French menus are incredibly predictable. French restaurants always serve the same thing, especially at lunch, for le menu prix fixe. This consists of crudités to start, or perhaps a herring or carrottes rapées. For main, there will be some kind of meat with fish on Fridays. That comes with pommes frites or pommes à la vapeur and a green salad.
For dessert there is a limited choice: a crème caramel, a yoghurt or fromage frais, a piece of fruit, a couple of boules of ice cream or a mousse au chocolat.
(Of course if you are vegetarian you can either have an omelette or a salad. The salad will inevitably come with lardons which the waiter won’t tell you about as they don’t consider ham or bacon to be meat. If you go for the vegetarian salad, it will have bean sprouts on it. Sometimes from a tin.)
When I lived in Paris, I did an unofficial ‘survey’ of all the chocolate mousses in every restaurant I went to. It’s common in brasseries, in neighbourhood restaurants and even in posh restos.
This is such a simple classic recipe that anyone could make it. A good chocolate mousse should be dense and intensely chocolatey. It’s a good Valentine’s Day pud.
I served it at my first supper club ten years ago. I served it again last Saturday. People loved it. You can’t go wrong.
Orange Chocolate Mousse
- 150 g orange chocolate, broken up
- 100 g physalis fruit
- 5 eggs, yolks and whites separated
- swig Cointreau
- Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (don’t let the bottom touch the water). Or melt in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time, until melted
- Take the physalis and pull back the paper leaves, twisting them behind the fruit. Dip the tip of one end of the fruit into the melted chocolate. Leave to dry on a silicone mat or baking parchment.
- Add the egg yolks, one by one, into the remaining melted chocolate and mix. Add the Cointreau.
- Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until you have soft peaks. Fold carefully into the melted chocolate mixture.
- Pour into ramekins and leave to set in the fridge. Serve with the choc dipped physalis.