Chocolate

Ingredient of the Week: Chocolate

Food & Drink /


'Tis the season... to eat chocolate, so here's a deep dive into the good stuff

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Each week plant-based cook Bettina Campolucci Bordi, founder of Bettina’s Kitchen, gives us the lowdown on a particular seasonal fruit, vegetable or ingredient, offering cooking tips and a recipe. As festive season is upon us, this week it had to be all about chocolate.

Ingredient of the Week: Chocolate

It’s December – and for me that means copious mugs of hot chocolate. So my question this week is: where did this piping hot delicious drink come from?

Hot chocolate

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Where Did Chocolate Come From?

Initially, chocolate was consumed as a drink made from the cocoa plant, Theobroma, the botanical name of which aptly translates as ‘food of the Gods’. Early Mesoamerican civilisations certainly treated it as precious, with it featuring prominently in Mayan and Aztec cultures.

In the hands of the Mayans, the cocoa bean was further developed to make ‘chacau haa’ (hot water) out of the dried and ground beans. This bitter beverage (the precursor to modern hot chocolate) was enjoyed throughout Mayan society, and was classed as a mood enhancer and aphrodisiac, leading Mayans to believe cocoa possessed spiritual qualities. 

The drink was poured from one cup to another to create a foam which, when consumed, was considered to bring the drinker closer to the Gods. The beans were also used as a form of currency in accounting or to settle debt, and were used in offerings during weddings, births and engagements showing the value of the cocoa bean among these ancient communities.

Chocolate making

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Different Varieties

Chocolate is a food product made from the fruit of a cacao tree. The raw, unprocessed variety tastes bitter and dry, but chocolate that’s been fermented, dried, and roasted, and had a bit of sugar and cream added to it, tastes divine. 

People around the world enjoy the decadent flavour on its own and in an enormous variety of foods. More than half of all the chocolate we consume comes from West African countries or from South America and Asia. 

Christmas is one of those holidays where we will indulge in chocolate in its various forms from bars, to truffles, hot chocolates and indulgent sweets. One of my favourite recipes is using bits and bobs left over in your store cupboard. We all have dried fruits and nuts lying around along with odd ends of chocolate. Even if you don’t, this is a brilliant recipe to make from scratch and be given as an edible gift. 

Recipe: Chocolate Pantry Bites

Makes 1 tray

Ingredients:

  • 50g leftover mixed nuts and dried fruits, roughly chopped
  • 170g leftover chocolate
  • 1 tsp coconut oil (optional)

Method:

  1. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Melt chocolate over a bain marie (if it won’t fully melt, add 1 tsp coconut oil to it and stir well).
  3. Drop 1 tbsp round of melted chocolate across the baking tray and flatten them slightly, leaving enough space between each one so that they don’t merge into each other. 
  4. Sprinkle ½ tsp of nuts/fruit mix on top of each chocolate round.
  5. Put straight into the fridge or freezer to harden for at least 15 minutes or overnight. 
  6. Remove from the tray and put into an airtight container, or in little gift bags to give as presents!