If Sunday afternoon had been a Grimm’s adventure this is what would have happened: A cunning sorceress (me) would have seduced a tall, dark-haired (read grey) and gullible man (my husband) into gathering some delicious fruits and nuts and bringing them to her house in the forest. She would have asked him to crack open all the nuts and almonds and in return she would promise to share with him the sinfully good chocolate mendiants she was planning to make. When the job was done and while melting the chocolate she would put on her best smile and offer the man a beautiful country bread tartine with melted raclette cheese, walnuts … and black radishes. The man would gayfully accept, never taking his eye of the chocolate pot on the stove. “What a treat” he would think, to be invited for this lovely meal and how he was looking forward to the irresistible mendiants – the whole forest was talking about them. Little would he know that black radishes can make the strongest men fall asleep and as soon as he had finished the bread with a bit of wine, he was off to dreamland. Then the devilishly cute and mischievous children of the sorceress would appear from the woodworks, help their mother make the mendiants and together they would feast on every last crumb of chocolates and sweets. The man would awake in the forest, feeling lost yet somewhat satisfied for it was a very good tartine. Then he would remember the mendiants he had been coveting and feel a little sad not having had any. But because we don’t want our tale to be too dark, and because this is rather nice sorceress, he would feel a little something in his coat pocket, two mendiants, one with fruits and nuts, the other with coconut flakes and pomegranates. He would feel a little cheated but he would have a big smile on his face.
My son Hudson and I were recently at the market. As usual we visited the stall of our good friends, the Aubert’s, my favorite organic farmers in Médoc. There was so much to choose from, gone are the tomatoes and plums but instead we have roots and radishes, turnips, parsnips and beets. A fellow client joined me in admiring the black radishes. “Aren’t they mysterious” I said. “Well, I suppose” he said “but I buy them because they make me go to sleep”. “I don’t like drugs and medicine so I use herbs instead. Black radishes are my drug of choice”. Afterwards he assured me he wasn’t joking, black radishes really make you sleep. Hudsons’s eyes and ears were on fire. He was completely enchanted by this. Over the weekend I caught him looking at the radishes with respect and admiration. He picked them up carefully, observed them, even sniffed them a little. This sleeping theory had to be tested, just not on him!
On Sunday I woke with an idea in my head. Mendiants! They’re such a French classic and my treat of choice when the weather gets colder. They are such an ideal mix of irresistible sweetness yet filled with goodness. My husband was kind enough to fetch me some fruits and nuts (and yes he did open them too as did the man in the adventure). It all looked so beautiful, like gems on the working table of a master jeweller, little raisin rubies, pearls of almonds, all of them ready to be inserted into a little masterpiece.
It was then that Hudson came to me “Mom, I think we should give daddy some of the radishes and see if he falls asleep” he said with a big cheeky smile. “Then we can have all the chocolate mendiants ourselves”. We did test the theory but unlike in the “Grimm’s Adventure”, the man didn’t fall asleep. He just wanted another tartine and then another, until he was so full he couldn’t have any mendiants. I suppose some people like savory and some like sweet.
I have to confess, I like it all!
(makes approximately about 15 mendiants)
230 g/ 8 ounces good-quality black chocolate
A small mix of pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, dark & golden raisins, dried apricots, dried figs.
Break the chocolate in pieces and place in a heat-proof bowl. Melt the chocolate ‘au bain-marie’ – Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water on a low heat. Gently stir until the chocolate is glossy and melted. Take off the heat and set aside for a few minutes.
Prepare sheets of parchment paper on a flat surface or large tray.
Drop a small teaspoon of melted chocolate onto parchment paper, about 5 cm width. You want to create pretty little disks. It is preferable to drop about 6 to eight disks at a time, so you can have adequate time to place the toppings.
Decorate with almonds, apricots (or figs), raisins, and hazelnuts/ pistachios for classic mendiants. Then you can let your imagination run wild. I used pomegranate seeds and dried coconut for the other disks.
Leave the mendiants to set and harden for about 10 to fifteen minutes in a cool room. Gently lift them off the parchment paper and place on a serving plate.
Grilled Raclette tartines with black radish, walnuts and chives
This is a simple delicious snack, a mixture of wonderful flavours and very nutritious. I just love the combination of the rich melted cheese, the crunchy walnuts and radishes.
2 black radishes, sliced finely
2-3 slices of Raclette cheese (alternatively Cheddar or Gruyère) per slice of bread
A few sprigs of chives, finely chopped
A few walnut kernels, broken into pieces
A few slices of good quality rustic bread (pain de campagne, pain Poilâne)
Place 2-3 slices of Raclette cheese (depending on bread size) on top of sliced bread and place under the grill for 3 to 5 minutes, or until bubbly and golden. Place slices of black radish on top, sprinkle walnuts and chives. Serve immediately.