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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Raw Chocolate course with Amy Levin

Whew! just back from a great but intensive weekend in London.

I follow ‘Oosha’ ( ooosha.co.uk/‎) and had seen that they run courses as well as post good things about raw chocolate, so it was a no-brainer for me, I had to go.

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Going was the hard part. I’m reluctant to say ‘never’ ; as in “I’ll never do this again”- but I’ll have to (a) think long and hard, or (b)be desperate, or (c) have given enough time for me to forget the experience of going down via the night coach. The night coach has the appearance of being great value for money compared to the £250 quoted for the sleeper train, and when I heard it had actual beds not just recliners I thought “that’s the biz!” Hmm.

Several points to bear in mind – brush your teeth before you get on, – don’t go for a bottom bunk if you’re the slightest bit claustrophobic, go for a single bed side, not the double as you’re stuck there (unless on you’re on VERY good friends with the person on the aisle side), practise a very low limbo so you can get out from under the hammock above and above all leave something trailing that you can recognise by feel if you leave your coffin, sorry, bed, to go to the toilet, as you could get cosy getting back into a wrong bunk….

Let’s put it this way, after the course (finishing around 3.30-4) and realising I had 7 hrs to kill before bracing myself for the return trip on the night coach, it didn’t take  much persuasion after HH provided the information that there was a regular train leaving around 6pm from King’s Cross, to find myself reduced in cash but in a happier frame of mind and body and settled in a train carriage by 6.15!

Anyway, back to raw chocolate. I’ve had a couple of requests for them and after having tasted some wonderful spiced raw chocolate fudge that Alison Mountain had provided on the fabby textile courses over at Hat in the Cat and their Big Cat textile centre (textilecentre.co.uk  -go check them out if you’re at all creative, they host paper making, book making, dyeing, sewing, felting, painting etc classes with teachers that are excellent, from all over the world) I really wanted to try my hand at raw chocs. My attempts from books have been tasty but not entirely successful as I couldn’t get the textures and temper right for them.

Amy Levin of Oosha quickly sorted some of my issues out. Use powdered sweeteners such as xylitol, not the big crystal grains I’d used, or indeed the liquid sweeteners like Yacon syrup (doh! – fats and water don’t mix!) Use a Vitamix blender to do the powdering of ingredients prior to making the choc. Make choc in said Vitamix, temper in said Vitamix, note a theme here, guess what I’ll be getting soon 🙂             https://www.vitamix.co.uk/

We used silicon moulds mainly but Amy showed the class the polycarbonate ones that I’m used to using.

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Natural colours are used such as beetroot powder for reds and pinks, spirulina for green and Turmeric for yellow.

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While I’m used to using essential oils, we also used Medicine flower essences and extracts (http://www.medicineflower.com/flavorextracts.html) which were strong, fresh and zingy, and apart from the usual fruit flavours had coffee, caramel, butterscotch and other moreish flavours.

Textures were added with nuts – preferably soaked then dehydrated, this makes them more digestible and changes their consistency, dried fruits ( some of which can be soaked in alcohol then dehydrated – hmm, food for thought there!), buckwheat, all sorts really.

The finished chocolates had the snap of tempered chocolate on the outside which was great as I’d not got that before on my own. I’m still adjusting to raw chocolate as opposed to my usual ones, so I find the coconut oil that is often present leaves a different, lingering after feel in the mouth, though I could see that it was still be easy to infuse flower/ spice/ plant flavours in the coconut that would carry into the finished filled chocolate.

While there wasn’t as much hands on as I would like; this was understandable due to the expensive nature of the blender, and there was a wealth of information, a good handout backed up with the e book by email when I got back from the course and the invitation to join the facegroup page of people who have done the course this time and previously – which helps in troubleshooting and sharing information. All in all a good time was had – with the added bonus of taking chocs away for later!

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There is a nice wee park around the corner to walk in during lunch break; lunch was a wonderfully tasty raw salad with buckwheat crackers. The park hosted a windmill!

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