My inspiration for this post came from my recent visit to the Hillside Herb Nursery in McLaren Vale, South Australia. I had heard that this nursery is located on 4 acres of land and specialises in herbs and succulents. I was curious to learn more about herbs that I could cook with- plus I was getting a little bored with just the standard herbs sold in supermarkets. Certainly there must be more than one kind of mint I could cook with!
Yes, this visit to the herb nursery should be well-worth the 40-minute drive from my home in Brighton, South Australia.
I initially missed the turn-off to the nursery, then backtracked and drove up the small hill where I was welcomed by their sign:
This nursery has been going for 30 years so it offers just about every herb under the sun (or under the shade cloth)!
Which herb should I look at first? The French Lavender plant struck my eye with its colourful flowers:
But it was the mint section where I spent most of my time. Did you know there are at least 20 kinds of mint herbs? The Hillside Nursery has 8 different kinds, but my favourite one was the Chocolate Mint. I tore off one of the leaves, had a taste and immediately fell in love! There is the refreshing taste of mint with a subdued undercurrent of chocolate flavour – I felt like I wanted to eat the entire bush (but decided not to)!
There are so many uses for Chocolate Mint (and other kinds of mint, as well). The simplest way to enjoy the fresh flavour of chocolate mint is to crush it and steep it in a cup of hot water – no need to add sugar. Or, you can dry the leaves and add them to cakes, brownies, ice cream and even cocktails.
But for me, I decided to make Chocolate Mint Leaves using the imprint from a ‘standard’ mint leaf to decorate some vanilla ice cream. I also used mint to make some Mint-infused Chocolate Ganache, which added a delicious undertone to the chocolate sauce. This is a very easy recipe, but your guests will think you spent hours preparing it in the kitchen!
First, melt some dark chocolate, then use a small brush to ‘paint’ a layer of chocolate on the underside of the mint leaf. Then place the leaves over the handle of a wooden spoon with chocolate side facing up (this helps to retain the shape of the leaves) and place in the fridge for several minutes to harden. Finally, gently peel the mint leaf away from the chocolate – I found it easiest to start from the ‘pointy’ part of the leaf and peel toward the stem.
Step 2: Make the Mint-infused Chocolate Ganache
Heat 100 ml of thickened cream with 1 tbsp. butter in a saucepan until the butter melts. Add 10 – 12 fresh mint leaves (not dried) and several stems to the mixture. Simmer for about 10 minutes then remove from heat and let stand for another 10 – 15 minutes until the mint flavour infuses into the ingredients. Strain the mint leaves and stems from the cream.
Step 3: Combine the cream with the melted chocolate
Next, melt 200 grams of dark chocolate and combine with the cream mixture, stirring until smooth. Spoon the ganache over the ice cream and decorate with several chocolate mint leaves interspersed with real mint leaves.
- Vanilla Ice Cream to serve 4
- Dark chocolate, melted (handful)
- 100 ml thickened cream
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 10 - 12 fresh mint leaves and several stems
- 200 grams (1.5 cups) dark chocolate
- Melt the chocolate by placing a handful of it in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or microwave on medium setting for 1 minute).
- Spread some melted chocolate on the underside of a mint leaf, using a small paint brush. Make sure the leaf is thoroughly covered with chocolate. Place a wooden spoon on a parchment lined baking tray. Place each chocolate-covered leaf over the handle of the wooden spoon (chocolate side facing up) to help hold its shape. Cool in fridge for 5 minutes to harden.
- Remove tray from fridge and gently peel the mint leaf away from the chocolate layer, starting from the 'pointy side' of the leaf. Be careful not to handle the chocolate too much or it will start to melt. Place the chocolate leaves in the fridge while preparing the ganache.
- Combine the thickened cream with the butter; heat over medium heat until the butter melts. Add the mint leaves and several stems to the ingredients and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and let stand for another 10 - 15 minutes until the mint flavour fully infuses into the cream. Strain the mint leaves and stems from the cream.
- Melt the 200 grams chocolate, then stir into the cream mixture until smooth.
- To serve, add vanilla ice cream to individual serving bowls. Spread some chocolate sauce on top and decorate with several chocolate mint leaves, interspersed with several fresh mint leaves.
- For this recipe, I used 'standard' mint leaves that you can purchase from a supermarket. However, you could use other types of mint as well, i.e. peppermint or chocolate mint.