Chilli chocolate syrup + a chilli chocolate martini

It’s about this time of year that I start to feel slightly panicked and wish I could run away to some kind of closed community where they don’t celebrate Christmas, or have jobs, or blogs or Things To Worry About. Do you feel like that too?

The internet is the worst place to be if you’re in that kind of mood, because CHRISTMAS is around every turn. Don’t, whatever you do, venture on to Pinterest, or you’ll fall into a deep depression at the realisation that you’ve failed dismally as a mother/partner/sibling/friend/member of society because you haven’t planned your themed decorations, hand-stitched jaunty bunting or made 20 sets of Frozen-themed figurines of every kid in your child’s class from air-dried clay. And you’ve still got to bake for the school gala, sort your invoices, locate the spare car key and send your dear friend her birthday present, now three months overdue (sorry Claire!). 

Fear not, friends, because I have a remedy to lift you to a higher place. It’s chocolate chilli syrup – and if pouring it over cake or ice cream doesn’t cheer you up, then adding it to a martini certainly will. Here’s how.

Chocolate-Chilli-Syrup-Recipe

Chocolate chilli syrup

If you’re stuck for easy DIY Christmas gifts, this should go on the list. It takes minutes, doesn’t cost much and is extremely simple. It’s my offering for this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge, hosted by the lovely Shaheen of Allotment2Kitchen. No surprises in guessing this month’s guest ingredient – it’s chilli.

1 cup water

1 cup caster sugar

3 Tbsp good quality cocoa powder

1 tsp chilli flakes

Stir the sugar and cocoa together in a small pot, then add the water and mix well. Bring to the boil and let simmer for five minutes, then remove from heat. Stir in the chilli and let cool to room temperature. Strain through a fine sieve into a jar or bottle and cover tightly. Store in the fridge.

Choc-Chilli-Martini-Easy-Recipe

Chocolate chilli martini

Martini purists, look away now – this is very much my desperate housewife interpretation.

60ml ice cold vodka

30ml vermouth

30ml chilli chocolate syrup

ice

Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker (confession: I use a jam jar) and shake well. Strain into a martini glass (or two, if you’re generous).

 

Ambrosia, food of the gods

If you grew up in New Zealand in the 1970s and 1980s, there’s a good chance this pudding will be instantly recognisable. If not, it’s high time you got acquainted.

Ambrosia-Recipe-Dessert

This is ambrosia, food of the gods. I remember it sweeping through parties and social occasions of my childhood like a tidal wave of cream, fruit and pineapple lumps. My mother never made it, which gave it extra cachet. To my 10-year-old self, ambrosia was just about the most glamorous pudding ever invented. 

Recipe-For-Ambrosia-Berry-Cream-Dessert

Thirty years later, I can vouch for many of its attributes. The mixture of cream and yoghurt is still tangy and rich, and it’s great fun anticipating the surprise in each mouthful – will it be a marshmallow or a juicy berry? I doubt it’s the food of the modern gods, given its extremely calorific ingredients, but it still makes a great pudding (or a very illicit breakfast).

Whipped-Cream-Berries-Marshmallows

Ambrosia

The great thing about ambrosia is that it doesn’t require any fancy ingredients, can be made for an intimate dinner for two or a feeding frenzy for 20 and it appeals to just about everyone. Children adore it and adults, though they pretend they are too grown up to eat marshmallows, will dig into the bowl as soon as your back is turned. It’s sort of an Antipodean Eton Mess, which makes it the perfect entry for this month’s Sweet New Zealand blogging challenge. This month my lovely friends Michelle and Anna of Munch Cooking are playing host and they’ve given it a Wellington theme to celebrate Wellington On a Plate. It’s also a fitting entry for the August edition of We Should Cocoa, in which guest host Rebecca of BakeNQuilt has chosen marshmallows as the special guest ingredient.

180ml (3/4 cup) cream

2 cups natural yoghurt (I particularly like The Collective’s Straight Up yoghurt in this)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 cups frozen berries – blueberries, raspberries, boysenberries, blackberries

2 cups mini marshmallows

100g chocolate, roughly chopped

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Stir through the yoghurt and vanilla, then fold through the berries, marshmallows and chocolate (reserve a little of the chocolate to sprinkle on top). Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. I think it’s best the day it’s made, unless you’re eating it sneakily for breakfast the morning after. Serves 4-6.

Have a great week, everyone x

Treat me: Homemade Easter eggs

I’m not really that keen on sweets or lollies, but it takes a lot of willpower for me to resist a marshmallow. This has been a lifelong problem – when I was about five I discovered a stash of marshmallows in a high cupboard and secretly scoffed the lot. I still remember the speech I got about how it was bad to take the marshmallows, but even worse to lie and pretend I hadn’t. I’ve been a terrible liar ever since (and still feel guilty about indulging my marshmallow habit.)

How To Make Marshmallow Easter Eggs

Last weekend my friend Agnes came over and made a swag of beautiful Easter eggs while I found whatever kitchen tool she needed and kept our daughters out of the chocolate (one of those tasks was much easier than the other). Agnes and chocolate are like Picasso and paint – it’s amazing watching her work. I was too embarrassed to make these eggs – the way I remember doing them with my mother – in front of her, but my taste for nostalgia (and marshmallow) meant I’ve been dreaming about them all week.

So if you’ve ever wondered how to make marshmallow Easter eggs at home without any fancy kit, this is how to do it.

Homemade Marshmallow Easter Eggs
Don’t be alarmed – the flour and egg are only used in the shaping process. Both can be reused in the normal way. You need electric beaters, or preferably a stand mixer, to make the marshmallow. Don’t attempt it with a rotary beater, it will only end in tears. This is a bit of a process but the results, which taste like chocolate-covered clouds, make it all worth it.

2 kg flour (use gluten-free flour if you have gluten woes)
1 egg – at room temperature (or the flour sticks to it)
1 Tbsp powdered gelatine
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup hot water
1 cups sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla
1/2 tsp rosewater
1 tsp lemon juice
Pink food colouring, optional
180g good quality chocolate – I used Whittaker’s Fairtrade Creamy Milk
1 Tbsp coconut oil or other plain, flavourless oil

Spread the flour into two or three large, deep baking dishes. The flour needs to be about 5cm deep. Gently press the egg (in the shell) into the flour to make a half-egg shape to make 20 hollows. Carefully set aside.
Put the cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle over the gelatine. Stir well, then let swell for five minutes.
Put the hot water and the sugar in a large saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the gelatine mixture, stirring all the time, until it has dissolved too.
Bring this mixture to the boil and boil gently for six minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool until lukewarm.
Transfer it to a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) and add the vanilla, rosewater and lemon juice. Beat on high speed until thick and creamy (about five minutes, depending on your mixer). If you like, add a few drops of pink food colouring when the mixture is nearly done.
Carefully spoon the marshmallow mixture into the egg shapes, making sure it comes to the top.
Let set for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the halves from the flour by touching the top of each one with your finger and lifting it out. Join the halves together (the top stays sticky, so they ‘glue’ together nicely) and dust off the flour. A pastry brush is helpful here.
Cover a tray with plastic wrap and set aside.
Leave the marshmallow eggs in a cool place while you melt the chocolate and coconut oil together in a double boiler over low heat. Let cool until lukewarm, then carefully dip the eggs in, using a fork or a dipping spoon, then put them on the plastic-covered tray. This is a messy job – just resign yourself to the fact that chocolate will go everywhere. When the eggs are covered (or as best as you can get them), put them in the fridge to set. Store them in a covered container in the fridge (wrap them in foil if you’re really fancy). Makes 8-10 eggs, depending on how much marshmallow you eat in the process…

Given that this is such a chocolate-filled time of the year (in our house, at least), it makes great sense to add this post to April’s We Should Cocoa challenge, where guest host Rachel Cotterill has chosen Easter as the theme.

Have a great weekend everyone x

Treat me: Marshmallow nests

I was out the other night and someone I hadn’t seen for a long time said to me, apropos of something else, ‘it’s lucky you’re not a proper journalist because…’. Reader, I was mortally wounded.
I was also slightly lost for words, but I realised afterwards I could have come back with a whole lot of reasons of why I AM still a proper journalist. At the time though, I could only think of this one: that I can still eavesdrop on a conversation across the other side of the room while staying engaged in the one I’m having. That’s a proper journalist skill, that is. Trust me. You don’t spend ages listening to the police scanner while being shouted at by the chief reporter and keeping abreast of office gossip for nothing, you know.

Easter Marshmallow Nests - Gluten-Free Recipe Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Anyway, because I’m not a ‘proper journalist’ any more I now have to practice this skill at things like kids’ birthday parties – which is where I picked up the first part of this recipe. Two women across the party table were discussing rice bubble cake and I heard the other one say, ‘no, no, you should do it with 50g of butter and a packet of marshmallows’. Then the conversation I was in got interesting again and I tuned the rice bubble ladies out. Still, it was enough. All you need is a lead, after all.

Marshmallow Nests
I urge you to suspend your disbelief for a minute and try these – they are absolutely addictive. Trust me, I had to leave the house to stop myself eating the whole batch this morning (it’s been that kind of week). This makes 12 mini nests, but if you want to make more I suggest making up a new batch rather than doubling the recipe as the mixture starts to set quite quickly. If you have a silicon mini muffin tin, now is the time to use it.

125g marshmallows – the little ones melt faster, but the big ones are fine to use
25g unsalted butter
2 cups rice bubbles
about 36 mini marshmallows, for decorating

Put the butter and marshmallows in a medium saucepan and set over low heat. Stir frequently until the marshmallows are melted and the whole thing is a spooky looking mess. Remove from heat, then tip in the rice bubbles and stir until well combined.
Divide the mixture between the 12 holes of a mini muffin tin (or a small tartlet tin), then, using your fingers and a wet spoon, hollow out the middle to make a nest shape.
Let cool and set (about 10 minutes), then remove the nests from the tin and arrange a few mini marshmallows in each nest. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place (but not the fridge, they get too sticky).

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Treat me: Chocolate Cornflake Roughs

Some things are made for each other. Salt and caramel. Champagne and oysters. Walnuts and blue cheese. Chocolate and coconut. Then there’s Random Recipes and We Should Cocoa – a match so perfect I can’t believe they haven’t joined forces before.

For this month’s Random-Recipes-Meets-We-Should-Cocoa mash-up I had a very limited selection of books to choose from thanks to our ongoing renovations (it’s hard to access the main part of one’s cookbook collection when it’s hidden behind a king-sized bed, two radiators and a mirror, don’t you think?). Anyway, one of the few books I could reach was this handsome tome: a 1971 edition of The New Zealand Woman’s Weekly Cookbook, edited by the incomparable Tui Flower.

The New Zealand Woman's Weekly Cookbook, 1971 Hardback

Like Random Recipes maestro Dominic, and We Should Cocoa founder Choclette, Tui Flower is a force to be reckoned with. She ruled New Zealand food writing from her test kitchen at the NZ Woman’s Weekly for more than 20 years. At the NZ Guild of Food Writers‘ Conference last November she was spoken of with the utmost awe, if not a slight touch of fear.

This book, though a little dated in parts, is a brilliant snapshot of New Zealand households in the 70s (and beyond). I rescued my copy from an charity shop and – while I’m unlikely to make Tui’s recipe for ‘Picnic Loaf’ using a tin of spaghetti and sausages, among other things – I think it’s a fine piece of culinary heritage. The recipe I ended up with here is another local icon. Chocolate Cornflake Roughs, or their close cousins, made with rice bubbles, were THE party food of choice when I was a child. They are very sweet, crunchy and best served very cold (ideally, without any children to share them with).

Chocolate Cornflake Roughs In Cupcake Cases

Chocolate Cornflake Roughs
As much as I respect and admire the work of Tui Flower, I’ve updated her 1971 recipe to reflect the contents of a slightly more modern pantry. The original recipe specifies ‘crushed coconut biscuits’ – in New Zealand that can only mean the delectable Krispies (which now even come in a chocolate-dipped form). If you don’t have a similar biscuit, I suggest something like a digestive or chocolate wheaten. Hey, you could even use these. If you’re not a fan of coconut oil, any light, neutral oil will work. Don’t forget to use the best cocoa you can for an especially rich flavour. For that birthday party touch, use cupcake cases instead of a lined tray.

1/2 cup icing sugar
3 Tbsp cocoa
90ml coconut oil, melted
a drop or two of almond essence
1 cup cornflakes
9 coconut biscuits (as described above), crushed to make about 1 cup of crumbs.

Line a tray or a large platter with baking paper and set aside.
Sift the icing sugar and cocoa together into a bowl. Beat in the coconut oil and almond essence, then add the cornflakes and biscuit crumbs and stir until well combined. Drop spooonfuls of the mixture on the lined tray and leave in a cool place to set. Makes about 12.

Have a great weekend, everyone!