Sunday, July 6

Spiced chilli truffles,feel good sweet treats............

Who doesn't love chocolate? I mean, really, even those who profess not to have a sweet tooth (myself included) cant usually resist a little sweet treat. Sometimes its the dark fancy stuff, sometimes it cheap and cheerful milk (my own illicit pleasure when I lived in London was a Yorkie bar, even if its not for girls!). I dont really think of white chocolate as being chocolate at all, but lets not get technical.
I was thrilled to receive a box of gorgeous Fairtrade and Tradeaid products recently, and was inspired by the fabulous choice of chocolate, cocoa powder and cinnamon to make these truffles for a friends birthday. They would be perfect to make for your friends/family/someone you want to impress, for the Big Fair Bake which is from 1-18 August, please check it out!
They are rich and creamy, and incredibly easy to make. As you can see from the picture I dont faff around rolling the mixture into balls, buy simply cut it into chunks. This is mainly because I have never managed to roll a truffle without covering myself, the kitchen and even a passing husband in cocoa powder. You may be technically more proficient with cocoa powder, or you dont mind spending hours cleaning your kitchen, either way suit yourself.

The chocolate is simply melted with cream which has been infused with spice and chilli, then set until firm, cut and dusted in a cocoa spice powder. Easy, and completely addictive.

Gently Spiced Chilli Chocolate Truffles

makes plenty, they keep brilliantly in the freezer

500 gr dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids if you can)
200 gr milk chocolate
Pinch sea salt
Pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch allspice
Pinch nutmeg (fresh ground is best)
5 cloves
Large pinch of chilli flakes or use a whole dried chilli
500 ml cream
Small knob of unsalted butter

Spice dust
2 tbsp cocoa powder
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp chilli powder
Zest of a small orange
Large pinch of sea salt

Heat the cream with the cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg and chilli to almost boiling, then take off the heat and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile put the chocolates and salt in a large heatproof bowl.
Once the cream has had a chance to take on the spice flavours, pop it back on the heat and bring back up to nearly boiling. Pour through a strainer onto the chocolate, and whisk while it melts. Add the butter and continue whisking until you have a glossy mixture. Taste and if you feel like it needs a little more heat add another pinch of chilli flakes. You are looking for a gentle taste of spice with a little bit of heat at the end.

Pour into a tin lined with baking paper or cling film and pop into the freezer for about 1 hour until very firm.
To make your spice dust, simply mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl. This will keep for ages in a small jar in your pantry.

Turn out onto a board sprinkled with your spice dust ,and cut into appropriately sized truffles (I prefer smaller pieces, but you may prefer larger chunks!) Dust the truffles with more spice mix and serve. I put tiny paper cases into a tin, with a truffle in each one to give as a gift, but you could serve simply on a wooden or slate board.

Delicious with a glass of port or whiskey after dinner

You can keep uneaten truffles in a tightly sealed bag in your freezer to pull out as needed, simply dust with more spice mix and serve chilled, yum! 

Wednesday, July 2

Brazilian Cheese Balls, not footballs.........

There is a footie tournament on at the moment, have you heard?  In Brazil, where football (not soccer my friends) is a form of demi-religion, a bit like rugby here ......when the All Blacks are winning anyway.
Being married to a fan, I know more about the round ball game than I any girl needs (he’s also keen on the NRL so any questions about that you want answered just pop on a postcard....), but Brazilian food is a bit of a mystery. My first experience of a caipirinha was made by a friend who had lived in Brasilia for several years as a student, it was delicious of course. But I suspect I’m not the only person who hasn’t progressed much past that.

So I have really been enjoying Andy Bates Street Feasts in Brazil, currently playing on the Travel Channel. I love his enthusiasm, and of course it’s always exciting finding out about food you never even knew existed. And boy have I uncovered a gem. Balls of cheesy chewy goodness, which coincidentally are made for sports viewing. I have actually tried these once before, at a book reading but I didn’t actually know where they came from. After watching them made on Street Feasts I realised that was what we had, and how easy they are to make. 

Now I would not normally recommend a more obscure ingredient , but believe it or not I actually found the secret ingredient to these treats at my local supermarket. It is called manioc flour, and is made from cassava. Cassava has been a staple food since pre-Columbian times in Central and South America, and was introduced into Africa by Portuguese slave traders from Brazil. The root is a dense carbohydrate source, and grows well in poor soil. As such, it has become staple food stuff in many part of the Americas and Africa, and an important source of income.
***update*** I contacted the NZ importers of the flour, they sell it and other brazilian foodstuffs direct to the public online at

But the most arresting fact about certain types of cassava is the work required to make it non-poisonous. Bitter cassava varieties must be processed correctly, often by soaking and boiling multiple times, to detoxify them. Which of course begs the question, who figured that out? I am always fascinated when I come across food that required processing to make it edible and/or non toxic. Mouldy cheese, soured milk, fish so minging it makes the can bulge....who wakes up one morning and thinks “oh lovely, I’ll have a bit of that??”

Thankfully someone did, and now you get to eat the yummiest cheese snacks I have come across. Don't worry, perfectly safe to eat! They are super easy to make, and are ideal for people who cannot tolerate gluten,( manioc four is gluten free), providing a lovely chewy texture, somewhere between a choux pastry gougere and a cheese bun. What is not to love......

Brazilian Cheese Balls  (based on a recipe from Andy Bates Street Feasts)
makes about 48

200 grams Manioc Flour (the brand I use has labelled it Sour Starch)
200 grams cheese- I used good old Tasty Cheddar
3 eggs
25 grams soft butter
A splash or two of milk

The flour is slightly grainier than wheat flour, and has a texture more like cornflour. Pop into a bowl with the cheese and rub together, as if you were making pastry. You can do this by hand, or put the ingredients into the food processor and whizz together briefly. 

You are looking for a texture similar to breadcrumbs.

If you are using a food processor, take the mixture out and put it into a large bowl. Add the eggs, butter and a little splash of milk, bringing everything together with a knife. Once it is starting to come together (it will look like yellow scone dough) get in with your hands and work the mixture to a soft dough, adding more milk if necessary. Now I won’t lie, the aroma is quite “cheesy”, the flour has a slightly sour smell which I found a teeny bit odd at first. But once it is baked it does not smell any thing but delicious, trust me.
Using your hands, roll into balls about the size of a walnut and pop into mini muffin pans which have been greased/sprayed with oil. If you don’t have mini muffin tins just bake on a tray greased or lined with baking paper.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for about 15 minutes until golden.

The outside will be crunchy with a soft slightly gooey middle. I served them with a tomato chili jam for dipping, but they are delicious as is. They would also be great with soup or as part of an antipasto platter.

The mixture does make a large batch, so if you don’t need them all at once (do however bear in mind they are very moreish), freeze the uncooked balls on a tray then store in a bag or container; they can be cooked straight from frozen.

Have I convinced you? Please try them, with a caipirinha if you can, for a perfect intro to Brazilian food. Now, lets see if there is some football on the telly.......