We’re already nearly one week in to Fairtrade Fortnight, which runs from 27th Feb to 12th March. This year the Fairtrade Foundation are urging us to take a break with fairtrade products. Fairtrade coffee, tea, chocolate and bananas are all readily available. We can enjoy our break in the certain knowledge that impoverished farmers and farm workers are getting a better deal than they otherwise might.
Our local cafe, Olive & Co, does a mean coffee cardamom chocolate cake. It’s more of a torte really as it contains no flour. I’ve been wanting to try making something similar for ages and with the arrival of the new Divine chocolate baking bars, the time seemed right to give it a go. I give you my coffee cardamom chocolate mousse cake.
Christmas in July? What a strange concept. But it’s a real thing for brands, who need to showcase their Christmas products to the media. Every year London is alive with Christmas in July events and this year I got to go to a couple of them. The main event for me was the Fairtrade Foundation’s press day which not only highlighted some of the Fairtrade products available, but had a cookery demonstration too.
I’ve been a supporter of Fairtrade Fortnight for many years now, from when I was an active Co-Operative member and helped out in store to my current position as a food blogger. This year the campaign is focusing on Sit Down for Breakfast, Stand Up for Farmers and runs from 29 February to 13 March. With this in mind, I’ve prepared a delicious Fairtrade Fortnight Breakfast using a number of Fairtrade products as well as baking a breakfast banana bread.
Well the festival of chocolate is nearly upon us. I do know, of course that Easter is a very special occasion in the Christian calendar and for many others is about the celebration of Spring, but for us chocoholics, it’s a very good excuse to indulge.
Fairtrade Fortnight is coming to an end, but you still have a chance to “choose products that save lives”. Take a look at last week’s post to find out more on why buying fairtrade chocolate helps growers in poorer parts of the world.
To celebrate Fairtrade Fortnight, I have a giveaway for four 85g bars of Seed and Bean chocolate. Seed and Bean is a company founded on ethical principles and all of its products are not only Fairtrade and organic, but taste good too. I’m a fan. The 18 flavours offered are interesting and the packaging is attractive and captures my attention every time. You can see more detail about some of their chocolate bars in previous reviews, the last one of which was a rainbow of delight.
A rich decadent three layered chocolate cashew pie for a special occasion. It’s a biscuit crust, filled with dark chocolate ganache and topped off with a creamy confection of cashew nut butter, cream cheese and whipped cream.
Fairtrade products have had a lot of bad press recently, but it is an important concept to which I feel we should adhere. As far as chocolate goes, according to the Fairtrade Foundation, Fairtrade is enabling small scale farmers in Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana and the Dominican Republic to trade their way out of poverty. This is done by not only giving them a premium on the price they get for their cocoa but giving them long term contracts which provide stability allowing them to invest in their farms and communities. For more information on how lives in West Africa have been improved by Fairtrade, you can read the report from Fairtrade International, published earlier this year.
Divine was one of the very first chocolate companies to adopt the Fairtrade ethos and they have remained true to their principles ever since. The company is unique for a British mainstream chocolate business in that it is part owned by a co-operative of cocoa farmers in Ghana. You can read all about it here. Divine are one of the main sponsors of Chocolate Week. They have come up with two new chocolate bars as well as some new chocolate recipes especially for the occasion. I’m very keen to try both the 70% dark chocolate with mango and coconut and the milk chocolate with almonds. They have also helped organise a number of events around the country. Visit their website to find out what and where these are.
Living in Cornwall, means it is not always possible to attend some of the food events I would ideally like to. A celebration of twenty years of Fairtrade held in London a couple of months ago was one such. The diversity of products now out there carrying the Fairtrade label is really quite amazing. I remember when there was only tea, coffee and chocolate and they were hard to find. As I was unable to make the celebration, I was kindly sent a few of the products that were being showcased on the day. One of these was a bar of Divine chocolate.
Divine Milk Chocolate (38%) with Spiced Toffee Apple – I was very excited by this new bar on the block, not a flavour combination I’d come across in chocolate before. With the apple season fast approaching I wanted to keep this for a suitable appley occasion. Turned out this was Bonfire Night and I made these rather wonderful spiced toffee apple bonfire cakes. But meanwhile, I had to try a little of it. A mixture of apple pie and toffee apples, this was as good as I was hoping it might be. Pieces of crunchy toffee and chewy cinnamon flavoured apple punctuates Divine’s signature high cocoa content milk chocolate. One piece lasts a satisfyingly long time and leaves fruity spicy notes in the mouth which are just perfect for autumn.
Divine has always decorated its outer wrappers with traditional West African symbols called Adinkras, each of which has it’s own special meaning. This was the first Divine bar I’ve seen where the Adinkras are imprinted on the chocolate itself.
I also have my sights set on these two new recipes on the Divine site (photographs courtesy of the Divine):
|Hazelnut & Raspberry Dark Chocolate Truffles|
|Lemon and Chocolate Tarts|
Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for more chocolate tasters for #NationalChocolateWeek and don’t miss out on these:
Thanks to the Fairtrade Foundation for sending me these products to try. I was not required to write a positive review and as always, all opinions are my own.
Whilst every month is organic month in this household, I do like to support the #OrganicSeptember campaign. I have always been a strong believer in organic food, not so much for the health benefits, although that is important, but for the environmental ones. Growing food organically is the least harmful way of meeting human needs whilst allowing insects, birds and other wildlife to survive.
Organic food doesn’t have to be expensive; we live on a pretty tight budget. I buy some of our staples such as oats, rice, lentils and dried fruit in bulk which reduces the cost considerably. We also grow many of our own vegetables. Just buying one or two regular items that have been produced using organic ingredients can make a positive difference.
Certified by the Soil Association, Seed & Bean are officially the UK’s most ethical chocolate brand. Their bars are organic, fair-trade and ethically produced. They are the only company to score 100 out of 100 in the good Shopping Guide’s ethical index. They have a direct relationship with their cocoa bean growers in Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and on the Sao Tomé Islands off West Africa, ensuring a better income for the producers and a more sustainable crop. As you would expect from a good quality product, all of their ingredients are natural and only real fruit is used. Founded in 2005 by principal chocolatier Stephen Rudkin, the bars are still handmade in small batches in Northamptonshire. I was particularly pleased to find that the inner “foil” wrappers are actually made from something called nature flex which is fully home compostable. I wish I’d known about this before, but the message doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the wrapping, which is where it probably should be if they want people to compost rather than throw.
The Seed & Bean range is currently made up of eighteen different flavours, including seven award winners. The two most recent award winning bars are an extra dark (70%) with Cornish sea salt and a rich milk (37%) with Sicilian hazelnut and almond. I have reviewed the former, but have not had the pleasure of trying the latter and sadly it wasn’t in the bundle of ten I was recently sent to try. Some other flavours I’d like to try but weren’t included are the dark chocolate (58%) lemon and cardamom, dark chocolate (72%) pumpkin seeds and hemp oil and the milk chocolate (37%) tangerine. Twelve of the bars are suitable for vegans. Interestingly, I noted from a previous review of the milk chocolate Cornish sea salt and lime that the cocoa content has gone up from 30% to 37%, which in my book makes it even more delicious. In fact the four milk chocolate bars all have a cocoa content of 37%, which although I’d prefer to be higher still, is much better than most chocolate bars you’re likely to come across.
Whilst my mouth waits with anticipation to savour the inner secrets of the bars, my eyes feast on the multi coloured outer packaging – a veritable rainbow of colours. The graphics are eye-catching and the colour of the wrapper reflects the flavour of the bar. Really I don’t think I can improve on their own words: “we fill our days with the soulful pursuit of creating kaleidoscopic moments of pleasure”.
Of the ten I was sent, some have been reviewed on the blog, some I’m planning to bake up a storm with and two I couldn’t resist trying out almost immediately. You can see which ones those were below.
You can find Seed & Bean bars at various independent shops around the UK, Ireland and Europe. You can also buy them direct via their online shop. The bars weigh 85g, all but the milk chocolate and the dark chocolate bars which have recently gone up a size and are now a hefty 100g. They all vary in price but cost around £2.30.
Coconut & Raspberry (66% dark) – cocoa mass, raw cane sugar, cocoa butter, coconut oil, raspberries, soya lecithin, vanilla extract.
With its subtle flavour of coconut and fruity taste of raspberry and a backdrop of smooth dark chocolate, this is really rather wonderful. It’s a combination I’ve not come across before, but it works very well. The raspberry leaves a tart and refreshing taste in the mouth. Whilst the chocolate is smooth, there is texture from the powdered raspberries which makes me want to munch rather than savour. For a dark chocolate, this is really rather moreish.
Chilli & Lime (72%) – cocoa mass, cane sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla extract, chilli powder, lime oil.
Lime is the first flavour to hit the senses; a rich aroma of lime and chocolate emanates enticingly from the bar and when the chocolate touches your mouth, it is lime you can taste. It doesn’t take long though for the chocolate and spice to catch up and gradually your mouth fills with the warming power of chilli. I found the balance of both lime and chilli to be just right. Both were noticeable, but neither overwhelming and they worked in tandem with the smooth dark Dominican trinitario chocolate to give a particularly pleasurable experience. This chocolate is rich though and a couple of squares at any one time is enough to satisfy.
Thanks to Seed & Bean for sending me some chocolate bars to try out. I was not required to write a favourable review and as always, all opinions are my own.
It’s been a while since I did a round-up of Chocolate Treats. I’ve had a few sent to me over the last several months and now feels like a good time to let you know about them all.
Food of the Gods
Cornwall is starting to produce some fabulous and innovative chocolate. I’ve already highlighted some of our chocolate producers, but Food of the Gods has only recently come to my attention. Based down at the other end of Cornwall to me, in St Just, this is an exciting new enterprise. Owner and chocolate maker Dal Hall loves his chocolate, but didn’t like eating all the associated sugar and additives that comes with most mass produced bars. Initially running a few raw chocolate workshops for people with mental health problems and seeing the joy it brought them, he decided to start making his own raw chocolate whilst carrying on the day job. Ethics are important and Dal’s chocolate is made using organic and fairly traded ingredients. There are only three things in the base chocolate, cocoa solids, cocoa butter and unusually, date syrup. I was particularly interested in this latter ingredient as it appeals far more to me than agave syrup or Sweet Freedom – the only two sweeteners I’ve so far been aware of. Date syrup is a more natural ingredient, being less highly processed and containing fibre, potassium and antioxidants.
The chocolate is 96% cocoa, leaving only 4% to be sweetened by the date syrup. This makes it the healthiest raw chocolate I know as well as the darkest. I was sent three bars to try: one with cocoa nibs, one with mixed nuts and one with rose petals, goji berries and something chocolatey. The something chocolatey is a bit of a mystery as none of the bars had labels on them. However it tasted very nice. In fact both CT and I enjoyed this chocolate very much. Although it’s barely sweet and very rich and dark, it’s surprisingly easy to eat. It’s not at all bitter and you can really taste the chocolate. The texture is also much better than the raw chocolate I’ve made myself; it’s less soft and almost has a bit of a snap to it. It is, however, quite chewy, so better munched than left to gradually melt in the mouth. The nut bar was probably my favourite, even though I was quite taken by the rose which had a subtle flavour with burst of fruitiness from the berries.
This Food of the Gods is by far and away the most exciting raw chocolate I’ve yet come across and I wish Dal every success with his venture.
The chocolate is available online and at selected outlets in Cornwall, one of which is happily Trevallicks, the farm shop in my home village. Online it costs £2.75 for a 60g bar including P&P.
Italian food has to be one of the best in the world, it’s certainly one of my favourites. Finding authentic high quality Italian ingredients isn’t always easy. Vorrei are a new online Italian food shop selling products ethically sourced from small scale Italian suppliers and farms. I noticed many of their products are organic too – bene. I was glad to see they have a particularly pleasing chocolate selection.
Giuliette (Colavolpe) – dried oven-baked figs, walnuts, sugar, cocoa butter, Bronte pistachios, powdered milk, lactose and milk proteins, flavouring, soy lecithin, colouring E131.
The Colavolpe family have been making figgy confections now for three generations. Based in Calabria, one of their signature ingredients is the dottato fig, a small but tasty variety that grows particularly well in that region.
I adore figs and pistachios both, so these little parcels of sumptuousness all wrapped up in white chocolate are just the sort of thing likely to appeal to me. The dried figs are stuffed with a mixture of walnuts, pistachios and white chocolate, then enrobed in more white chocolate. Despite the minimal amount of pistachio in the filling, (only 5%), the flavour was still detectable. I would prefer a higher percentage of pistachio myself and for the food colouring to be omitted. That aside, I enjoyed these so much I really didn’t want to share; poor CT didn’t get much of a look in. The outer chocolate is a good foil for the richer chewy fig within. I found the packaging almost as appealing. Wrapped individually in pistachio coloured foil lined paper, the figs nestled in a similarly coloured box.
A box of 12, weighing 250g costs £10.50.
Betty and Walter
Inspired by the names of Betty and Walter bags and accessories, Creighton’s Chocolaterie have created a limited range of chocolate bars to complement them. I was sent one of their bars to try. When the box arrived I didn’t know which of the four flavours I was going to get. All of them sounded interesting, especially the fig and pink pepper dark chocolate. But secretly my heart yearned for rose. I’ve had an affinity with rose ever since I was a nipper and was dressed up as the Fry’s Turkish Delight girl for our village carnival one year. And as I’ve said before, this queen of flowers reminds me of my grandad who was passionate about his roses and won awards for them every year.
Beautifully packaged, the chocolate came with a personalised label which immediately endeared Betty and Walter to me and made me smile.
Almond and Rose Milk Chocolate – (33.6%) sugar, cocoa butter, while milk powder, cocoa mass, soya lecithin, vanilla, almonds, rose oil.
I was so enamoured by the anticipation of not knowing what I was going to get and later by the look, sound and scent of this bar, that I took it in stages. I made the whole seductive process of looking, smelling, touching and finally tasting, last as long as I could. In a nutshell: day one, I received it; day two I unwrapped the outer packaging ; day 3, I unwrapped the inner packaging and tasted the chocolate.
Wrapped in greaseproof paper emblazoned with Creighton’s chocolaterie interspersed with yum, I found this to be a classy way of wrapping the chocolate. As soon as the outer layer of plastic was taken off, the evocative scent of rose assailed my nostrils. But what of the chocolate? Thankfully, it tasted delightfully of rose too. The bar was sweet, but whilst I’m not generally a fan of very sweet chocolate, it somehow works with rose. The crunchy pieces of almond gave added texture and interest. Once started, CT got in on the act and the bar didn’t last very long at all.
At £3.50 for a 100g bar, this is well worth the money,for the pure anticipatory joy, if nothing else.
Seed and Bean
Seed and Bean is a company I approve of. I’ve reviewed some of their 85g chocolate bars before and here too; the chocolate is both tasty and of good quality. They also come in a range of interesting flavours. But more than that, they are organically certified by the Soil Association and the only UK chocolate company to receive 100% ethical accreditation from The Ethical Company Organisation. This means, in their own words “we give a really fair deal to cocoa farmers, whilst fully respecting the rural environment, both in the UK and overseas”.
Cornish Sea Salt – (70% dark chocolate) – cocoa mass, raw cane sugar, cocoa butter, smoked sea salt, soya lecithin, vanilla extract.
With my patriotic Cornish hat on, I was very pleased to see that Seed and Bean were using Cornish sea salt in another of their bars. The chocolate is smooth and melts sumptuously in the mouth. It’s not in the least bit bitter, which is generally a sign of good quality dark chocolate. I’m unable to eat more than a square of some sea salted bars I’ve tried as they are just too salty, but here the salt takes a supporting role. There is a subtle note of smokiness that enriches the experience. This is a bar to savour and delight in.
Lavender – (72% dark chocolate) – cocoa mass, cane sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla extract, lavender oil soya lecithin, .
Lavender is one of those flavours that you either like or dislike. Liking most things herbal, I’m rather partial to it as long as it’s not too overpowering. This one is quite strong, the scent emanates from the bar as soon as it is opened and you can certainly taste the lavender. Both CT and I felt it was a bit too much and thus better suited to baking into a chocolate lavender cake than savouring on its own. Lavender, I’ve found works very nicely in this form as demonstrated by this chocolate lavender cake.
Prices for these 85g bars are around £2.30.
Scotland’s first chilli farm has a name that immediately appeals to me. It’s no secret, I am a chilli head; next to our garlic, chillies are the most important crop we grow. Chillilicious not only has the distinction of being the most northerly chilli farm in Europe, but it is run by a team of women. Mother and daughter, Patricia and Stacey Galfskiy grow chillies in an environmentally sustainable way and make a variety of products from them. One such is a chocolate bar using the infamous naga – the world’s hottest chilli.
Heaven & Hell – (dark chocolate, 53.8% cocoa) cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soya lecithin, natural vanilla. (white chocolate, 28%) sugar, cocoa butter , whole milll powder, soya lecithin, natural vanilla. Naga chilli.
A mix of dark and white chocolate, this bar is topped by dried naga chilli and swirled artfully together, it looks very attractive. The dark chocolate contains the chilli as well as being topped by it. The idea is that the white chocolate soothes the mouth after eating the fiery dark part. Chilli fiend that I am, I was slightly concerned about trying this bar – I had heard stories. Well, it didn’t quite blow my head of, but it nearly did. My throat caught fire almost immediatly after the chocolate hit my mouth. But the sensation of hot chilli together with both dark and sweet white chocolate is quite exciting. Not something I’d want every day, but as an occasional wake up, it’s an experience worth having.
Available from the Chillilicious online shop at £4 for a 100g bar.