Utterly Luxurious Hot Chocolate

Question for you: what’s more comforting than a big chunk of chocolate?

Did I hear you say, “Nothing”?

Hmmm.

Let me present you with a big mug of silky smooth, creamy hot chocolate, and then I’ll ask you again…

top with whipped cream

Ok, so now let’s try that question again:  What’s more comforting than a big chunk of chocolate?

Did I hear you say, “A big mug of hot chocolate”?

You are correct! Well done! 😀

As far as I’m concerned, for true comfort, you can’t beat the hug in a mug that is hot chocolate.  But it has to be real hot chocolate – creamy, thick and luxurious – watery, instant stuff just doesn’t cut it.  And as for low calorie hot chocolate…well that’s just all kinds of wrong!

This is real hot chocolate – as velvety smooth as a kitten’s ear, delicious enough to make you purr.

Serves 2

Ingredients
500ml full fat milk (well, in for a penny…)
150ml double cream
75g dark chocolate
50g milk chocolate
A pinch of salt
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla pod
3 cloves
Music

First, let’s get your cream topping ready…

Whipped spiced cream

Split the vanilla pod and scrape out seeds with the tip of a sharp knife.  Place seeds and pod into a small pan together with the cream, cinnamon and cloves.  Warm, over a lowish heat, until it just starts to bubble at the edges.  Turn off heat, put a lid on the pan and leave for 30 mins or so.

When cool, pour into a bowl , cover and chill in the fridge.

spiced whipped cream

When it’s thoroughly chilled, pour the cream through a sieve, discarding cinnamon, vanilla pod and cloves, then whip it ’til it’s fluffy.

Or just use one of those super cool pressurised can numbers if you have one (oh the envy!)

luxury hot chocolate

Now on with the hot chocolate…

chocolate

Finely chop your chocolate and place in a pan together with the milk and a pinch of salt.

Warm gently, stirring all the time, until the chocolate has melted – whisk to blend and froth.

pour into mugs

Pour into favourite mugs.  If you want to be over the top decadent (who doesn’t?), now is the time to stir in a shot of Bailey’s…or brandy…or whatever else takes your fancy.

top with whipped cream

Pipe, spoon or squirt the whipped cream onto the top.

hot chocolate & cake

Grab yourself some cake, and settle back to slurp, nibble and relax.  I recommend also watching something old fashioned and comfortable on the TV…Columbo’s always a good bet.

Just one more thing…

ENJOY!

😀

x

Chargrilled tomato bisque

Q. Why is this a bisque and not a soup?

A. Because the definitions are a little unclear and I liked the sound of ‘bisque’ better.

Tomato bisque with crumbled fetaHonestly, I did look into this but, as with most things on t’internet, opinions vary.  Whilst it is accepted that traditionally bisque is made from shell fish, some schools of thought now feel the term can be applied to any smooth, thick, creamy soup (the smoothness being what differentiates it from a chowder).

By some definitions the thickening agent determines whether something is a cream soup or a bisque.

To confuse things even further, some otherwise detailed definitions do not include a category for smooth soups made with puréed vegetables and cream.

In the end, I walked away from the internet with a shrug, and declared it to be a bisque 😉

This recipe was created to go on Big Sis’s birthday banquet menu.  Despite seeming a bit faffy it’s actually pretty quick and very easy.  Packed with flavour, this is definitely one of those dishes that is more than the sum of its parts.

To serve four

Ingredients
A splosh of olive oil
A couple of (good sized) handfuls soffritto
2 garlic cloves, minced
Approx. 500g fresh, ripe tomatoes – get good quality, flavoursome ones, not those watery, insipid ‘salad tomato’ numbers.
A big bowl full of iced water
400g tin chopped tomatoes
Approx. 200ml vegetable stock
2-3 good sized sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped
150ml (ish) single cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Feta cheese, to garnish
Music

Ok, before we get started…if you don’t have a gas stove, or some other form of flame suitable to cook over, you can oven roast or grill the tomatoes at a very high temperature in order to get the blackened skins.  If you use this method, your tomatoes will inevitably end up more cooked and squashier to handle…much messier but it will still produce a tasty end result.

TomatoTake one superb fresh, locally grown, still-smelling-of-greenhouse, ripe, red tomato and stab it onto a fork.

Charred tomatoHold tomato over your flame (your cooking one, not your lover), twisting and turning it until you have a superb fresh, locally grown, burned-to-buggery, black and red tomato.

Keeping it on the fork, immediately plunge into the bowl of iced water.  Gently rub the skin, which should just fall away – if it’s clinging a bit too tightly to the tomato, put it back into the flame for a while longer.

Remove the skinned tomato from water and fork – set to one side.  Continue this process until all the tomatoes are done.

Skinned chopped tomatoesCut tomatoes in half, remove seeds (the majority is good enough – no need to get finicky).  Roughly chop the de-seeded tomatoes.

SoffrittoHeat the olive oil and cook soffritto over a low to medium heat until softened but not browned.

Add crushed garlic and cook for about another minute.

Skinned chopped tomatoes, garlic, veg stock potBring up the heat a little, add fresh chopped tomatoes, tinned tomatoes and stock.  Simmer for around 15-20 minutes, with the lid off, until liquid has reduced by around half.

ThymeTip everything into a food processor and add fresh thyme leaves, salt and pepper – blitz until smooth.

Single creamReturn to pan, add single cream and warm through, stirring continuously – don’t let it boil!

Tomato bisque with crumbled fetaAdjust seasoning, sprinkle with crumbled feta and serve with buttery garlic bread.

Don’t forget to wipe your mouth when you’ve finished 😉
x