chocolate

A Taste Of Roses

When I first came across Samira’s recipe for Almond Biscuits at Sam’s Kitchen blog I knew I had to make the rose water ones. And I did! Wow, what a recipe. These macaroon-like delicacies are so easy to make. I loved the delicate rose water flavour and the pretty pink colour.

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The only changes I made to the recipe were to make half the amount and I didn’t dust them with extra icing sugar. Other than that, this is a recipe that I will make again and again.

I even made my own variation inspired by a Bounty – a coconut chocolate bar 🙂

Coconut and Chocolate Almond Cookies

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Ingredients
125g almond meal
100g icing sugar
1 egg white
1 teaspoon coconut essence, or to taste
75g milk chocolate
1/4 cup shredded coconut

Method
Preheat oven to 160C / 320F.
Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Mix together the icing sugar and egg white.
Add the coconut essence and almond meal.
Mix to a soft cookie dough.
Form into 9 crescent shapes.
Place on prepared tray.
Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden.
Place on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
Once cool, melt the chocolate and smooth a dollop on the top of each cookie.
Sprinkle shredded coconut over the chocolate.
You can eat them warm or allow chocolate to set.

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Deathly Delights For Friday the 13th

It’s Friday the 13th again and for some the day is seen as unlucky, for others it means nothing, and for people like me it’s a time to dip into mythology and try out a few recipes!

13 is sometimes considered the Devil’s number, but in a tarot deck the Devil card is actually 15. It is the Death card that is number 13. Ancient Egyptians believed there were 12 stages of life and the 13th stage was death and transformation in the afterlife. For them, 13 was a lucky number. The number 12 is often associated with completion, so it makes sense that the number 13 can symbolise death and rebirth into a new cycle. This is part of the Death card’s meaning – transformation and renewal.

Death

The Dracula Tarot

One of the key symbols in the Death card is the white rose. White roses epitomise purity, humility, reverence and innocence. They symbolise new beginnings and are therefore popular at both weddings and funerals.

For this Friday the 13th, I thought I would play around with the rose from the tarot Death card and the dessert called Death by Chocolate. There are so many ways this could have gone, but I really felt like a nurturing milk drink. I concocted two Death by Chocolate Delights – because I really couldn’t choose between them 🙂

Rose Water Iced Chocolate

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Ingredients
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon rose water (or to taste)
1 scoop chocolate ice cream

Instructions
Place the milk and rose water in a glass and stir until combined. Add the chocolate ice cream.

Chocolate and Rose Water Milkshake

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Ingredients
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon rose water (or to taste)
3 scoops chocolate ice cream

Instructions
Add the milk, rose water and ice cream to a blender or milkshake maker. Blend until smooth.

The Year Of The Red Fire Monkey

February 8 is Chinese New Year. We are saying goodbye to The Year of the Goat, Sheep or Antelope and welcoming in The Year of the Monkey.

Chinese New Year is a Lunar Festival that takes place between January 21 and February 21. Celebrations usually begin on the New Moon closest to the beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. In addition, each Chinese year has two components; a zodiacal one and an elemental one.

Most of us know the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. The rat is the first animal and is followed by the ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep/goat, monkey, rooster, dog and finally the boar/pig. I always assumed this was a 12 year cycle but the yearly elemental associations complicate the system.

Each year also has a corresponding element and each element has a colour; wood (green), fire (red), earth (yellow), metal (white) and water (black/blue). Each element has a yin year and a yang year so each element has a 2 year cycle making it in fact a 10 year cycle. This 10 year elemental cycle is overlaid with the 12 year zodiac cycle. For the two to come back to the same point takes 60 years.

When I turn 60, I’ll be celebrating the Year of the Green Wood Snake in the Yang phase – the exact same configuration as when I was born. It will take another 60 years for the two cycles to play out and meet up again. I don’t think I will be around for that one 🙂

When we take into consideration the elemental and zodiacal calendars, this year is actually The Year Of The Red Fire Monkey. It is the first phase of Fire which is Yin and the lucky colour is Red. We will have to wait another 60 years for A Red Fire Monkey in the Yin phase to repeat.

To celebrate this Red Fire Monkey year, I have created a banana cupcake topped with chocolate chilli ganache and served in a red cupcake case.

Red Fire Monkey Cupcakes

fire monkey

Makes 24 mini and 6 large cupcakes

Ingredients
for the banana cupcakes
1 cup mashed bananas, approximately 2 large bananas
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (125g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups plain flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking soda (bicarbonate), sifted
1 teaspoon cinnamon, sifted

for the chocolate chilli ganache
330g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
1 + 1/2 cups double cream
3/4 teaspoon chilli powder

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.
Line a 24-hole mini muffin pan with 24 paper cases.
Line a 12-hole muffin pan with 6 paper cases.
In a medium sized bowl, beat together the bananas and sugar with an electric mixer until creamy and combined. Beat in the eggs one at a time until combined. Add the butter and buttermilk. Beat until combined.
Using a spatula or wooden spoon, gently fold in the flour, baking soda and cinnamon until combined.
Spoon the batter evenly into the 24 mini paper cases and the 6 large paper cases.
Bake mini cupcakes for 10 – 15 minutes and the 6 larger cupcakes for 15 – 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cuppycake comes out clean.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

While cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting by placing the chocolate into a heatproof bowl. Place the cream and chilli powder into a saucepan. Heat until the cream just starts to boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for one minute then whisk until smooth and glossy. Allow to cool before refrigerating for 1 hour. Bring out of the fridge and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Place in a piping bag and pipe onto cupcakes.

Note:
The ganache has a mild chilli flavour. Add more chilli powder if you would like it hotter!

An Unexpected Delight

On the weekend, I went to one of my favourite places to buy gin – Nicks Wine Merchants. The staff are very knowledgable, friendly and helpful. As I wandered excitedly down the aisles perusing the offerings, a beautifully painted bottle caught my eye. Then I saw the name – Turkish Delight. Intrigued, I read the label. It was made in Tamborine Mountain, Queensland, Australia. I recognised the place immediately! A few years ago my partner and I went to Tambourine Mountain in search of this distillery and much to our disappointment discovered that it was closed on Sundays. I had really wanted to try their Turkish Delight liqueur. Well now I could 🙂 I grabbed the bottle and made my way quickly to the counter, almost forgetting about my gin. But as I passed the gin section I stopped, lured by the promise of piquant juniper libations. The staff were happy to help me choose a very unusual gin, which I’ll be sharing with you soon.

When I got home I didn’t know what to drink first. After much consideration I went for the Turkish Delight liqueur.

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It is a really grown-up liqueur, not sickly sweet, very fragrant and tasty, with a good kick of alcohol. Its light rose colour matches the sophistication of the drink. To accompany it I thought I would whip up a batch of my Turkish Delight Truffles – a fragrant blend of milk chocolate, cream and rose water.

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Ingredients
200g milk chocolate, broken into small pieces
1/4 cup double cream
1 teaspoon rose water (or to taste)
cocoa for rolling

Instructions
Fill a saucepan about one-third full with water and bring to a gentle simmer. Set a heatproof-bowl over the saucepan, making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Add the chocolate and cream to the bowl. Occasionally stir with a metal spoon until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Remove from heat and stir in the rose water.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm enough to roll into balls.
Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place some cocoa into a small bowl.
Use a melon-baller to scoop chocolate into a rough ball and, working with one ball at a time, roll ball in the cocoa until covered then place onto prepared tray.
Continue until all the chocolate is rolled, topping up with cocoa as needed.
Refrigerate until firm.
Bring to room temperature before serving.

Bitter Sweet

In my exploration of the five flavours through drinks, I’ve saved bitter for last. Not just because it is my favourite emotion – I mean flavour! – but because it was the most difficult. Like sweet, bitter has so many of my favourite flavours such as beer, wine, tea and coffee. How could I narrow down a drink with so many offerings? With great difficulty.

After contemplating a citrus sangria, a root beer float with real beer and numerous tea infusions I finally settled on a tried and true bitter combination – mocha. Chocolate and coffee are great companions and both can be bitter. I chose to celebrate their union in stages. A marriage of fresh brewed coffee blended with melted chocolate is topped with a dollop of cream infused with instant coffee and sprinkled with cocoa nibs. The result – a luscious, messy indulgence 🙂

Hot Mocha

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A bitter-sweet symphony of coffee and chocolate.

Ingredients
1/2 cup double cream
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee powder
1 cup freshly made coffee
50g dark chocolate, finely chopped
cocoa nibs for serving (optional)

Method
Whisk the cream and coffee together by hand until thick.
Place the fresh coffee and chopped chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly for 5 minutes or until the chocolate has melted and combined with the coffee.
Divide evenly between two heat-proof glasses or mugs.
Top with coffee whipped cream.
Sprinkle with cocoa nibs if desired.

Note:
The cream can sometimes separate when dropped into the hot mocha. You can allow the mocha to cool slightly before dolloping the cream or you can enjoy it as a buttery, creamy mocha.

An Ode To Hades

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As I walked my dogs early Sunday morning, they raced to a cluster of white speckled weeds. I pulled them away thinking the white speckles were weed killer. But as I took a closer look I saw something I hadn’t seen in a while – frost. I stared at the icy weeds and thought about the last time I had been out this early in the morning and the last time I had felt this cold. It’s been a while! This July has been one of the coldest in Melbourne for quite a few years. What better way to celebrate the cold then with an icy morning walk followed by a trip to the country to visit the even colder town of Daylesford.

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After enjoying a warming coffee and a visit to the Daylesford market we set off to the Convent Gallery for scones and art. The former convent is now an art gallery with a cafe, bar and souvenir shop. I loved seeing the artworks juxtaposed against the backdrop of catholic iconography – especially the nudes. It was a beautiful blend of history, religion and modern art. The scones were great too. I washed them down with a Pimms and lemonade garnished with fruit grown in the convent gardens.

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We ended our trip to Daylesford with a visit to Lavandula, a Swiss Italian Farm. There were so many things to enjoy here but one thing grabbed my attention.
Two pomegranates, way past their use by date, posed decoratively in front of an old lantern on a rustic table. Every time I see pomegranates I think of Hades and Persephone, and the sweet fruit that “trapped” the even sweeter Goddess in the Underworld. I thought the paired, rotted fruit were a beautiful and poignant symbol of the God and Goddess, reliving the cycle of the seasons; from birth to death, from spring to winter. Persephone “escapes” every spring but for now she is underground and we are in the midst of a cold, harsh winter. It made me smile. It reminded me that spring is just around the corner.

IMG_2187Spring heralds the return of Persephone, the return of warmth, light and life, and the return of many creatures dwelling in the Underworld. I’m not looking forward to the return of some of those creatures! But for now, like Persephone, I will embrace the bitter cold while it lasts and enjoy the fruit of the Underworld in all its forms. Could the Lord of the Underworld tempt you with these deadly white treats?

Persephone’s Death By White Chocolate and Pomegranate Clusters

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Ingredients
200g white chocolate, broken into small pieces
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Method
Line a mini cupcake tray with mini cupcake cases.
Fill a saucepan about one-third full with water and bring to a gentle simmer. Set a heatproof-bowl over the saucepan, making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Add the white chocolate and slowly melt, being careful not to burn the chocolate. Remove from the heat. Gently stir in the pomegranate seeds until just combined.
Dollop into prepared cases and refrigerate until firm.
Bring the chocolates to room temperature before serving.

A Taste of Death, Chocolate & Olives

The first Wiccan ritual I ever attended was Southern Hemisphere Halloween 25 years ago.

I can still remember walking towards the circle. The night was cold and I was happy that I was wearing a cloak. A drum beat an eerie rhythm as we walked towards our destiny. I saw the drummer and realised he was naked. My first thought was one of horror “NO, don’t tell me I have to get naked!”. My second thought was “isn’t he freezing?” Thankfully we didn’t have to remove our clothes. The night passed in a cacophony of drums, chanting, invocations and prophesies by campfire. We ended, as most rituals do, with cakes and wine.

So for Halloween tonight I would like to share with you one of my latest creations – my version of Death By Chocolate. These rich and decadent dark chocolate and black olive brownies are the only way to die.

death by chocolate brownie

death by chocolate brownie

Ingredients
olive oil for greasing
170g unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain flour, sifted
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup finely chopped black olives

Method
Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.
Line a 25cm x 25cm square baking pan with baking paper. Allow paper to drape over the sides. Lightly oil the paper.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan then add sugar, cocoa and vanilla. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
Vigorously whisk in the eggs one at a time and stir until the mixture looks shiny and well blended.
Add sifted flour and baking powder. Mix vigorously until well combined. Add the olives and mix until just combined.
Pour evenly into prepared pan.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes. Make sure the centre is still slightly moist.
Allow to cool before lifting out.
Cut into squares and serve.

I’m always looking for new recipes and food ideas. Let me know your favourite Halloween recipes or Autumn/Winter foods.