Friday, December 17, 2010

amsterdam and our magical mystery tour

colm and i had a day in amsterdam on wednesday: it was a business meeting away from it all; a research trip (oh the joy of cinnamon fresh truffles); a time to gather ideas about plans for the new factory and a mystery trip which you may or may not hear more about in the near future! this was the gorgeous view from the office where we had our meeting.

harvey nichol's christmas

it was a very festive evening on tuesday and a little bit emotional. i was offering tasting samples from our beautiful christmas range of christmas star anise, christmas tree and winter spice in the stylish little boxes you can see in the picture. i have been working on the flavours and designs since last winter and most of them went up in flames. however, a few shops and hamper companies had already had their first christmas delivery before the fire and these lucky boxes are looking lovely in christmas displays. i love winter spice which is a triumph since i really don't like white chocolate!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Thank you chocolate makers big and small

i might have to do a whole series of blog posts saying thank you to the different groups of well wishers! i will start with our colleagues and friends in the irish chocolate industry.

in our early days, john mckenna gave emily and i some great advice: be friends with your competitors. he was so right! especially within the artisan community, we have been able to help and been helped out on lots of occasions. we have made friends for life and we are so grateful for their help and support since the fire.

it is not just the artisan chocolatiers that have offered their help. the big players have also rung us to say how sorry they are to hear about the factory and offer real practical help.

thank you!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

like a phoenix rising...

we will be back! thanks to everyone for all their good wishes. friends, neighbours, customers, suppliers, journalists, chocoholics and strangers have sent us inspiring messages of encouragement. in the meantime, if you see our christmas stock on shop shelves, grab them quickly! they have unwittingly become extremely limited editions...

Monday, November 15, 2010

fire at factory

it is such a sad blog to write that i will just say thanks to everyone who has sent messages of support and thanks to all our employees who prove again and again that they are more like a family. if you are a customer, supplier or friend, i am sorry that we haven't been in touch individually yet but i imagine may people read or heard about the fire that burnt through our factory early on saturday morning. i will update the blog when i know more but for now, thanks to the fire crew and thank goodness noone was hurt.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

orange, cardamom & ginger chocolate cheesecake

i took the basic chocolate cheesecake recipe from the big book of chocolate by jennifer donovan and just played with it to give it the cocoa bean twist. i had promised a chocolate dessert for a large and lively 30 people dinner party on friday night.
the main course was curry so i chose to go for one of our spicy flavours with the heat of ginger to warm everyone after braving the newly frosty air to leap about with sparklers. . .


250g ginger biscuits ( you can also add crystallised ginger to spice up the flavour - chop small)

75g butter

2 tbsp cocoa powder


50g butter

400g cream cheese

2 eggs lightly beaten

5 tbsp caster sugar

150g dark chocolate melted

orange zest from 2 oranges

juice of half an orange

12 cardamoms toasted gently and crushed

grease a 23cm loose bottomed cake tin or flan dish

crush the biscuits and melt the butter for the base. mix together with the cocoa powder and crystallised ginger. press firmly into the base.

beat the cream cheese, eggs, sugar, butter, zest, cardamoms, orange juice and melted chocolate together in a large bowl until thick and smooth. it's good to use a electric hand mixer. spoon the mixture over the base and smooth with a palette knife. refrigerate for at least two hours. you can top it with cocoa powder or shavings of chocolate if you like, though i think it's nice plain.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

pumpkins and quince

lettercollum kitchen are having a winter wine and pumpkin tasting this coming friday, 15th october, from 2pm -5pm. it'll be an informal tasting of wines from enrico fantasia from the grape circus and sheridan's wines and some of our pumpkin recipes.
we'll also have tastings of cheese and this years lettercollum chutneys and membrillo.
the membrillo is a spanish accompaniment for manchego cheese made from quince.
we had our first ever harvest of quinces this year!
we hope you have some time to pass by the shop on friday

co. cork

chocolate week

h harvey nichols is celebrating chocolate week with colm and me! i will be at knightsbridge, london on friday from about 6pm-8pm with samples and tasters of our new winter and christmas chocolates. colm will be at dundrum on saturday. hope to see some of you....

Thursday, September 16, 2010

ponte vecchio

while the little girls slept every afternoon and esme was off playing wild games with her older cousins, aidan packed me off to sample the delights of killaloe cafes and bars. i spent a couple of hours writing and reading in this great little delicatessen. the shelves of italian delicacies and big blocks of parmesan jostle cosily for space with the chairs and tables tucked into alcoves and corners. it had a secret, indulgent feel and was perfect for an afternoon of escapism. in fact two ... pictured is the freshly made lemon and poppy cake with hot chocolate. the next day, i returned for olives, beer and cheese. great stuff!


Thursday, September 9, 2010

killaloe sunday market

on sunday we wandered into killaloe along the lough and over the bridge to ballina where we swam and watched the market being set up across the water. by 11am, when the market opened, we had worked up a great appetite for the fabulous cakes made by the fellas that are in our old unit at crossagalla. their dark chocolate tart was rich, smooth and intensely chocolatey!

burren beo - september events

saturday 11th september burrenbeo conservation volunteers monthly outing. led by butterfly expert, jesmond harding. clearing hazel and hawthorn from an important marsh fritillary breeding site. everyone welcome, but must register at

thursday 16th september. monthly talk - venue and speaker to be confirmed.
everyone is welcome to participate in these events, more info from or 091-638096

fabulous fresh fish

we have had a great summer! i have been busy with christmas products for cocoa bean, going out with the girls, the garden and a fabulous week in killaloe visiing aidan's family and old friends and colleagues. i have loads to write about and this is the first chance so i'll do it bit by bit. the first treat was the new shop run by mark anderson who was head chef of the cherry tree when i lived in limerick. he has now opened this great shop in killaloe where you can buy local meat, fish and organic vegetables. he is also starting to serve food that can be eaten at a stylish counter in the shop. over the week we bought swordfish, monkfish, scallops and organic corn fed chicken. they were fabulous and i was sorry to leave. mark has always been passionate about food whether it was making a special menu for aidan in his vegan days or demonstrating cookery at limerick midsummer market. this shop is no exception and i hope he is thriving when we go back to killaloe for christmas.

gravitas -purveyors of fine foods & fresh fish. bridge street, killaloe, co. clare

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

chocolate at mccambridges

if you get a chance to wander down shop street on friday afternoon in galway, make sure you sample the delights of mccambridges and look out for helen handing out samples of cocoa bean and skelligs chocolates. we have been supplying mccambridges since the very early days, more than eight years ago. look out for all the other artisan delights on offer while you are there and let me know if you have a swim in salthill - some of my greatest swimming memories are of galway!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

my friend made this cordail from hedgerow elderflowers in her garden. it is delicious with soda water, ice and fresh mint. she promised me the recipe and i hope to have a go at my own in the next few days. emily had a great find of wild garlic and used the leaves and flowers in salads and pasta dishes. is anyone else making use of wild food this season? i will be envious of any mushroom experts!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

harvey nichols knightsbridge

i will be handing out generous samples of cocoa bean chocolate bars in the foodhall on friday 11th june, late afternoon,/early evening. come and taste chilli and pink peppercorn, sea salt, irish honey, rose and pistachio, lime and black pepper and gin and tonic. helen had a great time in mortons of galway last saturday where the locals and tourists of salthill were very chatty and enthusiastic! the marshmallow clusters and honeycomb crunch were the first to go!

Monday, May 17, 2010


emily just suggested earl grey tea for our new milk chocolate - it was an old favourite in our fresh dark truffles at limerick farmer's market. it also sold brilliantly at sheridan's cheesemonger's in galway in our small bars with star confetti days. it has been done before by other chocolate companies but is still quite rare in a solid bar and so good to eat. another contender?
and while on the subject of tea, i learnt this week that you should make fresh mint tea in a teapot or cover the cup for a few minutes with a saucer or small plate. this keeps the oils from escaping and makes the infusion even better. i love it. i also love mojito's. and loads of mint chopped in a salad of fresh leaves, grated lemon zest and king prawns fried in chilli, butter and garlic. how come my mint never takes over the garden as warned on the packet?

come to the wilds of kerry....

our factory is open again to visitors after our spring rennovations - fresher and happier than ever before! come and taste samples of cocoa bean and skelligs chocolates and if you visit us during the week, you can see our chocolatiers at work!
helen, one of our original chocolatiers, will be in mortons of galway this saturday (22nd may) giving samples of our chocolates. she would love to see any of you and has many tales to tell of setting out on dark mornings to farmers markets in cork and dingle and the highs and lows of early cocoa bean adventures!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


it seems such a long time ago but it was only last week that we were in this lovely town, glad of the sunshine after wild storms and floods.

this cafe sold cakes in its nearby bakery. On the corner of our table is one of their ensaïmada, a delicious spiral shaped pastry, eaten at breakfast.

our camera gave up after this photo so i don't have pictures to record our liver enlightenment, braised so perfectly in tapas sized robust stews.

having spent all yesterday grinding star anise for experiments with our christmas stars, i added star anise to braised steak and it was a great sucess! I also loved the cinnamon stick in with the chorizo and chick pea casserole i made yesterday. i always associate these flavours with chocolate since our early cocoa bean days, so think i am a bit beind in experimenting with spices in savoury dishes beyond curries.

and to mise - i added some yeast to chocolate and it was not unpleasant but it was dried yeast in solid chocolate. i imagine live yeast in a fresh , soft, dark truffle is more what you were dreaming up. it's now on my list of things to try. let me know if you have a go at it!

Monday, May 10, 2010

cinnamon sausage chocolate

i know. it sounds gross but i can't get it out of my mind! i am in the middle of reviewing our whole range: experimenting, inventing and dreaming. i am looking for something to go with a milk chocolate, maybe on the dark side of milk. i am also just back from a crazy, stormy, lovely spanish holiday where i tasted cinnamon salami amongst other delicious tapas dishes and it somehow shifted my soul. it won't work with chocolate so i should just leave it but it is nagging away there. what if i just use all the other ingredients and leave out the pork? i don't have the recipe so i need to do a lot of testing and tasting. watch this space...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

chocolate cafe !

skelligs & cocoa bean chocolates have now opened our first chocolate cafe at 77, High Street, killarney - opposite Quills...the factory is currently closed to visitors while we under go some renovations on site - so apologies for any inconvenience caused, but our chocolates can be purchased from the skelligs chocolate cafe in killarney. if you visit, we would love to hear your feedback!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

lard cake....mmmmmm

it's actually a gloriously oozy chocolate cake with a well of dulce de leche and topped with intense dark chocolate which i made for my husband's 30th birthday. on seeing it cut into though a friend screeched in horror 'is that lard?!' now i wouldn't say we are an entirely healthy family but a cake filled with lard isn't exactly our style.
i suppose that this was inspired by c's love of millionaire shortcake and my distinctly sweet tooth that is fairly uncontrollable at the moment.
the cake is a basic chocolate sponge, baked in a single layer star shaped mould. when cooled i hollowed out a 1cm deep well in the centre, leaving a border of about 1.5cm round the edge to retain the flow of caramel.
the dulce de leche is simple to make but a bit time consuming; several techniques are available to follow here - i used the 'in the can' method very effectively. carnation do a ready made version, available at most supermarkets, which is apparently good.
pour the caramel into the well, allow it a little time to flow into the nooks and crannies and begin to firm on top a little. mix a 100g of melted dark chocolate (a real bitter one holds up well here to counter the incredible sweetness underneath) with 25g butter and drizzle over the cake until a layer is formed. be delicate and patient with this dribbling it thinly over the dulce de leche; too much in one go will cause caramel displacement! allow the chocolate to set, decorate as you see fit - we went for very flamboyant silver ball designs and mini sparklers- and indulge!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

despite still being a bit of a dark chocolate purist, i love the crazily sweet and addictive skelligs creation of mini marshmallows & honey comb in creamy milk chocolate. they are hand made and hand wrapped in our kerry workshop. in fact ,emily and i like it so much that it ended up looking very much like a cocoa bean invention wrapped in bright pink and orange. it's ours now colm - hands off!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

shamrock cake

we are waiting for esme to get home from school so that we can start the party, decorate our tablecloth and eat the cake just before dinner - all worries about spoilt apetites thrown to the wind!

esme and elsie were very excited about going to school and nursery this morning in their flashing shamrock badges from their grandma and granddad. iris is sick and refused to be drawn into the girls' celebrations at first but has just woken up more in the mood for fun!

when elsie got home at lunchtime, we set about inventing a st.patrick's day cake. while i was working out whether to make a flag or a leprachaun, i spotted my four small heart tins that i got for christmas and realised we could make the perfect shamrock.

we creamed 50g butter and 100g caster sugar and then added an egg, a splash of vanilla extract and finally 100g self raising flour and a dash of cocoa powder. we spooned the mixture into the four tins and baked for 10 minutes at 180 degrees c.

the icing is 40g soft butter creamed together with 125g icing sugar and a dash of milk. colour it shamelessly green and eat it with a glass of red lemonade or a pint of guiness!

our girls looking unimpressed with aidan's cloak. . .

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

happy st.patrick's day! (the eve of...)

i made these paddy's parade crunchies tonight and remembered a day five years ago when emily and i made about a hundred bags of these for the saturday market in limerick just before st. patrick's day. we tied them up with orange and green ribbon and homemade labels. we sold loads - probably about sixty. all our regulars bought some, getting into the spirit - practically everyone who came to the market went home with a bag!

that still meant we had forty left.

we were young, eager entrepreneurs with a starry eyed confidence that our product was so fabulous, we could sell it anywhere. our husbands, realists, wondered who would buy st. patrick's day chocolates next saturday.

"we could sell them at the parade!" i shouted.
"i'll make a travelling sales stand!"emily declared.
and she did. our husbands groaned.

the sales stand was like the kind that icecream sellers wear at the interval in theatres. it was decorated with shamrocks and painted orange. it was beautiful. we left the fellas with pints of guiness, only barely hiding their embarassment and set off with great confidence down o'connell street. the crowds thronged. the atmosphere was giddy. it was party time and the parade marched on. we peddled our wares. we handed out samples.
or tried to.

we soon found that beyond the walls of our milk market stomping ground and away from our fans, people were wary of us - why would two girls with strange northern english accents (scunthorpe?) humiliate themselves trying to sell expensive nuggets of dark chocolate from an icecream tray hung around their necks? we began to wonder ourselves.

after an hour we hadn't sold one bag! not one! we were defeated. the chocolates were great quality and we were enthusistic but it was the wrong time and place - we snook into emily's flat in henry street and hid them all under the bed then headed back to our husbands, treacherously triumphant. "we've sold them all," we sang. they were impressed and humbled.

i hope they don't read the blog...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

rose and pistachio easter egg

our limited edition egg is based on the cocoa bean rose & pistachio bar. try this delicious milk chocolate egg all wrapped up in bright pink tissue paper with a raffia bow. they are available in delicattessen and food halls throughout ireland and on-line at look out for more easter ideas from skelligs and cocoa bean over the next few weeks.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

esme's sleepover birthday cake

i made the cake in a square cake tin for 25 minutes at 180 degrees using 100g butter, 100g caster sugar, 2 eggs and 100g flour with a sprinkle of cocoa powder. i was chatting to emily and put all the ingredients in the mixing bowl together instead of creaming the butter and sugar first. i decided i couldn't do anything about it so whisked them all together and kept my fingers crossed. the cake rose beautifully so i was either lucky or there is a conspiracy to make baking more complex than it needs to be!

i cut a strip off the cake and used it for the pillows and then decorated it with coloured butter icing and lots of sprinkles.

the sleepover went well - the girls had salami pizza, flambouyant icecreams and giggled until midnight!

Monday, February 22, 2010

bridgestone guide

the following snippet is from the online bridgestone guide for the chocolate shop in the english market in cork:

'Niall and Rosemary Daly’s shop sells chocolates, and the very best chocolates at that.
If you search for Cocoa Bean from Kerry, or Willie Harcourt-Cooze’s extraordinary Peruvian Black San Martin 100% Single Origin, then it is here. “Chocolate is an affordable luxury”, says Niall, and their range, from Pralus to Skelligs, reveals just how luxurious chocolate can be. Only brilliant.'

we invited john and sally to a spring market in limerick when we were still a very new company and they were our food heroes. not only did they come along but they were enthusiastic and supportive. i remember john telling us that the best way to work was to be genuinely happy to help your competitors as well as your customers. we embraced this ethos and it has proven to be a way not only to do great business but to make good friends.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

happy valentines day

i really wanted to make aidan a valentine poster out of some blurry photos of us at a pixies concert at brixton academy(kim deal and frank black's thrilling outlines in the distance.) the problem was they were stuck on my fairly basic phone and events conspired against me - so the girls and i have spent the day making things instead. we made a love mobile out of an old bike wheel, bright felt and assorted ribbon; sparkly cards; a collage of butterfies up one wall and a plate of pastel cupcakes (from the hummingbird bakery cookbook). aidan will be flying across the atlantic from montreal to heathrow any minute now. the two older girls are still wide awake together in our big bed, too thrilled by his imminent arrival and their valentine offerings to possibly sleep. the almost definite arrival of canadian sweets and chocolate only adds to the anticipation!
i am sorry for the woeful lack of pictures - my camera says it has a lens error.
hope your day is full of chocolate and good things.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

chocolate cake with beetroot

this is a great cake but maybe you do have to like beetroot because there is a pleasant earthy taste that runs alongside the dark chocolate that would probably taste distinctly beetrooty to someone who is not a fan. i am a fan and i found this cake a pleasure to make and eat.
the cake
125g butter
75g dark chocolate pieces
300g soft light brown sugar
3 eggs
225g self raising flour
1/4 tsp salt50g cocoa powder250g cooked beetroot, grated
grated white chocolate
double cream to serve
preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4
grease a loose bottomed 23cm tin and line the base with greaseproof paper
melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
beat the sugar, butter and eggs ina separate bowl. stir in the melted chocolate, fold in the flour, cocoa powder and salt. once combined, add the beetroot and stir.
carefully transfer the mixture into your cake tin and bake for 45 minutes. it is ready when your skewer comes out almost clean. leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. turn it onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
the icing
150g dark chocolate pieces
135ml double cream
5 tbsp icing sugar
put all the ingredients in a bowl and melt over a pan of simmering water. stir it altogether then take off the heat. stir quickly until you have a smooth and glossy mixture. leave to cool and thicken.
spread the icing over the cake and top with grated chocolate.
serve with whipped double cream.
thanks to diana henry, mrs. ramsay and daniella's sister who first introduced me to vegetables and chocolate. yum!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

i suspect...

i suspect that the romantic rose and pistachio bar will run away with the cocoa bean bar valentine sales award this year though i wouldn't be too quick to write off the aphrodisiac qualities of the chilli and pink peppercorn. those living in the glen, who are in the know, will put the smart money on glamorous g and t - the runaway winner every year. come on rose and pistachio - you're my favourite!!!!

lemon curd truffles and experiments with vinegar

i made lemon curd on the same night as i was making truffles for a friends 40th birthday party and i joined them in beautiful union! 60% ganache with single cream, a good dollop of lemon curd (easy recipe below) and enrobed in lovely dark, dark chocolate. they were perfect.

i remember eating a divine chococo lemon curd truffle a couple of years ago and now wonder why it has taken so long to try one myself. then i started experimenting with vinegar and made the most beautiful chocolate ganache with rich undertones of thick and sweet seggiano balsamic, almost like a winter walk through the woods but much warmer...

recipe for lemon curd - inspired by tana ramsay's recipe in home-made, this is very easy although my mum's lemon curd is the best in the world (but more complicated.)

30g cornflour
50g caster sugar
300ml water
zest and juice of two lemons (i always use unwaxed when zesting)
2 large egg yolks

put cornflour and sugar into a medium saucepan and gradually stir in the water, mixing all the time. firstly it will go into a smoothe paste and then into a cloudy liquid. add the lemon zest. bring to the boil, stirring all the time. when it starts to boil, the liquid will become thick and lose its cloudiness. simmer for a few more minutes and then remove from the heat. add the lemon juice and stir well.

Friday, January 22, 2010

irish blog awards

the nominations for the irish blog awards are open until february 5th. if you fancy nominating us, just click on the link!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

lola's late lollies

this recipe came from the december issue of 'favourites' a magazine someone bought lola to keep her occupied in the run up to christmas. we'd been planning to make the biscuit lollipops on christmas eve morning but as it turned out i was otherwise engaged as i was in the throes of labour! so lola ended up making them with chris, lucy and mum in the gap between christmas and new year and we enjoyed eating them at elsie's birthday party.

ours were christmas trees as per the recipe but we have since made them as hearts, snowflakes and clouds (we are eating a fair few biscuits to ward off the cold weather!). We have stopped sandwiching them together to make lollipops because, to tell the truth, it makes them disturbingly large! they are lovely as a single layer but if you do want to lollipop them use a bit more melted chocolate to stick 2 biscuits back to back with a lollipop stick (or a wooden coffee stirrer from a coffee shop) inbetween.
225g self raising flour
100g caster sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder
100g butter or margarine
5 tbsp milk
3 drops of vanilla extract
100-200g milk chocolate (depending on if you're making lollipops)
100g white chocolate
2 tubes of smarties or similar

1. preheat the oven to 190c and grease 2 baking trays
2. mix the flour, sugar, cocoa and rub in the butter.
3. add the vanilla and milk and mix well, combine the mixture with your hands and then knead on a lightly floured surface to form a dough.
4. roll the dough so its 0.5cm thick and use the cutters to make the biscuit shapes.
5.bake on the preprepared trays for 8-10 minutes. cool on a wire rack.
6. gently melt the milk chocolate, coat each biscuit- pair them up with the sticks if you are making lollipops, and let them set.
7. decorate with melted white chocolate and smarties.