Blog Archive

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Dandelion Small Batch Chocolate

70% Mantuano, Venezuela 2012 Harvest
Before tasting my latest chocolate diversion lets take some time for a little reflection.......

For those of you who enjoy a little flutter, you will understand and perhaps have some sympathy for those, including me, who put all their hard earned cash on Battle Group, who decided enough was enough and planted his hooves firmly into terra ferma. Not liking what he saw ahead he failed to venture any further preferring to watch from the stands of Aintree. From that moment on I knew all my horses were destined to fail and indeed they did. Fortunately, they and their brave jockeys made it round in one piece.'s a mugs game! 

Continuing this theme. Our lovely politicians are still taking us all for mugs as David Cameron fails to sack his Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, for not declaring all her expenses, apparently she should have paid back £44k instead of £5.8k. I'm sure if we did this in the real world our bosses would be moving us swiftly to the exit marked 'P45'! C'mon David show some backbone! Ok, enough ranting....

Me (on the left) in San Fran 1970's
Dandelion Chocolate is a company I've heard so much about and at last I have managed to secure a few bars. Fortunately, my eldest son visited San Francisco recently and thoughtfully stashed a few bars in his bag for the return trip. 

When I visited San Francisco in the 70's chocolate wasn't on my mind and Dandelion Chocolate certainly wasn't in existence! The day I travelled to the States the captain of the flight announced that Elvis had just died. Not a great start!

Dandelion Chocolate is a bean-to-bar chocolate factory in the Mission District of San Francisco. Opening their business in 2010, following extensive research and experimentation, they predominately focus on making small batches of chocolate and as it 'states on the tin' they do everything by hand. They use two ingredients, cocoa and cane sugar to ensure you can taste the nuances of each bar.

70% Mantuano, Venezuela, 2012 Harvest, originates from beans harvested by a female-run co-op nestled in the tropical hills of the Caribbean coast of Venezuela. To quote what's on the packaging, "For Norah's first batch, she chose a roast profile inspired by a coffee roasting technique: higher temperature for a shorter time. We taste notes of fudge brownie and espresso with a lovely cinnamon finish'. 

Dandelion, Small-Batch Chocolate

Well, I'm delighted to tell you that this is a delicious bar of chocolate and even my jaded taste buds can pick out the espresso. Beautifully packaged and presented and how good is that thick gold foil...sumptuous to the touch. A deep mahogany colour, chocolate melts quickly on the tongue, full of fruity zest typical of chocolate from Venezuela! If only all 70% dark chocolate tasted this good. And there was me thinking the only good thing to come out of the States was Elvis! 9/10 guys.

If you can afford the postage you can buy online for $8, click here

Perhaps, you're heading to San Francisco then visit this blog, Chocolate Travel Diversions, for some ideas on other places to visit in the area.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Pink Plum Torte

Plum recipe, torte
Pink Plums
Feeling slightly jaded this morning following a very enjoyable night-out on the tiles. Being a responsible person I only had tonic water and mineral water. This is what happens when you mix your drinks!

What started out as Plum Tarte Tatin has morphed into Pink Plum Torte. 

This recipe originally called for purple plums which I did not have and on checking the store cupboard I was out of light brown sugar, so have used demerara. 

You can find the original recipe here.


125g (4½oz) plain flour 
1 tsp baking powder 
large pinch of salt 
115g (4oz) butter 
200g (7oz) soft light-brown sugar (I only had demerara)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
about 9 plums (depending on size), halved and stoned 
1 tbsp granulated sugar 
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 160°C Fan/180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt. Cream the butter and light-brown sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla followed by the flour and mix well.

Spoon into an ungreased 23cm (9in) spring-form tin, and place the plums, skin-side up, on top. Sprinkle the lemon juice followed by the cinnamon and then the granulated sugar on top and bake for 45 to 50 minutes.

Plums, recipe, torte,

The cake is done when it starts to come away from the sides of the tin and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. 

Leave it to cool for 20-40 minutes on a rack then release from the tin. It's a very moist cake – slightly pudding-like – and rather fragile, so be careful. Transfer to a serving plate. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with crème fraîche or whipped cream.

This is truly a delicious, plumptious torte!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Lord Randall's Pudding

Lord Randall's Pudding
I first cooked a Lord Randall's pudding in the early 90's when I was head chef at the Bentley Golf club, near Brentwood. Every month we held a 'Pudding Club' like feast which offered a main course and 10 different puddings served with lakes of cream and custard. Good, solid nosh! Everybody had a taste of each pudding and then votes were cast. Described as a pudding of substance, Lord Randall's pudding was always very popular. 


150g Plain flour
1 tsp of Bicarbonate of soda
150g of Butter
120g of Soft brown sugar
1 Egg beaten
175ml Milk
150g Dried apricots, chopped
150g Thick cut dark marmalade (I used my mother's homemade marmalade) 
Keep a few apricots and some marmalade to place in bottom of bowl.


  • Sift the flour and bicarbonate together. I add a pinch of salt but this is up to you.
  • Cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy
  • Add the beaten egg, milk, flour and apricots separately to the butter mixture. Beat vigorously and then finally stir in the marmalade.
  • Grease a 2 pint (1.1 Litre) pudding basin and place a few apricots and a dessert spoonful of marmalade in the bottom. To prevent the pudding sticking cut a small circle of greaseproof and place in bottom of bowl before adding apricots and marmalade.
  • Pour the mixture into the pudding basin and cover securely. 
  • Steam for 1½ - 2 hours. 
  • Turn out and serve with custard or cream.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Chai Tea Milk Chocolate - Sue Gilmour

Chai Tea Milk Chocolate by Sue Gilmour
Sue Gilmour's Wonderful World of Chocolate, is the 'Kew Gardens' of the chocolate world. Sue is a keen gardener according to her website and can often be found in a polytunnel busy cultivating her veggie patch. 

On the surface gardening and chocolate don't seem to go 'hand in hand' but combining flavours and chocolate is obviously Sue's forte. 

The wrapper is as important as the chocolate according to Sue who gained inspiration from illustrators of the early 19th century when designing her cover.  

As it happens Sue's husband, Doug Gilmour, just happens to be a talented artist and actually designed and created the wrappers for each of the Botanical Bars. What a team!

I came across Sue's chocolate at last year's fantastic Abergavenny Food Festival, she was tucked away in a very busy and humid tent some way away from the main halls. However, as it was such a lovely day the whole event was mobbed and location didn't seem to matter. 

It is only now that I thought I'd better write a review of this lovely looking chocolate bar. It was good to see the 'best before' date was still several months away! My draw is full of chocolate and I have to keep an eye on dates and sometimes I just lose track! 

Chai Tea Milk Chocolate by Sue Gilmour
Her bars are very reminiscent of those of Amelia Rope and Rococo and her current range includes some interesting flavours such as 'Luxury Salted Lemon' or 'Orange Chilli'. Prices for bars start at £2.50 for a 45g bar and £4.50 for a 100g bar. Postage and packing is £2.80. 

A range of plain bars, using chocolate from around the world, including Venezuela, Ecuador and Tanzania are also available online. However, the website is still under construction and a number of products are yet to make it onto the world wide web. 

I selected the Chai Tea Milk Chocolate bar which won a 'Great Taste Award in 2013'. Chai is the word for tea in many parts of the world and is usually a combination of spices including cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger to name just a few.
Naked Chai Tea Milk Chocolate by Sue Gilmour
Chai Tea Milk Chocolate 45g
This particular bar contains, tea, cinnamon, ginger, cassia and cardamom. This bar is all about flavour rather than chocolate. The sweet milk chocolate melts quickly and your mouth is quickly enveloped by the taste of Chai and then cinnamon and then palette isn't great and I couldn't pick out the ginger and have never knowingly eaten cassia so didn't know what I was looking for. The flavour of Chai lingers on but the overall impression is that this bar of chocolate is well balanced and I just love the flavour. 8/10. 

Good job Sue!

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Venchi 75% Chilli Chocolate

Somewhere in Scotland?
Before we get down to the delicious subject that is chocolate, I wanted to talk a little about politics. It struck me recently that both Scotland and Ukraine are fighting to remove a government that they despise, albeit in totally different ways, to stand alone. Why is it that the UK government is acting like particularly difficult parents who will not allow their errant tenagers to expand their boundaries. As Scottish Independence looms, both George Osborne and the EU pile on their 'school boy' bullying tactics. If they will not let Scotland share their currencies what options are there for Alex Salmond? Perhaps, they'd prefer the 'renminbi' currency of The Peoples Republic of China. They could probably buy Scotland! How would you like that George? Let the Scotts rule and stand alone from what is fast becoming the United States of Europe.......obviously George isn't aware that curling is taking over the world, they'll be no stopping them now. 

As I taste chocolate the other half is scraping and scratching her way through the downstairs cloakroom as the decorating season begins in earnest once again. I say, "DIY" but, I will supply encouragement and coffee from the sidelines. Anyway grouting is hard work and bad for a man's knees. In fact, I have outsourced all DIY to the other half without having to go through an expensive re-tendering process. A masterstroke which I'm sure I will regret in years to come!

£3.50 for a 45g bar

Venchi - in the 1800's Silviano Venchi, based in Turin, brought his passion for fine chocolate to fruition. From the ripe old age of 16 he was engrossed in the making of chocolate and in 1878 he opened his first shop. His forte was dark chocolate with chopped, and caramelised hazelnuts that eventually became known as nougatine. Venchi chocolate is Gluten Free.

Today, Venchi is a gourmet chocolatier producing over 350 different chocolates exporting them across the world. 

Venchi are also into artisan Gelato and you can find their shop in London's Covent Garden where the gelato is made on the premises everyday. Many of their products can be purchased online from Amazon.

Break off a little Venchi square and pop it into you mouth. Don't chomp it! 

A chocolate with a 75% cocoa content takes a while to melt but eventually the warmth of your mouth melts the chocolate releasing the chilli heat which builds in intensity. 

The subtle burn gradually moves from the tongue and roof of the mouth to the back of the throat leaving your tongue slightly numb.

Overall not a bad experience as chilli chocolate goes and I'd probably only have a couple of squares and then squirrel the remainder away until later.

Venchi use a chilli powder to produce this bar and the heat factor is not overbearing in any way, but the dryness of the mouthfeel is not to my liking. 6/10.