Saturday, 31 January 2015

We Should BSFIC - The Frozen Chocolate Round-up

This month We Should Cocoa teamed up with Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream (BSFIC) for an icy chocolate extravaganza which is #WeShouldBSFIC. January may not be your favourite time for eating ice cream or other frozen treats, but some of you hardy souls rose to the challenge with enthusiasm. Hop over to Kavey Eats to see her round-up.

Look out for next month's #WeShouldCocoa with Katie, over at Recipe for Perfection.

Apparently we told Elizabeth, over at The Law Student's Cookbook, that she had to make ice-cream, so she did. I didn't know we had that much power. Being a fan of all things Nutella, she decided NOT to use it and go for chocolate hazelnut ice cream using roasted hazelnuts instead.

Over at Honey and Dough, Hannah has a little doughnut sitting on her shoulder, apparently! Well actually I think I have a little brownie sitting on mine. I suspect it's not the same brownie Hannah used to make her frozen crème fraîche and brownie custard. I am very excited about the use of crème fraîche not to mention the brownies of course.

Janice from Farmersgirl Kitchen has presented her white chocolate Eton mess ice cream in a very stylish cup and saucer, which I am now coveting. I'm rather wishing I could dig into the ice-cream too - made with strawberry purée found in the freezer, it's a real taste of summer.

I had a go at making mini chocolate ice pops. Well the chocolate may not have looked quite as slick as I'd have liked, but my goodness they were good. Chocolate milk ice covered in thick dark chocolate - I think I'll have another one.

I've not tried ice-cream sandwiches before, but having seen these mini triple chocolate ice cream sandwiches over at Jo's Kitchen, I am seriously tempted. Jo's home-made chocolate ice cream contains chocolate chips and is then sandwiched between chocolate biscuits - wow!

In case you missed it, it was Australia Day last Monday and Johanna over at Green Gourmet Giraffe marked it by making Violet Crumble ice-cream. I'd not heard of Violet Crumble until I read the post. It is not, as I first thought, a crumble pudding flavoured with violet, but an iconic Australian chocolate honeycomb bar.

Julia, over at Something Missing, also made a no churn ice-cream, but a rather different one to the condensed milk one we all know and love. Her birthday cake ice cream is made using a base of Italian meringue - most intriguing. Even more intriguing is the cake batter used to flavour the ice-cream. I'm a big fan of cookie dough ice-cream, but I hadn't heard of cake batter ice-cream.

The Big Spud describes his chocolate and passion fruit baked Alaska as a showstopper and he isn't wrong. The flavours and colour contrasts are just too tempting.

And finally we have Kavey's very own rich, dense & dark chocolate ice cream over at Kavey Eats. Wow, all I need is the title of this to make me go week at the knees. The ice cream is another no-churn version which I've not come across before - it's all very exciting.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Valentine's Chocolates from Charbonnel et Walker

Valentine Chocolates
A scarlet Valentine's heart, edged  with gold and tied with a navy satin ribbon, recently arrived at my door. I am by no means immune to the romance of heart shaped packages, so it was with a tremble of anticipation that I picked up the Charbonnel et Walker box. At first I wondered, but no, CT had nothing to do with it. It was a good sized sturdy box containing thirty two chocolates weighing a whopping 400g. The chocolates were a mix of 33.5% milk and 60% dark chocolates containing traditional fillings of fondant, marzipan, ganache, caramel and praline. Rather less traditionally, the chocolates were of good quality if a little on the sweet side. These are not fresh artisan chocolates after all and shouldn't be judged as such.

I always get a little paranoid when there is no chocolate in the house, so I was delighted to receive such a large box of chocolates. I've not had the pleasure of trying Charbonnel et Walker before, although the name is a familiar one. I have long wanted to try their famous rose and violet creams - I do have rather a soft spot for these very old fashioned, but nonetheless iconic flavours. Sadly, neither of these were to be found in this particular box. Another time perhaps.

Founded in 1875, Charbonnel et Walker is one of Britain's oldest chocolatiers. Unusually for the time, the business was founded as a partnership between two women, the English Mrs Walker and the Parisian Mme Charbonnel - a specific request from the Prince of Wales, later to become Edward VII, it would seem. A number of aristocratic and fashionable clientele have given C et W their patronage, including Princess Diana, Sir John Gielgud, Wallis Simpson and Noel Coward; the latter was so enamoured he had a box delivered to his home fortnightly. Today, the royal seal of approval comes from the Queen herself and they are one of only a handful of chocolatiers to hold a Royal Warrant.

This box can be bought for £38 either online or at the Bond Street shop, the very same one that opened all those years ago in 1875. Other heart shaped boxes to tempt your Valentine this year include pink champagne truffles and sea salted caramels.

Charbonnel et Walker ChocolatesHunting around in a large box of chocolates for the one you want is not an easy task and after trying a few that sounded particularly good, it was lucky dip. The menu card was rather charming in design, but not the most helpful in identifying the specific chocolates. Many were on the card, but were not present in the box and I spent some considerable time trying to find them. Always one to avoid a strawberry fondant, I found the one in this box to be surprisingly good. The dark chocolate  ameliorated any sweetness and the flavour was good. Not surprisingly with such a large box of chocolates, they have lasted for quite some time and are not finished yet.

Being a bit of a marzipan addict, I was pleased to find there were quite a variety including a rather nice one flavoured with Orange Cointreau. CT liked the coffee chocolates, but here are a few of my favourites.

Ginger Marzipan - was my first choice and I wasn't disappointed. A dark chocolate containing marzipan flavoured with ginger and a good dose of rum. There was no mistaking the flavours here and the warmth of the ginger lingered long on the palate - just what is needed in the depths of winter.

Blend Crown - a delightful mix of hazelnut praline, marzipan and whisky all wrapped up in dark chocolate.

Pomponette - a blend of marzipan and pistachios enrobed in dark chocolate - did I mention I'm a bit of a marzipan fan?

Cecily - with its caramel flavoured truffle centre and enrobed in dark chocolate was elegantly simple to look at, but with a hidden decadence.

Barrel - this rum and raisin chocolate was a real nostalgic one for me. When I was a nipper, I would sometimes spend the whole of my 6d pocket money on a bar of Old Jamaica and this bought back all the joy of those occasions - À la recherche du temps perdu.

Rum Fourré - I think I must have a thing about rum too, because I really liked this one as well. A buttery ganache flavoured with rum which warmed my mouth and throat quite delightfully.

With thanks to Charbonnel et Walker for the box of chocolates. I was not required to write a positive review and as always, all opinions are my own.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Spiced Lentil, Carrot and Roasted Tomato Soup

The other day, I had the pleasure of sharing a bowl of soup with The Hedge Comber. As it was rather cold outside I fancied making something both warming and colourful. I always have split red lentils in the house, but I also happened to have carrots and tomatoes too. All were of a suitable hue I reckoned. As for flavourings I decided ginger and home-grown chilli for warmth and rosemary and thyme for aroma would hit the spot.

I also decided to roast the tomatoes for additional flavour and to give a slight smoky edge to the soup. To go with this, I made a loaf of bread using oak smoked flour, which complemented the soup well, we thought. A small grating of chocolate went into and onto the soup, but to be honest it was rather lost in the general melange and Janie was, shall we say, underwhelmed by its inclusion.

I am entering this into Vanesther's The Spice Trail over at Bangers & Mash. The chilli was quite pronounced and the ginger combined with it very nicely to give a truly warming soup. The theme is Temple Food and not only is this soup good and healthy it's the sort of thing that might be eaten in all sorts of Eastern temples - minus the roasted tomatoes perhaps!

I am also sending this off to Cooking with Herbs over at Lavender and Lovage. I used rosemary and thyme from the garden to flavour the roasting tomatoes and bay leaves in the lentils. This month's theme is The Great British Store Cupboard and as already stated, my store cupboard is permanently stocked with lentils.

Possibly for the first time ever, I find I am able to enter No Croutons Required, the longstanding salad and soup event hosted alternately by Lisa's Kitchen and Tinned Tomatoes.

Lentil and tomato soup is a bit of a classic, but with the edition of carrots, I reckon it becomes suitable for Extra Veg over at Utterly Scrummy Food for Families and alternately hosted by Fuss Free Flavours.

print recipe

Spiced Lentil Carrot and Roasted Tomato Soup
A warming and colourful soup flavoured with herbs, spices and roasted tomatoes.
  • 250g split red lentils
  • 1 large carrot - scrubbed
  • 1 thumb sized chunk root ginger - peeled
  • 1 red chilli (I used half a rocoto)
  • 2 bay leaves - half wholemeal spelt, half white
  • 1 Litre water
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 onion - peeled
  • 4 cloves garlic - peeled
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • a dash tamari (or other soy sauce)
  • ½ tsp sea salt (or to taste
  • a pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ lemon lemon juice
  • a tiny amount dark chocolate (100%)
1. Soak the lentils in either cold water overnight or in hot water for an hour (this greatly reduces cooking time). Rinse well.2. Dice the carrot, ginger and chilli and add to the lentils together with the water and bay leaves. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the carrots and lentils are tender.3. Meanwhile, roughly chop the onion and quarter the tomatoes. Place in a roasting dish with the garlic, olive oil, rosemary and thyme and roast at 200C for about 30 minutes - the onions should be showing a little charring around the edges.4. Rub the contents through a sieve to remove the skins and any twiggy bits, then add to the cooked lentils.5. Add the tamari, salt and pepper to taste, then blitz with a hand held blender until smooth.6. Stir in the lemon juice and add a grating of chocolate, then pour into bowls topping off with another light grating of chocolate.
Prep time: 25Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 large bowls


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