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Mostly Food & Travel Journal

Chocolate-filled Easter

The Golden Book of Chocolate

Green and Black’s Chocolate Recipes

Making Fine Chocolates

Recipe feature: Sweet Hungarian



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Cooking with Chocolate

On this page:

Chocolate-filled Easter

The Golden Book of Chocolate

Green and Black’s Chocolate Recipes

Making Fine Chocolates

Recipe feature: Sweet Hungarian


Chocolate-filled Easter

The industry has been in a state of evolution since the first chocolate house was opened in London in 1657. No, I don’t mean a house made of chocolate, nor a house in which one eats chocolate, but a kind of bar for chocolate. No, not a bar OF chocolate but a place for drinking chocolate. They advertised: "In Bishopgate St, in Queen's Head Alley, at a Frenchman's house, is an excellent West Indian drink called Chocolate to be sold, where you may have it ready at any time and also unmade at reasonable rates."

It’s only been an eating confection for about 10% of its history and for the masses it’s only been affordable for an even shorter period of time. But so popular is it now that Easter wouldn’t be Easter in the Western world without a healthy (or unhealthy) dose of it.

For me the nicest and most memorable Easter egg was the first that my husband bought for me (ahhh, romantic, isn’t it?). He bought it at some personal cost (not in money but in embarrassment) in Thornton’s somewhere in West London. The clients had to write their messages on slips of paper which were then given to the staff member responsible for decorative calligraphy. Each egg was expertly inscribed with the sentiment in icing and then boxed and passed to the counter assistant. All very well so far but the next step is cringe-making. The assistant then bellows the message (“I love you my sweet snookums”, “My heart belongs to you my snuggles”, “Forever your passion pixie”) across the shop to the waiting customers, most of whom, being men, were covered in blushes.

I can’t say I am a chocoholic but on the other hand I can’t allow a piece of chocolate to remain unmolested. I’m OK if I don’t start but that first mouthful is my downfall. I do very well for chocolate gifts at both Christmas and Easter as the husband gets migraine if he has more than a couple of grams of either bar or egg. I guess I should tell our friends about the problem but...er, well...would you?

You probably expect me to say that I only eat the best, the finest quality. Well, no. I love all types...apart from (sorry, American friends) Hershey’s. I can understand why it’s popular with woodsy, outdoorsy types as it does double-duty on a camping trip. If the soap runs out you can always use the “Candy”!

Paul young shop The UK hasn’t got a fantastic reputation for high quality chocolates – apart from a few notable exceptions such as Paul Young (on Facebook). Paul has elevated British chocolate-making to a new level. He now has two fantastic shops, well worth visiting (Islington and the City of London). You’ll find award-winning fresh hand-made chocolates, bars, brownies and hot chocolate, all produced on the premises by Paul and his team.

We probably like all those low-% cocoa butter confections because that’s what we have been accustomed to since childhood. Some say it’s not real chocolate, but I can live with that. It’s evident that it doesn’t compare to Paul’s hand-made delights. The cheap bar in blue paper doesn’t have the flavour nor, equally important, the texture of the finer chocolate. Perhaps we should consider them as completely different products and enjoy each one when appropriate. The ordinary mass-produced bar when we need a quick sugar fix, and the pure heaven of the silky, rich specialities of the craftsman when we want to spoil ourselves or others.

I wish you all a peaceful Easter and to my Greek, Russian and Bulgarian friends I wish you a good Orthodox Easter for next month!

Chocolate sauce to go over anything

100g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids, broken into pieces
10g butter
2 tbsp whipping cream
2 tbsp golden syrup, warmed
2 tbsp brandy or liqueur of your choice

Slowly melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Don’t let the bowl touch the water.

Remove from the heat and stir in the golden syrup, liqueur and cream, and use while it’s still hot.


food and travel reviews

Green and Black’s Chocolate Recipes

From the cacao pod to muffins, mousses and molés! This is such a lovely book with large photographs by Francesca Yorke (if they were any bigger they would be posters). Caroline Jeremy has compiled delicious recipes and Claire Fry has designed a most attractive and appealing book. It’s colourful, sumptuous and tasteful.

Green and Black's Chocolate Recipes You would all be familiar with Green and Black’s chocolate and it’s some of the best around. It’s organic and Fairtrade so you can have a guilt-free munch. Their cocoa is bought from small producers in Belize so you’ll also be helping a third world economy.

Josephine Fairley, founder of Green and Black’s, has written a foreword on the company’s history, and then it’s on to Caroline’s general advice on cooking with chocolate. The chapter headings are amusing, with such titles as Licking the Bowl, Wicked, Old Timers, and Magic.

I think all the recipes are magic: I don’t think I could say no to any of them. One of the easiest is a recipe from the chef at Konditor and Cook, Gerhard Jenne. It’s a chocolate biscuit cake with cherries, sultanas and walnuts. There are recipes here for all levels of skill.

Not all the recipes are for cakes and cookies. There is Spicy Organic Pork and Herb Chilean Chocolate Sausages. There are only 90g of dark chocolate in this dish but it’s enough to give a richness that is unique. Zena Leech-Calton entered Green and Black’s National Trust competition with this recipe, which evidently impressed the judges.

I have always had a fear of cooking with real chocolate, but these recipes are straightforward and there is all the information you need to produce lovely, chocolaty creations. Caroline Jeremy has given lots of advice on cooking temperatures, so you should feel confident that your attempts to produce a chocolate sorbet will not result in a cold runny truffle.

Having read this book from cover to cover I am now on the horns of a dilemma. Which of these will be dessert for tonight? Will it even be dessert, or might it be the Swedish Chocolate Coffee Lamb? Some Chocolate-dipped Fruit would be light and romantic. I’ll just say that it’s difficult to choose, but I’ll be using this book often to the great delight of family and friends.

Green and Black’s Chocolate Recipes
Author: Caroline Jeremy and others
Published by: Kyle Cathie
Price: £ 14.99
ISBN 978-1-85626-700-7

food and travel reviews

Making Fine Chocolates

making fine chocolates I have, over the past months, reviewed several lovely chocolate cookery books. This is, however, a little different. This is all about making your own chocolates rather than using chocolate in, say, a cake or tart. Making Fine Chocolates will take you through the process of transforming a bar of high-quality chocolate into flavour-infused chocolates, truffles and other gorgeous sweets.

Andrew Garrison Shotts is the former corporate pastry chef at Guittard Chocolate and owner of Garrison Confections. He has been recognised as a “Top Ten Artisanal Chocolatier” by the American newspaper, USA Today. I think we can assume that this young man is an expert.

I know to my cost that chocolate is an iffy substance to work with. It is quite forgiving as an ingredient in most desserts but hand-made chocolates demand a bit more thought and technical know-how. This being said, it’s not rocket science. If you can follow a recipe and have a thermometer then you’ll have no problems.

Making Fine Chocolates has an exceptional Techniques chapter. Read this before you even consider embarking on making chocolates. Perfecting tempering will mark your efforts as professional. You'll want to make chocolates that look as good as expensive shop-bought ones. They need to be glossy, have a smooth and non-grainy texture and mouth-feel on melting. Handmade chocolates are not just melted and shaped bars of chocolate. You’ll find the tempering step well worth the effort.

Let’s get on to the fun part... the chocolates! Chocolate Truffles are the easiest to make and Andrew offers us a great selection of exotic ones. Banana Caramel, Peanut Butter Sizzle and Sesame are just a few of them.

Moulded Chocolates are the ones that you will want to perfect. You can buy the plastic moulds in most good cookware shops. Making Fine Chocolates gives all the advice you will need and also lots of helpful step-by-step pictures. The chocolates you’ll make will be inspiring and a bit more up-market than those you find in most commercial boxes.

Andrew Garrison Shotts has penned a lovely book that will be essential to anyone who wants to present something special at the end of a meal or as a gift. There are very few people who would not be impressed by unique and delicious chocolates made by your own fair hands. There are only a few books about making chocolates and this is one of the best.

Making Fine Chocolates
Author: Andrew Garrison Shotts
Published by: Apple Press
Price: £14.99
ISBN 13: 978-1-84543-194-5
food and travel reviews

The Golden Book of Chocolate

The_Golden_Book_of_Chocolate This has got to be the gift book of the year. It has impact in both size and quality of presentation. It’s sumptuous with gilt-edged pages reminiscent of a family bible. Those nice people at Apple Press informed me that this volume came with a gold belly jacket. I was pleased... er,um, but what was that? It’s a lovely dust jacket that nicely wraps the ample midriff of this magnificent volume.

That’s the exterior oooohs and aaahs out of the way. Unless you are buying this book only to put something sparkly on your bookshelf, you’ll want to know about all that’s inside. The photography by Alan Benson is a treat. You can imagine piling on the calories by just looking at all these sweet delights.

The introduction is fascinating and pertinent. It considers not only the history of the Swiss Nestlé, Lindt and Mr. Tobler (yes, the man who invented Toblerone) but also our own Green and Blacks who earned the UK’s first Fair Trade Mark for its Maya Gold chocolate.

There are over 300 recipes here so it’s safe to say that there is something for everyone. There are Candies and Cookies, Puddings and Pies but also Savoury Dishes that might come as a bit of a surprise. The recipes are easy to follow and offer lots of choice for home cooks of every level of skill and confidence.

One of the simplest recipes is Coffee Granita with Cream and Chocolate. It’s one of those perfect make-ahead desserts that are ideal for meals with friends. Served in shot glasses or small tumblers, it makes a sophisticated end to an evening. You only need to be slightly more adventurous to manage Milk Chocolate and Vanilla Semifreddo, which is a two-layer frozen pud in white and beige.

The Drinks chapter has a lot more than the predictable cocoa. Brown Cow has white rum, crème de menthe and crème de cacao. Served in an elegant stemmed glass, this would be a warming, rich cocktail for a winter party, a liquid version of a very adult after-dinner mint.

The Golden Book of Chocolate can only be described as special. It oozes luxury and it’s bound to make an impression with anyone lucky enough to receive a copy. Lovely!

The Golden Book of Chocolate
Published by: Apple Press
Price: £19.99
ISBN 978-1-84543-267-6
food and travel reviews

Sweet Hungarian

Me There are more and more opportunities these days to enjoy Eastern European food, and it’s good to have easier access to Hungarian, Polish and Baltic ingredients. I spent many years as part of a Hungarian family and it was a fantastic introduction to food that was quite a bit different from the bland English fare of those days.

I had no idea how to cook even British food before my marriage so I presented my new mother-in-law with a chance to mould me into an old-fashioned Hungarian cook, even though I was English (well, almost English) and only 21 years old. She was a lovely lady who cooked just like her mother and grandmother and she didn’t cut corners. I swear she could take two days to make a salad...but what a salad!

There were a fascinating array of new foods to try and I loved them all, apart from Liver Dumplings! There was Chicken Paprikas (pronounced paprikash), Goulash (pronounced Gooyaash), Chicken soup – Csirkeleves (pronounced chirkelevesh) – I had only ever had chicken soup from a packet till then....and what was paprika? But, Ooooo, those cakes with almonds and cherries, and others with cottage cheese and walnuts. In wintertime we would have chestnut puree mixed with a little chocolate and vermouth, served with sour cream. It might sound strange but it works!

Cafe We would visit Mindszenty House, a Hungarian community centre in London, to enjoy festivals and celebrations with lots of Hungarian food, made in people’s homes and bought in for us all to share. We even had Carp at Christmas. Food was at the centre of every occasion...or no occasion at all.

There has, for centuries, been a thriving cafe culture in Budapest. Impoverished writers would spend all day in the cafes and would even be supplied with paper and ink by the management. One of the most famous cafes is the New York Palace (an unlikely name but it’s true) which has recently been renovated. Here you will find a full selection of delicious Hungarian cakes and desserts such as the famous Dobostorta (pronounced doboshtorta) named after the confectioner, József C. Dobos, and Rigó Jancsi (pronounced Rigo Yanchi), a lovely chocolate confection. Rigó was a gypsy violinist (you couldn’t make this up) who ran off with an already married princess!

Hungarians are famous for being a chess-playing, sweet-eating and often wine-drinking bunch, so this recipe is dedicated to all those who I know will enjoy it. Egészségedre!

Flourless Chocolate and Almond Cake

I must thank Jill Dupleix for this recipe. It’s not Hungarian but it’s the nearest thing to my mother-in-law’s original recipe.  Jill says “...there is one well-known and well-loved cake that I go to for all manner of celebrations: a rich, flourless chocolate cake adapted from an Elizabeth David recipe in French Provincial Cooking.”

Serves 6
Prep: 20 min
Cook: 50 min

200g dark, bitter chocolate
1 tbsp strong espresso coffee
1 tbsp rum or brandy
150g caster sugar
150g butter
100g ground almonds
5 eggs, separated
Icing sugar for dusting

Melt the chocolate, coffee, rum or brandy, sugar and butter in a bowl sitting in a pot of barely simmering water. Remove from the heat and stir until well mixed.

Add the ground almonds and mix well. Beat in the egg yolks, one by one.

Beat the egg whites until stiff and peaky, and stir a couple of spoonfuls into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, before gently folding in the rest.

Turn into a buttered and floured 20cm (8in) round or square cake tin and bake at 180C/Gas 4 for 40 to 50 minutes (less if you like it fudgey, more if you like it cakey).

Leave to cool before removing gently from the tin, and dust with icing sugar to serve.


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