Posts Tagged With: tasting

Global Vegan – Cooking Demo and Buffet Lunch, London

Global Vegan

Cooking Demonstration and Buffet Lunch

with Chef and Cookbook Author Lee Watson

Saturday 21st October ’17 Brixton, London

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Come and join in a celebration of whole food, vegan cooking with diverse recipes drawing on Lee’s recent travels around the world. Lee will be cooking a variety of nutritious and tasty dishes, believing that healthy eating can also be decadent.

Techniques will be explained clearly and you will receive a bespoke recipe booklet meaning that you’ll have the confidence and resources to try all the dishes at home. This demo will be a lot of fun, Lee will share loads of ideas and tips, and you’ll get to taste all dishes at the end when we’ll enjoy a buffet lunch.

This is a chance for you to relax and learn something new.  Tea and coffee will be available throughout the day.

You’ll be shown how to make:

Plant-based cheese

Raw desserts

Simple curry

The best out of tofu and tempeh

Ultimate breakfast smoothies

Buddha/ Poke bowls

Wholegrain dishes

and much more…

If you are interested in incorporating more vegan dishes into a diet, or are just looking for some kitchen-based inspiration, this is the ideal event for you. Lee is passionate about cooking vegan food everyone!

Price – £40 per person

Includes – Recipe booklet, Tea & Coffee, Buffet Lunch, Cooking Demonstrations

Click here to book

Lee will be signing copies of ‘Peace and Parsnips’ after the event. You can buy a copy on the day.  Click below to look inside.

Event time – 11:00 – 14:30

Sunshine International Arts Centre
C.A.F.E. Studio 5, 209A Coldharbour Lane, London, SW9 8RU
Full directions here

Contact email – hellobeachhousekitchen@gmail.com

Join Lee’s vegan cooking & retreat group

Categories: Cooking demos, Events, healthy, plant-based, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

cyl-venezuelan-carenero--e1427891943355

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

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.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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