Neutriceuticals

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.

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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 😉

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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  www.pickeringsgin.com

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…

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

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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  (www.TheMarshmallowLady.com) 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 …

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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….

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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

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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…