Overnight oats with Black Doris plums and vanilla

I’m such a fan of tinned Black Doris plums that I devoted a chapter of Homecooked to ways to use them. Lots of people have told me how much they love that section – if you’re one of them, this bonus recipe is for you.

Black Doris Overnight Oats

This serves four people generously, or you can eat it as individual serves over consecutive mornings. Use coconut yoghurt or whipped cream (the decadence!) instead of Greek yoghurt if you like.

  • 1 x 850g tin Black Doris plums
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 4 tablespoons ground almonds or LSA
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
  • 1 ½ cups Greek yoghurt 
  • 6 squares good quality dark chocolate (I use Whittaker’s 72% cacao), finely chopped

Drain the plums, reserving 1 ¼ cups of the syrup. Stone the plums and put into a large bowl with the reserved syrup. Stir in the rolled oats, ground almonds or LSA and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, gently fold through the yoghurt. Sprinkle over the dark chocolate and serve.

Easy chilli chocolate pretzel sandwiches for the knackered Christmas cook

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Replace wonderful with exhausting and you might be more on to it. A few weeks ago I decided I was going to give myself the Christmas gift of Doing Less. I haven’t been able to open this present just yet, but I’m hoping today’s the day.

I’m a bit of a self-harmer during the festive season, to be honest. I know I don’t have gas left in the tank to Do All The Things For All The People but that doesn’t stop me from offering. I do try to cut a few corners where I can though.

This year I’ve shelved Christmas baking for a bit of un-baking instead. This recipe is brilliant because you don’t need anything particularly fancy, there’s no tortuous icing or rolling out of dough, and people go mad for the results. If that still sounds like too much work for the last few days before Christmas, rest assured that the slightly heart-shaped pretzels make these appropriate for Valentine’s Day too. It’s good to create the illusion that you’re getting ahead, right?

CHILLI CHOCOLATE PRETZEL SANDWICHES

If you want to skip the chilli and the alcohol, make sure you add a teaspoonful of good vanilla extract instead. These can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week after making. To make these dairy-free, use coconut cream and coconut oil in place of the cream and butter.

  • 125g good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup cream
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp rum, brandy, whisky or a liqueur of your choice (optional)
  • 100g bag of pretzels (about 60 pretzels)
  • Flaky sea salt
  • Chilli flakes

Put the chocolate, butter, cream and rum into a small pot and set over very low heat, stirring often, until melted. Stir well, then pour into a small bowl and chill in the fridge until firm but not rock-hard (about 45 minutes).

Line a baking tray or large plate with baking paper or foil. Take a small teaspoonful of the chocolate mixture and use it to sandwich two pretzels together. If the chocolate mixture has set too much, let it sit at room temperature until it softens. Repeat with the remaining mixture and pretzels. Store in a covered container in the fridge. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and chilli flakes before serving. Makes 30 chocolate pretzel sandwiches.

Mere Kirihimete everyone. Be careful and kind out there, see you in 2022!

Broken biscuit slab with easy chocolate ganache

On Friday, in an attempt to be an engaged and entertaining home schooling parent, I brightly asked my daughter if she’d like to do some baking. Actually, I asked her twice (never mind Covid-19, my research has shown that there is a pandemic of selective deafness occurring among tweens). Eventually she looked up from her book and said disinterestedly, ‘no, I just want to eat some baking’. I couldn’t argue with that logic.

If you feel a bit the same, here’s a no-bake slice that you can put together with all the broken biscuits at the bottom of the tin. I made this one with some kindly gifted Lotus Biscoff biscuits, but you could just as easily use Superwines, Krispies, Malt biscuits or anything in that genre. If you don’t have quite enough biscuits, add a little more coconut. Or use a little bit less butter. 

If you’ve got a food processor, bung the biscuits in there and pulse to biggish crumbs. Alternatively, put the biscuits in a solid plastic bag and bash them with a can, a rolling pin or a bottle of wine. This can be quite therapeutic, as long as the bag doesn’t come undone…

SPICED BROKEN BISCUIT SLAB WITH CHOCOLATE GANACHE ICING

  • 100g butter
  • 1/2 a tin (about 3/4 cup) condensed milk
  • 325g plain sweet biscuits, bashed to large crumbs (keep a few big pieces in there for texture)
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 tsp ground ginger 
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • Finely grated zest of an orange
  • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
  • For the ganache
  • ½ cup cream
  • 125g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Line a 20 x 25cm tin (or thereabouts) with baking paper, leaving enough overhanging the sides that you can use to pull it out later.

Melt the butter and condensed milk together over low heat in a large pot. Let cool briefly, then tip in the biscuits, coconut, spices, most of the orange zest and the orange juice. Stir to mix, then tip into the prepared tin. Press down (the overhanging paper will help here) to smooth the top. Put in the fridge.

Wipe out the pot and pour in the cream. Set over very low heat. As soon as it bubbles, remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Stir until smooth, then pour over the chilled base. Sprinkle over the remaining orange zest. Leave to set in the fridge (to speed things up) for about 20 minutes before slicing into small bars. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Be warned, it will disappear quickly!

Be my guest: Ola Pacifica

Wish you could run away to Samoa right now? Me too. Heck, I’d settle for the sun-drenched climes of Hawke’s Bay. Even that seems like an impossible dream at the moment. Sigh. However, I’m making up for it by eating some divine chocolate made from Samoan-grown cacao beans, thanks to Hawke’s Bay entrepreneurs Nia and Phil Belcher. Intrigued? Here’s the full story.

The Belchers have been in the chocolate business since 2010, when Nia started looking for a way to help out cacao farmers in her mum’s village in Samoa. They’ve grown from very humble beginnings to now working with more than 200 farmers in different communities. Their chocolate – Ola Pacifica – is now made in Switzerland and shipped worldwide.

Recently – slap bang in the middle of lockdown – the Belchers launched three new flavours: coffee, orange and almond. Launching a new range in the middle of a global pandemic isn’t one of the topics covered in Small Business 101, but the Belchers reckon chocolate is an important small joy in these difficult times.

“I love producing chocolate that makes people happy,” Nia says. “The taste of Samoan-grown beans is very different from beans grown in other countries.”

The Ola Pacifica story starts near Apia, where Nia grew up making cocoa mass from cacao beans. “We’d make our favourite cacao drink from the cocoa mass, so I also knew we could make chocolate if we ground it further,” she says.

An interest in food and cooking, combined with a desire to revitalise a dormant but sustainable industry in Samoa, inspired her to experiment further. 

“Samoa’s cocoa industry used to thrive under the administration of Germany back in the late 1800s, but the industry basically ended when the Germans left,” Nia says.

“Samoans were still growing it – they love their koko drink  – but we wanted to provide an alternative market for the growers. We started with cacao beans and nibs and gradually grew into different products including chocolate.”

The Belchers knew they were onto a good thing when their first products, sugar-free cacao beans and nibs, flew off the shelves. By mid-2013, they’d grown the range to four products. Inspiration for their next move – making dairy-free chocolate – came after Nia discovered that she was allergic to dairy products in 2014. She threw in the towel on her corporate job as a town planner and committed to the business full-time in 2015.

Growth was good, but it brought hard decisions to make. If they wanted the business to succeed, the Belchers realised it made sense to have Ola Pacifica chocolate made in Switzerland.

“The question of ‘why Switzerland?’ is often asked, and there are many reasons,” Nia says.

For one thing, it’s cheaper to send a container of beans from Samoa to Europe than from Samoa to New Zealand. (I know. This is one to file away under ‘great mysteries of the universe’, like where odd socks go.) Then there’s the issue of scale.

“Our growers needed a bigger market than just New Zealand,” Nia says. 

“We’re a New Zealand-owned global business, supporting Samoan growers, and we can do a better job of that making the chocolate where our target market is. Many of our dairy-free//vegan consumers are in Europe and the USA.

“The ‘made in NZ’ branding may be attractive; but not everything can be grown in New Zealand and still be profitable for artisan makers,” she says. 

“Many of those who make chocolates in New Zealand do so with cacao mass that’s actually from Belgium or other places in Europe; with other ingredients (nuts etc) produced elsewhere and imported. But it can be put together here and called ‘made in New Zealand’ even if the ingredients have been processed in three different countries and sourced from many more.”

Despite all the to-ing and fro-ing, Ola Pacifica chocolate is certified as being carbon neutral – the packaging is recyclable and the Swiss manufacturers offset their carbon emissions with planting projects.

“The Swiss we are working with are not just any Swiss chocolate maker but one with similar values on sustainability,” Nia says. ‘They’re the leading world producer of carbon neutral chocolates; they actively support suppliers and growers and are very advanced in future thinking.”

Of course, no amount of future thinking can protect a small business from the shockwaves of a global pandemic but Nia is bravely optimistic.

“We are very fortunate,” she says. “We have not lost anyone or had anyone we love suffer. We were also so fortunate that the last container of beans arrived in Europe where it was warehoused and stored before the lockdown. Likewise, the first container of finished chocolates had just arrived in NZ, been warehoused and were ready for launch when the lockdown hit here as well. So luckily,  we had chocolates on the ground ready for distribution into our online store and physical shops where possible.”

It’s not every day that you can treat yourself to a taste of Samoa and support a small, sustainability-focused New Zealand business in one delicious bite. This is really very good chocolate. You deserve some, don’t you?

For stockists of Ola Pacifica chocolate, visit www.olapacifica.com, or check them out on Facebook or Instagram.

Are you a New Zealand food or drink producer with a story to tell? Let me know…

Chocolate pikelets with spiced honey butter

You may well feel that life is too fraught at the moment to even consider making your own hot cross buns (you might feel like that all the time, in which case you have my sympathies). Even if you do like a bit of baking therapy, your plans might be stymied by a lack of yeast, or flour, or energy to do anything other than get through the day. I know the feeling. But in case you feel like making something, here’s an Easter-ish breakfast treat that uses basic ingredients, doesn’t require you to nurture a living thing and takes very little time to make.

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Chocolate pikelets with spiced honey butter

A note on substitutions for these straitened times: using butter gives these a better flavour, but using oil is fine if butter’s in short supply. Use any sugar (white, caster, brown) – but don’t pack brown sugar into the cup. Use any milk and any flour – omit the baking powder if you’ve only got self-raising, use a little less if you’re using wholemeal (and be aware the pikelets will be a bit sturdier). If you don’t have honey, use golden syrup in the butter (I had to do this for the photo – it was still delicious). 

Makes about 20 pikelets, serves 3-6 depending on greed, hunger, boredom etc

Preparation time: 10 mins

Cooking time: 10 minutes

  • 1 tablespoon melted butter or oil
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ – ¾ cup milk
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup plain flour

For the spiced butter:

  • ½ cup (125g) soft butter
  • 2-3 generous Tbsp honey 
  • 1-2 tsp cinnamon

Whisk together the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla and ½ cup milk. Sift over the dry ingredients and stir together until just combined (don’t over-mix or the pikelets will be tough). Add a litte more milk if the mixture is very thick.

Set a large heavy frying pan over medium heat. Grease with a little butter or oil.

Drop dessertspoons full of the mixture into the pan (hold the spoon vertically to make the pikelets round). Cook until bubbles appear and pop on the top, then gently flip over and cook for another couple of minutes. Remove to a plate lined with a teatowel or a cooling rack.

To make the spiced butter, beat the butter and honey together until smooth and fluffy. Beat in the cinnamon. 

To serve, pile the pikelets on a serving plate and accompany with the butter. Any leftover pikelets can be frozen and reheated in a toaster. Any leftover butter is great on hot cross buns or toast.

If you fancy a few more Easter cooking projects, you might like to try these Pretend Hot Cross Buns (gluten-free) or these Homemade Marshmallow Easter Eggs (also gluten-free and dairy-free).

Hope you have a happy Easter, wherever you are. Don’t go anywhere, will you?