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Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

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Cocoa (Pasta) Nibs

Paul and I went Christmas shopping at the weekend to our local shopping “mall”. We figured it would be sensible to go early and avoid large crowds but we forgot that there’s one thing that malls attract at any time of the year and that’s large crowds.  No matter. We had lunch at Yo! Sushi, a rather overrated fast food Sushi Bar that promises far more than it can offer, particularly on a Sunday lunchtime.  Our fast sushi was followed rather curiously by some Krispy Kreme donuts which do not taste the same over here as they do in the US. Why is that?

Anyway, to cut a long, tedious story slightly shorter, we popped into Hotel Chocolat. I am already a member of their tasting club and often spend many a lustful lunch hour drooling over their expensive looking chocolates, which are actually quite reasonably priced, considering their admirable ethical policies, which can often price other chocolate brands out of the “normal” buyers market.

After 10 minutes spent running around like a child in a candy store (that would be an oversized grown up in a posh chocolate store then), we purchased a gift for one of Paul’s employees, an advent calendar for me and several of their mini slabs of chocolate. At this point, Paul is trying frantically to usher me over to the cashier when I spot a selection of rather unusual cooking ingredients. Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar? Cocoa Pasta? Cocoa Bean and Chilli Olive oil? These guys really are putting their neck out selling this kind of artisinal (read: slow selling) ingredient.pasta-11Never did this seem truer than when the cashier asked me to let him know how the pasta tastes as they “don’t seem to sell a lot of it”.

So, I picked up a packet of the cocoa pasta, intruiged by its rich colour and £5.00 price tag (possibly what puts other customers off). Would it really taste of cocoa or just dye all my other food brown? I couldn’t wait to try it and find out.

I was tempted with a savoury sauce but Paul wanted Macaroni Cheese for tea. OK, so we’ll have Macaroni Cheese followed by Cocoa Pasta Pudding for dessert.

He set to work on the Mac and Cheese and I pondered the Chocolate Pasta sitting in front of me. I have always had a soft spot for my mum’s baked Macaroni Pudding which is a derivition of Rice Pudding, which is to say, rice (or pasta) baked in milk with sugar in the oven over a low heat. Sounds plain and I suppose it is, but it’s good plain. Comforting, nursery food.

So, to keep things simple (and dodge the flying pans and flecks of grated cheese as Paul prepared his meal), I simply poured the dried Cocoa Pasta into a baking dish and covered it with a mixture of cream and milk, then sprinkled it with some soft brown sugar. I cooked it in the oven at a low temperature (150c) and checked after 30 minutes to see if it needed any more milk. It did.

The Finished Dish - Barely Redeemed by the Choc Chips

After a little while in the oven, the kitchen was filled with a rich aroma of chocolate. Imagine if you were baking a chocolate cake – this is exactly how the pasta smells. Intruiged at how deeply chocolately it promised to be, I managed to eat a large plateful of Mac N Cheese and then wondered at how I could possibly eat yet another pasta dish that night.

But in the spirit of the experiment, I managed to dish some up and try it. As you can see from the picture below, it looks a little gruesome, a little gungy and a lot unappetising (and this was one of the better shots of it), and I felt that it needed an extra chocolatey hit to make it “pop!” flavourwise, so I added a sprinkling of choco-caramel chips and these melted quite delectably over the pasta, adding a further dimension to the dish.

My opinion of the pasta served as a pudding is somewhat mixed. The pasta didn’t taste strongly enough of the cocoa to flavour the dish discernably and this was my reasoning behind using a fairly bland, creamy sauce. I wanted to taste the pasta and to be knocked out by it. Unfortunately this didn’t happen. However, I suspect that it may work better with a spicy tomato sauce, something that the cocoa can enhance rather than be the main ingredient.

So, stay tuned for Part 2 of our Cocoa Pasta Experiment – The Savoury Course and, if you’ve tried Cocoa Pasta, I’d love to know what you thought of it and how you prepared it!

Cocoa Pasta is available via Mail Order or instore from Hotel Chocolat.

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We have been tagged for our first Meme, entitled The Commenters Meme. Gemma at Dressing for Dinner tagged us, being one of her last 10 commenters. This is a great idea for a Meme as it connects us to the people that keep us going – that is to say YOU, dear readers!!

We Don't Drink This Kind of Meme Anymore!

We Don't Drink This Kind of Meme Anymore!

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the lowdown.

10 Blogs, 15 Questions.

The Blogs:

1. Joey at 80 Breakfasts

2. Foong at the Food Site

3. Nazarina at Giddy Gastronome

4. Reeni and Cinnamon, Spice and Everything

5. Jessie at the Hungry Mouse

6. Gera at Sweets Foods

7. Lydia at the Perfect Pantry

8. TW Barritt at Culinary Types

9. Megan at Megans Munchies

10. Barbara at Barbara Bakes

The Questions:

1: What is your favourite post from number 3’s blog?

Without a doubt the post that got me hooked was Nazarina’s Hallowe’en post. Check out her Chocolate Martini Glasses – they have to be seen to be believed!

2. Has number 10 taken any pictures that have moved you?

Barbara’s lovely photos and post from her daughter’s wedding day was a very touching post!

3. Does number 6 reply to comments on their blog?

Except the Spam ones!

4. Which part of blogland is number 2 from?

Foong is from Penang, Malaysia and is constantly making me hungry with her delicious posts on the local specialities!

5. If you could give one piece of advice to number 7 what would it be?

I wouldn’t be so presumptious, although Lydia has given me much helpful advice on setting up a blog.

6. Have you ever tried something from number 9’s blog?

Not yet although her Espresso Choc-Chip Scones look very tempting!

7. Has number 1 blogged something that inspired you?

Joey is constantly inspiring with her beautiful photography and her organic food drive!

8. How often do you comment on number 4’s blog?

Probably the same as everyone elses, which is to say not enough!

9. Do you wait for number 8 to post excitedly?

I do! Have you checked out their Watermelon Cake? It was life changing!

10. How did number 5’s blog change your life?

She was one of the Cocoa Lounge’s first Stumble “friends!”

11. Do you know any of the 10 bloggers in person?

Nope. We’re all on different continents!

12. Do any of your 10 bloggers know each other in person?

Not sure?

13. Out of the 10, which updates more frequently?

It’s a close thing between Jessie and Foong I think. Both are avid bloggers!

14. Which of the 10 keep you laughing?

TW Barritt often makes me chuckle with his witty posts.

15. Which of the 10 has made you cry (good or bad tears)?

I had a tear in my eye when Joey from 80 Breakfasts left a sweet comment about finding out about our new blog!

OK, so it’s now over to the above mentioned 10 to carry on the meme! Good Luck!

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We must be doing something right! Foong over at The Food Site has awarded the Cocoa Lounge with the Arte y Pico award for our Chocolate Brownie Cake!

Thanks Foong!

Now, according to Foong’s post, we have to pass this award onto five more food bloggers who have inspired us with their beautiful food – easier said than done! There are so many great food blogs out there, all of them mouthwatering but here goes…

1) Marilyn at Simmer til Done for her gorgeous take on Banoffi Pie, You Say Banoffi, I say Banoffee

2) Jessie at the Hungry Mouse with her jaw-dropping Hallowe’en Bento Box

3) Kelly-Jane with Nigella’s Christmas Bon Bons over at Cooking the Books

4) TW Barritt at Culinary Types with his mouthwatering Paella

5) Kang at London Eater with his diet-busting posh-burger bar review

Now, I imagine that some of you five will have already had awards given to you as these things have a sort of chain-mail scenario going on wit them. However, the rules for accepting the award, should you wish to, are as follows:

  • Pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award, creativity, design, interesting material, and also contributes to the blogger community, no matter of language.

  • Advertise name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.

  • Each award-winner, has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.

  • Award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of “Arte y pico” blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.

  • Share these rules

So, once again thanks for Foong for the award!!

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We’re all looking for a guilt-free way to indulge ourselves in heaps of chocolate, right? I think I may have the solution.

For all Chocoholic Gaming Afficionados, it was recently brought to my attention that there are three (yes, three!) games out there devoted to Theobroma Cacao.  Since then I have played all three games (not at the same time) avidly and I can confirm that even the most anti-gaming person will soon find themselves hooked on the charming graphics, fun dialogue and compulsive tasks of Chocolatier.

Designed by Big Splash Games, the Chocolatier Series follow a young rookie Chocolatier (that’s you), ably guided by Evangeline Baumeister, of the Baumeister Confectionary Corporation, on his/her travels around the world, opening up new ports, discovering new types of Cacao Beans, buying up sweet shops and chocolate making factories, not to mention developing new and delicious looking recipes.

In the first instalment of the game, set in the mid-1800s, you open up new ports and introduce the whole world to the joys of chocolate, whilst trying to to avoid rivals, hellbent on reducing your chocolate empire to cocoa powder. Perhaps the official website blurb can put it better than I can:

Oh the gloriously rich and delectable life of a chocolatier! Constantly surrounded by mounds of chocolate bars and boxes of mouth-watering truffles! Become a master chocolatier one ingredient at a time as you travel the world to find the best prices and maximize production…

Educational (well, sort of) AND addictive to the chocolate fan, this will eat up your time without you gaining a single ounce, visit Playfirst for a free download to try out this great game!

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Welcome to the Cocoa Lounge.  Pull up a seat. Do you want whipped cream with that hot chocolate? Sprinkles? Marshmallows?

At the Chocolate Lounge, chocolate is always first, always last and always inbetween.

We are devoted to that most seductive of all foods, chocolate. It requires no cooking or it can be used in the most elaborate dishes. It offers instant comfort or a cheap thrill. It can be brash and common or it can be luxuriously expensive. There is chocolate for every mood.

Join us on our calorific journey through expensive chocolates, cheap candies, cosy recipes, extravagant desserts and some more unusual uses for chocolate.

We hope you enjoy you visit at the Cocoa Lounge!

We hope you enjoy you visit at the Cocoa Lounge!

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