Tag Archives: Chocolate

Now it’s OK to eat Butter – what else is good for us?

Full Fat Milk and Butter are now OK

And for my money, British Jersey cows produce the best!jersey cattle society‘,

After years of telling us to eat ‘spreads’, the food police now say it’s OK to eat Butter – and in fact full-fat milk is probably better for us than skimmed! Continue reading

How I lost weight

After Tamoxifen piled on the kilos

Like most fellow cancer patients, I felt pretty glum with extra weight piling on ……..

Until I decided to stop calorie counting.

fruitIn the back of my mind something was niggling, so I decided to ditch ready-meals and ‘Light’ products; and anything that advertised itself as ‘natural’; ‘healthy snack’ or fet-free I looked at very carefully.

Look at the contents list on packaged food, and see how high up sugar or sugar-substitutes are listed;  the higher up the list the more sugar in the product.

Instead I was going to opt for fresh veg, easy-to-prepare meat and egg dishes, and ‘ordinary’ yoghourt. Oh – and I use butter instead of ‘Light’ spreads.

Three months later when a Nurse announced the dreaded “we need to check your weight” – there was something wrong with the scales (so I thought).  I weighed two kilos less than my usual blub.  Next time another couple of kilos had disappeared – until a year after I decided to stop counting, I found I had lost nine kilos. I have no idea if my ‘new’ regime was the foundation, but my skin certainly is clearer, and I am less blobby! All because I had stopped worrying;  no more calorie counting – no ‘reduced fat’ products, etc. Instead, I found I was less hungry;  didn’t constantly want to snack, and was eating less ‘guilty’ products.

So what was I eating?

Organic ‘whole’ milk; butter and olive oil, not spreads, tomato juice instead of Smoothies and orange juice;  no ‘Ready Meals’ – instead I make my own with organic veg and fresh meat.  I don’t often eat Pork or bacon, but do eat free range chicken and fish. Now, I sometimes pick up a ready-prepared meal – read the list of ingredients and hastily thrust it back. Actually reading the list really puts you off!

I don’t often eat ‘fast food’, especially curries and own-brand pizza (which often contain hidden sugar to enhance flavour).   According to the Daily Mail, Tesco’s Thin Crust Hawaiian Pizza contains 4 tsps sugar; Sharwoods Sweet and Sour chicken with rice a massive 5 1/2 tsps sugar.

I avoid yoghourts, cheeses etc. that say they are ‘Light’;  instead I eat a smaller portion of ‘proper’, old-fashioned yoghourt, cheese etc., and not only does this seem to work but it tastes better! But I am well in to dark chocolate – never Milk. But find I don’t grab a snack so often.

And I try and avoid fizzy drinks and ‘sports’ drinks  – many contain lethal amounts of sugar.

And I have lost 9 kilos !


History of Chocolate

The original Sachertorte, as served at Vienna'...

Image via Wikipedia

It’s the world’s favourite indulgence – so where did it come from?


Chocolate is probably the world’s favourite treat, and medical research is starting to admit – grudgingly – that dark 70% chocolate might – just might be good for us.

But until the 1600s, no-one in Europe had ever tasted this exotic food.

Xocolatl! or Chocolate as it became known, was brought to Europe by Cortez, after a voyage to the Americas.  His sailors had seen how natives gathered the cocoa beans growing on trees, ground them up and made them into a prized spicy brew with water and chillis.

This wasn’t exactly to Spanish tastes, but their cooks soon turned it into the drink we know today by mixing the ground roasted beans in milk, with sugar and vanilla, offsetting the spicy bitterness of the brew the Aztecs drank.

But it was some time before a Quaker called Fry developed the ingredients into a simple-to-eat chocolate bar that we rely on for a quick snack, for comfort food etc.

The first chocolate factories opened in Spain, where the dried fermented beans brought back from the new world by the Spanish treasure fleets were roasted and ground, and by the early 17th century chocolate powder – from which the European version of the drink was made – was being exported to other parts of Europe. The Spanish kept the source of the drink – the beans – a secret for many years, but the Cocoa beverage made from the powder produced in Spain became popular throughout Europe, and eventually it arrived in England.

The first Chocolate House in England opened in London in 1657 followed rapidly by many others. Like the already well established coffee houses, they were used as clubs where the wealthy and business community met to smoke a clay pipe of tobacco, conduct business and socialise over a cup of chocolate.

Eventually things went full circle when English colonists carried chocolate (and coffee) with them to England’s colonies in North America. Today, the U.S.A. and Canada are now the worlds largest consumers Chocolate and Coffee, consuming over half of the words total production of chocolate alone.

Originally the public took chocolate as a drink, but Joseph Fry, head of the chocolate firm founded in Bristol in 1728, is credited with turning the cocoa powder into a solid block – and so invented the chocolate bar.


In Britain it was Quakers that made chocolate popular.  Because of their pacifist beliefs, they were forbidden from practicising professions such as law or medicine.  So Quakers turned to business, and founded many famous firms  such as Clarks Shoes, Huntley and Palmers biscuits, Wedgewood, etc.

Today, some of the most famous brands in confectionery in the world developed from Quaker enterprises.  You only have to look through the famous names such as Fry, Cadbury, Fox, Terry’s and Rowntree to see the hold they had on the industry.  Now Cadbury has been taken over by Kraft Foods, and Rowntree ( who invented Kit Kat bars) are part of the giant Swiss Nestlé corporation – but their names remain.

These firms still survive today, and even though they are now part of multi-national corporations, Bourneville, the  village built for the Cadbury workers, still has no pub (Quakers don’t drink), and the Rowntree Foundation is one of Britain’s most influential charitable bodies.


By the end of the 17th century fashionable ladies would drink chocolate in bed each morning, so silversmiths made special chocolate pots for serving the drink.  These were similar to a coffee pot, but with a long stirrer in the lid, as the drink separates when left standing.  Because of this unique feature, chocolate pots go for higher prices than coffee pots, and dealer Daniel Bexfield recently sold a German one from Augsburg, made in 1796, for £6,750.

One of the most famous chocolate houses in London was founded in 1693 by an Italian immigrant Francesco Bianco.  He anglicised his name to White, and called named his house in Chesterfield Street  ‘Mrs. White’s’ – probably after his wife.  This was very much a political gathering place for the Tory party (at one time it was known as the Tory Party unofficial headquarters), and, being in the middle of Mayfair, it was frequented by the aristocracy who lived nearby.

Eventually, around 1778,  White’s moved to larger premises at 37-38 St. James’s Street , also in Mayfair, and became  an exclusive club, whose members today include dukes, Rothschilds, Prince Charles, etc. Ironically (remembering its original name) it is men-only, and recently David Cameron resigned because they wouldn’t agree to admit women.

During the early 1800s Beau Brummel would sit in its famous bow window (still to be seen today near the top of St. James’ on right hand side), watching friends pass by in the street.  Sitting in this same window, Lord Alvanley once bet £3,000 with a friend on which of two raindrops would first reach the bottom of the bow window panes.  Gambling was still popular at White’s, and there was even a book in which to record bets.

During the 19th century chocolate began to be sold by apothecaries in Britain, as it was considered a medicinal tonic. Up until then people had often drunk ale or beer, so chocolate was bound to be better for them.


In Austria hot chocolate was definitely one of life’s pleasures, but here the story takes a twist.  When statesman Prince Metternich was entertaining important guests, he ordered the creation of a special dessert, warning his chef, “take care that you do NOT make me look a fool tonight”.  But the chef fell ill, and it was a 16-year-old apprentice, Franz Sacher, who came up with the superb Sacher-Torte.

Consisting of two layers of dense, chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam in the middle, and dark chocolate icing on the top and sides, he served it with whipped cream, and the cake was a hit. (see photo above).

Eventually his son built the Hotel Sacher in 1876, where this cake was served in the restaurant.  But someone stole the recipe, and until 1965, Hotel Sacher was involved in a long legal battle with the pastry shop Demel, who said they had the “Original Sachertorte.”  Eventually Sacher won the legal battle, and Demel’s cake has to have its layer of apricot jam under the chocolate cover, not in the middle.


In 1763 a businessman opened a chocolate shop in Turin, Italy, opposite the Church of Consolata.  No-one knows why, but unusually for that time, he had women run it, when normally they would have only been waitresses.  The shop thrived, the tradition still lives on, and today it is still run by women.

The shop became famous for the special Bicerin drink they invented.  At that time the Church was strict about fasting (no food) during Holy Days, but as chocolate wasn’t considered a food, customers flocked after Church services to drink their special concoction of made layers of coffee, chocolate, milk and syrup, carefully poured over a spoon, and served in a glass called a bicerin – hence the name today of the drink, and the chocolate shop.

Throughout its history, making chocolate was very much a family tradition, and the same family names are still to be found across Europe.  Dutchman Coenraad van Houten patented a method for extracting the fat from cocoa beans and making powdered cocoa. Joseph Fry made the first chocolate bar for eating in 1847, followed in 1849 by the Cadbury brothers.  And in Switzerland Daniel Peter experimented with milk as an ingredient, assisted a neighbour, Henri Nestle, and developed the familiar Swiss Milk Chocolate.

Even the Draps family, famous for the Belgian Godiva chocolates, are still involved.  Some time ago they sold their company to Campbells Soups – who in turn sold to a Turkish company.  But today they have a charming Chocolate Museum off the Grand’ Place in Brussels, where you can see chocolate being made, and Madame Draps has some of her fabulous collection of chocolate pots on show.

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This is a twist on the carrot-cake idea – and less fattening!
Use unseasoned, non-vinegary beetroot you can get in vacuum packs – or you can cook your own (but it takes an age)
300g unseasoned beetroot
125 grms ground almonds
4 tpsp Acacia Honey
4 free-range eggs
1 tbsp pure cocoa
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp baking powder
125 grms dark chocolate (70%)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
23cm round cake tin – lined with greaseproof paper and greased sides
Turn oven on to 180C
Use blender – whizz up chopped up beetreet, egs, honey, cocoa powder, vanilla, baking powder for about 3 – 4 minutes until smooth and creamy.
Melt chocolate and olive oil carefully over hot water, and add to mixture.

Pour into cake tin, bake in oven for 35-40 minutes (insert skewer or small knife in to test)

.Remove – let cool and turn out carefully – and enjoy!

Keeping up your strength when eating is last thing you want to do

French toast served at Mac's Restaurant in Roc...
French Toast    Wikipedia

How to ‘cheat’ when you don’t feel like eating

Being put on bisphosphonates was making me feel really low.    I wasn’t feeling too good, having been told that the dreaded Osteoporosis had arrived in my bones, and then to be given  tablets with all the ‘dos and don’t’ was just about the end.

I thought of taking up residence in the bathroom – it would have saved me the mad dash whenever I was sick.  I was put first on one type of drug – then another – and another.  Then, when I thought the one good thing would be that I would lose weight – this didn’t happen.  In fact I got a swollen tummy and felt really miserable.

Chocolate and TUC biscuits was the only food I could keep down;  that really would have made any dietician cringe.  But when I phoned up the Marsden’s dieticians in desperation, and got to speak to Carol Lane, she talked so much sense she made me feel miles better.

Telling me not to worry about losing weight, she said the best thing for me whilst I was being so sick was to eat what I could keep down, and then went on to list lots of lovely sounding things that would also be good for me.  Sweet food was easier to keep down, and I could tolerate softish puddings, provided they didn’t have any citrus fruit in  them.  So she recommended:

Egg Custard (contains eggs which are good for you)

Creme Caramel

Milk and rice puddings

Ice cream

Creamy Yoghurts

bread and butter pudding (made with an egg)

Chocolate Trifle

even Chocolate  cake!

She then sent me a booklet called ‘Eating Well when you have cancer‘, which is full of sensible ideas, and I am working my way through this.  Because I am no longer worried about gaining weight, I have actually lost two kilos and have stopped worrying, especially as the booklet advises “it is not good to lose weight during treatment as it may make you more susceptible to infections…”.   Being told that I didn’t have to worry stopped the worry – and I can feel weight dropping off ounce by ounce.

In return I was able to tell Carol that I could tolerate Lillipops http://after-cancer.com/mouth-and-nausea-problems/banish-that-nausea/which helped when the nausea was overwhelming and I couldn’t even keep nausea tablets down.

If you want a copy of this very helpful and sensible booklet, ask your hospital dietician or information centre, or contact the Royal Marsden on 020 7352 8171.

And I like the book because it reminded me of an old childhood favourite, Poor Knights of Windsor (although the booklet calls it French toast).

The story goes that the King provided lodgings at Windsor Castle for old soldiers who had served him well as his knights, but as these old boys were often poor, they ate a dish made of old bread (one or two days old), soaked in milk and beaten egg, with sugar or jam spread thinly on the top.  You can bake this in the oven, or fry it in a little butter, and it is a very good way of ingesting milk and eggs!

If you go to Windsor Castle there are still Poor Knights living in the cottages on the hill facing St. George’s Chapel.  Although today the title is an honorary one, and they don’t seem very poor!

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How to make an indulgent chocolate pud!



It’s that time of year when thoughts turn to Valentines – so if you want to make a traditional gooey chocolate pud – this is my favourite recipe.

I am not going to deny that this is full  of calories, but whenever I make it for a fund-raising dinner, somehow the money floats in!

Recently I was asked to write this out for two cookery books to raise funds for cancer, as it is relatively easy to make.

for 6 greedy people!

225g/8oz dark chocolate  (60-70% cocoa )
5 free-range eggs
100g/3½oz golden caster sugar
170g/6oz unsalted butter
vanilla essence or vanilla pod

splash or glug of brandy, cointreau or Grand Marnier – or one of the cream based chocolate or coffee liqueurs

To serve   Creme fraiche, cream or chocolate shavings to decorate top


1. Place a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water (important that the water shouldn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and gently melt the chocolate in the bowl.  Crack the eggs, slip the yolks into the chocolate when it is melted, beat in, and remove from the heat.  Cool slightly. (Some people prefer to remove chocolate from heat and then add eggs, but oObviously you must be careful to see egg yolks are cooked if anyone is eating it that is pregnant, etc.

2.  Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat.

3. Whisk the melted butter into the chocolate mixture. If it gets too thick, add a couple of tablespoons of water – or brandy, etc.

4. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites (use electric whisk if you have one) .  When stiff, fold in sugar very carefully so it stays as stiff as possible.

7. Carefully fold the chocolate mixturte into the  egg whites with a metal or silver spoon, along with a few drops of vanilla essence or the seeds from inside a vanilla pod.  Add any brandy etc. to taste.

8. Spoon the chocolate mixture into pretty bowl and put in fridge.  It needs 3-4 hours to ‘set’, but you can make this day before and it will keep for at least 24 – 48 hours – provided you put a lock on the fridge door!

9. To serve, float cream on top, or add chocolate shavings.   If you want another – less rich -pud, thin orange slices goes well with this.

If you want a slightly lighter pud, you can add one or two extra stiffly-whipped egg whites.

Enjoy! And don’t forget that scientists now say that dark chocolate in moderation is good for us.  Problem is, I don’t think I do ‘moderation’ when it comes to chocolate!

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More good news on Chocolate!

Chocolate-lovers – rejoice!

Amongst all the doom and gloom, a news item this week announced that scientists have found that eating chocolate might prevent some strokes.

Next week the American Academy of Neurology will listen to a paper at its annual meeting, in which author Sarah Sahib will tell the delegates that a study of nearly 50,000 people found that those eating chocolate were 22% less likely to suffer a stroke if they ate a small amount regularly.

As Sarah herself admits, “more reseasrch is needed to determine whether chocolate truly lowers stroke risk, or whether healthier people are simply more likely to eat chocolate”.

But in the meantime I can dig into a box with a slightly eased conscience!

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