I knew this savoury theme was going to be a bit of a tough We Should Cocoa challenge and indeed it proved to be so. There was much shaking of heads and dark mutterings going on in the blogosphere. It started off with only a few hardened souls brave enough to attempt it. After stating in the rules that only one entry per person per month was allowed, I was so worried at the lack of entries coming in, that I broke the rule – just this once, you understand. Having allowed multiple entries, I was suddenly inundated right at the very end – hey ho!
There seems to be a sudden spate of black beans being used in chocolate cakes. I first came across the phenomenon with this cake on What I Cooked This Weekend and then these brownies from Hungry Hinny and then I just saw them everywhere. The idea is that the black beans, as well as giving a bit of extra fibre, can reduce the amount of fat in the cake without making it taste less delicious. I was sceptical, but wanted to try it for myself. It’s taken me a while because getting hold of black beans was the hardest part. I adapted my recipe from one I found on Joy the Baker, who in turn got it from Martha Stewart – and so it goes on!
This is how I did it:
- Rinsed 1/4 cup cooked black beans (from a tin) & blitzed with my hand-held blender.
- Melted 2oz unsalted butter in a pan over a low heat with 5oz 85% dark chocolate and left to cool slightly.
- Beat 3 eggs and 1 1/3 cups vanilla sugar (caster) until thick and creamy.
- Stirred in the cooled chocolate carefully with the beans.
- Folded in 1 cup spelt flour, 1/8 cup cocoa, 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt.
- Poured mixture into a 9″ sq cake mould.
- Placed 16 walnut halves in the middle of the future brownie pieces and scattered with some course Cornish sea salt.
- Baked for 22 minutes, (making sure they were slightly underdone) at 180C & left to cool – err, slightly!
I couldn’t wait for these to go cold before trying them, so I had my first one warm from the oven. All scepticism instantly disappeared as I bit into this most delicious, dark and moist brownie. The crunch of toasted walnuts and spike of salt, made for a great contrast in texture as well as flavour. The salt was a bit of a surprise, especially for CT who was “ambushed by my own expectations” but once he got used to it, thought it was good. As for the beans, it was nigh on impossible to detect them. Despite the small amount of butter, these brownies kept really well, in fact they got fudgier with age and we managed, with commendable restraint, to make them last the week – nearly!
What could say love and romance more than brownies? I could think of a few things, but brownies certainly say it for me. With this in mind, I am entering these into Tea Time Treats – fun filled monthly tea parties hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Kate of What Kate Baked. This month Kate has chosen Romance as the theme.
It’s Random Recipe time again and as a tribute to the birth month of this fabulous event, we have been given the task of picking a recipe from the book we used when we first took part in this challenge. I was mightily pleased about this as I was panicking rather at having to use the Valrhona chocolate book which CT gave me for Christmas. There isn’t a single simple recipe in it – in fact they all look way beyond my capability. Divine by Linda Collister is a much more accessible book. Last year I made butterscotch swirl brownies which were a great success; what would this year bring I wondered?
Well this may not bear much resemblance to shepherds pie as most know it – it is vegetarian after all – but it’s what I call shepherds pie. Normally I make this with lentils, but I thought I’d try a version using Quorn mince this time instead as I happened to have some languishing in the freezer. I was also keen to incorporate chocolate, as this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge was to make a savoury vegetarian dish and I thought chocolate would give an added depth of flavour to a much loved (by me at any rate) dish.
This is what I did:
- Scrubbed some of our Sarpo potatoes.
- Placed in a pan with a large clove of garlic and boiled until soft.
- Drained off the water and mashed with some sour cream and 1/8 tsp sea salt.
- Put a glug of olive oil into a large pan.
- Threw in 1 large onion – chopped.
- Diced 3 large carrots and put those in too.
- Added a few sprigs of thyme, a couple of bay leaves and 3 Cornish pepper leaves.
- Fried until the onion was soft.
- Added two large cloves of garlic – chopped & a 1/4 tsp dried thyme.
- Threw in 300g Quorn mince, rather more frozen sweetcorn than I intended as my hand slipped when adding it to the pan and a tin of mixed beans.
- Ground in some black pepper, added some shoyu and a pinch of sea salt.
- Left to simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes.
- Took off the heat.
- Added 40g 70% dark chocolate (G&B) and left to melt.
- Buttered a casserole dish and spooned in the mince.
- Spread the mashed potato over the top and dotted with small pieces of butter.
- Baked at 180C for 30 minutes until bubbling and nicely browned on top.
For further inspiration – or not – here are some other chocolate savoury posts I’ve done:
To celebrate my blog’s third birthday and to give to CT as a Valentine’s gift, what could be more appropriate than chocolate truffles? The excellent hazelnut sherry cake was so large that it lasted us the whole week. By day eight, I had one slice left and it was starting to look a little dry – just right to be turned into cake truffles. As it happened, I received my chocolate competition win in time for the big day, so featured that instead of the truffles.
As I didn’t take note of quantities and can no longer remember exactly, this is an approximation of what I did:
- Creamed 1/2 oz unsalted butter with 1oz icing sugar until light and fluffy.
- Added a glug of hazelnut oil and creamed some more.
- Blitzed the cake leftovers in the coffee grinder – I did this rather than crumble the cake because of the large pieces of hazelnut contained in the cake.
- Beat the crumbs into the creamed mixture until well incorporated.
- Added a sloosh of hazelnut syrup (I expect frangelico would have been good, but I don’t have any of that) and mixed some more.
- Placed teaspoonfuls of the mixture into 13 round chocolate moulds and pressed in firmly – could have just rolled between hands to form balls, but I wanted something a bit more uniform for a change.
- Left to cool for half an hour – there was no need to put these in the fridge as my kitchen was virtually freezing at the time.
- Melted 100g G&B cooks 72% dark chocolate in a pan over hot water.
- Removed the cake balls from the mould and dipped them into the chocolate.
- Placed suitably chosen love hearts on the top and left to set.
CT was delighted to receive this bounty. Here’s what he said in between mouthfuls. “From the ridiculous to the sublime with the fizzy love heart, which is frankly a pink stained toothed kiddy sweet to a truly delicious, sophisticated, nutty, delectable truffle. Two ends of the spectrum of sweets, represented – from utterly artificial to something hand crafted and made with care and love. It’s artisan chocolate, but fun!
The truffles had good chocolate shells which had just the right crispness about them, cracking in a satisfying way to release the treasure within. They had a heady hazelnut flavour with a smooth mouthfeel punctuated by granular pieces of hazelnut which gave a good contrast. The ganache itself wad , in CTs words authentic, not some generic paste. The following day, CT said rather despondently “very sorry to see the end of those”.
I’m submitting this to Caroline and Ros’s Alpha Bakes hosted this month by The More than Occasional Baker – L is for Love!
A small box I’d been awaiting with some anticipation, was finally delivered by the postman. The Chocolate were sending me some of their luxurious dark chocolate truffles complete with real gold for review purposes.
As I opened the box a wonderful aroma of fruity chocolate wafted upwards making me feel like I was in for a treat; this is a smell I associate with good quality chocolate. I was a little disappointed to find only two fairly small truffles in the box, but they were flaked in 24 carat gold and this gave them the lustre of real luxury. And sometimes less is more.
Biting through the shell, I savoured their sophisticated dark, rich and not too sweet qualities. The chocolate was tangy with wonderful fruity notes and had a slight refreshing tartness about it. The beauty of these chocolates was more than skin deep, the smooth creamy ganache had a noticeably bubbly champagne persona. The flavours lingered on long after the chocolate had disappeared, another sign of good quality chocolate in my experience.
These are handmade artisan truffles at their finest. The chocolate used is award winning Toscano Black 63% from Italy; the ganache ingredients are a closely guarded secret. Eating these chocolates make you feel good just by their sheer luxury and deliciousness, but you can find out more about the well-being benefits claimed for both the chocolate and the gold here. My only complaint was that two, just weren’t quite enough – CT didn’t get a look in!
Can you believe it? I certainly can’t. This blog is three years old today!
Thank you so much to all the wonderful folk who follow my blog, leave comments, bear with me, visit and join in the We Should Cocoa challenges. I really couldn’t do it without you. Much as I started this blog as inspiration to make me bake a more diverse range of chocolate goodies, it has morphed into something else and I don’t think I would have come nearly as far as I have if it hadn’t been for all of you.
For this, my third blogiversary, I wanted to take a highlight from each month of the last year. This proved to be much harder than I’d anticipated – there were a number of significant events worthy of inclusion, but I made myself stick to only one – cue applause. Here they are:
February 2011 – really excited by the quality and quantity of entries for the We Should Cocoa tea challenge and to have the brilliant prize of a box of Matcha Chocolat tea chocolates.
|March 2011 – having fun playing with some of the words associated with my blog on this wordle cloud|
|April 2011 – rolo cake for a friend’s 3rd birthday|
|May 2011 – baking with my first ever goose egg|
|June 2011 – a triple chocolate matcha cake for a dear friend’s birthday|
|July 2011 – weather and time permitted a miracle tea party down at our plot|
|August 2011 – my first time joining in with Celia’s wonderful In My Kitchen series|
|September 2011- another friend’s birthday and a 2nd and more successful attempt at piping with these chocolate and ginger cupcakes|
|October 2011 – my mega baking session for a friend’s all weekend party|
|November 2011 – a weekend of food blogger meet ups with Vanessa’s Lets Make Christmas in London and Annie Ko’s Bite n Write in Birmingham|
|December 2011 – one of several Christmas Hampers I made – a true labour of love|
|January 2012 – not much of a picture, but I was inordinately proud of these top tea cakes – the most delicious I have ever eaten|
|February 2011 – hooray and just in time for the double celebration of my blogiversary and Valentine’s Day, I won this amazingly hug box of chocolates from Simply Food – and I haven’t touched a one yet! The chocolates that I made for CT and in anticipation of this post will just have to feature another day.|
After weeks of expecting an exciting parcel of chocolate to arrive through the post, I’d pretty much given up on receiving it in time to review for Valentine’s Day. This chocolate heart from Hotel Chocolat only made it to my door with hours to spare so hasn’t left me time to give it a thorough review. I did, however, give it a thorough chewing over; in fact I managed to demolish the entire lot within two days and CT didn’t get a look in!
Hotel Chocolat have a lot of fun when it comes to naming their products and this one goes under the name of Open Your Heart To Me or as CT quipped “this is the kind of open heart surgery I thoroughly approve of”. I was very much taken by the chunky heart shell which coyly hid the chocolates within. A good milk chocolate is always a joy to eat and although I would prefer a higher percentage of cocoa, the 40% contained in this milk chocolate was high enough to deliver a genuinely pleasurable experience. It was sweet and milky without being sickly and it had the toffee notes I associate with Hotel Chocolat’s house milk. Parts of the shell were good and thick which is how I remember my Easter eggs being when I was a child – and Wagon Wheels were enormous back then too!
Intrigued by the thought of Strawberry & Black Pepper as well as the Chilli Caramel, I was really looking forward to trying these particular chocolates. My disappointment would have been obvious to any onlookers when I found there was only one of each inside the heart. In fact there were only eight chocolates all together. I did know this before it arrived, but still managed to feel crestfallen.
Strawberry & Black Pepper – distinctive black pepper, covered in dark chocolate, but I didn’t really pick up the flavour of strawberry although the filling itself was tart. This wasn’t as delicious as I thought it was going to be, in fact it was my least favourite and after all that anticipation too!
Soft Chilli Caramel – lovely liquid caramel that had the kick to it that I was hoping for. There was no doubting that the back of my throat recognised chilli. The caramel was delicious and contrasted well with the dark chocolate, although more caramel and slightly less chocolate would have improved it further.
Vanilla Truffle – biting through the milk chocolate shell, I tasted vanilla custard and it was totally delicious. Vanilla bean seeds were liberally distributed throughout this white chocolate ganache.
Raspberry Rapture – tart flavoursome raspberries in a white chocolate ganache wrapped up in a milk chocolate shell – also delicious.
Smooth Praline – it’s hard to beat a good hazelnut praline and I was not disappointed by this one. Smooth, creamy and flavoursome, wrapped in a milk chocolate shell, this was, if my repetition may be excused, delicious.
When I was asked to review some raw organic brownies from Gourmet Raw, I was really excited. I’ve been impressed with all of the raw chocolates I’ve tried so far and have found all of them to be very tasty. As the name suggests, all products are raw; they are also organic, vegan, GM, wheat and dairy free. With the added claim that they are not going to do me any harm and might do me quite a bit of good, I’m glad I was given this opportunity to try some more.
Although these are described as brownies, they don’t bear much relation to brownies as most of us know them. The texture is chewy, nutty, granular even which gives them a substantial mouth feel. But don’t let that put you off, they are moist, flavoursome and have a balanced sweetness about them which makes them quite delicious. They are in fact quite similar in taste and texture to the chilli pie that we are lucky enough to have stocked in one of our local shops.
These brownies are a great way to indulge without feeling too guilty. At nearly £2 for a 55g bar, these brownies are not cheap, but I loved them. However, they are delicious and strangely satisfying. One bar is really quite filling and doesn’t leave you feeling as though you need more. Maybe it’s because they are packed full of nutritious ingredients. They carry the Soil Association symbol, which pleases me as this is the organic certifying body that I trust the most. I think these are probably worth every penny and would make a wonderful gift for your health minded Valentine.
Cacao Cashew Brownie – cashews, coconut palm nectar, buckwheat, dates, cacao powder, pecans, almond butter, cinnamon, vanilla, Himalayan salt.
This smelt chocolatey with the sweet aroma of vanilla and was nuttily delicious.
Cacao Mint Brownie – coconut palm nectar, cashews, buckwheat, dates, cacao powder, cacao nibs, almond butter, vanilla, mint essential oil, Himalayan salt.
Mint is a flavour that can be hard to get right. They hit the spot with this one though and the refreshing mintiness was a lot more delicious than I was expecting.
Carob Orange Brownie – coconut palm nectar, cashews, buckwheat, dates, hazelnuts, carob powder, vanilla, orange essential oil, Himalayan salt.
Like mint, orange can be a difficult flavour to balance correctly. That wasn’t a problem here. The brownie smelt sweetly of orange and the flavour was just right. I did miss my dose of Theobroma, although I do like carob. The toasted buckwheat on top gave a nice crunch to the proceedings. A self confessed greedy sceptic, CT enjoyed this one. He thought it had a pleasantly orange taste was quite sweet, and the flavour combined well with the carob. He also liked the crunchiness. He concluded: ” I don’t know whether it’s good for you or not, but I like it”.
Cacao Cocbanana Brownie – cashews, coconut palm nectar, buckwheat, dates, banana powder, coconut flakes, cacao powder, coconut butter, vanilla, Himalyan salt.
Topped with crunchy pieces of coconut, this was the dominant flavour, with the banana becoming increasingly prevalent the more I chewed. CT’s comment was “the banana inveigles its way in and reminds me that although I don’t like bananas very much, I’m not sure why”.
Carob Hazelnut Brownie – coconut palm nectar, cashews, buckwheat, dates, hazelnuts, carob powder, vanilla, Himalayan salt.
Another delicious offering, with the flavour of hazelnuts predominating and the carob coming through as a secondary.
As a bonus I got to try three flavours of their recently launched crisps. I was quite intrigued by these, wondering how raw products were going to end up like a crisp.
I tried the Spicy Thai flavour first – carrots, buckwheat, flaxseed, dried coconut, tamarind, olive oil, pink Himalayan salt, garlic, dried lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, ginger.
Although I quite liked the texture and they were indeed crisp, I wasn’t to keen on the flavour which reminded me more of salt and vinegar than anything else and I do not like salt and vinegar. I did detect a flavour of earthy carrots, however and I quite liked that. When the salt and sour had died down a bit I detected some warmth from the ginger and a flavour that might have been lemon grass. Lower the salt and omit the tamarind and these would be a really nice snack.
Red Pepper – red bell pepper, carrot, buckwheat, flaxseed, lime juice, onion powder, olive oil, pink Himalayan salt, smoked paprika, garlic.
The red pepper flavour leapt out immediately. I liked this one much more than the Spicy Thai as it wasn’t sour at all and it was also less salty. It had a wholemealy quality and was quite fibrous. I’d much rather eat these than a packet of standard crisps flavoured with monosodium glutamate. They had the added bonus of not being greasy, but were more like a tortilla chip than a potato crisp.
Beetroot – beetroot, orange juice, carrot, buckwheat, flaxseed, extra virgin olive oil, pink Himalayan salt, dried dill, onion, Provençal herbs.
Despite my love of beetroot, I did not enjoy these ones at all. The only resemblance to beetroot I could find was the colour and they tasted pretty much like cardboard. Weirdly, CT (the confirmed beetroot hater) quite enjoyed them.
If you’d like to try any of these products, Gourmet Raw are offering my readers a 10% discount. To take advantage of this offer, head to the website Gourmet Raw and use the following code – GR006
Sweets really aren’t my thing any more – I moved from sweets to chocolate a long time ago. So CT was a little surprised when I accepted some for review. What have love hearts got to do with chocolate? He asked. Well what a question. Love is in the air and so is nostalgia. These take me right back to my childhood days, when every self-respecting girl would while away her time dreaming over a packet of love hearts.
And wouldn’t these make great decorations for a Valentine’s treat? I was hoping they would arrive in time to top the Valentine’s Hearts I made last week, but sadly they were just a little bit too late. They may well be featuring, however, in a special Valentine’s post on the day itself. Did you know that Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day around 498 AD?
Another reason for accepting was that I just could not resist this limited edition, Valentine’s special, heart shaped tin, filled with mini love hearts. I love tins, they are so useful for putting all those little bits and pieces in. And, it has to be said, I am rather in love with the colour red.
A unique sweet scent that is almost floral seduced my nostrils. I put the first love heart I’d had in many a long year “Try Me” into my mouth and I was straight back to the bittersweet memories of youth. I never did have the guts to offer an “I Love You” or any other love heart for that matter, to the boy of the moment and I sadly never received one either – not until I was an adult anyway!
I couldn’t remember what love hearts tasted of, so I was a little taken aback initially at the sharp fizz of sherbet. I remembered that white ones were my favourite, but wasn’t sure if each colour actually had a different flavour. But oh yes they did, fizzy fruity flavours: orange, cherry, blackcurrant, lime. I found the white ones were the sweetest but couldn’t pick up a discernible flavour. I also found there was a reason I used to like Love Hearts.
Take them away, or I might get addicted!!!
Swizzles Matlow, the company behind Love Hearts has been in operation for over eighty years. It made many of the sweets I was familiar with as a child: parma violets, refreshers, drumsticks – oh what fun I had trying to decide what I would spend my pennies on. It still makes those same ones now, rather worryingly termed Retro Sweets. As well as giant fourpacks retailing at £1.09, the Valentine’s collection also includes giant tubes (£1) and the aforementioned tins retail at £1.99. With only 100,000 made, you’d better get in quick.