Make Healthy Chocolate Your Friend!

To say I’m a chocolate fiend is an understatement. Chocolate is my friend.  No really she is – she’s been there for me throughout all the key moments in my life.  Comforted me in sadness, celebrated with me in happiness, calmed me down in anger and prepped me up with energy when I’ve needed it.  Like for millions of others, chocolate is a warm comforting blanket.

When my health issues cropped up I actually had to abandon chocolate for a while as she became a toxic friend for me. So I did go chocolate-free for quite a while.  And when I decided to let her back in my life our relationship had changed.

Now she had to be a high quality friend. She couldn’t just satisfy a primary urge of a sugar fix but had to offer my body and health something more.  She also had to cater to my dietary requirements of being dairy free but she couldn’t compromise on taste.   As I started my journey for new friends, I was surprised to see how much the chocolate market had changed.  In fact there was so much choice that I was like a kid in a sweet shop!  The need for a ‘healthy’ chocolate friend didn’t appear to be just a unique thing for me but was in demand by a growing population who wanted what I did.  Furthermore, it doesn’t appear that this market will slow down anytime soon as there’s a whole host of new healthy chocolate desperate to be our friends. And I’m all too willing to make new friends….

northernmunkeebites.ombar1Ombar Chocolate 72% Raw Cacao

Rating: 8 out of 10

Appeals to: free-from lovers, healthy-conscious eaters and lovers of high quality chocolate

Packaging

Now I’m not too sure that I was first attracted by the packaging. It didn’t scream out to me from all the different varieties on the shelves.  A slightly muted brown paper packaging with a pop of colour is how it differentiates itself.  However upon a second and tertiary glance, it actually looks quite classy with a high quality wrapping and upon opening a golden inlay.  It feels smooth to hold and starts to cry out high quality.  What I particularly liked was the rather clean/clear writing and not too much information on the front – just key words that I needed for my requirements e.g. % of raw cacao, dairy free.  Looking on the back provides me with the full information that I do need and in an easy to read manner.

Price

£1.99 – I have purchased this from a few health shops including Planet Organic and Holland & Barret.  When I first purchased it I thought the price was pretty steep for what looks like a small bar (35g).  However having tasted it against other brands it is quite reasonable and there are often discounts available on it in the health stores I mentioned.  It also helps me manage my consumption as because it is quite a price tag I don’t gobble it all in one go but actually have started to have it over two or three days which then makes me think it’s worthwhile as well as making sure I don’t over indulge and spreading the cost!

Delivery

This chocolate delivers. There are other varieties of the brand that I haven’t tried because I enjoy this version so much.  For me, dark chocolate is now my preference over milk and white.  This bar provides that small chocolate fix without being overly rich.  It’s slightly bitter but there’s creaminess to it which takes the edge of it.  I find that if you take one slab of it and let it melt slowly in your mouth, it gives you that feeling of eating a full chocolate bar.  To me that screams quality and ticks off all my boxes.  The product states it contains natural antioxidants and live cultures and I don’t know whether that adds to the flavour or not; but either way this is a tasty chocolate and one that is becoming a firm friend.

Verdict – in a word, creamy! Whilst the price can initially cause you to pause to purchase, after tasting it you can see that it’s actually a fairly reasonable price.  The 6 bar chocolate is enough to keep you satisfied for a couple of days providing you with that chocolate fix in an allergy free manner.  Plus if it states it’s good for your gut, I’m not one to say no to chocolate!

Details: https://www.ombar.co.uk/

I would love to hear your thoughts if you have tried this product – feel free to leave comments below.

Guest Blogger: Mrs M.

About Me

As a person with a recently diagnosed sensitive digestive system, I’m now on a path to make sure I eat well whilst still enjoying myself. Having been fearful of food, I now love finding new products, going to new restaurants to try new twists on dishes and am constantly looking for quirky items to consume.  I’m a huge supporter of simple food that is made tasty with the right combination of ingredients and more importantly enjoying your food and diet in a balanced way.  That means I always have room for my favourite item – chocolate!

 

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BBQ with Chocolate!

BBQ Mini-Series: Xocolat Spice Fusions by Coeur de Xocolat

So, it’s officially the British summer and it’s that time when we fellas refuse to wear sun cream, go an offensive shade of puce and revert back to our Neanderthal instincts by making a fire to burn meat on.

I love BBQ season but living in the UK makes it tough to predict and event more difficult for retailers, producers and eateries to plan for. However each year the offering keeps on getting better and better and the categories that the BBQ occasion spans is ever increasing. We would now happily shop the meat aisles, bakery, salad section, spices, oils, condiments and, of course, the booze aisle. BBQ is much more than a category in retail; it’s an occasion, a mood, an ambience and something that the whole nation, nay the world, goes crazy for.

BBQ has increased in popularity over the last few years with the explosion of street food trucks and festivals that have shown the common household cook what is possible with a fire, a hotplate and a bit of food soul. If we get invited round to a friends for a Saturday afternoon Barbie it’s no longer acceptable to serve salmonella sausages or botulism burgers. Now we expect brioche buns, sliders, low and slow briskets, sliders, kofte, shawarmas and a fabulous infusion of world flavours and tastes all on an undersized paper plate.

Now, I’m good with a pair of tongs and a hotplate but I don’t profess to being an expert by any stretch so I’d recommend you check out the BBQ Geeks for some absolutely top tips and the perfect BBQ.

This mini-series explores some of the new and great products and recipes that I’ve foraged and found this year to make Britain’s BBQ season great. So, even if we need to turn to supplements rather than the sun for our vitamin D, we can always enjoy well-cooked, well-seasoned and well-complimented meat.

Xocolat Spice Fusions

Rating: 9.8/10

Appeals to: a true Food Adventurer and someone that demands more from their BBQ. If you love meat, BBQs and chocolate you’re in for a right treat!

Packaging

This product is hot off the press and was only just made available a couple of weeks ago. The packaging is simple but on trend with the chalk and chalkboard effect. My only criticism of the packaging is that there is a lot of text on the back and it’s quite small but other than that I’m a fan. I especially like the personal touch from David (@dghchocolatier) who is the creator of the range.

Price

£4.00 – for the category and size of the jar it’s absolutely spot on. You get a lot out of the jars which range from 70g-90g so £4 for a few meals is quite good.

Delivery

Chocolate as part of a savoury dish is something that is still quite alien to a Western palate but it’s slowly creeping into common usage with dark chocolate in a chilli con carne or a Mole sauce being widely accepted. However chocolate was a savoury ingredient for 3000 years before it became a sweet treat so it actually works really well. The chocolate in all of the flavours isn’t too prominent, instead it works with the ingredients of the rub to enhance and change the overall delivery slightly as opposed to usurp any of the other elements.

Ras-el-Hanout with Chocolate

I actually used this jar as a spice to flavour rice and it worked brilliantly. The familiar aromatic notes of the ras-el-hanout was met by a rich dark chocolate that brought out fruity tones and a lingering sweetness that played softly with my brown rice.

Jerk with Chocolate

This concept works brilliantly. Jerk is a fantastic spicy and smoky flavour on its own but when the cocoa is introduced it takes it a whole new level. Love it! I went simple with this one and marinated some chicken with some olive oil and then straight into a hot pan.

Smoky Paprika with Chocolate

This Spice Fusion is similar to the jerk but much sweeter with the chocolate reacting with the sweet peppers. I opted to use this jar as a dry crumb baked atop a beautiful Scottish salmon,

Steak Seasoning with Chocolate

This jar has to be used with red meat and left to marinade overnight. The chocolate adds a real depth and texture to the seasoning and really cuts through a good cut of meat. Perfect!

Verdict – in a word, sweet-fusion! I know that this concept is something that doesn’t necessarily sit right with all of us but believe me when I say you need to try this before you pass judgement. Chocolate and meat is a brilliant combination for any Food Adventurer to seek out.

Details: http://www.coeurdexocolat.co.uk or http://www.xocolatshop.com

So all that leaves me is to ask: what’s your favourite BBQ recipe, tip or trick? Come on folks, leave me a comment below because sharing is caring.

Also, before you go take a look at my blog on a fantastic condiment I reviewed earlier in the year; it’s the perfect accompaniment to any pork dish.

Northern Munkee.

The Perfect Pair…

Food and Drink Subscription Boxes Mini-Series: Cocoa & Roast Club

This is the final instalment in my mini-series covering Food and Drink Subscription Boxes.

Food subscription boxes are still a relatively new phenomenon in the UK but they are going from strength to strength. The trend really seemed to gain traction when Ben Jones posted his first Graze box to offer lifestyle-conscious snackers an alternative to the dusty vending machine in the corner of the office.

Now you can satisfy your food foraging and drinks detecting needs for almost anything without even leaving the comfort of your own wifi hotspot. There are some brilliant subscription boxes out there for meat, alcohol, snacks, artisan food, grow-your-own kits and so much more. Think of them as your own personal foodie shopper trawling through the racks of artisan food and drink to find something that’s just in your size and colour.

Product Review: Cocoa and Roast Club with Coeur de Xocolat/Lulu Coffee

Rating: 9/10

Appeals to: foodie foragers, local business supporters those who enjoy the finer things in life.

Packaging:

The packaging was simple and minimalist but it just built my expectation to tear my way into it!!

Price: 

£19.99 which is the perfect price for the experience that Cocoa and Roast Club is introducing.

Selection:

Coeur de Xocolat Milk Chocolate with Salted Toffee & Dark Chocolate with Peppermint

Lulu Coffee Guatemalan Single Origin

Cocoa and Roast Club have created more than a food subscription box here, they’ve created an ambience, an atmosphere and a moment in your life. Food pairing is an art not a science and there is no more perfect example of pairing than a hot drink with an indulgent treat. Most food subscription boxes on the market, whilst great, are simply a personal shopping and discovery service; Cocoa and Roast have gone one step further and have infiltrated 30mins of your weekend by asking you to grind the beans, boil the kettle and savour the rich cocoa and coffee.

This particular combination of cocoa and roast went together like green and grass so I need to take a moment to pause and walk you through it: I opened with a sip of the coffee which commences with rich caramel tones that morph into deep earthy flavours and a soft nutmeg finish. The salted toffee bar presented a delightful mirror of flavours starting with a velvety smooth cocoa and caramel blend and into a salted lift to close. The flavour journey presented sweet into earth into sweet into salt and I found myself queuing up for another go!

Verdict: in a word, sign-me-up (still just one word)! I’m a big fan of this breed of subscription box. I enjoy the forage and discovery in farm shops, markets and festivals but having an expert guide you through the flavour experience as a reassuring maitre de maison is fantastic.

Northern Munkee.

Change the World: one bite at a time…

Product Review: Geo Bars

This is another post inspired by Fairtrade Fortnight and courtesy of Traidcraft’s re-launch of their popular Geo Bars. These vibrant bars are filled with Fairtrade goodies and signal a world’s first using the only rice exported from Myanmar  to carry the Fairtrade mark.

The cereal bar sub-category is one that I find particularly interesting as it is emphatic of how our habits, particularly around breakfast, have changed so dramatically in the last 30 years. As a nation we have moved from a more structured sit-down breakfast to a nation that breakfasts in the car, at the desk, on the train or not at all. Therefore our breakfast formats have to rise to meet these new needs and opportunities. Cereal bars were the first leap out of the bowl for breakfast with Kellogg Nutri-Grain stepping up to the plate in the mid-90s. Since then supermarket shelves have been swamped with cereal on-the-go, breakfast biscuits, liquid breakfasts and breakfast shots. So what does this tell us? Well firstly, that we think we have less time than society did 30 years ago. Secondly, it also puts into question something that we’ve taken as fact: breakfast is the most important meal of the day…well is it? Tell that to Belvita!

Nutritionally there’s no doubt that breakfast is important. So we need to ensure that, if we’re going to use an on-the-hoof substitute, it’s fit for purpose nutritionally and, more importantly, tastes great. We’re still in the realm of snacking here so TASTE IS KING!

Rating: 8.5/10

Appeals to: breakfast snackers and snackers looking for something that will deliver nutritionally throughout the day

Packaging

I really like the way these multipacks are put together. The colours and images portray the right mix of nature, ethical sourcing and mouth-watering food. However, for me, the most impressive thing about the packaging is the messaging, it speaks right to the soul and conscious of the core Fairtrade shopper. ‘Change the world: one bite at a time’ is a great tagline and it’s followed up by some really powerful messages on the back of pack. I admire how this has been put across because it’s not an appeal fuelled by pathos, instead it’s encouraging a call to action to protect great quality food which will appeal universally and not just to those who are already ethically conscious.

Price

£2.20 – for a multipack with 5 bars you can’t go wrong at that price. That’s just 44p per breakfast and it’s definitely comparable to the other products on the shelf that aren’t paying a fair price to the supply chain.

Delivery

Chocolate

As you take the first bite you get a satisfying, prolonged crunch as you tear through the medley of ingredients. The intense dark chocolate is the first flavour that greets your tongue. This is then followed by the juxtaposition of the sweet soft fruits and a scattering of nuts. You’re left with a beautiful fusion of sweet currants and deep, dark chocolate.

Mixed Berries

The first thing that hits you with this bar is the beautiful, fresh berry aroma that leads into the bite. It’s sweet, light and avoids being stodgy like other cereal bars. Once again the texture combinations work really well in the mouth with the soft fruits dominating but occasionally interrupted by crunchy nuts. This bar is brilliant – I don’t know if I’d be able to just eat one though!

Wild Apricot

This bar has a density to that really supports the citrus notes and it feels as though your chewing a juicy piece of fresh apricot. The cereals hold a wholegrain texture that holds up the soft, fruity flavours.

Verdict – in a word, excellent. Here is a product that is not only delicious and nutritionally sound but is Fairtrade. As a food it’s brilliant. As an ethical message it’s brilliant. So I’d urge you to disappoint W.K. Kellogg and delight people around the world by buying Geo!

Details: http://www.traidcraftshop.co.uk

Northern Munkee.

Top Tosser!

Pancake Day for me is a brilliant time of year with memories that take me back to a simpler time a time where a young Munkee would challenge himself to beat the record he set the year before and eat more pancakes than a Munkee really ought to.

The origins of pancake day are all about indulgence and one final clear out ahead of a period of abstinence so it’s right that we treat these golden fluffy discs with the respect they deserve and not just adorn them with boring lemon juice and a dusting of sugar. The mark of a Top Tosser lies in the Top Tosser’s toppings and there’s really no excuse to be boring any more with a host of exciting fillings and toppings at our disposal.

The only question is: how will you eat yours?

Will you go savoury and have a melted cheese, bacon and maple syrup monstrosity or a delicate Feta and pine nut feed?

Now I’m a simple man so I keep my pancakes simple but it has to be great quality otherwise I’d be doing a disservice to one of my favourite days in the calendar. So this year I will be using a recipe from DGH Chocolatier and making my own Chocolate Spread with Hazelnut:

Ingredients

  • 100g Dark Chocolate (Fairtrade 70%)
  • 397g Condensed Milk
  • 4 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil (Non GM)
  • 200g Blanched Hazelnuts
  • 100g Milk Chocolate (Fairtrade)

Method

Step 1
First preheat your oven as 180C. Scatter the hazelnuts on a baking sheet.
Toast the hazelnuts in the oven for 5 minutes until they are brown. Leave to cool.
Process the hazelnuts in a food processor until they are finely ground.
Step 2
Chop your chocolate into small chunks
Place the chocolate, condensed milk and oil together in a microwave proof bowl
Blast for 20 seconds on full power stir together repeat until amalgamated.
Step 3
Add the hazelnuts and a pinch of salt and 6tbsps of hot water.
Blend with a stick blender (or beat by hand) until it is at a spreadable consistency.
Step 4
Sterilise your jam jars with boiling water.
Spoon the chocolate spread into the hot sterilised jars while the spread is still warm.
Leave to cool with the lids off and then seal.
Decorate the jars with a label with and use by date
This can be kept in the fridge for up to a month.

http://www.coeurdexocolat.com/hazelnut

Enjoy!

Northern Munkee.

Whitworthless…

Product Review: Whitworth’s Fusions Chilli Nutty Coco-Chaos

This post is a product review on one of my favourite category: snacking! The world of snacking is fast-paced, ever evolving and always exciting however, that doesn’t mean that all innovation is good innovation! In my role as a Food Buyer I saw hundreds of pitches from companies, big and small, with their idea of what the next big snacking movement was and how it was going to change the face of the category and add incremental value to my business. I can think of just one pitch that actually delivered on that claim in the snacking category.

I’m always looking for new things to review and new ways to enjoy snacking and I thought I’d found something tasty and interesting in Whitworth’s Fusion…

Rating: 4/10

Packaging

Whitworth’s are a large business and the packaging is spot on trend as you’d imagine with a company of their size. The re-sealable foil, stand-up format is perfect for the sharing snacks category and gives it great impact on shelf. The pack imaging and messaging is also spot on giving the shopper a sense of the freshness of the food inside and captures the essence of what they’re trying to achieve with the fusion of flavours.

Delivery

 I was disappointed by the delivery of this product. Fusion flavours and textures are right for snacking at the moment and there are many great examples of this working out in the industry; however, I think the flavour profile of this product missed. The ‘chilli’ element of the whole product was a very salty dusting on the almonds which didn’t blend well with the other flavours. The chocolate used was dark, which I think is the right format, but very powdery and didn’t melt to the touch or taste which indicates to me that it hasn’t been cared for in the production process. True to form the cashews and soft fruits were fabulous, as are all similar products from Whitworth’s. I persevered through the bag with a nice crisp cider but the most interesting thing about the whole proposition, the chilli almonds, ended up being discarded in the empty bottle.

Verdict – in a word, disappointing. I don’t want to be too downbeat about Whitworth’s as a company because their portfolio is really good, in particular their on-the-go Shots, but this just didn’t hit the mark. With a few tweaks to the flavours I think they could be onto a winner; perhaps a chilli chocolate as opposed to an overly salty dust.

Northern Munkee.

Coconutty!

Product Review: Organic Buko Coconut Jam

The spreads market in the UK is going through an interesting transition with traditional fruit jams being picked up less and less frequently. Most large manufacturers have set off on a race to the bottom on price which is no good for the shopper or the market place as jars get smaller, quality gets poorer and jobs become more fragile.

So what does the market need? Value. Who is going to drive this value? Small producers with the ability to be flexible. How will they drive it? By being different.

There has been a real surge in the popularity of anything either nutty or chocolatey which is now bringing more shoppers back to the shelf to buy spreads. There has also been an advance made by new sub-categories, hybrids if you like, which take an element of the familiar and blend it with the unfamiliar. For example Tesco have launched a strong range of their own branded biscuit spreads including Custard Creams and Cookies & Cream.

It was inevitable that someone was going to bring coconut to the fixture sooner rather than later; it’s been a bit of phenomenon everywhere else! I remember receiving a jar of coconut butter from Vita Coco when I was a buyer with a generic marketing flyer which said that you could eat it, drink it, cook with it, wash with it, moisturise with it or put it in your hair. Now, I get that it’s versatile but that sort of thing doesn’t sit right with me. I don’t want to put the same thing in my mouth that I do on my feet; I’ve only just got over the confusion The Body Shop caused me with tasty looking soaps. Call me old fashioned but I need to know what’s what; I’m not going to start putting Lynx shower gel on my chips or exfoliating with Rice Krispies. I digress…

When I saw the Buko Coconut Jam I just had to know what it tastes like…

Rating: 7/10

Appeals to: bakers, health fanatics and competent cooks

Packaging

The jar doesn’t look like a traditional jam jar but it would serve to break up the ‘noise’ on the fixture well. The label is quite small so it would force a shopper to pick it up to engage with it however it does simply and quickly highlight its USPs.

Price

£4.49 – this prices the product at the premium end of the market so Buko Organic will really be working on the emotional purchase to get shoppers to see passed the price point. It will add value back into the category and the price point may automatically exclude some retailers which will enhance the premium, exclusivity for consumers.

Delivery

I really didn’t know what to expect when I opened each jar, but I certainty wasn’t expecting what I saw. Even though I had read the ingredients beforehand I still expected a fruit jam-esque texture; it’s nothing like that. Imagine the coconut is the fruit in this jam. It creates something that I can only describe as a cross between cream cheese, chocolate spread and cocoa butter. You couldn’t spread it on toast; so I kept it simple and just grabbed a spoon!

Original

This is a really thick, deep coloured spread. The first flavour that hits the front of your mouth is a sweet caramel that melts around the tongue. The coconut notes follow up and linger for a few seconds.

Chocolate

You initially get an intense cocoa hit which quickly fades and is followed again by the chewy coconut. Don’t think Bounty, instead think Bounty, melted and mixed with dulce de leche.

Sea Salted

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I’d enjoy this one but it was my favourite! It was lighter than the first two and the sea salt served to emphasise an initial sweetness. Really good.

Verdict – in a word, coconutty! I wasn’t sure what to expect with this and the word ‘jam’ may be a little misleading. However, I think it’s a brilliant product, absolutely on trend and would work fabulously as an ice cream topper, in baking or cooking ingredient. As an added slice of goodness the products are Soil Association certified, GMO free, low in cholesterol and preservative free. There’s also a fantastic incentive for eco-warriors as every jar sold saves a square metre of rainforest due to a partnership with green lifestyle brand Cuipo.

Details: http://www.organicbuko.com

Northern Munkee.