Posts Tagged With: cacao

Kickin’ Kale and Cacao Smoothie with Blueberries

Kickin' Kale and Cacao Smoothie

Kickin’ Kale and Cacao Smoothie

This is quite a morning wake up call packed with super goodness and looks like glorious green mud (in the best possible way). Smoothies are just a perfect way of getting a health buzz in the morning, this kickin’ kale smoothie contains many of our favourite things; berries, flax, kale and of course chocolate.

CACAOTHE BIG DEAL!

We add cacao to many daily staples like cereal, bread, porridge, stews (great in a Mexican style bean stew). It is just delicious and brings so many nutritional benefits to the party. It’s full of anti-oxidants, protein, fibre, minerals, good fats, vitamin B’s. Its wonderfully powerful stuff!!

Raw cacao helps the heart and also contains a chemical that makes you happy, known as the ‘bliss molecule’ and is a mild aphrodisiac thanks to a compound that releases endorphins in our bodies.  It also releases serotonin in the brain (making us doubly happy, bordering on choco infused euphoria).  Cacao keeps us younger, a youthful bean, and helps us burn fat, raising enegry levels and lowering blood pressure.  This list of shining health benefits goes on and on…..

So what exactly is is?  Cacao is basically pure chocolate, just the cocoa bean, as opposed to most chocolate that has added sugar, milk and other things.  Raw cacao is unprocessed and naturally fermented, meaning it’s just plain amazing.  Most chocolate (cocoa beans) is roasted and loses so much of its health giving properties.

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Now this is what I’m talking about:)

Cacao nibs, which we sprinkle onto this smoothie, are just cocoa beans chopped up.  They are a little bitter but we love snacking on them as a treat, like a superfood version of chocolate chips.

After fasting whilst snoozing through the night, our bodies are crying out for nourishment, high-grade fuel, a shining re-boot. Also, if you’ve had one to many sherry’s the night before, this is a world class reviver and bleary eye eradicator.  Give your bod, mind and tastebuds a treat with some kickin’ kale this am. GO GREEN!

Love it with crunchy cacao nibs to finish things off with a superfood stylee flourish

Love it with crunchy cacao nibs to finish things off.  Superfood stylee flourish

Recipe Notes

If you like a sweeter smoothie, stick another banana in our drizzle in maple syrup/ brown rice syrup.

The BitsFor 4 glasses
3 bananas
750ml plant milk
5 tbs raw cacaco powder
5 tbs flax/ linseeds
5 handfuls kale or spinach
3 handfuls blueberries/ blackberries

Topping
Cacao Nibs (optional)

Blitz it up!  The better the blender, the better nutrition.  All the good bits break down and are easier for the body to use.

Blitz it up! The better the blender, the better nutrition. All the good bits break down and are easier for the body to use.

Do It

Pack all into a blender, best add the cacao powder first, then blend until smooth.

Mugs are good!

Mugs are good!

Serve

Your favourite glass (or mug) and a sunny sky.

Foodie Fact

Kale is full (FULL) of protein which is why some people, quite bizzarelly, are calling it the ‘new beef’!?  It is also high in iron, fibre and is a great detox food.  Get on the greens!!

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For more regular updates, foodie experiences  and recipe ideas follow Jane and I on Facebook or Twitter.  We are on the road now but will be sharing our travel experiences as we go:)

Categories: Breakfast, Detox, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, Recipes, Smoothies, Superfoods, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

The big chocolate tasting and the thrills of real cacao

Mid chocolate scoff/ tasting

In the library at Trigonos – Mid chocolate tasting

Come join our chocolate feast!!!!  A group of dedicated chocolate enthusiasts (and keen amateurs) gathered together and tasted some of the best chocolate around.  We tried the finest single estate cacao, raw chocolate and some delicious milk chocolate and I’d like to share our findings and the thrills and joys of real cacao!  Definitely not your average chocolate.

There is a huge difference between a quality chocolate and what we normally find in the shops and we had the rare privilege of trying them all back-to-back and finding out what kind of chocoholic we were!  Some like chocolate with caramel notes, some prefer cacao with a hint of summer berries and we pretty much all loved the wild orange flavour.  Here are the results of an intensive tasting session involving some of Jane and I’s favourite chocolate producers.

One of the cooking demos at the vegan cooking retreat

One of the cooking demos at the vegan cooking retreat – Photo by Ashley Duckerin

We were lucky enough to host this chocolate tasting at our recent vegan cooking retreat.  Having assembled some of the most brilliant chocolate around we all tried to eat a small breakfast in preparation for the chocolate onslaught that lay ahead.  How could we fit it all in!?  There is no spitting chocolate out a la wine tasting (that would be way too gruesome and messy).  This was a stamina event for serious chocolate fanatics and aficionados only.

So much glorious chocolate on one table!!!

So much glorious chocolate on one table!!!

In reality, it wasn’t quite that dramatic.  There was a lot of nibbling going on and plenty of uuuuuuuuming and aaaaaaaaahhhing (in a good way).  A variety of ecstatic yelps and the occasional ooooooooh (thats normally a very good sign).  One thing is for sure, we had some clear winners that shone through and brought much smiles and happiness.

This choc-a-thon saw us taste a variety of chocolate from Willie’s Cacao, Ethicoco, Pana Chocolate and Choco Mama.  These guys are making some of the very best chocolate available in the UK.  I’d also like to mention Essy & Bella’s chocolate, who were definitely going to feature (we love em!) but time caught up on us.

Willie's Cacao specialise in sourcing amazing cacao beans and allowing their individual characters to shine through.

Willie’s Cacao specialise in sourcing amazing cacao beans and allowing their individual characters to shine through.

So let the tasting begin…..

DARK CHOCOLATE WINNER – WILLIE’S CACAO PERUVIAN GOLD ‘CHULUCANAS 70’

We started with unflavoured, unadulterated dark chocolate.  Pure, simple and potentially, absolutely sublime.  For me, as a slight chocolate snob (I am a cook after all) this is where chocolate begins and ends.  I love all chocolate, but this is its purest expression.  All the flavour of the cacao is there (hopefully) and we were lucky enough to be in contact with the wonderful Willie’s Cacao who supplied some sensational, single estate, chocolate bars especially for the purpose of sampling a range of cacao from different regions and countries.  We could really taste how the specific location of the cacao estate affected the flavour of the final bar.

It was clear that Willie’s had the dark chocolate comp covered with bars from Peru, Venezuela, Madagascar, Columbia and Indonesia.  Willie compares good cacao beans to fine wines, each estate capable of producing beans with unique, stunning and individual flavours.  Willie’s Cacao uses just raw sugar cane and natural cacao butter, no soya lecithin that can impair flavour.  Willie even owns a cacao estate in Venezuela and visits all the farms that supply his beans.  I love his approach and passion for chocolate.

It is a rare privilege to taste high quality products back to back, you can really appreciate the difference in flavours and textures.  Willie’s range of dark chocolate it stunning and it was difficult to pick a winner.  Eventually the Peruvian Gold ‘Chulucanas 70‘ came out on top with its distinct raisin-like flavour and deep, dark cacao taste.  A tiny piece is like a taste explosion in the mouth!

Really, all of Willie’s chocolate is a delight, with the pure taste of exceptional cacao in each bar.  He really does make chocolate from ‘bean to bar’ which many producers talk about, but few are scouring the jungles of Latin America and the world seeking new and interesting cacao beans.  Picking a favourite, well it really just depends of how you feel that day, there are flavours like caramel, nut, berries, fruits in each bar.  You’ll just have to have your own chocolate tasting to try the all!

(I have to say that my favourite Willie’s chocolate is the Indonesian Gold ‘Javan Dark Breaking 69’ which didn’t even make it to the tasting.  Very irresponsible of me, it just disappeared somewhere on route. In the car. YUM.)

The intrepid group of chocolate tasters and ace vegan cooks! Photo by Ashley Duckerin

The intrepid group of chocolate tasters and ace vegan cooks! Photo by Ashley Duckerin 

RAW AND FLAVOURED CHOCOLATES – WINNER PANA CHOCOLATE FIG AND WILD ORANGE

We then dove straight into the raw and flavoured chocolates and this was an equally difficult and exhaustive process, with repeat tastings needed to decided a winner (nobody seemed to mind this at all!)  Extra tea was drafted in….  We liked Choco Mama’s Mulberry Crunch flavour an interesting texture and dried mulberries are rarely seen in the UK.  Choco Mama is a small company based in glorious North Wales and we love trying their range of chocolate from our local health food store.  Their chocolate is hand made in small batches with fair trade cacao form co-ops in Bali and Peru.

choco mama

An interesting range of raw and fair trade chocolate made in Wales

However the clear winner in this section was Pana Chocolate’s Fig and Wild Orange.  They already produce a wonderful selection of chocolates with creative and surprising flavours and it seems that there are even more coming soon (I just checked out their website, Hemp and Nib is looking good).  The Fig and Wild Orange flavour received the the most votes by a long way and like all Pana Chocolate is so rich and silky.  We all loved the fragrant orange flavour coming from the orange essential oils.

Pana Chocolate make 'Chocolate that loves what’s within, as well as the earth it came from.'

Pana Chocolate make ‘Chocolate that loves what’s within, as well as the earth it came from.’

Ethicoco’s rich and creamy bar did gather quite a few votes but the majority of people were part of the dark chocolate persuasion and it was always up against it.  As a change, we will definitely be buying a few bars for a rainy day.  I also love the sound of their Chai Latte Flavour and at VegFest this year in London, I tried their range of dark chocolate which was also delicious.  We found that the oat milk makes this bar so creamy and it is not overly sweet, something I cannot forgive in a chocolate bar.  I like to taste the cacao not the sugar!  Ethicoco know their way around a top bar of chocolate for sure.

An aerial view of Trigonos taken from a drone (piloted by one of the course attendees), the retreat centre where the cooking workshop was held - North Wales

An aerial view of Trigonos taken from a drone (piloted by one of the course attendees), the retreat centre where the cooking workshop was held – North Wales – Photo by Ashley Duckerin

HOT CHOCOLATE HEAVEN

To top everything off with yet another dollop of chocolaty happiness, during our story telling evening with Claire, we made a massive bubbling pot of hot chocolate using a block of Willie’s 100% Venezuelan Black Cacao.  You basically grate the entire block (if you’re making for fifteen) over a pan of water and bring to a simmer.  The cacao does need cooking through for a while to allow it to melt and become silky smooth.  You can add some almond milk, but it’s creamy and rich as it is and is packed with pure cacao goodness.  As Willie says “Coffee is a poor mans hot chocolate” and when you try this hot chocolate, you can really see why.  The flavour is intense and the aroma, totally sensational.

I love using cacao in savoury cooking like stews and pies.  There is a ‘Smoked Chocolate and Beetroot Beans’ recipe in Peace & Parsnips which contains very dark chocolate.  You can try adding a few teaspoons of cocoa to a Mexican-style stew, it brings a new and interesting flavour to a bowlful of your favourite beans and goes especially well with smoked paprika or chipotle chillies.

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There is a rumour going round that bottles of rum where planted around the library at strategic points and this somehow made it into the hot chocolate.  I have no idea how that happened?!  So the scene is…..an open fire, a group of new friends, a wonderful story unfolding and a mug of rum laced hot chocolate from Venezuela…….it was a very special evening and the best possible way to spend the last night of our retreat.  We all had rosy cheeks and slept like babies.

So tasting chocolate is a hit (we thought it might be!) We couldn’t think of a better way to round off our vegan cooking retreat, with all those whoops and occasional sounds of sheer delight!  Great chocolate does that!!  Highlighting the power that brilliant, plant-based food can have on us.  It can bring so much joy and I’d like to thank all the chocolate suppliers for packing so much flavour, care, love and happiness into each little bar of chocolate.  It was all very much appreciated.

A cacao pod

A cacao pod – where every chocolate bar begins…

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF REAL CACAO

Cacao has been known as the ‘Food of the Gods’ for centuries in the Americas and it’s easy to see why.  The cacao tree produces big pods, where the cacao beans hide and grow.  Inside each cacao bean there is a cacao nib (for chocolate) and cacao butter (for chocolate, cosmetics etc).  Most chocolates are made with extra cacao butter, or things like soya lecithin, added to make the bar smooth.

Cacao is very high in anti-oxidants and essential nutrients although many of these can be lost when processed into chocolate or cocoa.  Some of the apparent health benefits of eating cacao are lowering high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, asthma, diarrhea, preventing wrinkles, liver, bladder and kidney disorders and many more.

The cacao bean is packed full of antioxidants, good fats, carbohydrates, protein, minerals like calcium, magnesium, sulfur, copper, iron, zinc and potassium.  They also contain oleic acid which is a heart-healthy essential mono unsaturated fat, fiber and vitamins E, B2, B1, B5, B3 and B9 as well as small quantities of vitamin A and C.  We think it’s incredible that something as decadent as chocolate, especially raw chocolate, is so wonderfully healthy.

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FULL CHOCOLATE TASTING RESULTS – TRIGONOS 4/3/16

Pana Chocolate – Fig and Wild Orange – 15 points

Willie’s – Peruvian Gold ‘Chulucanas 70’ – 5 points

Willie’s – Venezuelan Gold ‘Rio Carabe 72’ – 2 points

Choco Mama’s – Mulberry Crunch – 2 points

Ethicoco – Ugandan Oat Milk and Raisin – 2 points

Pana Chocolate – Nut – 2 points

Willie’s – Venezulean Gold ‘Las Trincheras 72’ – 2 points

Willie’s – Madagascan Gold ‘Sambirano 71’ – 1 point

Willie’s – Columbian Gold ‘Los Llanos 88’ – 1 point

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Willie’s – 100% Venezuelan Black Carenero Cacao (as hot chocolate) – Many, many points…….(plus extras with a glug of rum)

Thanks again to Willie’s Cacao, Ethicoco and Pana Chocolate for sending chocolate across to the BHK.  It is always wonderful to sample on the blog the products that we enjoy so much.

PS – Although Willie’s is not certified as vegan, I have spoken to them and they assure me that their dark chocolate it totally vegan.  

Categories: Cooking Retreats, healthy, Nutrition, Organic, photography, Raw Food, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Brazil Nut and Cacao Pancakes with Papaya Sauce and Berries

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A truly awesome start to any day, this just happened to be a Sunday.   This is a low-rise cake, with aspirations to one day be a pancake.

Brazil nuts, berries, papaya, this is a decadent affair.  Its the kind of thing you’d imagine the old Maharajas to be munching on in palaces on the Gangetic Plains.  What Im trying to say is that this is decadent in the extreme and packed full of nutrition.  I find normal fat pancakes, american style, a little on the heavy side.  These Brazil Nut beauties have all the flavour without the post breakfast sag.

They can be made raw with a dehydrator, but we forgot to put ours on the night before, so we baked them like a cake in the oven and they turned out very well indeed.

The papaya is a real treat, making quite a change to all the apples and blackberries we have been eating at this time of year.  What can I say, I am weak when it comes to papaya.  They are one of my favourite things for breakfast.  Even though the papayas that take the long flight over here are a little jaded and solid, I never tire of that unique flavour.  I also love the seeds, they  look like frog spawn.

THE BEAUTY OF BRAZILS!

Brazil nuts (or cream nuts) are always handled with great care in our kitchen.  They seem impossibly hard to harvest and grow, so when I get hold of some, I reserve them for the best occasions and finest of company.  When blended, they are so fatty, they resemble butter.  Brazil Nut butter is the only thing that can compare with ‘real’ butter for creaminess and outrageous fattiness, only the fat here is not all saturated and of course, all plant based.

Brazil nut trees are mighty things, some of the highest and oldest trees in the Amazon region, growing to nearly 50 metres tall!  Imagine climbing that to get to the nuts!  Each one of these massive trees will only yield around 300 brazil nut pods per year and take at least 14 months to mature.

I am a little dodgy with gluten it seems, it makes my eczema go wild.  Ground brazil nuts, like almonds, make a perfect substitute for flour and are much more nutritious.  Brazil nut oil is also a wonder thing, great for massages and cooking.  As if that wasn’t enough goodness for one nut, see the nutritional content in the Foodie Fact below.

The Beach House Kitchen has been as busy as ever, but you’d never guess it by the number of posts of late.  Below are some of our cacao/ chocolate-style creations for the month.  We’ve had friends and family visiting, so cakes have definitely been on the agenda.  We really should type more, we’re just too busy cooking and eating!

Pancake time!

The Bits

Pancakes – 2 bananas, 1 1/2 cup brazil nuts, 1/2 cup raw cacao powder (or normal cocoa if you like), 1 cup flax seed meal, 2 teas cinnamon, 1/2 teas bicarb of soda, 1 cup water

Sauce – 1 small papaya, 1 small orange, 1 tbsp sweetener of choice (maple syrup, rice syrup etc)

Finish with chopped bananas and berries (we used raspberries and blueberries) and a few chopped brazil nuts (we used almonds bizarrely).

Do It

Preheat an oven to 200oC

In a food processor, add your brazil nut and pulse them until broken down, but still a little chunky.  Almost to the texture of ground almonds, but not quite.

Add the rest of the ingredients, except the water, blend together and add the water a little a time.  You are looking for a thick, double cream like texture, a little thicker than a normal pancake.

Pour into a well oiled, circular spring form pan and pop in the oven for 15 minutes.  It will rise nicely into a low-rise cake of sorts, but still in the realm of pancake.

Whilst this is occuring, wipe out your FP and place all sauce ingredients in.  Blend until smooth.  Thats that.

Chop up and wash your toppings ready for action.

Serve

In slices, drizzled with the sauce and festooned with topping galore.  What a treat for those weary Sunday mornings when the loss of Saturday just seems too much.

If you are hungry and feeling extravagant (even more so!) then you can stack these pancakes into some form of wonder tower, layered with the toppings and sauce.

We Love It!

Dessert for breakfast is something we wholeheartedly condone in these parts.  ‘Nuff said.

Foodie Fact 

Brazil nuts are such a gift.  Individually wrapped, hanging from a beautiful fruit.  Originally a delicious source of protein for the people of the Amazon, now enjoyed by us all, they are fatty, rich and packed full of nutrients.

Being so buttery, Brazil nuts are high in calories and fats.  The great news is that a large portion of these fats are mono-unsaturated, making them good for the heart and preventing strokes.

Brazil nuts also boast great levels of Vitamin E (good for the cells) and Selenium (they are the highest natural source of this mineral).  Selenium works with anti-oxidant enzymes to keep cancer, coronary disease and cirrhosis at bay.

Brazil nuts are also good for the vitamin B’s and are full of minerals like copper and magnesium.

Here’s what else has been hitting the ovens recently:

Baked Blueberry and Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with Hazelnut Base

Baked Blueberry and Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with Hazelnut Base

Kiwi and Tahini Custard Tart with Cacao and Cashew Base

Kiwi and Tahini Custard Tart with Cacao and Cashew Base

Jane's Double Chocolate Cake filled with Dark Cherry Jam

Jane’s Double Chocolate Cake filled with Dark Cherry Jam

If you’d like any of these recipes, just let us know.

Categories: Breakfast, gluten-free, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Vegan Chocolate and Almond Ice Cream

One big pile of Vegan Chocolate Nut Ice Cream

The Beach House Kitchen is definitely rustic.  Not in the manufactured ‘rustic’ sense of the word, I mean we have sheep invading our front garden and no coffee shop within a half hour drive.  The wind howls and we regularly have horses looking into our bathroom window (which can be quite a shock when you’re getting out of the shower!).  We live out here and it’s beautiful!

I try and convey this country feel in our pictures, I just don’t have the gadgets (and time) to make our food look so polished.  I am in awe of many blogs that manage to make any dish look like food of the Gods.  When it’s so grey outside, taking photographs of food just doesn’t do the dish justice.  One blog who constantly dazzles with its photographs and gorgeous food is 84th&3rd.  This recipe is inspired by their Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream recipe.   This is one of those food blogs that is so delicious and sexy, you just want to try out all of the recipes.

This is an amazing recipe that will blow anybody away.  Vegan or otherwise.  Even the hardest of hardcore Ben and Jerry lovers will be impressed with this ice cream.  It is a wonder, with purely natural and healthy ingredients.  Good fats and sugars ahoy!

The Beach House additions to this recipe were mainly nutty.  Almonds to be exact, although pecan and cashews would be lovely also.  We used soaked almonds here, the soaking brings out the nutrients and also makes them nice and plump and soft, ready for blending.  Soak your nuts!  It helps.

Cacao powder is a great investment, a little costly, but a small spoonful goes a long way.  It is surprisingly chocolaty and opens a doorway into much sweet experimentation.  Contrary to popular misconception, vegan ice cream can be rich and we’ve turned to the old favourite, avocado, to give things that creamy richness that diary normally would.

Cacao Beans

Cacao or Cocoa?

Cacao is not cocoa, cocoa is not cacao. They are very similar in every way, which can be confusing, but one way they differ greatly is nutritionally. Cacao is raw, meaning not heated to an extent that fragile enzymes and nutrients are destroyed, cocoa is heated (although still very tasty).  Raw chocolate is brilliant for the body (in moderation) and big slab of Cadbury’s just ain’t so great.

Try to buy organic with your cacao, they use a load of pesticides and bad things in cacao growing.  There’s no point going healthy and opting for a chemical cocktail, it will probably be the matter of a few pennies more.

Bananas (not ripe yet)

Bananas

The bananas here, and in general, should be getting towards brown.  Some brown spots and a nice soft banana is important.  They will be alot sweeter and better for you (I won’t bore you with the science of it this time, see the ‘Foodie Fact’ for that).  Most places sell bananas way to early, meaning we eat them far too early.  We try and buy bananas a week in advance so they are nicely ripened when we get around to them.  Bananas are an essential part of any healthy foodies diet.  They are so packed with sugar and can add super sweetness to all kinds of things.  No added sugar required when a banana is in town.  It  is a nice idea to keep some bananas (and fruit in general) chopped and ready in the freezer.  It keeps them fresh and is perfect for making smoothies etc.

This recipe is so easy to prepare, no need for an ice cream blender (which is surely a dust trap/ counter clutterer waiting to happen).  It just needs a little stirring and a freezer and you have a gorgeous, very chocolaty ice cream.

You may like to add even more chocolate to this recipe, just bash up a bar of your favourite dark chocolate or add cacao nibs for the healthier touch.  This adds some nice crunchy bits, as does the almonds.  If you like a smoother ice cream, just blend for longer.

Jane sneaks in

The Bits

1 cup soaked almonds (overnight), 1 ripe avocado, 2 large frozen bananas (chopped up), 1/4 cup cacao powder, pinch good sea salt (we use halen mon tahitian vanilla sea salt), 1 tsp maple syrup/ honey, 3 tbsp bashed up dark chocolate or cacao nibs (for serious chocolate fiends only)

Do It

Blend up the almonds first for a minute then add your banana, avocado and salt using a food processor until smooth.  Chop up the rest of the almonds into rough looking pieces and stir them through with cacao powder until well combined.  Add maple syrup/ honey. Stir through chocolate chunks/ cacao chips if using.

Pour into an old ice cream container, or something of those dimensions. Stir every 30 minutes or so, breaking up frozen bits and mixing until smooth. Do this approximately four times if you can.  You may also like to dust off and put into use your ice cream maker here.

Set out for 15 or 20 minutes to soften slightly before using, it is easier to scoop this way. Sharing is optional.

Serve

We had ours with blueberries and chopped banana, with a little more chopped almonds on top.

We Love It!

The texture of this ice cream is so rich and has a lovely smooth nuttiness.  We cannot believe how healthy and delicious it is, we will be making more of this.  Alot more.

Foodie Fact

When bananas ripen proto-pectin is converted into digestible, soluble pectin and starch is also converted into sugars of which 20% is glucose, 14% is fructose and the remaining 66% is sucrose.

Bananas give off a large amount of ethylene, which helps fruits ripen.  If you have any fruits  that need ripening, pop them in a bowl with the bananas and wait a day.  They use this ethylene to turn green oranges orange.  Many people don’t like the look of a green orange, even though they are ripe.  We do funny things with our food!

Bananas also contain our happy friend trytophan, that converts to serotonin and makes us shine.  See our ‘Mood Foods….’ post for more info on happy veggie foods.

Categories: Desserts, Recipes, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Willie’s Cacao Roasted Pepper and Chilli Harrisa with Caramelised Roots

Willie’s Cacao

I loved the sound of this recipe, it really fired my inspiration.  I was excited to give it a try, the combination of bitter cacao with sweet roasted peppers sounded like a wonderful thing.  

I have just come to realise that I have the wrong cacao, I have the chocolate cacao and not the cacao cacao that is needed (that’s the 100% variety).  With no new cacao (I love that word!) on the horizon I have decided to share this with you all, without even tasting it.  I am so confident it will be amazing, I just want to pass it on and hopefully you may give it a go.

Over to Willie…………… 

“I love chillies, but I don’t like them so hot that I cannot taste anything else. So I’ve added roasted sweet red pepper to this sauce to balance the heat of the chillies. However, it is always hard to judge how hot chillies will be as they vary so much. You can reduce the heat of the chillies in this recipe by deseeding about a third of them before using or, if you want the sauce quite mild, halve the amount used. This is a great accompaniment to oily fish, lamb and pork, including sausages. You could also serve it with a Moroccan tagine.”  (Or lovely roasted roots a la Beach House.)

Makes 600ml

16 long red chillies
4 large red peppers
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
150ml extra virgin olive oil
10g Madagascan Sambirano Superior 100% cacao
1 tbsp Cacao Nib Balsamic Vinegar, or good quality balsamic vinegar
Salt

Preheat the oven to 250°C.

Roasted Peppers (theshiksa.com)

Wrap the chillies in a double layer of foil and place on a baking tray. Put the unwrapped red peppers alongside them on the same tray. Roast in the hot oven for about 25 minutes, or until the peppers are slightly blackened and soft. Allow to cool slightly, then peel and deseed the red peppers. Remove the chillies from the foil, but leave whole, just removing any stalks. Put both the chillies and peppers in a blender or food processor and whizz to make a rough purée (don’t overwork; leave a little texture). Set on one side.

Toast the cumin seeds in a dry frying pan until they smell fragrant. Tip them into a mortar and crush with a pestle to a coarse powder.

Place the puréed peppers and the chillies in a large saucepan, add the powdered cumin and the olive oil. Bring the mixture to the boil over a medium heat, then simmer gently until the sauce has reduced by about a half. You will find the oil separates out. Remove from the heat, add the cacao, balsamic vinegar and salt to taste and stir until well combined. Spoon the hot harissa into warm sterilized jars, allow to cool slightly, then seal. This sauce should keep for at least 3 months in a cool place.

I would serve this beautiful harissa with some oven roasted roots; sweet potato, carrots and swede would perfect.  Imagine the colours!

Original post can be found here.

We will be trying this one soon, just need to get some of that lovely cacao and we’re off into the wonderful world of savoury chocolate cooking.  

Categories: Dinner, Recipes, Sauces, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Willie’s Cacao Chocolate Tasting Challenge

Our stash of Willie’s Chocolates

Ladies and Gentleman, we have arrived in chocolate heaven………

Willie’s World Class Cacao chocolate is the best we have ever tasted.  No mincing our words here, its the best.  Hands down.  The champagne of the chocosphere, you know it’s the best by its ‘bite’.  One crisp, crack and you instinctively know that good things are going to happen in your mouth.

No cheese, ho booze, no coffee, no sweat.  No chocolate, well that’s an existence you can count me out on.  As Willie says “Coffee is a poor mans cacao” and I tend to agree.

Yes, we are eating chocolate again, with great relish and delight.  We have thrown ourselves back into the world of those fabulous brown chunks with gusto and started right at the top with a Willie’s chocolate tasting session.  We lined up some lumps of quite amazing cacao and gave our taste buds a real treat.  For moments, we had died and gone to chocolate heaven.

Passion is infectious and Willie has it in giant spades.  I remember seeing him in Selfridges (big posh shop in London) being animated and charming about all things chocolate and the very finest cacao.  Willie has a mission in this life and its very chocolaty.  I liked him straight away, its rare to see anybody so consumed and charged by something, the fact that this something was chocolate, only made me warm to him more.

I then watched the documentary style TV programme that followed him to his hacienda and cacao farm in Venezuela where he seemed to be a one man army, defending us all against the abomination of substandard cacao.  Willie was so driven to succeed against all odds and many wild and wonderful set backs.  The story of this chocolate is to follow your dreams, no matter what gets in your way or what they may be.  Don’t waver and have faith.  In chocolate!  This definitely adds to the flavour!

Willie has scoured Latin America looking for the finest cacao trees to re-plant and discovered a small plantation, surrounded by coffee trees, that had not cross pollinated with the newer types of cacao trees (some of those high yield, low quality varieties that modern farming is dominated by).  He took them back to his hacienda and ended up planting 10,000 of them (told you he is driven!).

Cacao is great for us and Willie uses only the finest cacao and a little sugar and thats it.  No hidden nasties in there or chemicals at all.  He also sells the cacao pure, 100%, that is best used in cooking or hot chocolate (it is a little on the bitter side).

Willie

He brings all of these beans back to this little grey island and feeds them into his collection of old chocolate making machinery (slower than the modern machines, but better for taste).

Willie’s chocolate is not the cheapest, you wouldn’t expect it to be, but if you are looking for the best, I think its probably worth splashing out the extra .50p on something truly amazing!

If you don’t believe any of these claims, check out Willie’s brilliant website.  You’ll find a real feast for the eyes, it a stunner, you’ll also find many recipes for cooking with chocolate and not just desserts either.  Savoury dishes with the 100% cacao.  We’ll be giving some a go soon, so keep your eyes peeled.

My first taste of chocolate in a savoury dish was in Mexico, up a mountain somewhere south, lost and hungry.  It was actually raining as well.  A kind hearted lady opened her front room for us and begin to whip up something that looked like a chocolate and banana sauce, mixed with a casserole.  My first Mole Poblano and I will never forget it.  Dark and rich, with the bitterness of the chocolate, sweetness of banana and the potent chilli punch, it was a rare taste explosion.  A combination and sensation that cannot be repeated in any dish.

One of Willies farmers

Back to chocolate as we know and love it, here are Jane and I’s tasting notes for the chocolate frenzy/tasting:

Indonesian (Javan Light Breaking)

Lee – Love that crack and crunch, gorgeous (this was repeated many times during this tasting), light flavour, lighter than most chocolates with a lovely caramel-ness to it.  

Jane – Tastes like caramelised treacle, so, so smooootthhh.

YYYYYYYYuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm….

Venezuelan Gold (Hacienda las Trincheras)

Lee – Rich, really rich, wow,  a real full flavour that goes on and on…..more intense than the Indonesian and super velvety.  Gorgeous (again!)

Jane – More chocolaty, more flavour and complexity, super luxury chocolate, super rich.  

MMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm  (eyes closed and slightly erotic noise).

Madagascar (Sambriano Superior)

Lee – Really, wow, very, very nice.  Thats amazing.  Very nice.  Fruity, a little blackcurranty and was that a raspberry!

Jane – Fruit, yes fruit, delicate flavour, no words (just noise of delight)

DELECTABLE……moving on….

Ginger Lime (Sierra Leone)

Lee – Reminds me of Christmas, I prefer the other, unadulterated stuff.  Still very, very fine and zesty.

Jane – A bit like ginger nuts!  Heavenly.

Peruvian (San Martin)

Both –  AMAZING CHOCOLATE!!!! (dumbstruck looks and lost for words……)   

(Due to intense chocolate overload, at this stage the tasting turned into a giant scoff/ farce and we lost track of which was chocolate went with which wrapper.  Meaning the other bars tasted all get a 9.96 out of 10 and a big thumbs up from us.)

Best Overall

Lee  – Has to be the Indonesian, maybe because it was first to be tasted.  I loved the sweet caramel flavours and the general lightness of the chocolate, something really different and not achieved completely naturally.  I would also like to visit Indonesia one day soon.

Jane – Venezuelan.  The richness, so, so dark and packed full of flavour.  The loveliest and purest flavour.  REAL chocolate.

This was only a small taster of the full range which you’ll find a doorway to here.

Enjoying Willie’s chocolate makes you part of a very special adventure; one mans dream, now boxed up by old clanking machines and available on supermarket shelves.  This is our kind of food success story.  Chocolate is important and Willie’s is chocolate at its most inspiring and delicious best.

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