Christmas Chocolate Choices

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Time for some chocolate indulgence

 

Christmas is such a great time for some chocolate indulgence, for something a bit different and a bit more indulgent than a Wispa. And I don’t mean two Wispas! Here’s some to be considering:

 

The Chocolatier Water Ganaches

 

First up, order anything from The Chocolatier. I love what they are doing, truly delicious flavours, and a really passionate family affair. I met Aneesh and his family at their stand at Cake International where MGG and I worked through quite a few products and flavours, and came home carrying rather a lot of purchases! For something different I would try the Chocolate Peanut Butter, the Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel and any of the water ganaches. You won’t be disappointed!

 

J Chocolate Rugoso

 

For “simple” chocolate then I’d recommend J.Cocoa for true bean to bar production of some very tasty chocolate bars. I really love the 70% Rugoso Dark Chocolate, this has beautiful, smooth flavours to it. I also love James’ story, he started this as a hobby, is still making this in a shed in the garden and used to be a fishmonger. I don’t know how good he was as a fishmonger, but he’s making amazing chocolate.

 

artisan chocolate making kit

 

If they fancy themselves as a chocolatier, then maybe start them off with a chocolate making kit from Full of It Craft Chocolate. With two different kits, these come with raw cacao butter and raw cacao powder, either from Peru or Ecuador. All the instructions are there, and they can add their own choice of flavourings. Could be a great activity on Christmas Day afternoon, after the turkey and all the other excitement.

 

Rococo Roald Dahl Chocolate

 

I love Rococo, and I love the link up they’ve done as part of the Roald Dahl 100 celebrations. Each bar draws inspiration from different characters, from James with his giant peach, through to Mr Twit’s Beardy Breakfast Bar. These could make great stocking fillers for kids, big and small.

 

Chocolate Avocado

 

Chocolate certainly doesn’t have to be serious, and so this one is a bit of fun. Avocado has certainly been having a moment, and so perhaps you can pretend that you’re being healthy whilst indulging in this chocolate avocado. I might send it to MFL as he loathes avocado but loves chocolate.

 

Craft Chocolat Subscription

 

For a gift that keeps on giving for a bit longer than just Christmas Day, then how about a craft chocolate subscription from Cocoa Runners? Three bars of the finest craft chocolate will arrive every month, along with tasting notes so you really get the most out of the experience. Definitely one for the chocolate connoisseur.

 

Organic Trinidad Sipping Chocolate

 

Maybe they might like their chocolate on the hot side? Hot chocolate forms part of our Christmas traditions, and this sipping chocolate from Luxury Fine Foods would definitely make a very indulgent grown up hot chocolate. Made using single origin organic cacoa beans from Trinidad, this melts beautifully into warm milk and will make a great indulgence on a cold night.

Of course these are all lovely, and I think most people would be very happy to receive any of them. But there’s still room for a Terry’s chocolate orange in every stocking on Christmas morning, possibly even a Cadbury’s selection box. Although I think we might be having a Toblerone boycott going on. What chocolate is part of your family traditions at Christmas?

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Falling in love with Beaminster

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Beaminster and surrounding hills

 

I think Beaminster is one of the most perfect places I’ve come across on our recent stay there. I can’t decide if it’s a large village or a small town, but from a food and living perspective there was so much good stuff going on.

 

Brassica in Beaminster

 

We had a fabulous dinner at Brassica, which is a delight. I loved the atmosphere, the decor and the cooking. Anywhere that does a decent wine by the carafe gets a thumbs up to (I think I heard the waitress say Louise’s dad is in charge of wine sourcing). Lovely enough for date night and a special occasion, unpretenious enough to pop out to any time.

 

Rubber coated ceramics at Brassica Mercantile

 

Next door is Brassica Mercantile, their deli and homewares shop, which you can also shop from online as well. I really loved the rubber coated ceramics, they were very tempting, and I only forgot to go back for one because we had such good weather and headed to the beach. We did enjoy English Preserves raspberry jam from there, and was pleased to see they stocked Amelia Rope chocolate.

Of course you can’t live in a village just with a fancy restaurant and charcuterie, so it was good to still have a village bakery, as well as Nick Tett’s butchers and a proper greengrocers. Beautiful flowers from the florist, and bits and bobs from the Co-Op and you’re pretty much sorted. And gifts are sorted at Cilla & Camilla, and there are several places to pop in for coffee and cakes.

For other kind of dinners, there was decent enough food the night we went to the dinner, there was an Indian, fish and chips and a Chinese takeaway. Pretty much all bases covered.

It’s far enough away from the coast to be slightly cheaper, and hopefully is not too blighted by second homes as it certainly seemed to be buzzing. Although obviously we were in someone else’s second home and were there in the school holidays. But I really loved it and got a sense of community as well as loveliness. I know they need money to get the swimming pool reopened and seem to be galvanising behind that.

I’d happily move there tomorrow, but it’s one heck of a commute back to Nottingham. But maybe one day!

 

View of Beaminster by Nathalie on Flickr.

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Ten fabulous Easter eggs for all kinds of tastes

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What do we recommend the Easter bunny should bring?

 

I may have mentioned before that I love Easter. It’s the combination of chocolate and Springtime, so longer daylight hours in which to enjoy the chocolate make it just perfect, even if it chucks it down with rain all through the Bank Holidays.

So, whilst I can’t do anything about the weather, then here are ten amazing Easter eggs for every kind of chocolate lover.

Melt Dark Chocolate Flower

 

Melt Dark Chocolate Flower Easter Egg

 

I love Melt, they’ve been an indulgence of mine on occasion when passing through Selfridges (well, until the Artisan Du Chocolat area opened!) This handmade dark chocolate egg is filled with milk and dark chocolate mini eggs, although is almost too pretty to break into. Almost.

 

Stroppy teenager egg from Rococo

 

Stroppy Teenager Egg from Rococo

I have featured this before, but make no apologies for doing so again, just because I think it’s genius. It’s not cutesy, just tasty, and I reckon both of the teenagers in my life would think this was pretty good egg.

 

Montezuma’s Milk Chocolate Egg with peanut butter mini eggs

 

Montezuma's Milk Chocolate Egg with Peanut Butter Mini Eggs

 

Well documented in my love for Montezuma’s, possibly less so for my love of peanut butter. I love all kinds of salty sweet combinations, and so this is ideal. Well presented, Montezuma’s were amongst the first to pioneer more sustainable packging for Easter eggs, without losing track of great tasting chocolate.

 

Hotel Chocolat White Chocolate Easter Egg

White Chocolate Scrambled Egg Collection from Hotel Chocolat

 

White chocolate is not everyone’s thing, but it’s theirs, then I like this gift from Hotel Chocolat. Pretty and artistic, with an egg and six delicious pralines alongside, it’s a real white chocolate fest.

 

Prestat Polka Dot Egg Hazelnut Chocolate Truffle in a Real Eggshell

 

Prestat Hazelnut Chocolate Easter Egg

 

For a bit of fun, and something different for the Easter egg hunt, then I love these eggs from Prestat. They really are within a real eggshell, so a bit of magic too, to peel off real egg shell and find delicious chocolate inside. There are lots of great patterns to choose from, so something for everyone.

 

Demarquette Chocolate Caramel Quail Eggs

 

Chocolate caramel quail's eggs from Demarquette

 

Again, for something fun but a little different, I love these little colourful quail’s eggs from Demarquette. Filled with different flavours of caramel like Raspberry and Passion Fruit, these are something for someone who perhaps is not the biggest chocolate lover but has a sweet tooth.

 

Large Chocolate Egg with Camouflage

 

Large Camo Egg - great gift for a food lover who is under cover on the chocolate front

 

This is one is perfect for someone who is not going to appreciate something frilly and pink. It’s also a bit different in that it is egg shaped but not in 3D. Probably easier for sending through the post if you’re not going to be actually see the recipient at Easter.

 

Dark Chocolate Egg Caramel Filled Humpty Dumpty from Fairy Tale Gourmet

 

Dark Chocolate Egg Caramel Humpty Dumpty Egg from Fairy Tale Gourmet

 

I really love Fairy Tale Gourmet, they are so clever and inventive, not to mention possibly just a little bit crazy but I love them for that. This little dinky Humpty Dumpty egg looks amazing, and I am sure tastes incredible too, given how good everything else I’ve tried from them has been.

 

Dark Chocolate Yorkshire Egg from Bettys

 

Dark chocolate Yorkshire rose egg from Bettys

 

Because you can take a girl out of Yorkshire…but you can never stop her love for the white rose, or for Bettys. It’s a beautiful looking piece, very tasteful. As I would expect from Bettys. Also worth looking at if you need to send gifts overseas, rates are reasonable and delivery reliable.

 

Artisan du Chocolat Kentish Creme de La Creme Egg coop

 

Artisan du Chocolat Kentish Egg Coop

 

If you’ve not forgiven Kraft for messing with the Creme Egg recipe, or just think they are too sweet, then try a proper chocolate company’s version. These versions contain fresh layered and infused ganaches: tonka white and passion fruit yolk under a milk shell, cardamon white and orange yolk under a dark shell. Definitely sound more my cup of tea and can guarantee the chocolate these are wrapped in is delicious.

 

So, ten fabulous eggs to cover all kinds of possible people on your Easter egg shopping list. Unless their favourite is a Smarties one, but hey, it’s Easter…if that’s what they like. I mean, you can never quite account for what the Easter bunny might bring!

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The ten best St Patrick’s Day cakes

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I have a feeling that time is going to have run away this year and I won’t get round to making a stout cake, or it will be a last minute affair later today. If you’re like me, then perhaps you could do with some inspiration for today, or advance planning for next year. So here’s 10 amazing ones that I found on Pinterest.

 

Dark Chocolate Guinness Cake with Baileys Irish Cream Cheese Icing

 

First up, a classic, Dark Chocolate Guinness Cake with Baileys Irish Cream Cheese Icing from Love Swah.

 

Guinness Chocolate Cheesecake

 

For something more like dessert, then how about the Guinness Chocolate Cheesecake from Eats Well with Others?

 

St Patrick's Day Mint Chocolate Cake

 

Mixing up the flavours and colours, try the St Patrick’s Day Mint Chocolate Cake from Created by Diane.

 

Leprechaun's Hat Cake

 

Look for your own crock of gold with this Leprechaun’s Hat Cake created by Heather Baird of Sprinkle Bake for Betty Crocker.

 

Kit Kat Shamrock Cake

 

You might be able to make this Kit Kat Shamrock cake from Michelle at CraftyMorning.com with younger cooks, definitely a chocolate lover’s delight.

 

St Patrick's Day Green Petal Cake

 

I’m not sure this beautiful Green Petal Cake from Blog Lovin’ is really the sort of thing you’re going to knock up before tea time today, but it is stunning.

 

St Patrick's Day Bundt Cake

 

I love a great bundt cake, and love this green and white version from LoveFromTheOven.com.

 

Green Velvet Cheesecake

 

Who says velvet has to be red? Try this green velvet cheesecake from B.Lovely Events.

 

Peek a Boo St Patrick's Day Pound Cake

 

Surprise them with the shamrock on the inside with this peek-a-boo pound cake from CraftMorning.com.

 

Leprechaun Candy Bark

 

For something quick, fun, possibly everyone can get involved in making, then try the Leprechaun bark from Simply Being Mommy. Then devour.

So lots of possible options to still make a celebration of today. Failing that, I’ve still got an emergency can of Guinness in the fridge. Party for one.

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I think our Easter cake debate is over

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I love Simnel cake (ok, I really love marzipan, the cake is just an excuse to eat marzipan), but none of our kids are that keen. But it wouldn’t be Easter without a cake.

I think Lakeland have given us our answer:

 

The Lakeland Easter Anti Gravity Cake - chocolate lovers delight!

 

This anti-gravity kit is a clever piece that I’ve seen them illustrate with all kinds of ideas, but I particularly love this one and know it will go down well here. I mean, Flake and Cadbury Mini Eggs? Ok, it’s not exactly single origin chocolate, but it is Easter.

This piece of kit is just £9.98, and if baking is your thing then I can imagine you having some fun with this.

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So, what kind of food year was 2015?

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Seems an age since I wrote about my hopes for 2015 on the food front, when I was hoping that grip of the big four supermarkets on our shopping might continue to loosen. Well, according to reports, that seems to be happening.

 

#Backofchallenge - what food is lurking in your cupboard?

 

January saw me starting the Back of Challenge for unloved food. I have to say, I still have some of the things I took out of the cupboard then, although I haven’t replaced them and the cupboards are still somewhat emptier.

 

Chocolate Macarons from Drop Dead Chocolate - the most beautiful chocolates to gift to a food lover

 

February of course is about love and Valentine’s Day for many. I loved the chocolates from Drop Dead Chocolates, and would also have been very partial to a hamper from The Modern Pantry. To be honest, anything from the Modern Pantry would be great, any time of the year.

 

Beauty in the Juice? Or not.

 

In March I was being cynical about claims made for a fruit juice. I’m probably not finishing the year looking any younger, as I haven’t been drinking it, but then I’m also not siginificantly poorer either.

 

Favourite end to a fabulous trip of great eating in Australia

 

March and April saw MGG and I on our Australian adventures, and there were flat whites on many days. Although there was a reasonable amount of the local wine taken too. And a breakfast to remember at Bill Granger’s.

 

Cooked apple tart

 

By May we were focusing on heading to France, so helping the kids get into French food. I was also discovering that not every recipe book is well tested, and so recipes do fail.

 

Time for iced tea for Tea Jay

 

Praying for warm weather in June, then I was hoping for iced tea as well as hoping to get organised for next year’s World Gin Day. I was also being tempted by the Lakeland sale. Again. Somethings never change.

 

The best birthday cakes ever from my tribe

 

I had my unbirthday in July with some great cakes from the tribe. There was also a great debate about what kit was essential or not in a kitchen. Still think I’m missing some bits.

 

Distill your own gin at 45 Gin School, the best lesson I've been to in years. Perfect gift for a gin lover

 

August of course heralds the start of Bake Off, and I was musing on the 10 things I had learnt from Bake Off. It was also the month I went back to school, and made my own gin for the first time. Amazingly, there’s still some left.

 

My fabulous bread basket at Cafe Einstein

 

There was a gin theme in September too (ok, I know, when isn’t there?) as my favourite Advent calendar launched. And it probably turned up in my round up of 53 hours eating and drinking in Berlin.Though less so in my roundup from Rugby, although that does feature eggs Benedict.

 

Make Your Own Bacon - perfect gift for bacon loving food lover

 

October saw Christmas looming, and I reflected on the six gifts that food lovers hate to get. I also did a roundup of kits to make your own foodstuffs, of which bacon was the most popular. I also showed how to get a cocktail through a letterbox, one of my favourite tricks of the year.

 

That's no moon: Death Star cookie jar, great gift for a food lover with a Star Wars obsession

 

By November, the countdown was really on to the new Star Wars movie coming out, and I summoned up the foodie force for a guide to the best gifts around for Star Wars lovers. There’s also my top ten gifts for food lovers who love to entertain, just in time for the major entertaining season ahead, not to mention gifts for those just starting out on their own cooking journey.

 

The Best Gin Cocktails You've Ever Made. Apparently.

 

December was about getting ready for Christmas, whether the fun, with festive cocktails, or the practical, with funky tea towels for the drying up ahead. Not to mention my usual roundup of options if you had forgotten that Christmas was just around the corner.

Definitely a year of contrasts, and new adventures on several continents, but some great eating with good company, at our own tables and away from home too. Here’s hoping for more of the same in 2016. What are your food memories of 2015? Would love to know.

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Quick food lover gift idea round up in photos – Christmas 2015

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Just wanted to share a few things that I’d spotted when I was in London recently, that I think would make great gifts, or just interesting things.

 

Le Chocolat Francais

I love the Chocolat Francais at Harvey Nichols. I’ve never seen this before, but love the design and the flavours are good too.

 

Dear Crete Cookies

The cookies from Dear Crete look lovely and really nice, unusual flavours.

 

BKD Baking Kits

I love this display of baking kits from BKD. Stylish and some good things to bake, like unicorn biscuits, and pirate cupcakes.

 

Loaf cakes from Pierre Herme

These are only here for being pretty. I know it’s a loaf cake from Pierre Herme, but it’s £19 a go. Not on my list I’m afraid.

 

Jealousy Sweet Crackers

I saw these crackers from Jealous Sweets in Selfridges, but can’t see them available online. You can buy them from Ethical Superstore, worth a look.

 

bkr-water-bottles

I’ve written before about my loathing of bottled water, and that having a good water bottle is a key thing for me. These are lovely from BKR in that they are glass, so no cross contamination from plastic. Plenty of colours to choose from.

 

Tipplesworth Cocktail Kits

Tipplesworth Cocktail Kits at Liberty

I’ve not heard of Tipplesworth, obviously lagging behind the times, as they were in both Harvey Nichols and in the window at Liberty. Great little cocktail kits, I’d add these to my list of things for a wannabe mixologist.

 

Choccywoccydoodah Display Christmas 2015

 

Chocolate house from Choccywoccydoodah for Christmas 2015

And finally, for the chocolate lovers, some of the displays from Choccywoccydoodah. Always worth stopping by for at least a look!

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Halloween treats for kids big and small

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Halloween is almost upon us

 

Halloween seems to grow every year. I have written about it every year since 2009, which I think is the first year we seriously got involved, mainly because we live in a village, there are lots of kids and it’s a pretty safe environment for them to go trick or treating. That, and I have a great cookbook!

But if you don’t want to do it yourself, then these are some goodies, or should that be baddies, that I’ve picked out as treats without the tricks.

Fortnum & Mason Pick Your Poison Truffles for Halloween

I always think of Fortnum & Mason as being too posh to do Halloween (although they are the only retailer I know who lists it as Hallowe’en, which I am sure is technically correct). Last year there was a great hamper, and there’s a few more like that this year. But for a laugh I like the Pick Your Poison Truffles.

 

James Chocolates Spooky Chocolate Haunted House

I’ve done gingerbread houses at Christmas, but never seen a chocolate house before, and certainly not a chocolate haunted house. Love this one from James Chocolates, great centre piece if you’re having a party. Or are greedy.

 

Halloween Cookie Pops

 

For something a bit different, then how about these cookie pops? Yes, I know they’re biscuits on a stick but they are a bit of fun.

 

Those pesky kids! Scooby Doo tin from Biscuiteers

 

This is one from my childhood, and if you were lovers of those pesky kids, then this tin of Scooby Doo iced biscuits from Biscuiteers could be just the thing. I love the monsters in this tin, I can imagine some arguments over who gets what!

 

Halloween Treats jar of sweets

 

Depending on how many kids of all ages you’ve got home for Halloween, then this jar of Halloween treats might be just the thing. All sorts of ghostly sweets from rats to brains, fangs to skeletons, so perfect for the big night.

 

Halloween Chocolate Cube

 

And if you want some cute chocolate gifts, that are more treat than trick, then I love these Halloween gift cubes from Chocolate Trading Co. Slightly less ghoulish than some!

Have some fun with it, particularly as it falls on a Saturday night this year. But remember, please be about the treats and no tricks.

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What gorgeous muffins you have

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Red Riding Hood Collection from Fairy Tale Gourmet - great gift for a food lover with a sweet tooth

 

I’ve written before about how much I love Fairy Tale Gourmet, for their really inventive approach to chocolate and sweet things. Such great things, really imaginative and great tasting.

 

Salted Caramel Muffins from Red Riding Hood Collection from Fairy Tale Gourmet

 

These are their latest offerings, their Red Riding Hood collection, which is all about muffins. And what fabulous flavours there are. My favourite would be the Salted Caramel, no surprise to those who know me.

If it’s not your kind of flavour, then there’s also white chocolate and lemon, red velvet (of course) or double chocolate amongst others. There are different gift presentations, so something for everyone and every budget.

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Getting good food ready to let the train take the strain

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British Rail Sandwich? Thankfully for food lovers there are many alternatives now.

 

I had two trips to London this week, which is always a good opportunity to try new things, or at least new to me things. Especially when I’m on the slower train back to Nottingham at lunchtime, which means an opportunity for a train picnic from Sourced Market at St Pancras.

I’m trying to eat a gluten free diet, because I feel better without it, so all the delicious bread and sandwiches were off the menu. But no loss, as I had these chicken teriyaki lettuce wraps from Tanpopo Japanese Food. It was fresh tasting, crunchy and I loved the peanut sauce.

 

Chicken Teriyaki Lettuce Wraps

 

It does feel like an endless journey, so needed something for snacking too, and so had Crispy Bacon & Maple Syrup popcorn from Portlebay Popcorn. I have to be honest, this left me underwhelmed on the flavour front (particularly given these are two of my favourite flavours). I wouldn’t be in a hurry to buy it again.

 

Portlebay Popcorn in Crispy Bacon & Maple Syrup

 

I had Elderflower Green Tea from Daymer Bay to wash it down. Can’t find much about these, inspired by a bay in Cornwall, but with a Kensington address. Hmm. Not much benefit to Cornwall as far as I can see, but happy to be put right.

I saved my last purchase till I got home and did share it over a couple of nights with MGG, and we’ll definitely be treating ourselves to Peanut Butter Chocolate from Nomnom again. As part Welsh, she was happy to discover a Welsh chocolate company, I was just happy to eat great sweet, salty, nutty chocolate. I would imagine we’d like the Salted Caramel version too.

 

Nomnom chocolate

 

So, it was a mixed picnic, some things will definitely be on my shopping list in the future, but even the less good ones were better than a British Rail sandwich!

Photo by Chris Sampson on Flickr.

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