Part of a collection of recipes I’m calling My Purple Passion
I had been knocking around in my head the idea for this cocktail ever since I made the Cherry Brandy Brownie. There was something so heady about the combination of cherry and chocolate that sent me off in search of a cocktail that would make the most of those flavours in a truly adult way.
If you’ve ever read my Tea with Granny series of blog posts, you’ll know that Black Forest Gateaux holds a very dear and special place in my heart. I also created for you one of the best cake recipes I’ve ever concocted as a ridiculously sumptuous version of an old classic. Check out those posts HERE and HERE. So, in a way, this cocktail is like a Black Forest Gateaux but in a drinkable form and oh so adulty!
What took me so long in getting round to making it was trying to figure out how, in the middle of a pandemic, could I get my hands on a Chocolate Bitter. In the end I decided to make my own using just three ingredients and one patient week of waiting. The good news though is that, like with all bitters, you only need a little to go a long way, so you’ll have enough for 6 cocktails with what you make here.
Equipment wise, you’ll need a cocktail shaker – my current one is plastic and broken so you know, whatever works…even a clean jam jar with a tight fitting lid would work. Something to accurately measure your measures with, lots and lot of ice and a fancy pants glass to drink from. Simples.
Ingredients: Makes 1 Cocktail
For the Homemade Chocolate Bitters
1 tbsp of roasted cocoa nibs
1 tbsp of cocoa husks (also known as Cocoa Husk Tea)
Enough Irish whiskey to cover fully – about 150 ml
Part of a collection of recipes I’m calling My Purple Passion
So, I hold a deep conflict when it comes to anything Goaty. If I ever have enough land to keep animals, the first thing on my list would be a goat. They are such lovely creatures – cantankerous but full of personality. When my parents used to live in the Welsh mountains, they had three Cashmere Mountain Goats called Flymo, Black and Decker – I know, you don’t need to say anything. Aside from my parents and their dogs, I always looked forward to seeing the goats. I’ve loved them ever since, but the thing is, I also adore their milk, yogurt, cheese and, yes its true, their meat.
In the past few years, goat meat has been appearing on menus here and there and across the country there are a small number of goat farms raising goats for their meat. It’s been hailed as a sustainable alternative to meat production and consumption, but it isn’t a cheap meat and, for the most part, producers in Ireland mostly service the restaurant industry. But, with Covid-19 that market has been lost to the producers and are focusing their efforts to sell direct to normal customers, like you and me, a lot more. This is great news for those who have been curious about working with goat meat, but found it difficult to source exceptional quality, Irish reared goat to cook with at home.
There is Broughgammon Farm in the north of country, and a scattering of others around the midlands. Down south is the wonderful Ballinwillin House in Mitchelstown, Co Cork. On this farm on an old estate, Pat and Miriam Mulcahy produce wild boar, venison, beef and goat meat all grass fed and semi-free range. Everything happens on site, including their own abattoir, butchery and smokehouse. In terms of production, it has virtually zero food miles – that and, of course, it is meat of the most exceptional quality.
Thanks, in part, to Covid-19, Ballinwillin House is now selling their produce through Neighbourfood – an excellent initiative that I have championed since the first collection day in the Old Apple Market in Cork city on a bitterly cold and wet winters’ evening in 2018. Ballinwillin are a newcomer to our corner of the world here, through Neighbourfood. Choosing items for my weekly order, I stumbled upon their Goat Salami. A lover of salami, you can imagine, I was immediately intrigued so that went in the cart. Then I spotted that the lovely Siobhan from St Tola Goats Cheese was also starting to sell that week, and her newest product, St Tola Divine, described as a fresh and creamy goats curd, also caught my eye, so that went in the cart too.
I had a suspicion that these two ingredients would be a dream together: the rich funkiness of the goat salami and the sweet silkiness of the goat curd. And what goes so well with goats cheese? Beetroot of course! And what goes well with beetroot? Fennel and Chili, naturally – a favourite flavour combo of mine that I discovered many years ago when I developed my classic Beetroot, Fennel and Chili Soup (check it out here!).
The only cooking in this dish really is steaming, peeling and slicing the beetroot. But look, if you can’t be bothered to do that you could substitute for those ready cooked and peeled vac-packed beets you can get in the supermarket these days, but you know I’ll always prefer to encourage people to buy beets that have been grown seasonally and locally because, frankly, there is no comparison on taste!
What I will say is this: this dish deserved its place in My Purple Passion collection of recipes. So simple, and so delicious served as a summery shared starter al-fresco in the late evening sunshine. Best served with fresh bread – we found a pillowy focaccia works best.
Ingredients – this will serve 6 – 8 people as a nibbly starter
100 g Ballinwillin House Goat Salami
30 g St Tola Divine Goats Curd
2 large fresh beetroot, steamed, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tsp Maldon sea salt
1/8 tsp fennel seed
1/8 tsp chili flakes
Fresh thyme, leaves and flowers
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
If your beetroots come with their leaves still attached, remove them and save them to use as you would chard or spinach another time.
I find steaming the beetroot whole works best as you don’t lose flavour and is a very gentle way of cooking. Depending on the size of the beetroots, this should take around 30 – 40 minutes. They need to be cooked through, but I prefer the beetroots to retain a small bit of bite to them, but you may prefer them softer still so then cook until completely tender all the way through.
When cooked, allow the beetroots to cool slightly so you can handle them to peel them. I use a small pairing knife to scrape, rather than peel, the skins off. Top and tail and slice thinly using a knife or, if you have one, a mandoline.
In a pestle and mortar, place the salt, fennel seed and chili flakes. Grind into a seasoned salt mix.
Arrange the disks of beetroot on a platter and scattered all over with the salt mix.
Arrange slices of the goat salami on top and add small dabs of St Tola Divine Goats Curd.
Finally, dress with some fresh thyme leaves and flowers if you have them, (they are delightfully pinkish in hue too), and drizzle over with some great quality EVOO.
Serve with focaccia bread, and a glass of crisp, dry white wine.
Part of a collection of recipes I’m calling My Purple Passion
Right back at the beginning of the pandemic, I, on purpose, installed myself on an almost permanent basis in the kitchen. Of course there was the day to day business of cooking enough food to keep up well fed and happy, including snacks, but there was also a backlog of recipes that I was long overdue to test…some for this blog, some for another project I’m working on. I cracked on, cooking dish and dish and generally procrastinating about work and study. Back then I definitely didn’t think I should be reserving my energies and enthusiasm for as long a haul as it has been, and is still yet to come. I guess I just thought I should get through The Backlog as soon as possible before everything returns back to normal. Well, folks, lets just say this: don’t rely on me to predict the future of anything. I’m clearly useless! Anyways, after my fit of cookery began to equalise out to something much more sensible, one evening, scrolling through the seemingly unending collection of photographs of the food cooked over the past 12 weeks, and I noticed a bit of a trend – towards purple food. Purple like: red onions which I am currently addicted to roasting in the wood fire; red cabbage in so many different variations of chopped slaw salads, beetroot and, my favourite fruit of all, cherries.
So this blog post kicks off my homage to these purple foods that have kept me company. Three recipes in total: this ridiculously delicous recipe for a Cherry Chocolate Brownie that is definitely only for adults, a delicious starter of Beetroot, Goat Salami and Goats Curd with Fennel and Chili Salt, and finally my indulgent Cherry Amore cocktail. I hope you enjoy them.
It’s probably not a coincidence, but one of my favourite writers in the world is Alice Walker, and The Color Purple is probably one of my favourite books. One of the most famous lines in the book is thus:
“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”
Now, religious is the last thing I am, but replace God with nature and that’s where you’ll find me!
To kick off proceedings, I made this Cherry Brandy Chocolate Brownie at the very beginning of Lockdown in Ireland. Cherries were coming in season and my friend and Chocolate Maker extraordinaire, Allison Roberts of Exploding Tree, was, (still is), selling Experimenters Kits containing Raw Cocoa Beans, Roasted Cocoa Nibs, Coconut Blossom Sugar, Untempered Cooking Chocolate and a bag of Cocoa Husk Tea. Experimenting with these brownies was the first thing on my list!
I used fresh cherries here, but you could use tinned – just don’t throw away the juice! If you are using fresh cherries, allow at least two days for them to macerate in the juice, sugar and brandy before making the brownie mixture. If course, if you’d like to make these for your precious little ones, just leave out the brandy. Shame, but needs must – this I understand!
Ingredients – makes 12 – 16 brownies depending on portion size!
For the macerated cherries:
125 g cherries, pitted and halved
3 tbsp of coconut blossom sugar or golden caster sugar
150 ml tart organic cherry juice
100 ml brandy
For the brownie mixture:
265 g butter, cubed
265 g dark chocolate – I used Allison’s Oat Milk Chocolate (60%)
125 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
300 g coconut blossom sugar or golden caster sugar
You will also need:
Velvet Cloud Sheeps Yogurt
Retain the liquid from macerating the cherries
More chocolate for grating over
Thick cream whipped to a soft peak
Place all the ingredients for macerating the cherries into a sterilised jar. Close the lid tightly and shake. Leave that to work its magic for at least two days. Give it a shake each day. No need to refrigerate but keep out of direct sunlight or sources of heat.
To make the brownie, preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and line a 22cm square brownie tin.
Place the butter and chocolate in a glass or metal bowl over a gently simmering saucepan of water. Ensure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl, melt gently and stir together. Take off the heat and set aside.
Beat together the eggs and sugar until fluffy, then add the chocolate mixture and stir well to combine.
Mix the baking powder through the flour then add the flour mix to the chocolate and egg mix gradually to ensure a beautifully smooth texture.
Drain, but retain, the liquid from the cherries. Add about half the cherries to the batter mix, stir through then pour into the prepared baking tin.
Place the remaining cherry halves so they just sit in the brownie mix without sinking, and drizzle thick, silky lines of Velvet Cloud sheep’s yogurt over the top.
Bake in the oven for between 40 – 45 mins. I prefer my brownie to have a crust on top, mostly solid with a slightly fudgy but not oozy centre. Ideally things should still wobble a little under the crust. As the brownie cools down it will firm up, so don’t fret too much!
Remove the brownie from the oven and allow to cool in the baking tin for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile take the reserved cherry and brandy juice and place into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer to thicken and reduce the sauce by about a third – it should coat the back of a teaspoon.
Use a bamboo skewer or something similar to make small holes all over the surface of the brownie. Using a pastry brush, brush over the reduced cherry stock to soak into the brownie. Be generous, but don’t use it all up otherwise the brownie will collapse. Reserve it for drizzling over when serving!
Cover and place in the fridge to cool right and firm up.
To serve, remove from the baking tin and cut into squares (between 12-16 depending on portion size – I am not here to judge!).
Plate a square of brownie, grate over some more chocolate, drizzle over some of the left over cherry stock and serve with a generous mound of pillowy whipped cream.