Wednesday, July 26, 2006

When Chocolate-Chili Sauce Finds Amore

It was a bottle of homemade chocolate-chili sauce, purchased at a neighborhood craft fair, which made finding genuine ice cream less of a “keep-your-eye-out” search and more of a “we-must-find-it” expedition. No way were we going to eat this sauce with the cotton-like substance that passes as ice cream in Zimbabwe. And no way were we going to let it lay idle on our shelves.

Our quest took us to the nearby shopping center, where, between Nando’s fast food chicken and a clothing store, there sat a long-ignored ice cream shop named Scoop. The rainbow-colored neon sign was uninviting, the peppermint-pink patio furniture chipped and cracked. From the outside you could only glimpse the funhouse mirrors lining the walls – and that glimpse was more than enough for me, a woman who ate a bowl of ice cream every day of her childhood, to give Scoop a wide berth.

But, with the arrival of the homemade chocolate-chili sauce, all preconceived notions were cast aside. As Mark and I stepped through the store’s threshold, not even the realization that, “yes, that is a fake sky painted on the ceiling, complete with ice-cream eating cherubs,” was enough to deter us.

As you have probably guessed, the ice cream was fantastic. In fact, it wasn’t even ice cream – it was gelato, hand-crafted on the premises by Ethiopian-Italians who had studied the art of gelato-making in Italy, no less. Who knew you could find homemade gelato in a shopping center in Harare? Call me crazy, but I was not in the know.

Gelato at Scoop has now joined the ranks of Beirut hummus at The Phoenician and haloumi pitas at Greek Sizzler as reasons why I’m happy that immigrants bring with them the food of their homelands, and that some of these immigrants have chosen to live in Zimbabwe.

With the help of Scoop’s vanilla gelato, the chocolate-chili sauce quickly disappeared. Luckily, however, my mother e-mailed me a recipe for Brigham’s hot fudge (and if you don’t know Brigham’s, you’re not originally from Massachusetts). With this reputable source as a starting point, I adapted the recipe to meet our chili requirements as well as the not insignificant constraints of this city’s ingredient availability (e.g., no baking chocolate!). It took much more spice than I thought for the sauce to pack the proper punch. The resulting mixture woos you with sweetness on the tip of your tongue, then surprises you with a nice, slow burn on the roof of your mouth.

Chocolate-Chili Sauce

1/3 cup butter
1 bar (100 grams) Cadbury Bournville dark chocolate
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
¼ cup cocoa
3 tablespoons sugar (or, to taste)
½ cup cream
Pinch of salt

Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler. Add the cayenne pepper, chili powder, cocoa and sugar, and stir until smooth. Pour in the cream and add a pinch of salt. Serve over ice cream, or, if you’re lucky, Scoop’s gelato.


kickpleat said...

Yum! That sauce does look tasty! I've made chocolate-chili cookies before and loved the flavour of the sweet and the heat. Definitely a nice accompaniment to ice cream or gelato!

Anonymous said...

Wow, still haven't made my mind up about the amount of chili/cayenne. It does have a kick, that's for sure. It is a very good sauce, no two ways about that. If you're shy of heat, perhaps cut both those in half?

I may have to let this, um, digest for a day or two and repost.

Thanks for the recipe!