Chocolate dipped crispbread

One of the great things about working, in my day job, with people who make lovely food is that I get to taste it and also get to be a part of thinking about new products and new recipes.

What could be better?

So when the team at Peters Yard were getting together for our 2013 planning day I thought I’d try an idea I’d been toying with for some time.

Chocolate dipped crispbread. Yes really.

Now Peters Yard are no ordinary crispbread. They are made to an artisan Swedish recipe with sourdough starter and simple ingredients. The taste amazing. Watching people be wowed when they first taste them is great. They are the non plus ultra of crispbread, indeed of crackers in general.

So I decided to keep it all very simple and not compromise on ingredients. I melted some top quality chocolate (I used Willie’s Cacao Chefs Drops) in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Once molten and glossy I dipped mini crispbread in the chocolate and laid them out on baking parchment to set. I also drizzled some with the last of the chocolate to make squiggly patterns.

The team loved them with coffee. The fruitiness of the chocolate complimented the slight sourdough tang of the crispbread. The smooth texture contrasted well with the crispiness. All in all a success. The team suggested that additions of a little sea salt or finely ground coffee beans sprinkled over when the chocolate was setting would also be good. So I’ve done a second batch and I’m about to try them now.

I think they would make great end to a meal as ‘petit fours’ or as a gift to someone. They will last about two weeks or so in carefully sealed box or tin. Because they took about 10 minutes to make and only about an hour completely to set I also think they make a wow plate of indulgence at anytime.

For really good instructions on melting chocolate take a look at this article in the Guardian. I would say that because the crispbreads have a little coating of flour you are never going to get a super glossy result so go with the bowl over water or microwave option. If using a microwave be very careful and do short bursts and keep checking, if you overheat then the chocolate will go granular, it will taste fine but be harder to work with.

Disclosure: Peters Yard is a client of my business Bright Blue Skies. The crispbread had been provided for free. The chocolate drops I bought in Waitrose.


Chocolate Week: Days 4, 5 and 6

It was going so well…each day a different chocolate with my coffee, plenty of choices in the stash then

BAM (imaginary comic book graphics round this word if you will)

its all went a bit wrong….

I woke up on day 6 and realised I FORGOTTEN to have any chocolate on days 4 and 5, totally forgotten.

I had none, zilch, nada.

So I set to rectifying the situation by trying out this


The orange gives it a marmalade-y sweet yet sharp edge while the fig adds earthiness and richness.

Was good and felt rather festive.

You’ll be please to know that back on track on day seven I do much better indeed…..


Chocolate Week: Day 3

Day 3 an chocolate supplies were running perilously low…so I placed and Ocado order

Not just for chocolate you understand there were lots of other store cupboard staples I needed too….imagine though a whole van full of chocolate turning up would be pretty fab

Anyway today I went for Green & Blacks Cherry chocolate


I just love those sour cherries in it nice and tart and tangy.

Chocolate Week: Day 2

Turns out as well as chocolate week and curry week its also egg week…..good job I had egg curry last night then.

So Day 2 of chocolate week I was mostly munching on my regular bar


Divine 70%…its great it smooth and dark enough and sensibly priced and widely available and good ethics.

Not really much more you can ask for in a regular chocolate purchase in my view. Well possibly someone to send you a large delivery as a gift but apart from that….

Festive menu, part 3 (all about chestnuts)

Yesterday I told you about the cheese terrine we had for starters today its all about the chestnuts…mainly so you can make the chestnut stuffing from my festive menu but also so I can share my most recent blog for Francoise Murat Design on Christmassy foods and which also includes a fab chestnut jam and a chocolatey chestnut cake…so here it is….. (first posted 8 December the cakes are actually made now!)

One of the wonderful things about Christmas is the fact that there are lots of chances to cook up delicious meals and food gifts for friends and family. Some people will have started their Christmas preparation months ago baking Christmas cakes which are now slowly being ‘fed’ brandy or whisky to make them extra moist and tasty ahead of being decorated. I’m not quite that organised although I have ear marked some of my chutneys, pickles, fruit vodkas and vinegars as gifts and I’m planning on making lavender shortbreads and perhaps cheese biscuits too. The fruit is now soaking in whisky ready to make the cakes and I think I might try my hand at some home cured gravadlax.

For lots of people the big decision is what meat to have for the Christmas meal, should it be turkey or the supposedly more traditional goose, a classic English roast beef or perhaps a stuffed loin of pork. For me though it’s all about the trimmings and the other meals, the roast is almost irrelevant. I’ve often joked that you could easily serve me a plate piled with all the trimmings and I wouldn’t notice if the roast meat was missing. I just love the extras so much and they are the things that most of us only decide to do for Christmas…..stuffings, bread sauce, fruit jelly, sausages wrapped in bacon, about 5 types of vegetables all with little twists, proper gravy made from real stock, tons of crispy roast potatoes…we might do some of these some of the time but we almost never do so many together and of course that’s just the ‘main’ course…there will be a starter when perhaps normally there wouldn’t, there’ll be dessert and mince pies and cake and then somewhere in all this there’ll be a groaning table of cold cuts, pates, pork pies, cheeses, breads, smoked salmon following by an array of cheesecake, trifle, gooey chocolate cake…and lots of citrus fruit too to balance it all out.

My particular favourites are homemade mince pies with proper crumbly delicate pastry, baked ham, the sausages wrapped in bacon, roasted root vegetables, braised cabbage with lardons and a splash of white wine, chestnuts tossed with Brussels sprouts and butter, super crispy roast potatoes. Give me those over the festive period and I’ll be happy but there is one thing that that I wouldn’t ever go without at Christmas regardless of what else I chose to cook and that’s chestnut stuffing. Even if I’m not having turkey or chicken or pork I still make some in a sort of terrine style and eat it with chutney or pickle or as a sandwich filling. I love it, it’s the stuffing we always had at Christmas when I was growing up, so it’s a Christmas must (the recipe is from my Grandma). Its tasty and moist without being heavy, lots of stuffing’s use pork mince, which makes them very rich. This is simpler and with a little adaptation could easily be made into a fantastic vegetarian version as a terrine.

I really like chestnuts, their sweet mealiness lends itself well to a range of different dishes, savoury and sweet. They are good in wintery stews particularly with game. They are delicious roasted and eaten straight from the skins. And they work in cakes and breads, particularly with chocolate but they also have a long heritage as a flour substitute in southern Europe.  When I was doing a trial batch of the stuffing last week for this blog post I also decided to play around with some other chestnut ideas so as well as a stuffing I think everyone will like, for chestnut fans I’ve a chestnut jam recipe and also a chocolate and chestnut cake. So stop worrying about whether to have turkey, goose or beef, focus on the extras and I’ll bet almost no one notices which roast you serve.

Chestnut Stuffing

The way I like to cook means this recipe is just a starting point, pick your favourite herbs to go in the mix, don’t use bacon if you want a vegetarian version and perhaps add gently softened onions instead (or even as well if you like).

  • 1 tin chestnut puree
  • 8 oz breadcrumbs
  • 3 rashers streaky bacon cut into small pieces
  • zest 1 lemon (and the juice if you like)
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • big handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper

Break up the chestnut puree with a fork; add all the ingredients except the eggs and mix. Once mixed add the egg and bring together. Use to stuff turkey, chicken or loin of pork. Bake any you can’t fit in the meat in a dish or terrine. You can line this with streaky bacon and fold over the top or simply dot the top with butter. Cook the extra stuffing for at least 40 mins at R6 (200C), you may need to cover the top with foil half way through the cooking time.

Chestnut Jam

  • 2 tins of whole cooked chestnuts (i.e. 400g) or whatever weight you have of cooked peeled chestnuts
  • For each 100g of chestnuts you need 75ml water and 100g of sugar
  • Lemon zest
  • Vanilla pod

Put the chestnuts in a pan and add the water, the lemon zest and the vanilla, simmer gently for 30 mins (covered) to allow the flavours to infuse. Drain but retain the liquid and top back up to the 75ml per 100g weight of chestnuts using either water or brandy. Push the chestnuts through a fine sieve then add back to the liquid. Bring to the boil and simmer until thick and when a drop is put on a cold plate in the fridge for a few minutes it forms a skin and is a jam consistency. Put in warm sterilised jars and seal. It’s great on toast, especially sourdough and can be used with chocolate cake (see below).

Chocolate Chestnut Cake

I was inspired by a whole range of ideas when I came up with this recipe: from Mont Blanc, various brownie recipes, Nesselrode pudding to a store cupboard cake of Nigella’s that uses jam or marmalade with chocolate…..

  • 100g of 100% cacao (grated), I used Willie’s Supreme Cacao Peruvian Black, San Martin
  • 300g of chestnut jam (see previous recipe, you can also buy online)
  • 150g sugar (or 150g more chestnut jam, this is what I used)
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs beaten
  • 150g self raising flour
  • round cake tin (20cm) or better still a brownie tray, lined with silicon paper

Melt the butter in a bain-marie then add the cacao and allow this to melt and stir to mix as the cacao melts. Remove from heat and add the chestnut jam, mixing well, then add the sugar (if using) and eggs. When its all well combined add the flour a heaped tablespoonful at a time and mix. Pour into the cake or brownie tin and bake at R4 (180C) for at least 50 mins and a skewer comes out clean. My cake was very deep as it was in an 18cm tin and so it took and hour and half to bake, in a brownie tin it will take much less so start checking from 35 minutes and adjust cooking time accordingly. Leave in the tray/tin for 15 mins to cool and then remove.

I served the cake sliced like a Victoria sponge and filled with more of the chestnut jam and whipped cream, topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with crushed meringues. As the cake was so deep this made it rather difficult to eat and it collapsed so I think doing it brownie style and topping with the jam, cream and meringues would be more effective.

Coffee and chocolate, most divine

So here I am again with my morning cup of coffee and some squares of chocolate.


I really like to try out different chocolate (always dark never milk). 

But there are some favourites.

And my ‘regular’ choice for quite some time has been Divine’s 70% bar. Dark, smooth, nicely chocolatey, not bitter. And sensibly priced. A great everyday bar.

So imagine my delight when the people at Divine told me there was an 85% bar being launched and would I like to try it?

Would I? I leapt at the chance.

Here I am looking suitably excited before doing a comparative tasting of 70% vs 85%.


Now I’m someone who likes 100% cocoa solids chocolate, its weird and bitter but really nice. So I wasn’t too worried whether I would like the 85% more just interested to find out how it would compare.

I took a quick shot of squares of each lined up.


I was surprised that the 85% didn’t really look much different (the squares on the right).

I moved on to tasting…..

The 85% was unusually smooth and not bitter, often at this level there can be quite a strong bitter after taste which, depending on what you like, puts some people off. This wasn’t like that at all. It retained the smoothness of the 70% but was more intense, more chocolatey, perhaps more fruity.

I really liked it.

At the moment its only stocked in Tesco but the lovely people at Divine tell me that it will be coming to other shops soon. I hope so because I want some more. Soon. 

You can find more about Divine’s products here:

And thanks for the sample bar….it didn’t last long!


Afternoon tea treat

It was just coming up to afternoon tea o’clock.

And I saw this tweet from @Roddas_Cream:

This week’s tip of the week was to put a dollop of clotted cream on top of a chocolate brownie – have you had yours yet?

And with a tub of Roddas very own clotted cream in the fridge and a Paul A Young brownie in the house how could I resist….


As you can see I didn’t.

Absolute heaven on a plate.

Thanks to both Roddas and Paul a Young whose products I acquired in goodie bags this week (what great week!).