Celebrity interview - Joanne Harris

Joanne Harris

Joanne Harris - Credit: Archant

Author Joanne Harris is best known for her best-selling novel Chocolat which was made into a Hollywood film starring Johnny Depp. Now she has turned her talents to a cook book using her favourite ingredient…

Can we tempt you with some spiced nipples of Venus? No? What about a couple of cheeky marbled mendicants then? Or a strip or two of Aztec gold?

You would have to have the willpower of a saint to refuse any of the tasty treats assembled by Yorkshire author Joanne Harris and food writer Fran Warde in their new creation, The Little Book of Chocolate.

Inspired by Joanne’s best-selling trilogy – Chocolat, The Lollipop Shoes and Peaches for Monsieur le Curé – the recipe collection celebrates the 15th anniversary of Chocolat’s first publication, taking inspiration from the main character Vianne Rocher’s decadent chocolate feasts.

“Chocolate has always held an exotic, rather mysterious charm. It has a long and resonant history, rich in folklore and stories,” said Joanne. “As a food, it’s incredibly versatile – it can be used in sweets or savouries; it can be melted; sculpted; powdered; grated; it enhances other flavours; works as well in drinks as in confectionary; plus, it melts at body temperature, which gives it a uniquely sensual quality on the tongue. It has brain-altering chemical properties that affect our serotonin levels, making us feel happier and more energized. And of course it tastes wonderful.”

Joanne, who was born in a Barnsley sweet shop, has concocted a delicious cornucopia of 50 cocoa-based delights with her co-author, including roulades, cakes, tarts, macaroons, ice cream, brioche, fudge and shortcake.

They’ve also given familiar favourites a tasty twist with their Chocolate Pudding Fleur de Sel, Chilli-Chocolate Pots, Petits Innocents and Grimms’ Cherry Cake.

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“Fran and I have worked together for a long time,” she said. “So we were able to just select some of our favourite chocolate recipes. I wanted to give them an international feel, to reflect some of the diverse history and folklore of chocolate, which is why some are French, some German, and some have a South American flavour.”

She admits to rarely following recipes herself, preferring instead to experiment in the kitchen. “As a result, my favourite recipes are the ones that really can’t go wrong,” she explained. “Besides, I find that a topping of fresh raspberries or a layer of peach jam on a less-than-perfectly-risen cake will hide a multitude of sins.”

Joanne met Fran about ten years ago and soon discovered they had a lot in common – mostly their love of food and writing. They first collaborated on The French Kitchen, a cookbook packed with accessible French recipes, compiled specifically to debunk the idea that Franco-food is too difficult, time-consuming and overly-reliant on hard-to-source ingredients.

“It did so well that we’ve stayed in touch ever since,” she said. “I write the text and usually provide most of the basic recipes. But I’m quite a careless cook; I don’t measure ingredients precisely, I change recipes to fit what I have in the house, and I needed someone to help me translate my experimental recipes into something that would work, time after time. Fran is very good at that; plus she’s great at styling food, presenting it and having it photographed in a way that tempts the tastebuds.”

The Little Book of Chocolat, fifty recipes celebrating the bestselling novel Chocolat, by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde is published by Doubleday at £12.99.

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