If you want to make this authentic, add rum

Published on Roads & Kingdoms on 24th July 2015:

Kim Russell pouring out cocoa tea

“It’s rudimentary but it works,” Kim Russell shouts over the whirr of a vacuum cleaner as he slowly pushes the freshly ground cocoa beans down a shoot.

“And it costs a lot less than the industrial winnower. You need to do it a couple of times to get all the shells out, but it’s much quicker than by hand.”

There are probably not many vacuum cleaners involved in the making of a cup of hot cocoa, but this is what happens at Crayfish Bay, an organic cocoa farm on the Caribbean island of Grenada.

Read more at Roads & Kingdoms

The world’s best chocolate – a tale of organic cocoa production

Published on Yahoo Lifestyle UK & Ireland on 11th July 2013:

Qin Xie in the Dominican Republic

The air was humid and sticky, the mosquitoes were out in force and hungry but the patters of rain softened the blow. A little.

I was in the rainforests of the Dominican Republic to learn about organic cocoa production. The plantation I was in produces beans for Valrhona, the company that supplies some of the finest chocolates to the world’s best restaurants, patisseries and chocolatiers.

Having been involved with chocolate as a consumer, a chef and a judge at the international chocolate awards, I thought I knew a fair bit about chocolate and its production.

Read more at Yahoo!

Egg-tastic treats for Easter

Published on Foodepedia on 14th April 2011:

With Easter right round the corner, it’s time for us to bring you a round up of some of the best Easter eggs out there.

Everyday (under £5):

  • There’s no quibble about whether the chicken or the egg came first with Smarties’ chocolate Chicken and Egg. The milk chocolate chicken shell opens up to reveal a chocolate egg, which in turn opens up to reveal a secret stash of Smarties inside. It’s available at all major supermarkets. (RRP £2.49)
  • Carluccio’s have a rather interesting take on the Easter egg with their quirky Uovo alla coque. It looks like a soft-boiled egg but has dark chocolate and hazelnut paste inside and is topped with white chocolate. You can probably serve it up for breakfast. It’s available in-store or online at www.carluccios.com. (RRP £2.95)
  • New for 2011 from Guylian, the people best known for their Belgian seashells, is a trio of hand painted eggs. Made from dark, milk and white chocolate, there’s a hand decorated egg for everyone and no need to share. It’s available from all major supermarkets. (RRP £3.99)

Premium (under £25):

  • Get a real sense of spring with butterfly inspired floral Easter eggs from Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference range. Available in dark, milk and white chocolate, each egg stands up all on its own. It’s available only at Sainsbury’s. (RRP £6)
  • Why let someone else have all the fun when you can decorate your own eggs? Stas Temper Temper Make Your Own Egg Kit has all the edible vital parts you need to create an owl, rocket or chicken egg. It makes a Easter great activity for kids. It’s available from Waitrose. (RRP £9)
  • If you’re a Japanophile then the Easter tin from Matcha Chocolat is just the thing to have. Each tin contains eight ganache filled eggs with flavours such as sencha & cherry blossom, matcha & ginger, yuzu and raspberry & wasabi. It’s an eclectic mix of Eastern promises. It’s available from matchachocolat.com. (RRP £9.95)
  • The Real Hen’s Eggs from Rococo is a great surprise treat for praline lovers. Real eggs are blown out and filled with hazelnut praline so while they look like real eggs, they taste divine. So good, you might be forgiven for any pranks you play. It’s available in-store or online at rococochocolates.com. (RRP £12.50)

Super-premium (under £100):

  • William Curley’s eggs can be filled with a section of nibbles including Cinder Toffee, Caramelized Piedmont Hazelnuts, Roast Gianduja Almonds, Crystallized Orange dipped in dark chocolate. It’s available in-store or online at www.williamcurley.co.uk. (RRP £30)
  • You just won’t know where to start with the Glam Egg from Demmarquette. Six assorted mini caramel eggs separate two parts of the main egg. There’s also another six hiding in the base of the egg, ready to be discovered. It’s available in-store or online at www.demarquette.co.uk. (RRP £35)
  • Eggs don’t have to be 3-D with Belgian chocolatier Pierre Marcolini’s reinterpretation. The egg is embeded into a sheet of chocolate which then slides neatly into a shelf of one of his boxes of chocolates. It’s available online at www.marcolini-eboutique.com. (RRP £40 for two)
  • Have your customisable egg and eat it too with a nougatine Easter egg from Godiva. The half chocolate egg shell comes filled with 1.5kg of Godiva chocolates of your choice and if you’re a real chocoholic you will want to add a second shell and even more chocolates. It’s available by order from Godiva stores. (RRP £50)
  • Prepare to be impressed by the Ostrich Egg from Hotel Chocolat. The huge eggs, available in dark or milk chocolate, comes in multiple layers of chocolate and nuts. And if that’s not enough, each treat box also contains smaller chocolate eggs and treats to share or put inside. It’s perfect for a party centrepiece. It’s available in-store or online at www.hotelchocolat.co.uk. (RRP £65)
  • Paul A Young’s exclusive Easter product is a large egg available in either 70% dark, caramelized milk or white chocolate all with silver leaf and inlaid with shimmering purple and gold decoration. Presented in a hand-made box specially designed for Paul each box contains a drawer filled with Paul’s award winning chocolates. A limited edition that’s available from both of Paul A Young’s London chocolateries. www.paulayoung.co.uk . (£75)

Out of this world (£580!!!):

  • The Easter egg has been incorporated into a work of art with the Easter Vegetable Garden from La Maison du Chocolat. The white, milk, dark chocolate piece is scattered with slivers of chocolate and nut vegetables and praline eggs. It’s available only at La Maison du Chocolat boutiques. (RRP £580…!)

Guilty chocolate pleasures

Published on Foodepedia on 13th January 2011:

There’s a lot of talk about January detox but admit it, how many of you have already fallen off the bandwagon? And even if you’re still going strong, isn’t the best part of the detox the day when you get to retox?

And there’s nothing so tempting as the guilty pleasure of chocolates so that’s why I’ve brought you the ultimate guide to chocolate in the next few months.

Demarquette www.demarquette.com

Award winning British Chocolatier Marc Demarquette has put together a Nutkeeper’s Collection which is available in store and online now. It’s a collection of four hybrid praline caramels in hand painted 71.1% pure origin chocolate shells. The pralines are flavoured with Kentish cobnut, Provençal almond, Persian pistachio and American pecan and maple. Along the caramel route, Demarquette has also introduced a Cornish Sea Salt Caramel Box.

Choccy Munchy Seeds www.munchyseeds.co.uk

Completely new to the market, Choccy Munchy Seeds are a mix of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and pieces of dried apricot all coated in Belgian milk and dark chocolate. It’s produced by a small family company based in Suffolk, who have been producing sweet and savoury coated seeds for over 12 years. The new Choccy Munchy Seeds are available now from their website or in Lakeland stores from March 2011.

William Curley www.williamcurley.co.uk

Consider putting your feet up and letting the chocolate come to you by joining the Curley Chocolate Club. You can sign up for either a three, six or 12 month membership and get a selection of William Curley chocolates delivered right to your door. You will receive everything from couture chocolates and truffles to Jaffa Cake and crystallised almonds. You will get something different every month but expect to try the latest products, best sellers and award winning chocolates.

Leiths School of Food and Wine www.leiths.com

If your ambitions are more active then think about taking on the Leiths Chocolate Workshop. You will spend a day learning about the history of chocolate, tasting different varieties of chocolates as well as making chocolates to take home. The one off course will take place at the school on the 7th of April 2011, visit their website for more details.

Hotel Chocolat www.hotelchocolat.co.uk

You probably always thought that Hotel Chocolat was just for adults but they have just put the finishing touches to their new children’s range. There are two heroes in the new range – Nibblatron the robot and Twinkle Toes the fairy. Beware, these are so cute that you will probably end up buying them for yourself. The new range is available online and in store now.

Thornton’s www.thorntons.co.uk

Eating chocolate isn’t all about indulgence though. This January, Thornton’s will be launching their new limited edition Chocolate Blocks made from Haiti cocoa beans. 91p from every bar will be going to Save the Children’s educational programmes in Haiti. The first of the series to be released is milk chocolate with mango and is on sale in all Thornton’s stores and online now, priced at £1.79.

But that is not all for Thornton’s – 2011 also marks the chocolate company’s centenary year. To celebrate, Thornton’s will be releasing limited edition Centenary boxes, which will include chocolates made according to 100 year old recipes from the Thornton’s archive. They will also release boxes with one hundred chocolates in.

Artisan du Chocolat www.artisanduchocolat.com

It may only be January but things are definitely hotting up on the love front at Artisan du Chocolat. The chocolatiers have teamed up with New York designers, Bureau of Communication, to create a special limited edition Declaration of Romantic Feelings box. As well as the romantic mad lib in the box, there is also a selection of 54 assorted couture chocolates. A heart shaped XOXO Box, a sweet No.14 Passion Fruit Caramels and a bewitching Love Potion No. 9 are also part of the Valentine’s collection. All are available online and in store now.

Divine www.divinechocolate.com

Love is also in the air for fair-trade chocolate company Divine. It is launching two new chocolate products – milk chocolate praline hearts and dark chocolate covered salted fudges which are both on sale in Oxfam stores nationwide now.

Paul a Young www.paulayoung.co.uk

Paul a Young Fine Chocolates will be releasing their spring collection in February and will feature flavours such as pink pepper truffle; saffron, green cardamom and vanilla bean; and sultry chilli with ginger and nutmeg. For Valentine’s day, the chocolatier will also be releasing wild strawberry and champagne truffles and a rose water heart. The collection will be available online and in store.

Harrods www.harrods.com

Harrods have launched yet more exclusive chocolate products. This time it’s a series of hand-crafted chocolate trees, designed for dinner party centrepieces or as quirky alternatives to flowers. The trees are created by a mother and daughter-run family business, and includes a strawberry champagne truffle heart, a milk chocolate truffle tree and a marshmallow heart terracotta pot.


Willie’s Chocolate Bible by Willie Harcourt Cooze

Published on Foodepedia on 27th November 2010:

When Willie Harcourt-Cooze first burst on to our TV screens in 2008, immersed in a bath of chocolate, it was the stuff of children’s books. He was in a documentary about making the best chocolates in the world from bean to bar.

This was a man so passionate about chocolate that at the start of his journey, he sold his home in London and moved to Venezuela where he bought a cacao farm – Hacienda El Tesoro. For over a decade, he produced the cacao beans himself and turned it into bars to sell locally before bringing his 100% chocolate to the UK market. These days, the hacienda still produces cacao for Willie’s chocolate factory in Devon, but he also sources selected cacao beans from elsewhere to produce his selection of quality chocolates.

Harcourt-Cooze’s first book, Willie’s Chocolate Factory Cookbook, came out not too long ago in April 2010. Now we have a second cookbook from the chocolate fanatic, Willie’s Chocolate Bible.

When it landed on my carpet, it took my breath away.

I hadn’t anticipated its size – with over 300 pages, it’s really quite hefty. Neither had I expected it to look so incredible. The beautiful cover resembles a navy blue door so when you turn the page, it feels like opening the door to a world of chocolate. And in many respects it is – to the world of Willie’s cacao.

A quick flip through the book revealed an astounding number of recipes that I wanted to try. So which one first? I tweeted at the man himself @WilliesCacao who replied “start with the Cacao and olive bread then toast it for a nutty flavour!” And that is precisely what I did – I made bread.

I love freshly made bread but it’s generally a whole lot better when someone else has done all the hard work. But in the name of recipe testing, I got down with the yeast and made a bit of a mess of the kitchen. It’s not a recipe without a downside I’m afraid. Getting all the ingredients was a rather costly exercise and Harcourt-Cooze doesn’t really suggest any alternatives. But then I guess for him and for chocolate connoisseurs out there, chocolate is a bit of a luxury. And so it should be.

When you sit down to read the accompanying narrative, you discover the tremendous process that chocolate has to go through to get from bean to bar. There was the harrowing tale of Harcourt-Cooze’s journey from buying the hacienda to opening his chocolate factory and creating the recipes. Then there was the story and the history behind chocolate itself. It has served to both entertain and educate in the few hours between the first and second proof of the dough and the actual baking of the bread.

In fact, making the bread took me the best part of a day but that’s nothing compared to the amount of time taken for the chocolate I used to make its way into my kitchen. At the end of it though, while my bandaged hands (small accident when chopping the chocolate) smelt like beer, my house smelt of wonderful freshly baked bread. As soon as I popped a soft, warm piece into my mouth, I was hooked.

The recipes are mostly sweet but there is also a healthy helping of savoury ones like roast wild duck with a chocolate and orange sauce. With beautiful food photography, delicious recipes and incredible tales, this book is for keeps.

Buy on Amazon