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).

 

Pumpkin, prune and chocolate bars

I’m sure there’s a Chinese proverb about disaster being the mother of invention, or danger being the signpost to opportunity, or something like that. I’m not sure that it’s often successfully applied to baking, but there’s a first time for everything.

Earlier this week I stumbled upon Nicola Galloway’s recipe for chocolate chickpea cookies and pretty much decided I had to make them on the spot. We got through them really quickly and I figured I could whip up something quite similar, but with pumpkin instead of chickpeas, and prunes instead of dates. So this is the result – something inspired by, but completely different to, those cookies. And it’s every bit as delicious.

Pumpkin, prune and chocolate bars
These soft, slightly chewy bars are very addictive – trust me, I’ve consumed several in the course of writing this post. The mix of ingredients means they’re a perfect fit for October’s We Should Cocoa challenge, this month hosted by Hannah at Honey and Dough. The slightly random nature of how this recipe came to be also means it’s a strong contender for the October edition of Random Recipes – you can find out more about the criteria for this month here.
You do need to have some cooked pumpkin lying about for this recipe – do what I do and just throw a piece in the oven the next time it’s on and let it bake away untended. Then scrape the soft flesh into a container and freeze it to make yourself feel super organised when recipes like this come along.

1 cup prunes
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup mashed pumpkin (or – if you must – canned pumpkin puree)
100g butter, melted
1 egg
1 tsp pure vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Tip the prunes into a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside while you get everything else ready.
Heat the oven to 180C and line a small brownie pan (measuring about 27 x 20 cm) with baking paper, leaving some overhang.
Put the rolled oats into a food processor and whiz until finely ground. Tip out into another bowl.
Drain the prunes, then tip them into the processor, along with the pumpkin, melted butter and egg. Whiz until smooth, then add the ground oats, cinnamon and baking soda and whiz again until well mixed. Add the chocolate and pulse until mixed.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, until set and slightly springy to touch. Let cool, then cut into bars. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Have a great week, everyone x

Homemade chocolate milk

It’s the ultimate collab – two loved and respected food brands who each make fantastic quality products, joining them together in blended union. Organic milk + premium chocolate = a marriage made in heaven.

But there has been just one problem with Lewis Road Creamery’s Chocolate Milk (featuring Whittaker’s Creamy Milk Chocolate): it’s been flying off shelves faster than they can make it. However, help is at hand. Using a little Kiwi ingenuity, you can make your own Lewis Road Creamery Chocolate Milk. Here’s how…

Homemade Chocolate Milk Recipe

Homemade Chocolate Milk
Let me be clear – I’m not being paid for this. But take it from me, a confirmed non-milk drinker AND as someone who can easily say no to most milk chocolate, that these two products are incredibly good, both separately and together. If you’re struggling to get your hands on a bottle of their match-made-in-heaven chocolate milk, here’s how to make your own at home.

125g Whittaker’s Creamy Milk Chocolate, roughly chopped
750ml Lewis Rd Creamery Light Milk
a pinch of salt

Put the chocolate and half the milk in a small saucepan and set over low heat. Stir occasionally, until the chocolate has just melted. Set aside and cool to room temperature, then add the remaining milk and the salt. Stir well, then decant into a jug or bottle and put in the fridge to chill completely. The chocolate may solidify a little, but a good shake or stir will sort things out.

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 ultimate chocolate beetroot cake

Do you love cake? Then I URGE you to stop whatever you’re doing and make this cake.

Chocolate-Beetroot-Cake-With-Caramel-Cream-Cheese-Frosting

The photo isn’t the best – harsh work lighting – but hopefully you can get a sense of what a mighty cake this is. It’s Nigel Slater’s chocolate beetroot cake, taken from his beautiful book Tender (vol 1). It’s quite an involved cake to make – pureed beetroot, melted chocolate, whisked egg whites – but the results are absolutely worth it.

Nigel-Slater-Chocolate-Beetroot-Cake-Twitter-Photo

Nigel was right (I can’t believe I doubted him) – it’s probably the world’s best chocolate cake, full of dark, rich, complex flavours. He tops it with creme fraiche and poppy seeds, but because I was making it for our Bake Club I knew I needed to add a little more wow factor. I topped mine with caramel cream cheese frosting, then scattered over some shards of 72 per cent chocolate and some candied purple carrot. I used this recipe for candied carrot curls as a guide, but on my first attempt I ended up with a smoke-filled kitchen and a tray of burnt carrot strips. I’d recommend cooking the carrot in the syrup for a shorter time period and lowering the oven temperature.

The judges loved it enough – I knocked out the competition easily. Most importantly, I got to savour the very last piece. I might not ever experience it again, but I’ve finally tasted success.