Monday, 1 September 2014

Chocolate Blackberry Jam - We Should Cocoa Anniversary Challenge #49

Chocolate Blackberry Jam
We Should Cocoa has been running a stunning four years now and today celebrates going into its fifth year. Yes, it was five years ago that Chele and I started this monthly chocolate challenge. Chele kicked us off way back then with raspberries and it's been a continuous journey ever since. In 2012 Chele withdrew from the challenge and it has subsequently been kept alive by many wonderful bloggers who have kindly taken on guest hosting duties. This has added an extra element of creativity and interest as every host has such different ideas as to what the ingredient or theme should be. It is with deep gratitude that I'd like to thank all of the hosts and the many other bloggers who have been involved with this challenge over the years and have contributed to making it such an enjoyable and successful blog event. Do please keep those offers of hosting coming in.

If you haven't caught up with last month's marshmallow challenge over at Bake n Quilt, please do have a look.

So as this is a celebratory anniversary for We Should Cocoa and as it is the preserving season, what could be better than jam as this month's ingredient. Just think of those classic Victoria sponges with that layer of luscious jam. But please don't limit yourselves to just a jam sandwich. Jam can be on top, in the middle or a part of your creation, it can even be underneath so long as it features somewhere. And remember we're not just talking about cakes. For me it's jam tarts, roly polies and Queen of puddings that spring to mind; don't be limited to the obvious however, let your imaginations run riot - but perhaps not your jam.

Entry is via the linky at the bottom of the page and you can catch up with how to join in on the We Should Cocoa page.

I thought I'd been rather daring with my fig and pomegranate jam followed by apricot and vanilla jam a couple of years ago, but I reckon this year beats it. I may have made a straight forward plum jam, which whilst being delicious wasn't particularly innovative, but I also made a wonderful blackcurrant and chilli jam followed by chocolate jam.

There has been much talk recently about chocolate jam on the Twittersphere and for the first time chocolate was one of the categories in the World Jampionships this year. Even Vivien Lloyd, queen of jams has recently made a chocolate and raspberry jam. I like to do at least one seasonal blackberry post each year, so chocolate blackberry jam it had to be.

Never having made anything quite like this before, I was a little concerned that it a) wouldn't work and b) wouldn't taste good. I needn't have worried. It was a breeze to make and tasted great. It set well and had a good jammy texture. The balance of fruit to chocolate was just right; the flavour of blackberry was very much present, but there was no mistaking the presence of chocolate either.

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Chocolate Blackberry Jam
Chocolate Blackberry Jam
Seedless blackberry jam using apples to help it set with a big slab of chocolate added prior to the jamming stage.
  • 1 lb blackberries
  • 8 oz apples (I used windfalls)
  • 8 oz golden caster sugar
  • 3 ½ oz (100g) dark chocolate 53% - chopped
1. Wash the apples and cut into chunks including the skin and cores. Simmer in a pan with a little water and the blackberries until soft (about 10 minutes).2. Press through a sieve, extracting as much pulp and juice as possible.3. Return the extracted juice to a large clean saucepan and add the sugar. Heat gently until the sugar is dissolved.4. Add the chocolate and stir until melted.5. Boil rapidly for about 5 minutes until setting point is reached. I use the wrinkle method - place a little of the jam onto a very cold saucer and push your finger slowly through the jam to see if it wrinkles. If it does, it's ready.
Total time: Yield: 4 small jars

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Chocolate Avocado Smoothies (raw & dairy free)

Peruvian Hass Avocadoes
I have to come clean here: making avocados into a smoothie seems a bit of a waste of a good avocado to me. I love the texture and flavour of this princely fruit but actually like them best just as they are, on toast or with slices tossed into a salad or mashed up in guacamole or this avocado and egg dip. But when an octet of Peruvian avocados winged their way to me it seemed like an ideal time to experiment.

Intuitively a dairy-free option seemed like the way to go. Ideally I would have used coconut water as the liquid, but I didn't have any to hand. I had a look at coconut and almond milk options, but they were all full of sugar, vegetable fats and other additives. If only I'd read Janie's post on making your own almond milk before going ahead, but I didn't. In the end I resorted to a tin of coconut milk. To keep things as Peruvian as possible I used maca and raw cacao powder both grown in Peru. The maple syrup, oats and banana may have come from a different continent, but honour, I felt, had been served.

Talking of serving, how did the smoothies turn out? Really rather well. Thick and creamy,  rich and chocolatey, healthy too; we had them for breakfast and they kept us going for several hours. Result.

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Raw Chocolate Smoothie
Raw Chocolate Avocado Smoothie
A vegan friendly breakfast smoothie which is not only deliciously thick and chocolatey, but has plenty of nutritious ingredients.
  • 1 large Peruvian Hass avocado
  • 1 large banana - peeled
  • 2 tbsp rolled oats
  • 1 tsp maca powder
  • 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • ½ tin coconut milk (fresh would be best)
  • 2 tsp (or to taste) maple syrup
  • water
1. Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Place in a liquidiser together with the banana.2. Add the oats, maca, cacao, maple syrup and coconut milk.3. Add enough water to make the volume up to 1 litre and whizz for a few minutes until smooth.4. Pour into glasses and drink with gusto.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 large or 4 small glasses

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Spelt Cocoa Breads with Avocado Egg Filling

Avocado Stuffed Pitta Breads
If there was one crop other than lemons I wish we could grow easily in the UK, it would be avocados. I would have an orchard full of them. Not only are they buttery and delicious, but they are also quite good for you. High in potassium, the unsaturated fats are said to be healthy ones and they are relatively low in calories.

When I was sent a basket of ripe Peruvian Hass avocados, to say I was pleased was an understatement. I hadn't known such bounty since CT and I worked on an avocado farm during our antipodean travels many years ago. We ate the fruit for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So in remembrance of times past, we cut into one almost immediately and had it spread on toast, just as we used to back on the farm when we used it as a butter substitute. Oh, how delicous. These avocados were particularly tasty with a gimme more creamy texture.

Guacamole has long been a favourite of mine and makes for a very tasty vegan dip and accompaniment to all sorts of dishes. But I also find avocados have an affinity to eggs - maybe it's the shape. One of my favourite party dips is an egg and avocado one and as I hadn't made this for ages, I thought it was about time it was resurrected. What better accompaniment than some homemade bread, juicy sweet homegrown tomatoes and some crisp lettuce.

Avocado & PitaThe Great British Bake Off seems to have taken the world by storm this year and pretty much everyone seems to be talking about it. Last week was all about bread, so I thought I should join in the fun and get a little creative with flour, yeast and of course chocolate. Having a pretty good idea by now about pairing chocolate with savoury foods, I decided that adding some cocoa to my bread would marry well with the creamy eggy dip. I wasn't wrong. My pitta pockets, stuffed with the avocado egg filling along with some lettuce and tomatoes was pure heaven.

The pitta pockets exhaled a chocolate fragrance on opening and were resileint enough to hold the contents. They had a soft and inviting texture and although thick were not in the least bit leathery - way better than any shop bought pitta breads I've had. The chocolate pitta also did a grand job of mopping up the juices of a vegetable stew. The avocado and egg dip was as delicious as I remember it. We both felt we could eat this again and again.

Cooking with Herbs over at Lavender and Lovage is all about chives this month, so although I've already sent one entry, I couldn't resist sending this one too.

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Cocoa Pitta Breads
Spelt Cocoa Pitta Breads
Soft and delicious pitta breads with just a hint of cocoa to give added depth and flavour.
  • 250g strong white flour
  • 250g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1 scant tsp Himalayan pink rock salt
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 1 tsp golden caster sugar
  • 330ml warm water
1. Stir the yeast and sugar into the warm water, then combine this in a bowl with the other ingredients.2. Turn out onto an oiled work surface and knead for a few minutes - the dough will be sticky, but be wary of adding any additional flour.3. Place back into the bowl, cover with a cloth and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.4. Turn out onto an oiled work surface and knead again for a few minutes. The dough should have absorbed all of the water my now and not be so sticky.5. Cut into 8 pieces and kneading each one briefly shape into flat ovals, either with hands or a rolling pin.6. Place the ovals onto a lined baking tray (or two, depending on size). Place inside a plastic bag and leave to rise for about 15 minutes.7. Bake at the top of a hot oven (225C) for about 5 minutes when the breads should be lightly browned but still soft. Cover with a tea towel until all the bread has been baked. This will not only keep them warm, but keep them soft too.
Total time: Yield: 8

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Avocado & Egg Dip
Avocado and Egg Dip
A versatile and tasty dip that can also be used as a sandwich filling.
  • 2 large boiled eggs
  • 2 large avocados - stoned and peeled
  • half a small onion - finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • a good grinding black pepper
  • 4 stalks chives - snipped
1. Roughly mash the avocados with the lime juice.2. Stir in the onions and pepper.3. Add the eggs and roughly mash into the avocado.4. Stir in the mayonnaise and pile into a serving dish. Top with the snipped chives.
Yield: 8 servings


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