Food & drink: Cook Book of the Week

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The Independent Culture

by Sara Jayne-Stanes, Grub Street, pounds 20, 224pp

ASK YOUR average Briton to compare the relative merits of a chunky KitKat and a Cadbury's Flake, and he will be able to dissect their finer merits with the same ease as a Frenchman discussing wine.

These days British cocoa-heads are seeking out the very best chocolate brands like Valrhona or La Chocolaterie de l'Opera for the ultimate choccy-fix. Odd then, given our national addiction, that there are so few cookbooks dedicated to its pleasures.

Sara Jayne-Stanes, a professional truffle-maker among other things, has wisely stepped into the breach by writing Chocolate: the definitive guide. She states in her introduction that she wanted to try to place chocolate in its social, historical, religious and geographical context. An ambitious task.

Consequently, the first half of her book is dedicated to this end, while the second part is given over to chocolate recipes. There is no doubt that she has researched her subject extensively. Every page is packed with choccy facts, so much so that it is a little difficult to digest at times.

Nevertheless, it is worth persevering, as you will be able to learn everything from how to taste chocolate, to how the Mayans used cocoa in religious ceremonies. Yet, to my mind, the real reason for buying this book lies in its wonderful recipes. Anyone who loves chocolate, will be thoroughly spoilt by Sara Jayne-Stanes's selection. She includes everything from the simplest chocolate krispie cake to the complex, but delicious sounding, coffee, chocolate and almond gateau l'Opera.

You can master all sorts of useful messing about things, such as how to make rococo chocolate curls or temper chocolate.

She urges the cook to read her Chocolate Clinic From A-Z before they begin, but still holds the reader's hand throughout the recipes - just in case they don't. If you decide to cook from her book, you cannot fail to be adored by your chocophilic friends.

Sybil Kapoor