When a friend sent me some truffles that looked like mini Christmas puddings (second picture) a few years ago, I was intrigued but thought they were just another festive novelty. One bite later I was hooked. For these unusual truffles – filled with vine fruits, spices, brandy, treacle and nuts and decorated with edible leaves and berries – were memorably delicious.
Since then I’ve discovered that their creator, James Hutchins, started out by hand-making chocolates in his kitchen at home in Bristol where he began experimenting with his own innovative blends. Demand was such that he set up a full-time business, James Chocolates, and now sells to stores such as Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Fortnum & Mason. Happily it’s possible to order his quirky confections online too.
In my experience children (and adults) love his hand-painted, tropical chocolate fish (first picture, £6.75), spotty frogs (£3.95), and sardines (£5.95). And his chocolate discs, combined with aromatic essential oils, go down well as presents for friends. Flavours include dark chocolate orange and cardamom, dark chocolate and bitter ginger, Java coffee (milk chocolate) and lemon & pepper (white chocolate). These make perfect dinner-party gifts as they come in smart gift bags (£4.95 each). You just hope your host or hostess will be sufficiently generous to share them with you.