I recently gave a talk at the RGBE for the current herbology class. I loved that course when I was on it, what 3 years ago now, 4?

The current crop of students are dedicated and enthusiastic and it was a pleasure being with them. I say ‘talk’ but I never even got around to introducing myself properly, never mind giving my presentation! It was all about the chocolate 🙂

During the herbology course one of the many projects is to write up the health benefits of 3 foods; hence the term ‘neutriceutical’, as you are looking into the potential pharmaceutical effects of nutritious foods. I did my neutriceutical project on cider vinegar, chilli pepper and chocolate.

The course leader is keen for all projects to have a practical element to them, so I decided to make herbal chocolate with pepper in them for one of my practical elements to this – a 2fer, as it combined 2 of my projects. And that, as they say,was that. So my herbology neutriceutical talk is what gave birth to Hedgetables! So, needless to say I’m keen to impart some of my own enthusiasm to the subject.


As soon I got into the class and starting unpacking my somewhat large number of supplies the students were rummaging and ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’, all very satisfying 😉


Last year I started with the talk and then we made various chocolates, with the idea of combining ‘superfoods’ with chocolate. We sadly never managed to fit in a herb infused cream to make a ganache that could then be used to make truffles. I wanted to remedy that this time around, so without an introduction to the theme we started making an infused cream.

One wee group made rose and lavender infused cream. They infused the herbs with the cream directly over a low heat for about 20 mins, then strained out the herbal material. The cream was then scalded before pouring over double the amount of chocolate. Once all the chocolate was incorporated this had to be left to cool and harden up in the fridge.

IMG_8034   IMG_8035

The other group had a person in it with a bad dairy intolerance so another truffle mix was made using the raw chocolate truffle theme, they used dates and pecans blitzed in a blender, with some added coconut water and coconut flour,  maca powder, raw cacao powder and a generous dollop of ground cardamom. Very tasty.


Both mixes were then shaped into balls and chilled before being either dipped in various outer coatings or, of course, chocolate. We were using raw cacao powder, or dried, ground orange powder, or rosehip or roe petal powder, or ground spices,  or ground up crystallised herbs such as mint, as our external coatings. This is a good way to incorporate some more herbal goodness to the finished product and gives a finished look.


This took us to about lunch time so just before we broke for lunch I snuck in a very informal talk about chocolate, mentioning the benefits of it, the difference between varieties, chemotypes, the process of making it etc. All of which was illustrated with a taste sample where possible. I think they were beginning to OD on chocolate 🙂

After lunch we cheated with tempering, though it was discussed, as I’d brought in a tempering machine, so we had more time to concentrate on incorporating the superfoods and less time having to fret about making enough to do all the planned things. We made barks and decorated them with all mannner of things, dehydrated berries; strawberries, raspberries, cherries, goldenberries aka physallis, smoked chipotle pepper (I liked the South American theme of chocolate, goldenberries and chilli), nuts, seeds and all manner of goodies were used here.

The group dipped fruits and nuts in the chocolate, mango and brazil nuts being favourites. They also learned the potentially very messy art of dipping, losing, and re-finding their truffles 🙂 Some were dipped, dropped,and repeat several times, so much so that by the time they emerged from the final saving of them that we had gobstoppers of truffles! 🙂

So, all in all they used herbs, powders, superfoods and fruits in, infused, on and covering the chocolates, and, lest I forget, they used tincture and syrups that they’d already made, added directly to the chocolate to make an easy truffle too. Whew! A busy day, with much learning (I hope!) and fun to be had. I’m still unpacking, I think the only thing I don’t bring is the kitchen sink!

Although I had brought my camera I had a ‘Doh!’ moment as I hadn’t checked that it had enough battery power so I only have a few piccies of the day.

Here’s a  recipe we used as a base, taken from my notes to the class:

Raw Date and Cardamom truffles

We’ll work with raw cacao first as no melting or tempering is needed, but time for chilling often is.

Pit and chop 10 dates, put in blender and whizz.

Add a handful of Pecans, or other nuts/ seeds of your choice, and 2T cacao powder

Add a T of coconut flour, a T of coconut water, and 2t, or to taste of ground cardamom. Whizz in blender until a thick paste is achieved. Too runny? – add some more cacoa and or flour, too thick? – add a drop or 2 of the c. water.

Once reached a thick paste, roll into small balls and coat in a powder of your choice.

The finishing powder can make quite a difference to your end taste so feel free to experiment again here – how about more cacao powder – extra chocolatey goodness, but can be bitter, so try mixing and matching/ replacing with other powders? Dried fruit powders – orange pulp powder would be nice, rosehip powder, maca powder for extra superfood punch? You can try dipping these in melted/ tempered normal chocolate for a wonderful treat with the knowledge that you are also having a refined sugar free, healthy snack that is good for you!

Molds and how to look after them – Polycarbonate

I have quite a selection of different types of molds and thought it might be interesting to look at each type.

I’ll do several posts to cover them all but today I’m going to look at my favourite, and the one I work most with – my polycarbonate molds. While I have different shapes in these the ones that I use most frequently are my 100 g bar molds.




The ones I use are from Keylink and you get 3 of the shapes in the one mold. They have proven sturdy and long lasting – which is good as they’re not cheap, particularly when you’re looking at the 3D molds for Easter eggs and the like. If you take good care of them they should last a lefteime.


In the above picture you can see some of mine stacked and ready to go.

When I’ve been to other chocolate venues where you see the chocolatiers at work you’ll see the molds left unwashed and left with chocolate all round them and looking really unclean. There’s a reason for this; the chocolate lifts cleanly from the mold and leaves the mold clean (as least it is if it’s properly tempered, it can stick and leave residue if not tempered properly) and any left will prevent the next lot sticking to it, a bit like a wok building up a good working layer.



The issue I have is that :

(1) I don’t have a huge quantity of molds to work from, and you’d need to keep each colour of chocolate being used consistent with your molds (as you scrape off the sides of the mold to clean it up before letting the chocolate in it to cool.) If you didn’t you could end up having white in with dark – thus making dark chocolate have dairy in it when you might not want to due to allergy reasons, unless you have a policy to only use one type of chocolate in a set of molds.

(2) I work with strange flavours, so even keeping like with like in regards to type of chocolate being consistent, I’d have to extend this to flavour of chocolate being used having to be consistent; I’d end up needing an extra room to store all my molds!

This just isn’t practical for me, so I wash my molds between batches. This isn’t as straightforward as it sounds – there’s a knack to this. If you put molds in the dishwasher they come out blotchy – this stops the chocolate looking smooth, shiny and professional when it comes out of the mold.

I tend to hand wash mine, in approved detergent, then rinse well, then dry. I only wash 2 at a time because you have to dry them quickly – or they get blotchy looking. So wash, rinse dry, 2 at a time, 2 by 2, much like the animals in the Ark, or for those with a sci- fi bent of mind, like River in Firefly (“Hands of blue, two by two”).

Even the cloth to dry them makes a difference to a good finish, I find that the toweling ones are great for drying into all the corners and give a good polish and shine to the mold.


The linen ones work well for a couple then tend to smear I find, don’t know why, but they do. You don’t want to scratch your molds as any scratches will show up in your finished bars, that’s why polycarbonate is good as it is resilient. If you’ve used a dishwasher you can always polish up the molds with kitchen roll. I tend to use couch roll as I already have it due to the massage side of my life!

When making the bars, the mold is tapped at its’s sides or underneath, with your scraper to release air bubbles, so you want a strong mold that won’t scratch or shatter.

You know when the chocolate is ready to come out of its mold as it contracts as it cools, leaving a slight line like a crack between the chocolate and the mold, you might see it in the picture below…?



Simply up end the mold, tap it out gently and the chocolate should release easily and fall out.

Simples 🙂

I found this great YouTube demo with Jacques Torres of filling the mold and discussion of the molds at the start, it also show the tapping to release bubbles, have a look here and here  (the latter links shows Chef Derrick Tu Tan Pho demonstrating chocolate molding technique at the eGullet Candy and Confectionery Conference 2011.)



Easter experiments

This last week I had one of my goddaughters over.Brianna is a bright , creative person with a strong sense of identity.

I had planned ganaches, truffles, perhaps experimenting with new molds, but this girl had other ideas! 🙂

Last time she came for a short stay we made lollipops and bars and decorated them with, well, everything! Fruit, nuts, crystallised fruit, everything in the cupboard, not even sure the kitchen sink wasn’t on there 🙂 It went down so well, we made a few this time too

IMG_4918    A butterfly in dried and crystallised fruit

IMG_4919 Mango dipped in yummy, fruit flavoured chocolate

While I had grandiose plans, Brianna wanted to experiment with flavours.

She spent time smelling them, asking about them, and pairing them together to smell in batches. I think she has a possible perfumier future if nothing else works out for her! A natural at it.

IMG_4900          IMG_4915

She came up with 4 groups of flavours that she wanted to work with, I think we only had the time to do 3 of them. She decided on Mango and Violet for one flavour group,  Plum, Rhubarb and Orange flavour for another, and both of theses were done in milk chocolate, and we also made Mango and Raspberry in white chocolate. She spent time thinking it all out. The mango and Raspberry would tie flavour with the red colour of blood for the brains mold ! Chocolatier and biologist, a girl after my own heart.

We tried various new and old molds ( a post going into molds to follow soon, possibly even a couple of them….)




and decorated them according to whom they were being given to

IMG_4911 each bar decorated differently

Experimenting with different decoration was fun, and the metallic shimmers went down well. They look so good on everything they decorate – even lips!


IMG_4912 IMG_4913 IMG_4922


Brianna tried her hand at dipping truffle shells that we had filled up with fruit and flavoured chocolate, or home made jams, or coconut cream, and fun was had decorating them afterwards.     IMG_4932   A picture of concentration while dipping the truffles       IMG_4930    demonstrating her piping skills.

We got experimental with my new ‘Power Flowers’ ( another post to follow on those and colourings), which are concentrated pockets of colour that you add to lighter chocolate or cocoa butter. We used the colours to decorate a small Easter egg, and, not forgetting, the BRAINS! I can hear the maniacal laughter ringing in my head 🙂

IMG_4944    IMG_4955 IMG_4957



A Grand Day Out

Saturday was a dog and boy free day so we thought ‘ Wahay!’ I’ve been planning out next year in terms of shows, food faires etc. and had been told that this weekend the Foodies Festival in Edinburgh’s Inverleith park was on. We wanted to check it out and see if it was worth going to for next year, so off we toddled.


It was a surprisingly big event – both in terms of the number and variety of stalls, and in the number of people that came. A word of advice if you plan to go today, or next year – go early. I’m biased in that I don’t like crowds much, and at around the lunch mark you could hardly move! Heaving mass of bodies everywhere so we made our escape around then.

There was a surprising number of gin stalls…oh dear, too bad, never mind, what a pity! snigger….apparently it was gin o’clock quite early in the day for me!

IMG_4263I’ve seen this driving around recently so it caught my attention – as designed to do! It was pulling  a dinky little trailer which turns into…..

IMG_4264Ta dah! a gin cocktail bar!



IMG_4265 I just had to force myself to try the Lady Pickering – which I have to say was scrummy, slurp!

IMG_4266 The drink itself coyly hiding behind the array of spices and herbs that flavour the gin. I had a good talk about them which was very interesting.They do tours and tasting at the distillery

I was amazed at the number of booze, especially gin stands there were, here’s a quick review of some, not all by any means…

IMG_4272 IMG_4269 IMG_4270 IMG_4271

We (me, he was restrained) staggered on buying a wide variety of cheeses, chorizo, olives until we were told firmly by a sign to…


And being relatively biddable people, we had to do what the sign said….:-)

There were a wonderful array of light, fluffy marshmallows from The Marshmallow Lady  ( so we had to try and buy some of them, the quote from Despicable Me comes to mind – “It’s so fluffy!”

This just whetted our sweet teeth so our sensible eating plan degenerated further with …

IMG_4280 IMG_4277

Perfectly made, chewy on the inside, lovely flavours, though I could have done with the flavours being a bit stronger, though no website to order from, but he is in south of England, so you probably want local macaroons rather than being in the post. What you could order through the post is brownies – which he also does….and so does….

IMG_4289 IMG_4287

Amazing GF brownie, scoffed already, oops!, a wide variety of normal brownies of varying flavours, and chocolate spread. This is something I’ve been thinking of making as an addition to hampers for Christmas and perhaps corporate hampers. What is interesting is that when I opened the jar to try it this morning, there was mold on it! Not so good, and with a sell by of end Oct I’d not expect that, though there is a high cream content in it. So this is something I’m going to tell them about, and something to be wary of myself if going down this route.

All the sweet stuff, I had to get my savoury mojo back, aided by…

IMG_4284 SeaVeg dried seaweeds.

Tees is a huge fan of Dulse, I suppose he is Irish after all! He bought a LARGE bag of Dulse, with my caveat that he wasn’t allowed to sit down and eat it like a packet of crisps! Which he would left to his own devices! I sampled their many other varieties and came away with a free bag of serrated wrack for skin care and small jars of all their dried, roasted seaweed seasonings. If you use a mix of red and green seaweed in your diet you cover all your trace mineral needs! No added salt, just seaweed.

IMG_4286 With my therapist hat on I recommend seaweed baths for skin conditions, or boiling it up for a gel that is better than your fancy expensive serums…

Taste buds refreshed by salty things we had to heal ourselves using Chinese medicine by tasting other things, next stop, chilli’s.

I’ve been trying to get a local chilli for my chilli bars but although Ceres has Chillilicious they don’t do ground chilli, which is really what I’m after. Unfortunately, none of the other 2 or 3 chilli producers did either. 😦

I loved the Chilli Bothy stall though

IMG_4276 IMG_4275




And of course, reverted back to my alcoholic habits, and bought Chilli and Lime Gin! Haven’t  tried it yet, honest! Getting Chilli on my tongue is like coming home, perhaps because I convince myself that it’s helping my joints…so on that note the Chilli Lemonade had to be tried, Tees woosed out with a lovely tasting Lime Lemonade.IMG_4267 IMG_4268The Fresh Lemonade Company and my chilli lemonade, with yes, Scotch Bonnet Chilli floating around in there. They have their lovely tart proper old fashioned lemonade and add the extras, shake it up Martinin style, et voila!

We went ostensibly to see what the chocolate competition was doing, how it was faring, and to check out to see  if it’s worth our while going.

Charlotte Flowers was there and Fiona Sciolti, botanical chocolates. They were the only 2 remotely like us. In fact they were the only 2 chocolatiers, full stop.

Interestingly neither seemed to be particularly busy – but my mum, has always said people don’t buy chocolates when it’s hot ( I do, but then I’m a chocholic), and it was hot. Perhaps there is something in what she says – people buy choc to make them feel good, all those lovely chemicals in there, seratonin, theophylline, etc, and people feel good when the sun is out so they don’t need to buy choc to get that happy vibe.

Anyold hoo, I think it’s worth our while booking this for next year as it will raise our profile. Though I’ll be behind the stall and not having a great time tasting everyone else’s wares…. mixed feelings about that!

If you’re interested in going, there are some great talks and demos, but they are very oversubscribed – so prebook online if possible, or get there early and get your tickets in advance – the queues  were horrendous for the tickets! You have been warned…



A Moroccan romance!

Spearmint and Clove in milk chocolate is one of the flavours that I make for Just Be Botanicals – a range of lovely skin care. I make flavours that use the same oils or herbs and try to tie in with the skin care ranges that is made by them. Spearmint and Clove is branded under the ‘ Active’ label.

While I was working making some more of it today I found that it was overtempering quickly. This may be because the weather had turned a little cooler today but I still had the air conditioning up full blast. The metal bowl at the top was chilling too quickly and causing the rest of the bowl to thicken up faster than I had anticipated.

IMG_4242 the overtempered chocolate isn’t releasing the bubbles even with lots of tapping and vibration, which normally works 😦

Now the Spearmint and Clove bars for Gail don’t have any topping on the back, as a result they should be smooth as a baby’s behind – hmm, not so much with today’s batch. I decided to give up sooner rather than later with this batch but thought – what to do with it now. I’ve not read her new packaging for the flavour but the flavours reminded me of Moroccan or African cuisine, and the rest as they say, is history.

As soon as I thought Moroccan, I thought -more spices! I made a cinnamon and cardamom (of course!) sugar, using fairtrade Billington’s soft granulated sugar and coconut palm sugar in a 1:1 ratio, then added ground cinnamon and cardamom to taste. I personally think that the coconut sugar gives a richer flavour but I like the crunchier texture of the granulated, so I like to mix them.

IMG_4238 Coconut palm sugar and fairtrade soft granulated from Billingham’s

IMG_4239 Not the best I know but it was what I had to hand!

IMG_4240 Wonderful stuff – beginning to wonder if I can get addicted to it?! I’m adding it to so much… I get lot of my ingredients, including this from Tree Harvest


Then I wanted to pick up on the mint, so added some crystallised peppermint to the bar too. While I had powdered orange I really wanted to use powdered lemon to add to the chocolate itself, but as I didn’t have it I just thought I’d wait for another time to see if I can locate some and try it later.

IMG_4241The crystallised mint

I’m rather fond of this spin off and throw together, if not a full blown romance, at least a holiday affair!

IMG_4244 Finished bars, bubbles nicely covered up! just waiting for them to cool before releasing and packaging.

Sarah’s Stupendous Sweets!

My god-daughter, Sarah, is staying over for 2 weeks (perhaps, if she doesn’t look too closely at the list of things I’d like her to do!) and she seems keen to try things out in the kitchen, permit me an evil laugh…


So with that in mind she has been put to work sticking labels on, folding boxes, packing bars into said boxes and has tried her hand at decorating the bars with me. I have to say, so far she is outperforming HH and can come as an intern any time she likes!

While having a meeting with a friend at the flat today today, I thought I’d give her (Sarah, not the friend!) relatively free rein. She chose a recipe for Penuche fudge from  Peter Greweiling’s “Chocolates and Confections” – ISBN 9780764588440.

Product Details

It’s a lovely book and she seemed to find it hard to choose one recipe to try as she wants to work through the book I think!

Needless to say I didn’t have some of the ingredients so we bodged things – what’s new. I’m never good at following the recipe at the best of times, and without the right stuff, that’s just asking for multiple tweaks. It all went downhill when I didn’t even  have light brown sugar – we substituted with coconut palm sugar for that depth of flavour. Corn syrup used instead of glucose syrup, generally more sugar added as no invert sugar, and believe it or not I couldn’t find my proper vanilla, so of course used ground cardamom instead, naturally, why wouldn’t you – they’re so similar! Poor Sarah.

IMG_4179 Sarah measuring out coconut palm sugar

I gave myself the task of toasting the pecans as they can burn quickly.


This also meant that I had the rather lengthy task of chopping them up. What I’ve never noticed before is how they chop up once toasted. They give a lovely shape that just cries out to be used as a  topping on individual sweets.



It’s definitely a confectioners book – my friend was horrified/ surprised that the book/ me had her agitating hot sugar syrup on marble slabs with scrapers. Once cooled down a bit Sarah added the toasted, chopped Pecan nuts and cardamom powder and kept mixing it all together on the slab. She looked very professional.


I couldn’t find my rods to make a frame with – (I KNOW they’re lurking in there somewhere…) so we used good old parchment paper in tins to decant the thicker, cooler sticky mass to cool further.

IMG_4190 It just had to taste tested – repeatedly!

Once it had cooled enough we opened it out of it’s tin and paper to let it air, cool and form a skin; as it was still quite soft. She chopped it up to help this process further.


We’ll either neaten them up a bit and package as is, or may well use some as a centre and cover in chocolate so she can try dipping. That’ll be fun, and very messy 😉

Raw Strawberry Fudge- ish

I harvested a lot of small wild strawberries from my garden the other day. Most of these are being dehydrated whole for decoration to my dark Rosemary bars (Rosemary with dried strawberry and crystallised mint). I had some left over and added more locally grown strawberries to the start of the fudge.




This fudge recipe is adapted to one from

The recipe for the truffle/ fudge is raw and you can use a raw chocolate to coat, or cheat and use normal chocolate. If you coated in dark, it will still be dairy free. The recipe in the link above gives a proper fudge while the runnier fudge that I made can be used as a desert, mousse, ice cream substitute, or used as a filling for chocolate.

I had some issues; being American there is of course the cups to grams measurement and a slight difference in language, or at least, my understanding of what is meant, which may well be a different thing entirely! 😉

This all may have lead to my fudge being more fudge-‘ish’ than fudge. ‘Ish’ to the point of being entirely different, but it’s still tasty and being thoroughly appreciated by Helpful Husband. So here’s the fudge-ish recipe:

Sightly less than a pack of creamed coconut – 180g


A punnet of strawberries- 200g

Good couple of turns of salt mill

1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp of ground cardamom

1 1/2 tbs of syrup (Agave or maple was recommended, but I used my Blackthorn flower syrup that I made earlier in the year for a more herbal component)

Tempered chocolate for coating


1. Hull and blend the strawberries with a stick blender. Use a high sided container or by the time everything else is added the mix will attempt to coat the kitchen walls, your hair, glasses etc! 😉

2. Melt the coconut cream and blend it in with the puree. The original recipe called for coconut butter, which is apparently the solid white version of coconut oil, which I have loads of but that is ‘oil’ to me, not butter. So my version is much softer than the original recipe turns out to be. If you want a more fudge consistency – use 1/2 cup of melted solid coconut oil.

3. Add the salt, spices and syrup, and blend again. (Bet you’re wishing you’d gone for the taller container now, eh?)

4. Fill up a plastic container and smooth out. Put container into the freezer for a while.If you used the solid oil this will turn into proper fudge like consistency that you can cut easily and dip in chocolate if you want. If, like me, you used creamed coconut this will never really firm up to being solid until it’s totally frozen and will start to melt almost immediately. Don’t panic.

5. The softish mix can be used a desert in and of itself, almost like a mousse. It can also be left to become firm in the freezer. Then it can be shaped into small balls. Put these back in freezer to firm up again (the handling will have softened it up quite a bit).

6. The firm balls (ooh err missus, that didn’t turn out as I’d intended!) can now be dunked in the chocolate of your choice. I had some Jasmine flavoured white chocolate that I had left over from making bars of said flavour. I thought it would be nice with the strawberry. I found that the white chocolate was warm enough, even when tempered, to start melting the truffles. This meant that the coating was decidedly patchy, and so needed to be left to dry and then be re-coated.

Though I felt that the jasmine hint complemented the fresh strawberry taste that was still strongly present, I find that the white addition was a bit sweet overall for my taste, but I’m not big on white, I like my chocolate like my men, as the joke goes, rich and dark! 😉

Not many pictures here, as I got incredibly sticky, oily and covered in pink goo. I didn’t think the camera would appreciate being handled by me in that state! Bad Jill, hangs ears down in shame, must try harder.

Enjoy your messy pink goo and dipping in chocolate. There is a knack to that in itself which really only comes with practice, and I’m still hit or miss getting a good finish, so feel free to do lots of chocolate kersplunking!