Hotel Chocolat Pasta and Pesto

Hotel Chocolat pasta and pesto

I was recently approached to review items for Hotel Chocolat. There were some lovely Christmas chocolates that I could have quite happily chomped on, but what really caught my eye was their cocoa pasta and pesto. I was intrigued. They arrived beautifully presented and the girls were immediately interested. Well, of course they were, the bag had the word chocolat on it. I had planned roast chicken for tea and the girls were eager to try the cocoa pasta. The pesto is what it says on the bottle – a basil pesto with added cocoa nibs. So I boiled the pasta and stirred in the pesto. A simple, quick solution for an unusual dinner. I have to admit the first taste was unusual. The pesto is quite bitter. But, a few bites in and I was more convinced and Mr OC agreed saying that he thought I had gone mad at first but that the pasta/pesto combo was really quite delicious. I think the slight bitterness of the cocoa nibs in the pesto was a step too far for the girls though with their less adventurous palates.

I made a dip to go with the chicken too, by mixing an equal amount of mayonnaise and natural yoghurt together and adding pesto to taste. This edged out the bitterness of the cocoa nibs and made a very good dip indeed. I will be having this a lot.

The next day, the family were coming for fireworks in the garden and so I cooked the remaining pasta and made a chocolate custard, mixed the two together and served cold with brandied cherries that I had frozen after making cherry brandy. This was a great success, the pasta adding a bit of bite to the dessert. The cherries made a lovely addition but the dessert would stand well enough on its own.

cocoa pasta and chocolate custard

125g cocoa pasta

100g 70% chocolate
300ml double or single cream
4 egg yolks
1 tsp cornflour
1 tablespoon caster sugar


Boil the pasta in a large pan of boiling water until al dente (it must have a slight bite to it). Drain and set aside.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave.

Pour the cream into a heavy based saucepan and bring just to the boil. In the meantime combine the egg yolks, cornflour and caster sugar in another bowl. Add the hot cream in a steady stream to the eggs and whisk all the time to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Wash out the saucepan and then add the cream and egg mixture to the pan and whisk over a gentle to medium heat until the custard thickens. Whisk in the slightly cooled melted chocolate. Add the pasta to the custard and place into a serving dish. Grate chocolate over the top. Place in the fridge until you are ready to serve.

I really enjoyed trying these items, so thank you to Hotel Chocolat for the opportunity.

I received the items in the top photograph for free from Hotel Chocolat for the purposes of review. I was not paid for this review. All opinions are my own and are honest. 

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Chef’s Jacket from Viking

I was approached by the PR team from Viking to see if I would review an item from their culinary range . I had a look through their online selection and there were a lot of things I wanted to try out, but my eye was caught by the chef’s jacket.

I have a plan. In my last post I explained how I have been a stay at home mum for the past five years, keeping my hand in with this blog and volunteering at the local museum and my girls’ school. It’s time for a change though, before I get too stuck in a rut. We have the summer holidays hovering ahead of us. I am going to take this time to decide which way I should go. I can try to get back into the old career and get a full-time job. This option would mean a big life change for all of us but especially the girls.

The second option is to set up my kitchen and dining room as a home bakery, selling bread and cakes locally and running cookery lessons. This would allow more flexibility around the girls.

I have been doing my research into this second option and getting organised so that I can launch shortly after the girls start school again in September.

I have taken my Food Hygiene training in preparation which highlighted the importance of wearing clean, tidy clothing and preferably something that covered your ordinary clothing to protect the food from contamination.

The chef’s jacket then will be my uniform. It is manufactured by Alexandra and is unisex so can be buttoned either the female or male way. It is long enough to protect the bread from contact with my normal clothing. It appears to be tough enough to withstand the regular washing that it will need. I am pleased with the quality of it for the reasonable cost of £14.39 inclusive of VAT. I look forward to testing it fully in the future.

chef's jacket

I was not paid for this review but I did receive the chef’s jacket for free from Viking. All the opinions are my own and are honest.

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Review of Urban Coffee Connoisseurs

I was asked if I would like to review the coffee available to members of the Urban Coffee Company’s Coffee Connoisseurs Tasting Club. They sent me a free sample of this month’s coffee selection; 2 x 125g bags of ground coffee with tasting notes.

I accepted because I like coffee and I like the idea behind this company, a locally grown independent coffee company that wants to compete with Starbucks and Costa. They currently have two cafes (they prefer the word emporiums) in Birmingham. I haven’t visited their emporiums yet as it is a rare event for me to visit Birmingham these days ( I used to spend a vast amount of time there before I stopped work to look after the children), but I like the idea of their knit and natter events on a saturday very much.

I like the idea of a coffee tasting club too.  There are chocolate tasting clubs, but this is the first time I have heard of a coffee tasting club.

The box arrived and the smell emanating from it was intoxicating. One coffee is from Nicaragua and the other from Mexico, both have use by dates of one month and by two weeks from the date opened.

The tasting notes give details of the coffee farms including their sea level and a little general information about Nicaraguan and Mexican coffee. I like this bit very much.  It is interesting to know exactly where your coffee comes from. The Head Barista then gives you his take on the coffee. The Nicaraguan has “a caramelised sugar, nuts and chocolate taste, with a cinnamon stick spice note. It’s quite balanced, not overly acidic, with very pleasant bitter-sweet qualities”.  There is also advice about the best way to make and store the coffee.

Both coffees are good, but my favourite was the Nicaraguan.

The coffee comes ready ground, unless you request beans at the point of ordering.  The beans have been ground to medium/coarse which they state makes them perfect for most types of home brewing, although they recommend a coffee press, drip brewer or siphon. I have used my Gaggia and a cafetière  with these coffees and I found that the Gaggia worked OK but the grind was too fine for my cafetière, leaving grinds in my coffee, which I could taste throughout the cup.  I would prefer beans that I could grind myself to the grind that suited either my Gaggia or my cafetière. Having beans would also mean that the coffee would stay fresher for longer than the two weeks they recommend.

If I was stuck for buying a present for a coffee lover then I think this would be a good gift. Although, depending on the length of subscription each bag will cost you between £5.00 and £4.25, which is on the expensive side for a 125g bag.  The tasting club concept is a good one though.  It gives you the opportunity to sample coffees that you probably wouldn’t otherwise try.  I understand that you also receive a scorecard, but I didn’t have one of those in my free sample.  So, if you are that way inclined you could give a score for each coffee and submit your score back to the Urban Coffee Company.  I think they could develop this aspect with tasting club members giving their feedback via social media.  This would give a greater value to the members of the tasting club as you could see whether you agree with other members and would benefit the company giving their tasting club greater PR visibility.  Perhaps they should employ me as an ideas person?

I was not paid to do this review, but I did receive a free sample of 2 x 125ml bags of coffee. I have included links to my Amazon store, which if you purchase the items after clicking from my site I will receive a referral fee at no cost to you.


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