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Saturday, 8 November 2014

Old Macdonald had a farm......but for how long?

Cows chewing on the green stuffOld Macdonald had a farm...but for how long will this be the case for our British milk farmers? 

Milk prices are crashing, Russia has closed its borders to UK food imports and Dairy Crest has sold its loss making milk side of the business to zee Germans. Obviously, der Deutsch menschen are far more efficient than us Brits and have obviously seen something we've missed. Dairy Crest has retained the more profitable cheese (Cathedral City) and spreads (Country Life butter) parts of the business.

How long will it be before there is no longer a 'moo-moo' here and a 'moo-moo' there and a 'moo-moo' everywhere? Britain's landscape would certainly be a poorer place without those familiar 'black and white' beasts chewing on the green stuff. If prices continue to fall we might have to import our milk. The good old British public will have to dig deep and perhaps be waking up to the fact that they should be paying a realistic price for their daily pint of Semi-Skimmed. Ironically, I couldn't find a cow today but, we are in Essex!

Ok, enough of the doom and gloom....Some farmers are showing initiative and turning their farms into farmers markets at the weekend encouraging those high spending foodie types looking to buy local produce. 


Great Garnetts Farmers Market
Great Garnetts Christmas Market
Of course farmers markets have been around for many years but even they are beginning to show signs of reduced footfall with many going by the wayside. As years of near zero inflation and minimal wage increases takes effect on household incomes. However, some remain a good source of income for the farmer and help promote local businesses who work hard to provide some fantastic products that I guarantee you will not find in a superstore.


The likes of Great Garnetts, continues to buck the trend by providing their own hand reared high quality, award winning pork. At this time of year you will find some spectacular bronze turkeys just ready for Christmas, Boxing Day and into the New Year if you buy a monster! Sorry, not long to go guys....yikes!  


If you have not heard of Great Garnetts farmers market you can find out more information on their website by clicking here.

Great Garnetts, Turkey
Gt Garnetts turkeys in the field
The turkey side of the business has flourished since it began in 1971 when fifty farm fresh turkeys were produced for customers. Today several thousand turkeys are produced exclusively for the Christmas market. Before the big day their turkeys enjoy life both outside in the paddock and sleep peacefully at night under protection of the barn.

Fresh local groceries from Rocket and Rhubarb. Kerry and Martin manage a small holding producing a diverse range of fruit and vegetables just outside of Ford End, near Chelmsford. Since 2010 they have been building their business and now deliver their vegetables across Essex to the local community.


Rocket and Rhubarb, groceries, box scheme

I was interested to read on an American website about the 10 things you should NOT buy when visiting a farmers market. Interestingly, clean vegetables, honey and chocolate were on the list!


Magnificent Meringues Wood Cottage Pastries
Magnificent Meringues 
Wood Cottage Pastries
Dark Chocolate Mint Truffles, Wood Cottage Pastries
Handmade Mint Dark Chocolate Truffles 
by Steven Tittle, Wood Cottage Pastries
As always it's good to end on a chocolate high! Steven Tittle, started his pastry chef career in Knightsbridge and in 2010 he set up his dream job as an artisan pastry chef producing a range of pastries, desserts and truffles. These delicate mint dark chocolate truffles were certainly a good choice and at £2.95 for eight handmade truffles an absolute bargain.

Not only are farmers markets good for farmers but also for the people who frequent them. Little did I know today that I would learn about the benefits of wearing silk underwear in the Siberian winter while building an oil pipeline! Who'd have guessed......

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Labooko Zotter Kaffee

The World of Chocolate
The St John Betjeman train
Southend-on-Sea, reminds me of an old mans mouth slightly fleshy, watery and slack after years of consuming too many sugary donuts and greasy fish n chips. A face battered by strong oily winds blowing in across the Thames estuary from Canvey Island. Teeth resembling a mix of slightly yellowing crowns, a few unsightly gaps, the odd blackened incisor and finally a splattering of pearly white shinners that are so intense they blind you with their brilliance. Southend-on-Sea, similar to Las Vegas is perhaps better seen at night. 

The World of Chocolate
Dream Machine Classic Lancia Flaminia
Southend pier is without doubt a 'pearly white' if we are to continue the mouth teeth thing... It is the longest pleasure pier in the world and a Grade 2 listed building with amazing views of mudflats that extend for miles. 

Apparently, in the 19th century wealthy tourists would not stop at Southend preferring to birth their yachts at Margate thus avoiding the mud. In the olden days, when Councils had bright ideas, they decided to build this lengthy piece of wood into the estuary. This meant you could dock your schooner at anytime without having to worry about tides or mud, for that matter. 

The pier has its own train that runs up and down the whole length but you can walk the 7,080 ft for £1 and back again after a rest on the sundeck. 

The World of Chocolate
This is not Jamie's Cafe
Disappointingly, Jamie Oliver's cafe looked as though it had seen better days. The film production team had long left and the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Jonathan Ross and friend Jimmy Doherty had obviously moved elsewhere. Jamie Oliver refurbished the cafe in 2013, turning it into an ice-cream parlour. Not much going on now? Well, who needs Jamie Oliver when you can have fantastic views of mudflats, big ships, Curlews and Oystercatchers!  

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ACHTUNG nicht essen!
Ok, lets talk about chocolate from Zotter. I purchased this bar of Zotter Kaffee from a fantastic market in Vienna several months ago and as all the packaging is written in German I can't tell you too much about it. However, Zotter does have a good tip and warns you not to eat the chocolate unless you follow his top tip, "If you want to be a fine chocolate maker then you must not chew the chocolate but, enjoy the melting". Well something like that...

This has to be one of the most straightforward and underwhelming chocolates I've ever tasted from Zotter. Perhaps that's the point.....If it hadn't been for the packaging I'd find it hard to believe it was from Zotter. A million miles away from 'Plum and Caramelised Bacon'. I can only say the milk chocolate is smooth, creamy and sweet with a delicious and inoffensive coffee flavour. The packaging is probably the best thing about this bar but I did polish off both bars!

The World of Chocolate
Labooko 2 Bars - Zotter Coffee

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Banana, Orange and Chocolate Cake

The World of Chocolate
This cake has been in my recipe book for more years than I care to remember and I cannot remember when I actually made it last, possibly decades!

A straightforward, quick recipe and a great way to use up bananas that look more black than yellow. I've tweaked this recipe with a little added milk chocolate to compliment the orange.

Ingredients

3 ripe bananas
8 oz/250g self raising flour
1 oz/25g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
5 oz/140g soft brown sugar
3 oz/75g soft margarine
2 eggs
1 orange and zest and 1/2 for juice
2 tbsp marmalade
4 oz/100g dark chocolate

Method


The World of Chocolate
  • Grease a 2lb loaf tin and line with a strip of greaseproof paper
  • Peel and mash bananas
  • Beat in flour, almonds, baking powder, sugar, margarine and eggs until well blended
  • Add the orange zest and juice and the chocolate and mix well
  • Pour into loaf tin and bake at 160 degrees C Fan/Gas Mark 4 for 55 minutes. 
  • Remove and brush with marmalade and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes.
  • Check that the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre which should come out clean if fully cooked.
  • Allow to cool in the tin
The World of Chocolate

The zesty orange and tangy marmalade work really well with the milk chocolate...one slice is not sufficient!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Chocolate Beetroot Cake

Chocchick Blogspot, Chocolate, The World of Chocolate
Beetroot, a vegetable full of rich, damp, earthy aromas is not an ingredient you would associate with baking. A salad yes but a cake?! 

Well, strange as it may sound beetroot and dark chocolate actually make the most perfect bedfellows. Those earthy smells just melt away leaving a delicious sweet cake.

With all this good weather my late planted beetroots have done really well and are now ready to be transformed into cake! 

I used a recipe from the 'delicious magazine' website just click here to read more. I did not make the icing but the recipe is shown below if required. 

If you want a cake with 'wow' factor click on the link and follow this recipe from Joy the Baker

Ingredients

250g dark chocolate, broken up
3 large eggs
200g light muscovado sugar
100ml sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g self-raising flour
a pinch of salt (not in the original recipe)
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking powder
50g ground almonds
250g raw beetroot

For the icing
150g dark chocolate
100g icing sugar
100g soured cream

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Grease a 22cm round, loose-bottomed cake tin with a little butter and line the base with baking paper.

2. Place the dark chocolate in a bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water. Allow the chocolate to melt slowly until smooth, then set aside to cool.

3. Place the eggs, sugar and sunflower oil in a large mixing bowl and whisk together, using an electric hand whisk, for about 3 minutes until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Stir in vanilla extract, then sift over self-raising flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and gently fold in, together with the ground almonds.

4. Using a pair of rubber gloves to protect your fingers from staining, peel and grate the beetroot, then squeeze out the excess liquid. Fold the beetroot into the mixture with the cooled chocolate, until thoroughly mixed.

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes-1 hour. Cover with foil if the cake browns too quickly. Test the cake by inserting a skewer into the centre to see if it comes out clean. Cool for a little while, then remove from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

The World of Chocolate, beetroot, chocolate

6. For the icing, place 150g dark chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. Allow to melt gently until smooth. Set aside to cool, then beat in icing sugar and soured cream until you have a thick, creamy and spreadable icing. Spread it over the top and sides of the cooled cake and serve.

Dingle Hill Tea Rooms

The World of Chocolate, Afternoon Tea
Dingle Hill Tea Rooms, formerly known as the Bridge House Nurseries, can be found in Dunwich, Suffolk. Ideally positioned for both bike riders and hikers alike looking to refuel and rest their weary legs. Car owners are not excluded but you probably haven't burnt off enough calories to deserve a piece of cake! 

Not only does this tearoom serve delicious afternoon teas but it also has a beautiful and colourful nursery to browse around should you so wish. 

All cakes and scones are baked on site and afternoon tea is served with oodles of clotted cream and jam. Eating two scones looked easy enough at the onset but by the time it came to eating the second I was already fit to bursting! 
Sandwiches, salads and other lunchtime delights are also available at reasonable prices.

The World of Chocolate, Dunwich, Tea Rooms

Handmade scones, The World of Chocolate

Nursery, flowers, chocolate cake

The World of Chocolate, afternoon tea, cake, scones


Nurseries, The World of Chocolate

A lovely place to spend an afternoon. A 'hidden gem' indeed!