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).

 

The best ever chocolate coconut chia pudding

There’s no question about it; chia seeds are miraculous. Not only do they contain all sorts of good things like omega 3 fatty acids, potassium and all the amino acids a girl could want (making them a complete protein), they also swell amazingly fast in liquid meaning you can have chocolate pudding for breakfast. That’s what I call a miracle.

Chocolate coconut chia pudding
This is my current favourite breakfast – it’s very portable, very fast and it keeps you going for ages. The only trouble is, it’s very hard to stop eating it, especially when you discover that it goes extremely well with a scoop of fridge-cold coconut cream (or yoghurt, if you’re virtuous). If you have fearful childhood memories of sago and tapioca pudding, the bobbly texture may not be for you. But that just means there’s more for me…

400ml can coconut milk
1/3 cup chia seeds
3 Tbsp best quality cocoa
1 Tbsp golden syrup or runny honey
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Put everything in a bowl and stir vigorously, until well mixed. Set aside – in a cold kitchen or in the fridge – for 15 minutes. The chia seeds will swell like magic, thickening the liquid. If it seems a little too thick, add a little water or more coconut milk. Grate a little chocolate or grind some vanilla over the top. Serves 2-4 people, depending on greed.

Have a great weekend, everyone! x

What to do with a Buddha’s hand

Ever shaken a Buddha’s hand? I wouldn’t recommend it; the ‘skin’ is pitted and lumpy and the fingers are disturbingly claw-like. But the scent makes you see past its horror-movie looks – it’s light, floral and lemony, the sort of perfume you wish they’d bottle.

What-To-Do-With-A-Buddha's-Hand

The Buddha’s Hand, also known as Fingered Citron, Buddha’s Fingers or, by it’s botanical name, citrus medica, is apparently one of the most ancient forms of citrus fruit still in existence. There’s no juicy interior -slice into one and it’s all bright white pith. But beyond using them as a conversation starter or a scary prop for tricks (imagine getting into bed and having one of these at your feet!), there are lots of ways to use one.

You can take follow David Lebovitz’s advice and turn it into candied citron, you can come over all Martha Stewart and use it to scent a room (though a rather small room, unless you want the scent to be very faint). You can zest a little skin over fish, or use it to scent a butter cake or shortbread. But this is my favourite way to use it: Buddha’s Hand Vodka.

How-To-Make-Buddha's-Hand-Vodka


Buddha’s Hand Vodka
You can adapt this to suit whatever amount of vodka you have, just adjust to suit.
For 250ml vodka, pare off about a third of the Buddha’s Hand rind, trying to avoid as much pith as possible. Put this in a screwtop jar, along with 1/3 cup of sugar. Add the vodka, apply the lid and shake well until the sugar has dissolved. Make sure the Buddha’s Hand peel is below the surface of the vodka. Leave for at least three days (a week is better), shaking once a day. You can strain out the peel if you like, but it gives a suitably freakish appearance to the liquid and it will continue to flavour the liquid if you leave it in.

Do you have any interesting ways to use a Buddha’s Hand?

The perfect chocolate smoothie

I don’t want to jinx things, but we are having the best winter ever. There are tomatoes growing in my garden, despite heavy frosts and gusts of wind that feel like they’ve blown straight from Antarctica. A work colleague whose house is hooked up to solar panels says they have more battery power now than they did in mid-summer. It’s not exactly t-shirt and jandals weather, but the sun is out and the days are crisp and clear.

The weather is so good that on Monday, to celebrate the start of the school holidays, we had chocolate smoothies for breakfast. On Friday, to celebrate the last day of term, we had chocolate porridge. I’m a strong contender for Mum Of The Year, don’t you think?

Dairy Free Chocolate Smoothie No Refined Sugar

The perfect chocolate smoothie

The ingredients for these smoothies came from The Big Fair Bake, a Fairtrade initiative designed to showcase the many wonderful ways you can a) support Fairtrade and b) use Fairtrade ingredients. Supporting Fairtrade seems like a no-brainer to me – it’s getting easier all the time to find fairly traded and produced things all the time and I like the idea that I am (in a tiny way, admittedly) helping other families while doing something nice for my own. While The Big Fair Bake is, as the name suggests, all about baking, this is a so-hot-right-now option that doesn’t require you to turn on the oven or even the elements. Now that’s what I call the perfect holiday breakfast.

400ml coconut milk (the Trade Aid one is delicious!)

3 Tbsp good quality cocoa powder

1 Tbsp honey (or more to taste, if you like things really sweet)

3 very ripe bananas, peeled, cut into chunks and frozen

Put everything in a blender and blitz to form a smooth and frothy mixture. Divide between two tall glasses and serve. Pink straws optional, unless you live in my house.


How to make sunflower seed butter

The advent of school lunches means that we’re now going through our favourite peanut butter at an alarming rate. We already ate it a lot – anyone who tells you they don’t eat it by the spoonful occasionally is either a person of no consequence or a liar – but now it’s disappearing like there’s no tomorrow.

We are lucky in that nuts are not a banned substance at ‘our’ school (dogs are also banned, but they’re not as good in sandwiches so it’s not such a big deal), but I do feel the need to diversify our reliance on the humble peanut. And so, while scrabbling around in the pantry last weekend I found a small sack of sunflower seeds and decided to have a bit of an experiment, based on my 2011 adventures in making my own tahini.
Half an hour later and I’d made two jars of fragrant sunflower seed butter for the princely sum of $2.50. Here’s how you can make it too.

How To Make Sunflower Seed Butter At Home Image/Recipe: Lucy Corry/TheKitchenmaid

How to make your own sunflower seed butter
This is really easy – all you need is a bag of sunflower seeds, a splash of neutral-flavoured oil, a pinch of salt and a food processor or blender. A fancy high speed blender would do the trick in seconds, but a regular food processor does a pretty good job in about five minutes.

500g sunflower seeds
3-4 Tbsp neutral flavoured oil (sunflower oil, if you really want to be cute about it)
a good pinch of salt (optional)

Line a large oven tray with baking paper and heat the oven to 180C. Scatter the seeds over the prepared tray in an even layer.
Toast them in the oven, watching carefully and stirring every 5-10 minutes, until they are turning golden. Don’t wander off, they burn easily.
Remove them from the oven and let cool for five minutes, then tip into your food processor (carefully, so you don’t lose the lot on the floor).
Add the salt, 2 Tbsp oil and whiz – it will be very noisy but will settle down and form a paste. Add the remaining oil until the paste slackens to a peanut butter-style consistency.
Scrape into jars and store in a cool, dark place. Makes about 500g.