Thursday, December 4, 2008

scots chocs

i’m taking the ferry from larne to cairnryan next week to embark on a tour of rapidly increasing scottish stockists.

we’re delighted to welcome peckham’s to our list of stockists and i will in their edinburgh (11th december) and glasgow (13th december) stores to provide tasters of our range.

i’m also excited to be part of the edinburgh harvey nichols celebration night on the 10th december (6.30pm – 9pm). these evenings always prove to be good fun with lots of producers sampling there wears. sarah will be in london, knightsbridge on 18th december many thanks to rachael and lauren for manning the fort in manchester last week.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

cocoa bean truffle recipes - christmas flavours

as promised - here are some of our original recipes for truffles. these are fresh and will only last between 7 and 14 days. they are best kept in a cool, dry place. if you want to increase the shelf life, decrease the cream to chocolate ratio in the ganache. this makes the truffle firmer and easier to work with but not quite as scrumptious in my opinion! a truffle with alcohol will always have a longer shelf life than one fresh fruit.

when we were making truffles for the markets, we used to make each flavour with the 500g of chocolate. however, this is impractical at home and it's possible to make one 500g batch and then split it and flavour the portions separately. although this is less presice, it does mean one batch of ganache will make a good few boxes of truffles in an assortment of exciting flavours. see emily's temper, temper post to learn how to dip and get the shiny, crisp finish.

ingredients are fresh and real so adapt my quantities according to your taste and the ingredients you are working with.

i have included some ideas for flavours but use my basic recipes and experiment. i suggest you prepare the flavours before you make the ganache.

basic cocoa bean ganache:

500g dark chocolate (a good 50 - 60% works best)

500ml dairy or soya cream

slowly melt 500g of dark chocolate in a bowl over barely simmering water. warm the cream. when the chocolate has completely melted, slowly stir the cream into the chocolate and remove from the heat. if you are only making purely chocolate truffles then allow to cool, cover the bowl and put in a cool, dry place over night. use a teaspoon to take a portion of ganche. dip in cocoa powder and roll quickly between the flat palms of both hands. roll the truffles (30 - 40 depending on size) and place on sheets of greaseproof paper and then dip in dark chocolate ( we prefer a good 70%)

if you are adding flavours, split into separate bowls and combine with the flavours straight away. then follow instructions above.

i suggest you try the 5 following flavours for a great christmas selection. you will therefore need to split your ganache into 5 roughly even portions (6 or 7 truffles of each flavour). a mortar and pestle and a small coffee grinder are really handy for preparing flavours.

roasted hazelnut

roast a handful of hazelnuts under a hot grill for a few minutes, shaking the baking tray once or twice. zap in a coffee grinder and stir through the ganache. dip and then top with half a roasted hazelnut.
christmas pudding

take a handful of sultanas and raisins and soak for a few hours in a splash of brandy. add a dash of cinnamon. combine with the ganache. dip and then top with candied peel or a royal icing christmas pudding hat!
port and lemon

warm a good splash of port with a spoon of sugar. reduce. add a squeeze of lemon and the grated zest of an unwaxed lemon. finally sprinkle in a pinch of ground cloves. alternatively warm with cloves stick in a slice of lemon and remove before stirring the reduced port through the ganache. dip and then top with a sliver of lemon zest.

grate the zest a whole orange. squeeze a little of the juice over the zest and combine with the ganache. it's well worth buying a really good quality orange. dip and then top with a sliver of orange zest.

toast the seeds of 5 or 6 fat cardamoms in a dry frying pan. when the fabulous aroma hits your nose, remove from the heat and grind to a dust with a mortar and pestle. add a sprinkle of chilli powder to taste and a good grating of fresh ginger. if you want to improve the shelf life, replace with ground ginger but it's not as good! combine with the ganache and then top with a sprinkling of chilli powder.

If making your own chocolates is not for you, visit our websites or any of our stockists - nowhere near as messy!

Friday, November 28, 2008

temper temper

this was the method me and sarah used when we first started making chocolates at limerick market in 2002. a useful method if you are wanting to temper small quantities of chocolate at home. this is the easiest way we have found for tempering chocolate for decorations and chocolate treats at home without using machines or marble slabs.
1. melt the chocolate
very slowly melt the chocolate in a large bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. this is called the bain marie method. make sure the bowl fits tightly to stop any steam from the pan escaping and condensing into the chocolate. it is also important that the bowl doesn’t touch the hot water as this will cause the chocolate to melt to a too higher temperature. it is best to use little chocolate chips as they melt quickly and evenly. stir to ensure the chocolate melts evenly. if you insist on using a thermometer make sure the temperature doesn’t exceed 45˚c.
2. cool the chocolate
as soon as the chocolate is entirely melted remove it from the pan of water and stir well. add in to the chocolate approximately 1/4 of the weight of the original chocolate in fresh unmelted chocolate chips and stir them in. the aim is for all these chocolate chips to melt into the warm melted chocolate. it is very important that these fresh chocolate chips are tempered so make sure they are an even colour and don’t have a grey bloom on them. you want the tempertature to go below 32˚c but cooler than 28˚c and you’ll begin to find it becoming to thick to work with.
3. checking your temper
stir the mixture is tempered by thinly spreading a little of the chocolate on to a sheet of greaseproof paper and popping it into the fridge for a couple of minutes. the chocolate should set to a glossy shine and crack cleanly as you break it. if it doesn’t stir in a few more chocolate chips and test again.
4. keeping your temper
work quickly as the chocolate will set fairly fast once it is tempered. to keep it workable you can dip the bowl briefly into a larger bowl of very hot water and stir well. once again make sure the water doesn’t come into contact with the chocolate. if the chocolate sets entirely you can remelt it and start the process again.


this is a great method for tempering chocolate for dipping homemade truffles or sarah’s fresh market fudge to give them a crisp, brittle chocolate coating to contrast delightfully with the soft and yielding centre.
perfect for decorating cakes and cupcakes
great for making chocolate decorations
ideal for getting tempered chocolate for making homemade chocolate lollipops.

it is great method for small amounts but if you use larger quantities regularly and the method above has you losing your temper it may be worth investing in a small tempering machine. they are fairly pricey, about the same as a good ice cream maker. the small, but perfectly formed little machine from vantage house was a great investment and gave us many years of service.

national craft and design fair

head to the rds on 3rd - 7th december and you'll be rewarded with a spectacular christmas food emporium and a crafts and design fair featuring unusual and unique gifts from ireland's finest crafts people. it's the perfect start to festivities at the same time as avoiding shopping centre hell!
the food emporium will be crammed with artisan produce sold by the producers themselves; a chance to talk to those who are truly passionate about the taste and quality of food.

there will be free talks, tastings and demonstrations by some of ireland's leading experts including darina allen, peter caviston and peter ward. demonstrations range from cooking game to christmas cocktails.

you'll find Colm at s 98 where you can get your fix of our chocolates. come and try the christmas tree bar with its heady aroma of norwegian spruce and all the nostalgia and excitement of christmas in a bite! look out on the blog over the next week for our christmas gift guide to skelligs and cocoa bean - we truly believe we have something for everyone from a quirky stocking filler to a box of classic romantic truffles.

come along and get all your christmas shopping done in one festive whirl of irish passion, skill and craftsmanship!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

chocablog review

we are delighted with the review simon recently gave our christmas tree bar on the magnificent chocoblog website. this is indeed a remarkably delicious, incomparably atmospheric chocolate bar that we are both proud and addicted to! still it is nice to hear someone else say it!

Cocoa Bean Dark Chocolate With Christmas Tree
Posted by Simon
Well, we’re only a few weeks away from Christmas, and of course that means seasonal chocolate products are already making their way onto the shelves.

The Cocoa Bean ladies were good enough to send me this rather interesting little number for my appraisal - a limited edition 53% cocoa bar containing (and I quote) “the heady aroma of Norwegian Spruce, the mellow melt of Rosemary, the burst of ginger, the tingle of winter spices and Clementine zest in the air”. Whew, that’s quite a lot to cram into a 75g bar!

It certainly has a distinct whiff of Rosemary and citrus about it, which is no bad thing in my book. I love the smell of Rosemary, and was delighted when I found my first Rosemary / chocolate combination earlier this year. Of course there is always the danger that using such a powerfully aromatic herb might detract from any other ingredient - particularly the chocolate! - so I didn’t hesitate too long before I popped a piece into my mouth for the real test.

The unique way Cocoa Bean make their bars means one can either select a virtuously small square or a slightly more satisfying rectangle. I opted for the virtuous square, and was rewarded with a first flavour of Rosemary that was surprisingly strong. However, it soon softened off as the citrus flavour of the Clementine zest. A glance at the ingredients told me that there was also a hint of clove (thankfully only a hint), cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, oil of pine (making this my second “tree” chocolate) and (but of course) frankincense and myrrh. In other words, there’s been some rather serious experimentation and blending going on to arrive at the final recipe.

The thing is - is this just a gimmicky Christmas novelty? The chocolate itself is excellent stuff. Dark, rich, soft on the palate, and it manages to make itself ‘heard’ above the zesty, spicy, Christmas flavours. The blend of flavours has obviously been perfected (one can only imagine how many hours were spent making THIS happen) and the whole thing hangs together very well. I found mysef admiring the Cocoa Bean sisters for daring to attempt this, and for pulling it off so well. It ought to be a limited edition just because of what it is, but I think it goes beyond ‘gimmick’. Think of it more like a Christmas special - like the seasonal edition of one of your favourite TV programmes. It’s brave, slightly wacky, and very tasty.

Definitely something special for a stocking filler or your Christmas hamper.
Buy Cocoa Bean Dark Chocolate With Christmas Tree Online

the chocolate shop

i love the way that whenever i've popped into the chocolate shop in cork's english market, i end up staying for at least an hour, eating chocolate and drinking great coffee from a nearby stall. nial enthusiastically offers me pieces of chocolate from around the world and we argue the merits of different blends and strengths, sharing our delight or disbelief!

this is a specialist chocolate shop with real charm and character, nestled in cork's historic gourmet food market. nial and his wife, rose, source the best quality artisan chocolate from the best chocolate manufacturers throughout the world. we are privileged to be amongst them. this christmas, look out for skelligs formal collection and cocoa bean's bars available here in the very rare gift pack! also very difficult to find this year are our limited edition chocolate decorations that look fabulous suspended from the new bitter chocolate decor.
'left to my own devices I would rave on about the chilli bar which gets the balance so right!'
rose - the chocolate shop

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

a visit to the sea - volume 1

cocoa bean and skelligs started supplying morton's of galway soon after eric morton opened his exciting seaside shop in salthill in 2004. they stock a vast range of speciality products and fresh food and have always been very enthusiastic about irish artisan producers.

emily and i sat next to eric and his wife at the celebration meal on the evening of the speciality food fair in dublin in 2006 and talked about homemade jam and dark chocolate; about artisan bakers, salami, milk chocolate and chutney; about wine, irish cheese, sleepless nights (due to both having young children and running a business) and irish whiskey.

look out for cocoa bean and skelligs in the shop if you live in galway. if you don't live in galway, then go there to do some christmas shopping! it has more than its fair share of fabulous food shops alongside interesting and unusual gift shops and the great sea air.

Monday, November 24, 2008

great chocoholic stockists

over the next few weeks we are going to profile some of the great delicatessen, food halls and gift shops where you can stock up on your christmas supply of cocoa bean and skelligs chocolates and other lovely things...
59 glasthule road, sandycove, co. dublin

emily and I first discovered the delights of cavistons when we took our chocolates for mark caviston to taste not long after we started cocoa bean. famous for its fish, this delicatessen and restaurant manages to excel at everything! alongside the fresh seafood there is organic chicken & game, freshly baked bread, organic spices and of course cocoa bean chocolates!

i recently met an elderly dublin man on a radio writing course in shropshire and found we had a love of caviston's in common. our conversation became so enthusiastic and animated that everyone else now has caviston's down as a must see on any trip to ireland.

the shop has been operating for more than 50 years. it's friendly and welcoming and as soon as you walk in the door, there is a buzz of people passionate about their job and the food they source, both locally and from around the world.

caviston's also have an exciting range of christmas hampers that you can see on the goodies and gifts section of their website: look out for the ones containing cocoa bean and skelligs chocolates!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

chocolate fondue fun

sadly our french correspondent has finished working with us but hopefully guillemette will continue to send us recipes, experiments and records of her chocoholic frolics.

when her mum and sisters came to visit they generously brought us a gift of a chocolate fondue set. a very, very popular gift and a real multi lingual icebreaker. we immediately set about raiding the fridge and cupboards for delights that we could chocolatify.
the chocolate fondue has a ceramic bowl suspended over a small nightlight, little plates for you to store your dipping treats on and a set of lethal looking fondue forks to jab into your quarry to dunk it in the melted chocolate.

the fondue was given a terrifying and hilarious twist by the fruchaud family’s tradition of having to sing a song if the dipping article falls off the fork into the chocolate. given my singing voice this added a certain tension to the event. it also quickly meant that we abandoned the forks and just got our hands in!

it is far more sensible to melt the chocolate in a pan or microwave as the night light candle is only designed to keep the chocolate mixture warm.

chocolate mixture
(how much you need will very much depend on the size of your fondue)
3 parts chocolate (dark really is best for this)
2 parts double cream
a dash of alcohol if you fancy it and the kids are in bed…

melt the cream and chocolate together til they form a smooth mix. transfer to the fondue bowl and light the candle to keep it warm. stir occasionally to ensure the chocolate at the bottom of the bowl doesn’t overheat.

stuff for dipping
whatever you fancy or can find
we used -

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

five little chocolate girls

baby iris joins her sisters, esme and elsie, her cousin lola and colm's daughter, ella as the fifth cocoa bean/skelligs daughter. does this suggest a link between girls and chocolate? i certainly think so!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

welcome little iris!

welcome to the newest chocoholic to be. the brandy plums obviously had some effect as my new niece arrived early sunday morning weighing in at a very healthy 8lb 5oz
iris violet red hehir
mum and baby doing extremely well!

Friday, October 31, 2008

...and pulled out a plum

my baby is now 10 days late and i am sick of raspberry leaf tea, walking, curry, pineapple and all of the less discussed methods of natural induction ... i am now eating a skellig's brandy plum. if i go into labour in the next 24 hours, i shall officially add it to the list of myths....

please note: anyone trying this method should accept that one might not be enough!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

white chocolate panna cotta

after much talk about it i finally got round to having a stab at the white chocolate panna cotta; the production of which had to be abruptly halted a couple of months ago when i discovered the disappearance of my ramekins. since their reappearance i haven’t had chance for what i thought was going to be a delicate and time consuming operation.

i have shied away from gelatine, on the whole, since the consternation and distress it caused my sister during home economic lesson at school and the resultant consternation and distress it caused the family that evening as we fixed grins of pleasure and delight to our faces and ploughed through dishes of lumpy blancmange and half set jellies.

it turns out though that gelatine has come on leaps and bounds since the mid eighties and i could have whipped these little delights up anytime. the only difficulties i encountered was having the patience to leave them to set over night and the fact i was also marinating some pork in the fridge with quite a potent blend of Chinese spices. the smell of star anise somewhat pervaded the gentle understated flavours of vanilla and rosewater in the panna cotta. worth making sure there is nothing too strongly flavoured in the fridge before beginning this one.

the recipe for this came from video jug website. with a few additions and alterations. this website is a great resource for recipes as it takes you through the ingredients, equipment and method with visual step by step instructions. just worth double checking quantities etc though as there were a couple of inconsistencies in this recipe, i’ve ironed these out below.

as it is all made ahead of time this is perfect for entertaining– a moment for unmoulding and plating is all you need on the day. and there is something so utterly appealing about the sexy, vanilla flecked, barely set wobbliness of these little beauties.

400ml double cream
200ml milk
40g caster sugar
a pinch of salt
120g white chocolate
3 sheets of gelatine (or 14g of gelatine powder)
1 vanilla pod
a little rose water

put the cream, milk, sugar, salt and the seeds from the vanilla pod into a saucepan and heat over a medium heat.
before the mixture comaes to the boil add the chocolate and turn off the heat. whisk thoroughly until the chocolate is melted and remove the pan from the heat.
soften the gelatine in a bowl of cold water - leave for a couple of minutes. when the gelatine is soft remove it from the water and squeeze out any excess water. add the gelatine to the cream and chocolate mixture and whisk well until entirely dissolved.
the original recipe said to use 3 half sheets of gelatine but the image on the video looked like 3 full sheets of the type i had got so i used 3 full sheets and they were set perfectly but i wouldn't have wanted to use any less. depending on the make of gelatine you may want to watch the video to make your own judgement.
place the lightly oiled moulds on a tray that will fit inside your sweet smelling fridge and fill the moulds nearly to the top with the mixture.
chill in the fridge overnight.
as you come to serve the panna cotta run a knife gently round the inside edge of the mould and carefully dip the bottom of the mould into a bowl of warm water to help it release. turn onto the serving plate, spritz with a little rose water and decorate with fresh raspberries.

this would make a fabulously light dinner party dessert for a summer evening as it is all made ahead of time – a moment for unmoulding and plating is all you need on the day. darker alternatives would stand up to a richer, heavier winter menu. and there is something so utterly appealing about the sexy, vanilla flecked, barely set wobbliness of these little beauties.

Friday, October 17, 2008

birthday baklava

i have broken away from the obsession with all things chocolate for one night and made a baklava birthday cake for aidan. the rose water takes me back to our little ground floor flat beside the river shannon where we started cocoa bean nearly 7 years ago. every friday night emily and i made turkish delight, soft and bright pink and dipped it into dark chocolate, crisp and shiny. if there was any left after the satuday market, we'd eat it on a sunday walk in curragh chase.

this is a realtime blog! the baklava are in the oven. they smell good but pastry is so different to chocolate... fingers crossed! if they fail, hopefully the baby will arrive during the night to share her dad's birthday and distract everyone's attention from birthday cakes, traditional or not.


place 225g sugar in a pot with 1/4 pint of water and bring to the boil. simmer for 10 minutes and then add a tablespoon of rose water. set the syrup aside to cool.

mix together 175g ground pistahio nuts with 75g icing sugar and 12 crushed cardamoms.

melt 75g unsalted butter and brush a rectangular tin with some of the butter.

preheat the oven to 160 c/ 325 f/ gas 3

lay six layers of filo in the tin, brushing each layer with melted butter. sprinkle half of the nut mixture over the filo. lay another six layers of filo in the tin and sprinkle the rest of the nut mixture, topping it with filo. Pour any remaining butter over the top and cut the pastry into small lozenge shapes with a sharp knife.

bake for 20 minutes and then increase the heat to 200 c/ 400 f/ gas 6 and bake for another 15 minutes until light golden in colour.

remove from the oven and pour 3/4 of the syrup over the pastry. keep the rest for serving

if you would rather not break with the chocolate obsession, even for one night, then a bar of cocoa bean rose and pistachio has some of the same ingredients...

it's now 11pm and i have just poured the syrup over the pastry. it has worked!!! you can break them up into lozenges and arrange artfully with rose petals and icing sugar but mine is staying as a cake. happy birthday aidan x

Monday, October 6, 2008

super duper buns

i guarantee that emily's recipe for buns is super and that all the short cuts on the folding front work perfectly! i replaced 25g of flour with 25g of good quality cocoa powder and made up the chocolate icing as emily suggests below with dark melted chocolate. i also put raspberries on the top to celebrate their season - hope you're all able to dash out to the garden for freshly picked ones. only cherry tomatoes are thriving in our garden.

i made these at 38 weeks pregnant with a massive bump and with the help of my youngest daughter elsie. the whole experience was a pleasure from measuring to munching...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

super buns

oh yes. they really are. they are a fabulous failsafe party favourite. generous, soft and delicately flavoured. the recipe was originally from the ivillage website but it has gradually been adapted with the addition of various flavours.

sadly these that I made do not contain a single trace of chocolate (it has been an overdose kind of day) but it is easy enough to add in chocolate chips, cocoa or chocolate icing to satisfy your cravings.


makes 12 large cupcakes

125g softened butter
125g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract

grated zest of one large orange
125g self-raising flour
2 tbsp milk


preheat the oven to 190C. place the paper cases in the holes

in a mixing bowl beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. i thoroughly recommend an electric whisk.

add the beaten egg, a little at a time, whisking to incorporate, then beat in the vanilla and orange zest.

sift in half of the flour and you should fold it in carefully but i have no patience for this and just whisk it in and i have never had a trouble...yet.

add the milk and the rest of the flour and whisk until well combined.

spoon into the tin and bake for 12 minutes or until risen and golden on top.

allow to cool for ten minutes on a rack.


400g icing sugar

200g softened (but not melted butter)

5ml freshly squeezed orange juice

finely grated zest of 1 orange

plump and lovely raspberries

put all the above ingredients in a bowl and whisk thoroughly til light and fluffy.

cut the very top off the buns to give a flat surface.

generously pile the buttercream on the top and finally top with a raspberry.

variations we have enjoyed...

replace the raspberry with a blueberry, strawberry or bramble.

colour the icing and replace the cut top in 2 halves to make pretty as you like butterfly buns.

add lemon zest instead of orange zest and top with a dollop of lemon curd (preferably my mum's irresistable home made stuff!!)

blend the butter and icing sugar with about 2 tbsp of cocoa powder or 50g of melted dark chocolate.

Friday, September 12, 2008

lovely things for a weekend in caherciveen

this is the last saturday we are open at the factory before we go back down to our 5 day autumn week. call in if you are around to take advantage of our last saturday extended opening hours (10am-5pm). as much as i love the chocolates i am relishing the idea of all the relaxing weekend treats that will be my oyster again.

first thing to do is get the coffee brewing while we pop out to 'petit delice' the spectacularly good french patisserie that opened up in town this summer. light, buttery croissants and gooey, sticky pain aux raisins are the choice for breakfast. we stock up for lunch with goats cheese on black olive and walnut bread and afternoon delights, usually consisting of fresh fruit tarts and proper french style chocolate eclairs (with the thick chocolate custard inside rather than waffy cream). as you see we don't skimp on treats at the weekend!

a trip to the library and the park is usually rounded up with a drink in the welcoming arms of qc's or the anchor (if the football is on...)

qc's is quite possibly my favourite restaurant ever. it holds its own in terms of character, atmosphere and food against any restaurant i've eaten in (and that is a rapidly growing number). many a rainy evening has been spent sat in front of the fire bankrupting ourselves on fine wine and seafood. my addiction to the prawn cocotte and lola's penchant for deep fried squid rings is hard to finance.

i still remember when we were just moving to the area, it was paddy's day 2007 - the weather was wild. against squally winds and lashing rains - we took refuge in qc's amid the throngs of locals, soon to become our friends and neighbours, and gently steamed in front of the log fire while jack plied us with mackerel pate and homemade brown bread for lunch. as dusk set in coffees and hot whiskey saw us right until finally we succumbed to locally reared steak with colcannon and the wonderfully named 'orange roughy' from the evening specials. we tottered back to the b&b content, well fed and eager to return!

sundays will see us lazing in the
spectacular setting of the lighthouse cafe on valentia island. perched on the hillside above knightstown the lighthouse cafe offers a simple menu of excellently executed local food made breathtaking by the amount of produce grown in the cafe's garden. The salad is an explosion of colour with homegrown lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, onions and nastursiums. The bread is speckled with fennel seeds from the huge fennel plants protruding through the other vegetation. Delicious mussels in a chilli flecked broth, mackerel fillets, seafood chowder, followed by homebaked fruit crumble and pancakes with sugar and lemon. food like this can't fail to impress me when it is this quality in these surroundings. and i don't know whether this little corner of valentia is cultivating its own microclimate but every time i have been up there this year the rain clouds part and the sun sparkles across the sea, warming us enough to sit out in the fresh air and admire the view. should the rain force you in though the cafe itself is a simply and beautifully decorated barn conversion. even the toilets in the outhouse are a pleasurable experience - as you walk past the bursting greenhouse, past swathes of mint and homegrown potatoes for sale. at the bottom of the hill through the 'insects, gnats and nasties' of the long grass is a treasure trove of outdoorsy games to keep the family entertained through a lazy afternoon. not to be missed.

Monday, September 8, 2008

buckets o' chocolate

a useful tip for all you chocolate addicted cooks out there...
500g buckets of high quality couverture are now available on the skelligs chocolate website. the wipe clean, sealable and reuseable buckets are incredibly practical and useful to have stacked up in your kitchen cupboard for any chocolate culinary adventure you might encounter.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

chocolate tarte

another lovely chocolatey recipe from guillemette - we are being spoiled...

70g sugar
4 eggs
125g dark chocolate
50 cl double cream

2 tbsp milk

short crust pastry

put the pastry in a mould, brush with a little egg yolk and put in the oven for 15 mins.

melt the chocolate in a saucepan with 2 spoons of milk

add the sugar and whisk

add the fresh cream and mix well

add the eggs and continue to mix

pour the sauce on the pastry

put in the oven - 180°C 20-25min


Friday, September 5, 2008

Russian pulling cake / Russischer Zupfkuchen

a russian cake but very often cooked in germany.
the recipe comes from a german girl who came to stay for a couple of days so some words may be lost in translation (from german to french to english...)

for 12 portions

for the paste:
400 g flour
200 g butter or margarine
85 g sugar
40 g cocoa
2 eggs
1tbsp baking powder

for the quark filling:
250 g butter (soft)
125 g sugar
500 g margerquark (or yoghurt)
3 eggs
1tbsp vanilla sugar

you need a deep 9" cake pan


make a kneadable paste of all the first ingredients.
two thirds of the paste will go at the bottom and the sides of the mould.

for the filling, cream the butter and sugar and gradually mix in all the other ingredients.
pour the filling on to the paste base .

from the reamining paste create little balls and throw them into the filling.

bake at 200 °C (fan oven 175 °C) on middle shelf for approx. 1 hour.

to test whether the cake is ready, insert a skewer or sharp knife into the centre, if it comes out clean the cake is ready.

the cake is even better if it rests a day before eating...

good luck :)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

amazing ardkeen

just a quick follow up from yesterday to say what a fantastic time i had demonstrating and tasting at ardkeen quality foodstore. the place is amazing; an independent supermarket packed full of diverse and delicious foods. i was seriously impressed by how much was irish sourced and often from the county, tomatoes, exotic mushrooms, fresh herbs, meat. everybody working there seemed to love the shop and their customers - i have never before seen such helpful, happy and knowledgeable staff in a supermarket, or many other shops for that matter!
and a special mention and thank you for bozena, my helper on the day. she was magnificent.
(sorry for the lack of pictures lately - i have mislaid the lead that attaches to my camera to my computer...)

Friday, August 29, 2008

wending our way to waterford

i will be at ardkeen foodstore in waterford tomorrow to demonstrate the noble art of truffle dipping, as well as dispensing tasters and advice!

i decided to make a weekend of it and brought the family along to discover the sunny south east, though the scenery and sunshine were hiding behind a dense and unshifting bank of fog. or at least til we descended into beautiful dungarvan where a brave but watery late afternoon sun managed to bathe the town in a gentle light.

we stopped off briefly to drop a delivery into the newest skelligs chocolate stockist nude food, meet the lovely louise and have a much needed cup of superb illy coffee and a moist and almond packed slice of bakewell tart. the stylishly and quirkily decorated cafe bar deli opens its door 'a crack at least' on monday in order to serve dungarvan a relaxed menu of mezze and antipasto and a whole host of deli treats.

anyway if you are in the waterford area on saturday 30th do pop in and see me at ardkeen foosdtore up on dunmore road. if things go to plan i will be dipping away merrily from 11.00-1.30pm and 2.30-5pm providing fresh chocolatey treats for your delectation...

Monday, August 25, 2008

hehir frolics in the glen

we have just had a great time in the glen. esme, elsie and i flew into kerry airport for a week of getting stuck into real work at the factory! a lot of what i do at home in kent involves computers, emails and thinking and it is no substitute for actually being there in the factory surrounded by chocolate and the heady aroma of spices .

as soon as i stepped out of the car in cahirsiveen and smelt the turf, i felt like i had come home. i always feel like this, despite being born in the northern steel town of scunthorpe. if i could persuade emily, colm and the chocolate buying public to accept a smoked turf chocolate, i would go into mass production tomorrow!

emily had cooked a wonderful sunday roast with vegetables fresh from a friends garden. my girls were so excited to see lola that we didn't get them to sleep until nearly midnight.

the next day we dropped all three girls into the creche in the glen where they met up with colm's daughter, ella and immediately settled into a few days of irish dancing, t-shirt printing and eating martina's wonderful home cooked food looking over the stunning views of the bay.
the weather was changeable. at times it was wild and as i walked between office and factory, i was continually struck by the magnificence of our surroundings: wild ocean and misty mountains.

i miss the factory with its bustle of creativity, the bright packaging and the adrenalin rush when big orders come in or go out. it feels like a seam of rich chocolate is threaded through everything. we did a lot of chatting, planning for christmas, designing brochures and sampling some new ideas dreamed up by colm and orla. and then i did some more sampling. and some more...

on our last evening we drove over the hills to valentia in hot sunshine to have tea at the lighthouse cafe. as we came back on the ferry, we watched children diving into the clear waters of valentia harbour and it was almost possible to believe that irish summers are always this warm and calm. it reminded me of our honeymoon in liscannor five years ago - a blissful week of swimming, drinking ice cold bulmers and eating great local food.

i can't wait to bring hehir girl number 3 to the glen in the new year to introduce her to chocolate, and the strangely heady smell of turf!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Summer in the Factory

sorry to our budding blog readers that there has been a distinct lack of action of late. although every year we swear we'll be ready and organised for the summer rush we always get knocked straight off our feet! it has been all hands on deck for the last few weeks and finding a few spare minutes has been a challenge.

since the factory is the focus in the summer i thought i'd tell you a little about it. in the summer we open our doors 7 days a week to visitors where they can taste, buy and during the week watch the chocolates being made.

our special this week is our chunky chocolate with killarney honey, almonds and raisins. this is proving particularly popular with the hill walkers and cyclists braving the kerry hills and who are in need of a bit of an energy boost! this creation was invented to use up the excess chocolate in the machine after we have been making our cocoa bean honey bars. Because we add so much honey to the chocolate, if you leave it overnight it hardens (rather than staying liquid and waiting to be retempered in the morning like our other chocolate) making it unusable and giving orla an hour long battle to clean out the machine! so we now unload the spare chocolate into trays at the end of the day, generously stud it with fruit and nuts and tie it up all pretty to fuel the hungry people.
our best selling bar this week is our sea salt. it has been selling as fast as (the photo shy) eileen can make it. i think our proximity to the beach really fuels people's imaginations when it comes to this chocolate.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Chocisson for children...

Hi everybody,
I’m Guillemette, a French student on work placement for three months at the famous Skelligs Chocolate Co. factory.
I join Emily and Sarah to write some news and exciting recipes on this blog.

I will share with you a secret family recipe.
In English it’s called "Chocolate salami" but the French name is cleverer… CHOCISSON: a mix between chocolate and “saucisson”
Don’t worry it’s without pork!!!!

I cooked that with Lola, Emily’s little daughter. It’s very easy and children love to mix chocolate and biscuits and form the cake with their hands.

For this recipe you need
- a fridge.
- 4 egg yolks ( you can use the white to cook some meringue)
- 100 g sugar
- a pack of biscuits (~20) (like “Petit Beurre” or something else we tried with a crazy cow herd biscuits maybe more unusual in Ireland!!!)
- 125 g butter
- and 150 g dark chocolate of course.

1. You have to get the butter out of the fridge
2. Beat together sugar and egg yolks
3. Melt the chocolate and add it the softened butter. Mix them.
4. Crush the biscuit in little pieces (you can use a rolling pan and hit the closed packet, it’s probably the better way!!!)
5. Mix chocolate, eggs, sugar and butter together.
6. Add the crushed biscuit and mix. (you can begin with a spatula and finish with hands.)
7. Form a roll on a piece baking paper. Roll it and put it in the fridge.
8. Wait above 2 or 3 hours.
9. When it’s firm. It’s ready. You can dust with icing sugar.
10. Serve your sliced cake at tea time with a cup of tea or coffee or for desert with a custard (“crème anglaise”)
11. ENJOY !!!
Warning : the egg yolks are uncooked so the recipe might not be suitable for very young children or pregnant ladies...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

chocolate melting pot

just want to say a big thank you to everyone we met at the temple bar chocolate festival on sunday. wouldn't you know that the day they held the chocolate market would be the hottest day of the summer so far! but despite a few melty chocolates the weather certainly lent to the carnival atmosphere of the occasion. it was great to see so many people out enjoying the sunshine and the different offerings from all the irish chocolate makers.we were suprised by how many people turned up and so apologies for our initial fluster and disorganisation but hopefully we got that under control and anyone who wanted a taste of the chocolates got one. the cocoa bean bars went down a storm, my recommendation for enjoying the lime and black pepper with a glass of chilled chardonnay obviously appealed to a lot of parched chocoholics as it was our best seller.there were some great suggestions too for the invent a flavour competition, we are currently shortisting our 5 favourite to put to the test in the kitchen before choosing our winner, keep an eye out here for the results of our experiments, thank you to everybody who entered!

i know the temple bar cultural trust has already got plans underway for a bigger and better chocolate event next autumn, all i can say is that if it is even a patch on this year's festival it is well worth turning out for.

Monday, July 28, 2008

farmers market favourites

cardamom, orange & ginger biscuit

this is a first in the series of cocoa bean recipes for fresh truffles and our own version of fudge. i will include all the favourites from our market days and the long lost experiments....

i made this on saturday morning and popped it in a kilner jar in the fridge. in the winter it will keep perfectly in a sealed jar on the kichen counter though it may disappear more quickly! if you have chilled it and want to appreciate the full flavour, allow to warm up a bit before eating. an alternative is to freeze it and eat like sophisticated cubes of icecream ( thanks for this suggestion has to go to theresa, the jam and chutney woman at limerick market.)

having fresh chocolates to eat over the weekend makes you very popular with family and friends and it's so easy!


275g dark chocolate

100ml single cream or soya cream

orange zest

orange juice or oil of orange

6 cardamoms

5 ginger biscuits (homemade if you are brilliant but shop bought will do fine!)


line a small loaf tin with clingfilm

lightly toast the cardamom seeds over a low heat and then crush using mortar and pestle

melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan/pot of warm water

gently warm the cream and stir into the melted chocolate

add the cardamom, orange zest and a few drops of juice or oil

add the roughly broken ginger biscuits and mix well

pour into the loaf tin

allow to cool and then cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours

remove, cut into generous chunks and eat!

Once the basics are mastered, feel free to play around with quantities to make a softer or firmer chocolate, depending on the season and your tastes.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A weekend of chocolate delights

get to dublin! get there quick! the temple bar chocolate festival kicks off today and it is set to be a very, very exciting affair. check out their website for details of all the events.

and don't forget to come and visit me, guillemette and colm at the market on sunday. we'll be there from 12-4 in meeting house square will all the skelligs and cocoa bean goodies, plenty of tasters and recipe ideas!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

fire and ice

well my plans for making my white chocolate panna cotta were seriously foiled at the weekend by the fact that my ramekins have disappeared in to thin air, so that one is on the back burner til they turn up.

i've been making the chilli and pink peppercorn bar all week and i obviously hadn't quite got it off my mind during the weekend as i couldn't shake the idea of combining it with the fabulous murphy's vanilla icecream when we were up in killarney on sunday.

murphy's icecream is made in county kerry, just accross the water in dingle. they say on a clear day you can see dingle peninsula from the iveragh peninsula; considering the thick fog that refuses to shift this summer i can't quite remember. what i can remember though is that the flavour of murphy's icecream is unsurpassed mainly due to the murphy brothers untiring quest for the finest ingredients and artisan techniques.

my idea was to combine their vanilla icecream with our chilli and pink peppercorn bar. my idea was that you would get the cold sensation of the icecream in combination with the heat from the chocolate.

now i know that the heat from the chilli isn't really released until you get the chocolate melting so my idea was to grate the chocolate over the icecream (yes, i really had been deliberating this long enough to remember to take my nutmeg grater shopping with me...)therefore making the pieces of chocolate small enough to melt almost instantaneously.

the result.... not so good! the amount of chocolate you got in each spoonful was not enough to provide enough heat to counteract the numb coldness from the icecream, but when i added more the icy particles of chocolate just create a vaguely unpleasant grittiness, a real shame to spoil the smooth and creamy texture of the icecream.


my second option, far simpler, far more effective and you can even leave your kitchen utensils at home!
I used a strip of the chocolate like a spoon. each time i scooped the icecream i bit a bit of the bar! the cold and the heat don't come quite simultaneously but there is an incredibly intriguing shift from cold to hot as you eat your mouthful. the cooling effect of the icecream gradually gives way, as you chew through the chocolate, to the subtley increasing heat of the spices.

last year i was doing some experiments with chocolate shaped spoons, the difficulty in packaging their delicate shapes put me off for a while but this has reinspired me to go back to the drawing board.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

on the radio...

listen out for me on dublin's q102 tomorrow night at about 6.45 when i will be talking about chocolate and the temple bar chocolate festival

Thursday, July 17, 2008

raising the bar

the new packaging for our bars, launched last autumn, is being really very well received so we decided it was time to introduce a couple more flavours to the family.

we have relaunched our chilli and pink peppercorn (previously known as 'fire'). this is a deliciously dark 70% cocoa bar laced through with finely ground chilli flakes and pieces of fragrantly hot pink peppercorns. both lend a different type of heat to the chocolate giving it depth and character and a real kick. i have some great recipes for using this bar so look out for them in the coming weeks! they are about to be launched on the website this week and are already in a few 'ahead of the game' shops.

summer is truly in the air with our white chocolate and raspberry bar. i am not usually a great fan of white chocolate but the way the little pieces of raspberry add a little tart zing through the sweet, creaminess of the white chocolate really brings it to life.

look out for them both in the next few weeks....

Sunday, July 13, 2008

lime and black pepper tart

last night, our friends mary and eliot came round for dinner and aidan cooked a great indian meal with homemade paneer, lots of bhajis, samosas and freshly made naan bread.

inspired by the lime and black pepper bar, i decided to try a variation on my favourite recipe for lemon tart.

i had a distaster with the first pastry case when i turned it upside down to empty the beans after blind baking it. much to elsie and esme's delight, it broke into a lovely pile of crumbly, buttery biscuits! after a moment of stress and panic, i followed their lead, had a biscuit and a coffee and started again. the end result was superbly zesty with a twist of heat.

lime and black pepper tart

sweet shortcrust pastry

250g plain flour
3 tablespoons caster sugar
155g chopped butter
iced water

zap the flour, sugar and butter in a food processor until it forms fine crumbs. slowly addd iced water to form a soft dough. knead lightly and refrigerate in clingfilm for half an hour.

lime filling

220g caster sugar
4 eggs
250ml cream
250ml lime juice and zest
lime and black pepper chocolate bar

preheat the oven to 180 C. roll out the pastry to fit a 25cm tart tin with a removable base. prick holes in the base and line with greaseproof paper. fill with dried beans and bake blind for 10 minutes. remove the beans (do not turn upside down!) and bake for a further 10 minutes and then take it out the oven. turn the oven temperature down to 160 C.

while the oven cools, melt most of a large lime and black pepper bar over water at a low heat. reserve a square for flaking over the finished tart. drizzle the melted chocolate over the bottom of the tart case and pop in the fridge while you make the filling.

for the lime filling, mix the eggs, sugar, cream and lime juice with zest until combined. skim any bubbles or foam off the top and pour into the tart case. bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until just set and then pop it in the fridge until the tart is firm.

serve it cut into wedges with clotted cream, lime slices and a twist of black pepper. top with shavings of chocolate.

variations to try: lemon with fresh mint or orange with cardamon