Saturday, June 27, 2009

glad you enjoyed it...

it was lovely to see that those chocoholic frolic readers that voted on our recent poll either had very much enjoyed their trip to our st finian's bay chocolate factory or would love to go in the future.

we look forward to seeing you all at some point in the future (the middle of next week is forecast to be nice and sunny!) and have a look at my blog from september 12th last year for some other ideas of lovely things to do in the area.

Monday, June 22, 2009

harvey nichols

if you are in london, make sure you zoom up the express lift to the 5th floor of harvey nichols flagship shop and browse the food hall.

of course i'd advise you to head straight for the chocolate bars and the cocoa bean collection! however, once you've satisfied your cocoa cravings, look around at all the other delights on offer. my favourite picnic food includes thin slivers of salami from the delicatessen, in season salad leaves, english tomatoes, crusty bread and seggiano raw artichoke pate. follow this with a summery cocoa bean gin and tonic chocolate bar and take home the harvey nichols own brand jasmine tea leaves.
if you're not keen on picnics, treat yourself to lunch on the roof terrace! if you can't make it to london, you'll find fabulous food halls in dublin, manchester, leeds, birmingham and edinburgh.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

fuse festival

last night, i took esme to a night time extravaganza of fire, dancing and music. the fact that it was after her little sisters were already in bed made it even more thrilling. here we are eating a cone of hot chips, watching the circle of fire and waiting for it to begin. in the picture below you can see two extremely tall skeletons doing the salsa -complete with lifts! We got home close to midnight and drank cocoa bean hot chocolate with cinnamon - sipping it out in the back garden with the summer smell of honeysuckle still floating through the chilly night air.

better than bucket chemistry or leaving nigella

muffins are my new favourite discovery! i have eaten them for many years but only rarely made them and never before realised that they free you from the baking tyranny of sieves and scales.

i love them! they take me back to the heady days of bucket chemistry before the rigorous precision of a-level or restrictive safety policies: we had great fun throwing a load of chemicals together and seeing what would happen (sometimes with disastrous, though thankfully never fatal, results.) muffin making feels that liberating-this is what happened...

i nearly followed nigellas recipe for banana butterscotch muffins in nigella express except i only had one egg and no butterscotch. i substituted raspberries instead of the butterscotch and halved the recipe. they were lovely but esme doesn't like bananas and this was not disguise enough so my adventure continues after the recipe:

1 and a half ripe bananas

125ml vegetable oil

an egg

125g flour

50g caster sugar

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

few handfuls of raspberries

preheat the oven to 200 C/ gas mark 6 and set out 6 muffin papers in a muffin tin

mash the bananas

pour the oil into a jug and beat in the egg

put flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder into a bowl and then mix in the oil/egg and the bananas

add the raspberries

spoon into cases and cook for 20 minutes

they worked beautifully and were made mostly by esme and elsie who were thrilled by the lack of instructions limited only to the mantra that 'lumpy is good'

so, to muffins with no bananas. my thinking was that the banana might need to be replaced with something to help keep the muffins moist. i used the recipe above with no bananas and a good dollop of greek yogurt and threw in some white and dark chocolate callets. they worked! succulent, tasty and risen to perfection. i had taken my first small muffin step away from nigella and into my own kitchen of creativity...

last night i invented the lemon zest and honey muffins. i discarded the recipe and roughly estimated the same ingredients as my original banana and raspberry muffin minus the bananas and raspberries. i added a dollop of creme fraiche (because it's what was in the fridge), a large spoon of honey, zest of one un-waxed lemon and the juice of half a lemon squeezed. I then sprinkled lemon zest and brown sugar on the top.

i held my breath as the lumpy mixture entered the oven...and about 20 minutes later -perfection! is this now my own recipe? have i let go of nigella's comfortingly warm and reassuring hand and started on a journey of my own?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

daddy's day chocolate brownies

chris is away on a stag weekend (camping in the countryside - meant to be fairly civilised...) and is only due back tomorrow evening, so all our father's day celebrations will need to be crammed into the short space of time between his return and lola's bedtime.

so me and lola are preparing by making chocolate brownies
i have taken the recipe from a beautiful little book i have called edible gifts by kay fairfax, which i am alarmed to see costs £34.95 on amazon - mine cost £8.99!!! it is full of inspirational homemade gift ideas for foodies and beautiful photography to complement it.

desribed in the introduction as 'a chocoholic's dream come true' and knowing what a sucker chris is for a proper rich, gooey brownie, how could i resist?! i didn't have the size tin specified so went for the closest i had, a bit shorter and deeper, and added 5 mins to the recommended cooking time.



170g butter
3 free range eggs
325g golden caster sugar
75g cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
75g plain flour, sifted
250g dark chocolate drops, or finely chopped if using a bar
150g nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, coarsely chopped (optional)
( i only had 50g of walnuts so they has to suffice)

chocolate cream

100ml double cream
125g dark chocolate drops, or finely chopped if using a bar

cake tin, 28 x 18 x 1 cm, lined with baking parchment extending 5cm beyond the long ends.


1. melt the butter gently in a small saucepan

2. put the eggs in a bowl, whisk lightly, then whisk in the sugar. stir in the melted butter, cocoa and vanilla. using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the flour, stir through the chocolate and the nuts if you are using them.

3. pour into the prepared cake tin and bake in a preheated oven (160c) for 25-30 mins until just firm in the centre and still moist at the bottom.

do not overcook the brownies, they are not meant to have the consistency of a cake and should be moist and gooey in the middle. they will dry out as they cool.
4. remove from the oven and let stand, still in the tin, on a wire rack, until completely cool.

5. using the overhanging paper, carefully lift the brownies out of the tin onto a flat board and peel off the paper. dust with cocoa powder or cover with chocolate cream. cut into squares.

chocolate cream
1. put the cream in a saucepan and heat until; just simmering. add the chocolate and stir til smooth and glossy*. cool in the fridge for about an hour til firm enough to spread over the brownies.

* we managed to overheat the cream a bit and as a result the sauce went a bit grainy - we added about 25g of butter and 25ml cold double cream and gave it a good beat and it came back to a lovely shiny gloss.

we are trying to resist eating them until tomorrow - so i'll let you know the verdict then - but they certainly look good - and with that amount of butter, sugar and dark chocolate i don't see how they can fail to taste pretty spectacular!

we didn't manage to resist - we had to check it after all...

the flavour is glorious, and the texture, certainly at the edges, is perfect. the middle is currently a bit too gooey ( maybe another 5 minutes more would have helped in my deeper tin) but it is a lovely, fondanty experience, the flour is cooked - it just requires a spoon to eat it. i think it will probably have dried out enough by tomorrow to serve in the traditional brownie style!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

shopping for chocolate by the sea

if you happen to be around south west ireland this summer, or indeed looking for a spectacular place to go, do make your way to st finian's bay and visit our little chocolate factory by the sea.
travel the picturesque ring of kerry and turn off the main road between caherciveen and kenmare onto the far less frequented and incredibly scenic skelligs ring you will happen accross the skelligs chocolate factory (there are signs if you are lucky enough to spot them or click here for directions). set directly across from the fascinating, everchanging, sheltered stunner of a sandy beach that is st finian's bay. a visit to skelligs chocolate factory chocolate counter is a great way to sample a few of our best sellers, catch a glimpse of the chocolates being made in the open plan workspace (during the week) and of course buy a bountiful supply of chocolates for you, your friends and your family. there are special offers and a range special products only available from our factory counter.

during the summer the counter is open:
monday to friday - 10am - 5pm

july and august
monday to friday - 10am - 5pm
saturday and sunday - 12pm- 5pm

Sunday, June 14, 2009

youthful entrepreneurs, adventurous connoisseurs

how do you get your class of thirty 10 year olds, inspired about enterprise day? the answer is to find a friend who has a chocolate factory and invite her, under strict instructions to come armed with 'samples galore' and ask her to tell chocolate based business stories that will inspire a zest for marketing, making money and life in general!

the friend was me and this week i found myself back in a classroom again, not as a drama teacher but an entrepreneur. i was nervous and slightly worried about how i would keep their attention but minutes into the lesson, i realised it was going to be fun!

they were full of questions and enthusiasm. their own product ideas were great and they were eager to learn sales and marketing techniques in order to make the most of enterprise day.

best of all, despite a sample of strawberry flavoured white chocolate, the consensus in the class was that sea salt was our ultimate chocolate, closely followed by lime and black pepper.... hooray for the next adventurous generation of chocolate consumers!!!

grandma susie's chocolate milkshakes

grandma susie says that the advantage of being a grandma is that when all your granddaughters come to visit you can produce fabulous chocolate milkshakes topped with excessive amounts of squirty cream and extra chocolate. we spent a glorious sunny week at grandma susie's indulging in such treats!

the advantage of writing a blog about chocolate is that when we get home we have an excuse to recreate them and earn big brownie points with our girls!
cocoa bean's hot chocolate mixes are great for this recipe and this is a great alternative way to use them in this fabulous hot weather; the cinnamon and chilli ones make a cool variation.

cool chocolate milk shakes
(serves 4 if parents are making them
or 2 if grandma is...)

5 tbsp chocolate drops
2 tbsp vanilla sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp chocolate icecream
1 pint of cold milk
squirty cream

place the chocolate, sugar, cocoa and a little milk in a saucepan and gently heat until the chocolate melts and the sugar dissolves.

remove from the heat and whisk in the icecream and remaining milk.

pour into glasses top with the cream and adorn in the most fanciful ways with straws, umbrellas and chocolate shavings.

Monday, June 8, 2009

homegrown strawberries

our garden is beginning to yeild a small crop. radishes and rocket are now plentiful and the strawberries, though less than prolific, are beginning to show their tasty selves.

Monday, June 1, 2009

pasta disaster

the dinner party was on the whole a success, however in an attempt to be sociable and organised hosts we made the ravioli too far in advance and the goats cheese ones disintergrated into a sloppy, sticky mess. the mushroom ones were luckily rescuable and delicious and more filling than we had anticipated. 2-3 of the size i gave below were plentiful with accompaniments. the walnut sauce was a bit odd as the pasta was too delicate to mix into it therefore it didn't get warmed. the shortbread stacks were a resounding success except we had to wait a while before tucking into them as we were as stuffed as the pasta...