Mother’s Day rather than the Mother’s Day of whichever country we happen to live in, which inevitably falls on a different date. It does involve some serious organisation when it comes to Mother’s Day cards, but other than that, celebrating it on a different date doesn’t really affect proceedings much. The last four years, when I’ve been in St Andrews and my mum in Edinburgh, my mum has come up to see me for Fête des Mères, and we’ve either gone out for lunch or I’ve cooked for her. Actually, that’s one of the distinct advantages of celebrating Mother’s Day on a different date to of the country you live in – it’s usually much easier to book a table in your choice restaurant. This year though, my mum happens to be located on the other side of the world – a little far for a day trip – so I can’t give her all the hugs that she deserves and cook for her or take her out, which I really wish I could. Skype is awesome, but it has its limits.
My mum is the best mum I could ever wish for, and definitely a better mum than I deserve. She has always been there for me, always encouraged me, always supported me, no matter what. At the age of ten, I announced that I loved sharks and wanted to be a shark researcher. And haven’t changed my mind since. It can’t be easy when your only child’s dream career revolves around things with sharp teeth and a bad reputation for eating people (no matter how many times said child tells you that the reputation is unjust). And yet, my mum has always encouraged me to follow my dreams. Even though she jokingly tried to convince me for several years that studying sardines would be far more interesting, I always knew that she would support me, whatever I chose to do with my life. I think that’s one of the greatest gifts you can give a child – unending support in whatever they choose to do. When I announced that I was thinking of applying for Masters in NZ and Australia, despite the prospect of me ‘abandoning’ her and disappearing off to the other side of the world, she still fully encouraged me. And when I was offered a place, she helped me with all the packing whilst I was busy feeling totally overwhelmed and not getting anywhere with it. Truly the best mum ever, and I can never thank her enough.
My mum adores chocolate, so if I was cooking for her today, I’d make a chocolatey dessert – last year I made some deliciously dainty chocolate and hazelnut mousse in chocolate cups, which she adored. If she was coming for lunch this year, I’d have made her these chocolate and chestnut fondants – they’re super rich and chocolatey, which she would love, but I think the chestnut flavour that comes through is what makes them truly special. On top of that, they look rather impressive, but are actually really simple to put together (my favourite kind of recipe). I wish I could serve these up to my mum today, but I don’t think they’d survive very well in the post, so I’m afraid, Maman, that if you’d like some, you’ll have to make them yourself… Or wait until you visit me. DIY Mother’s Day dessert isn’t much in thanks for everything that my mum does and has done for me. My mum might be the best mother ever, but I’m really not the best daughter.
Bonne Fête des Mères, Maman – merci pour tout et je t’aime de tout mon cœur!
Chocolate & chestnut fondants
Slightly adapted from Cuisine, March 2012
I used non-sweetened chestnut purée. If you’re not sure what to do with the leftover chestnut purée, I think you can just warm it up with a little milk or cream, some sugar and a little bit of vanilla and whisk together to make a sweetened version, then serve it for dessert with a little bit of cream (I’ve yet to try sweetening the purée though). Using sweetened chestnut purée may make the fondants a little too sickly sweet. This recipe splits really well, so if you only want to make two or three, the recipe will still work with smaller quantities. The fondants are very rich and chocolatey, so the crème fraîche cuts through very well – I think that serving them with whipped cream would be too sweet.
200g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
200g unsalted butter, plus extra for the ramekins
6 egg yolks
200g caster sugar, plus extra for the ramekins
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g chestnut purée
50g all-purpose flour
Crème fraîche, to serve
Cocoa powder, to serve
1. Liberally butter six ramekins (mine are 200ml in capacity) and sprinkle the inside with caster sugar. Set the ramekins out on a baking tray. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
2. Break or chop the chocolate into pieces and place in a heat-proof bowl, along with the cubed butter. Melt together over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally (make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl). Set aside and allow to cool slightly.
3. Add the egg yolks to the chocolate mixture and whisk together, followed by the sugar and vanilla extract. Whisk together until smooth.
4. Remove about 150ml (⅔ cup) of the mixture to a separate bowl. Add the chestnut purée to this and whisk together (don’t worry if it’s not entirely smooth). Fold the chestnut mixture and the flour into the original chocolate mixture.
5. Split the chocolate mixture evenly between the six ramekins and bake for 10-15 mins (I took mine out at 10 mins and they were very slightly under-done). The middle should still be a little wobbly or soft, but the edges of the top should be set. Remove from the oven and rest in the ramekins for 3-4 mins. Turn the the fondants out onto individual plates (you may need to run a knife around the edge of the ramekins) and serve immediately, accompanied by crème fraîche and dusted with cocoa powder.