It is widely accepted in scientific circles that a little bit of chocolate every day does wonders for one’s general health, demeanor, muscular strength, bone density, complexion and sexual performance*. Researchers have found that the substance can be taken in either liquid or solid form, hot or cold, in secret or with others of the same inclination**. There is anecdotal evidence that sitting in one’s comfiest armchair and closing one’s eyes while taking this medication improves it’s efficacy, however further studies are required in this particular field***. One point on which all scientists are in agreement is that the darker the chocolate the better****.
Here at the Therapeutic Chocolate Society, we strive to improve ease of administration of this highly efficacious therapy. We strongly support consumption of chocolate in its solid form, pure and unmodified. However if a liquid form improves ease of administration, and if the slightest hint of fragrant orange and warming cinnamon, with the subtlest of bites of fiesty cardamom improves the appeal of the treatment, we may have just the thing for you.
Warm a cup of milk of your choice, hot enough to melt the chocolate but not so hot that it scalds your mouth. Stir gently with the chocolate spoon until all melted. Lick any residual chocolate off the spoon (it is important to consume the full dose). Add a little sugar or sweetener if desired and sip until all gone.
You may feel a rich, creamy sensation coating the inside of your mouth. You will experience a heat in your chest as the warm liquid trickles from your mouth to your stomach. Approximately 100% of patients report a heady cocoa aroma that overtakes the remaining senses, a sprinkling of orange and spices lacing it’s edges.
All of these are normal and frequently reported side effects of hot chocolate made with Spiced Orange Chocolate Spoons.
Like life itself, it is a bittersweet experience of depth, complexity and ultimately, sweetness.
*This is likely completely fabricated. **Also unproven ***There are no such studies being conducted, nor are there ever likely to be. ****This part may actually hold some truth.
Spiced Orange Chocolate Spoons
150g good quality dark chocolate (I used 100g 70% + 50g unsweetened)
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
The insides of 4 cardamom pods, powdered
Lay out 12-14 teaspoons in a tray. Alternatively you can use an ice cube tray. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave in 20-30 second bursts. Add the other ingredients. Stir to mix well and place small amounts (about 1 1/2 tsp) of the mixture into the teaspoons or the sections of the ice cube tray. If using the ice cube tray, insert wooden popsicle sticks into the centre of each cube of chocolate. Place in the fridge to set or in the freezer if there is a medical emergency requiring immediate chocolate treatment.
Stir into a cup of hot milk, sweeten if needed find an armchair and enjoy.
Of all of the stories that are associated with Diwali, the tale of Lord Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshman has to be the one that is dearest to my heart. It is a tale of honour, exile, self-control and eventually, triumph. This part of the epic Ramayana begins with the self-imposed exile of Rama after an administration bungle involving his stepmother and the throne. Despite the pleas of his father the King, honour drives Rama into the forest, where he is willingly followed by Sita and Lakshman to begin what is to be an adventure-filled, fourteen year camping trip.
And what of Sita? Her adoptive father, also a King, discovered baby Sita in the fields (one assumes she was discovered by one of his staff as what King would toil the fields?). He is delighted with his find, which if you ask me is a refreshing change in the attitude of that time, when female babies were generally considered a consolation prize to sons. He raises her as his own and when she is of marriageable age, hosts the equivalent of a celestial weight lifting championship to filter out the men from the mice. Thus, Rama is found. He is known in Hindu mythology as Purushottama, literally the Supreme Being, or Perfect Man (thereby confirming that on Earth, one may find Mr. Right but can forget any hopes of finding Mr. Perfect).
So after having to suffer through watching keen suitor after keen suitor attempt to lift the heaviest bow in the world, the Princess Sita finds her perfect man, marries him and is rewarded with a honeymoon of more than a decade in the woods with no mobile phone connection and barely a hairdryer to her name. As if having to wander around in the forest with your husband and the third wheel his brother wasn’t trying enough for the poor lady, she manages to get herself kidnapped by Ravana, an obnoxious demon with appalling table manners.
So Diwali marks the return from exile of the trio, after Rama proves his perfection by slaying the evil Ravana, rescuing his wife and bringing her back to civilisation before she can get herself into any more trouble. Known as the Festival of Lights, an important feature of Diwali is the lighting of lamps and of firecrackers. The flames and bursts are a symbol of good triumphing over evil, of light obscuring the darkness.
In Sydney, the law dictates that we be content with the lighting of sparklers and of small oil filled lamps, or diyas. When I was in Mumbai as a child however, it was a different story. Weeks before the much anticipated festival, we would stock up on firecrackers of all shapes, sizes and colours. Then the day would come and after the religious rituals were duly observed and obscene amounts of food eaten, all of the inhabitants would gather in front of the apartment block, the youngest kids hoisted safely onto their fathers’ shoulders.
We would often start softly, with flower pots that would spray a bouquet of light upwards and chakkars (wheels) that would spin madly when lit, spraying colourful sparks unpredictably in all directions. Some of the braver boys would venture onto rockets, placing them in used soda bottles. These had to be lit quickly, legs in take-off position, so that the mad dash to safety could be done before they launched. The grand finale would be strings of tiny ‘Dum Dum’ crackers, named so for the deafening cavalcade of explosions that began when they were lit, leaving ears ringing till Christmas. When the boxes of firecrackers had all been systematically reduced to burnt paper and the air was heavy with the strangely intoxicating scent of over-done popcorn, we would all head back into our homes (or each others’) to enjoy a vast array of sweets for dessert.
Firecrackers and sweets jostle for first place among the highlights of Diwali and in Australia, where the law is limiting, sweets win every time. There are no rules against sugary, milky gratification and indulge we do, with at least three different types of sweets every year. This year, I played with a variation on kheer, a popular condensed milk and rice pudding. In this version, the quinoa lends a nuttiness which cuts through its creamy, mildly sweet coconut vehicle. There is a pleasant coating of the tongue of thickened coconut milk and the delicate balance of the cardamom, saffron and vanilla that it carries. Jaggery lends a warm, caramel sweetness, but you could use brown sugar if you don’t have any on hand. An abundant drizzle of toasted, crushed nuts is mandatory and gives the molars something to work on in an otherwise soft world. I chose almonds and also used some Persian fairy floss that I happened to find strutting around in the pantry. From a nutrition perspective, quinoa is mostly protein and therefore a healthier option to rice. Also, the natural sweetness of coconut products means that only a small amount of sweetener is required. Serve in small bowls, as both quinoa and coconut milk are filling entities and the last thing we all need is dessert fatigue*.
Now onto the competition! St.George Bank is giving away 2 tickets to India this Diwali (see the video below), and if I hadn’t spent my leave galavanting around Tuscany and the UK, I’d be entering. To enter, all you have to do is snap a pic of some aspect of your Diwali celebrations. Post the pic on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, with the #StGeorgeDiwali by 12 noon Sunday, October 26. The best entry will win flights for 2 to India! The competition is open to NSW, ACT and QLD residents. For further info, including T & C’s, head to http://www.stgeorgediwali.com.au/
So whether your Diwali consists of Dum-Dums and squealing children, or quiet rituals and too much food, may it be filled with light, love and sweetness. Happy Diwali!
This is a sponsored post, but words, opinions and ramblings are my own.
Coconut and Quinoa Kheer (Pudding)
Makes 8-10 serves
1/2 cup quinoa
1 tin coconut milk
1 tin coconut cream
50-70g jaggery, powdered, or brown sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
The insides of 6-8 cardamom pods, roughly powdered
1/8 tsp (generous pinch) saffron strands
1/2 or 1 whole vanilla bean
About 1/4 cup crushed, toasted nuts of your choice
Boil the quinoa in plenty of water for 6-8 mins. Drain and rinse the quinoa well.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, place the drained quinoa, coconut milk, coconut cream, powdered jaggery or brown sugar, powdered cardamom seeds and saffron. Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Place the seeds and the bean into the pan.
Bring gently to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the pudding has thickened to a porridge consistency. Crush and toast the nuts in another pan while this is happening. Serve topped with crushed nuts and whatever else happens to be serving a purely decorative purpose in your pantry.
*We all know dessert fatigue is a myth, but the weak amongst us claim it exists. Also, I may have made way too much of this and eaten it for breakfast 3 days in a row.
Jaggery is an unrefined Indian brown sugar that you can pick up at Indian grocery stores.
If you don’t have vanilla beans, you can substitute with vanilla extract or paste.
Beyond the overstuffed floral sofas, past the assortment of porcelain milkmaids and ceramic puppy dogs, there was a scuffed old desk pushed up against the wall. The tiny old lady gingerly pulled out the chair and perched herself on it, gesturing for my uncle and I to take a seat nearby. She was my uncle’s dearest patient, and he had brought me along on a house visit to meet her.
Carefully, she pulled open a draw and held out a plastic tube, paper thin skin stretching over arthritic knuckles as her hands curled around it. Peering into the container, my eight-year old eyes widened in delight. Eggs of all sizes were nestled in together. They twinkled in their colourful foil wrappers, unlike anything I had seen before.
‘Pick one’ urged my uncle. I snapped out of my bewilderment to choose a bright blue one, about the size of a chicken egg, and unwrapped it slowly. A cobblestone chocolate surface was revealed as the soft foil fell away under my eager fingers. The hollow centre was a real surprise, and there was something about that thin chocolate shell, perhaps the way it just seemed to give way on my tongue, that did it for me. I’ve been weak at the knees for Easter eggs ever since.
Those first few months after we migrated to Australia are mostly a blur, but there are certain memories, like this one that linger vividly within the childhood section of my mental filing cabinet.
The lovely old lady is long gone. But that little girl’s first taste of a chocolate Easter egg, sitting in the living room of her uncle’s favourite patient, is never to be forgotten.
These eggs were a happy accident in my quest to create a low-sugar creme egg. While they are not quite what I envisioned, they are a stepping-stone towards a creme egg, and turned out too good not to share with you. The centres of these are creamy, albeit a bit too firm to call them a creme egg. They have a natural sweetness provided by the nuts and boosted by the tiny amount of sweetner, which is nicely balanced by the bitter dark chocolate shell. As for the original goal…..well, there’s always next Easter.
1/4 cup cashew or macadamia nut butter
100 grams (2 sachets) coconut paste
1-2 tsp rice syrup or honey
100g good quality dark chocolate
Dip the unopened packets of coconut paste in boiling water for a couple of minutes to soften.
Place the nut butter, coconut paste and syrup or honey in the food processor and blitz to a smooth paste. Transfer to a bowl and freeze for 20 mins or so until quite firm. Alternatively, you could pour the mixture into silicone chocolate moulds and place that in the freezer.
If hand-shaping the eggs, remove the mixture from the freezer and using the spoon, scoop out small amounts (about a tsp) of it. Usig clean hands, knead and roll into balls, then flatten slightly to make eggs. Place on grease-proof paper on a tray and freeze until very firm.
In the meantime, melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in 20-30 second bursts in the microwave. Roll the frozen eggs (or whatever shape you choose) in the melted chocolate. Use a couple of spoons to cover the eggs in the chocolate and place back on the grease-proof paper lined tray. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set.
If you would like to make your own nut butter, find the method here. You will need about 1/2 cup of nuts to make 1/4 cup of butter.
I found coconut paste in the Asian food section of large supermarkets. I found it in a box of 5 sachets of 50 grams each. I believe it is also available in some Asian grocery stores (thanks for the tip JJ!).