Freya Woodsmoke

This week I caught up with an old university mate. Dave is now Pure Wild Spirits and I’ve been working on some truffles based on their Freya Birch Spirit, which is stunning. They’ve recently launched a Freya Woodsmoke, which is a fabulous addition to the range and I’m looking forward to coming up with some ideas for that one. My initial project will be to do a truffle with just the spirit and chocolate, so the challenge is to find the right chocolate to pair with it. This will involve tasting plenty of chocolate and Freya Woodsmoke (sigh) at some point. We also had a good ole reminisce over university days, which are allegedly 30 years ago, although I think we might have mis-calculated that as it can’t possibly be 30 years ago that we were causing havoc around Norwich on our weekly pub crawls. Those were the days when Norwich had a pub for every day and a church for every Sunday and I’m proud to say I visited every pub at least once. The churches, not so much. Hangovers were a brief interlude which were generally gone by the end of breakfast and not the 3 day nightmare they have now become. Eating out was limited to a post-pub kebab as you tried to stretch your student grant out for an entire year. I do vaguely remember some lectures and tutorials happening as well ….

Get The Balance Right

I’m now 2 weeks in to my new training regime and I’m starting to see results already. It’s been a tough couple of weeks going through the detox, and coping with the headaches, but that’s starting to ease now. I’m already feeling stronger and I’ve lost several centimetres. Being a chocolatier, giving up the chocolate and sugar is impossible, but I’m getting a better balance with the rest of my diet and compensating for the bad stuff. Less alcohol is proving a challenge at the weekends, but not impossible, as I’m determined to get to Christmas being fitter and better able to cope with the festive period. I’m loving the training sessions; they’re tough and there are moments when I wonder why on earth I’m giving up good money to be put through this twice a week, but I can see and feel the benefits. Hurrah! Here’s to a healthier lifestyle! Cheers …. erm, oops ….

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot – and Gin

As it’s the 5 November we’ve been looking for some suitable cocktails to celebrate the day and here are a few that tickled our fancy. Have a fabulous evening and stay safe. Gunpowder Gin Punch For the citrus syrup: Zest of 2 lemons Zest of 1 lime 115g granulated sugar Toss the peels with the sugar in a nonreactive bowl. Muddle gently until peels begin to express their oils, and leave covered for 6 hours or even overnight, covered. Strain peels from the mixture, set liquid aside. For the Gunpowder Tea: 3 teabags gunpowder green tea 450ml boiling water Pour boiling water over tea in a heat-proof container. Let steep 4 minutes. Strain and set brewed tea aside. Let cool to room temperature before using. For the Punch: 225ml gin 450ml Gunpowder Tea at room temperature 8 dashes celery bitters Lemon wheels and celery stalks for garnish In a jug  or punch bowl, combine gin, tea, bitters, and citrus syrup. Stir to combine and let sit for at least an hour at room temperature or up to overnight in the fridge. To serve, add ice to rocks glasses, pour in the punch and add a lemon wheel and celery stalk for garnish. The Firecracker 150g sugar 225g fresh or thawed frozen sour cherries, pitted 450ml London dry gin Juice of 4 lemons 1 bottle (750 ml) chilled dry rosé wine Ice Lemon slices, for garnish Method: Bring sugar and 180ml water to a boil in a small pot. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, and let cool. Combine syrup, cherries, and gin in a large jug, and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours. Stir in lemon juice and wine. Serve over ice, and garnish with lemon slices. Smoky Martini 70ml gin 7ml Scotch whisky Method: Add both ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir, and strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. Charred Lemon Gin Sparkler For the charred lemon juice: 12 lemons, halved For the charred lemon juice: Preheat heavy-bottomed frying pan over a high heat. Add lemon halves cut side down and cook until well charred, about 2 minutes. Let cool then juice, straining out seeds. For gin rosemary mixer: 8 sprigs of rosemary, cut in half 6 tablespoons sugar 475ml gin 1 cup charred lemon juice Muddle the rosemary and sugar in large jug, bruising it with the back of a wooden spoon until you can smell the rosemary. Add the gin and lemon juice and stir to dissolve the sugar. Refrigerate, removing the rosemary sprigs after one hour. For each cocktail: 60ml gin rosemary mixer 2 tablespoons sparkling wine Ice Rosemary sprig for garnish Fill a glass with ice. Pour in gin rosemary mixer through a fine-mesh strainer. Top with sparkling wine. Stir once. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary and serve. Hot Gin Toddy 2 teaspoons vanilla caster sugar juice of half an orange 35ml gin 60ml hot water 2 cardamom pods Method: Combine the sugar, orange juice and gin in a brandy glass and stir well. Bruise the cardamom pods and let them sit in the boiling water for two minutes before straining the water into the glass and mixing well until the sugar is completely dissolved.


Ein Prosit! We are suffering a little today, having been to Colchester’s first Oktoberfest yesterday. We had plenty of beer and banter throughout the afternoon session, Simon wearing his finest lederhosen and myself in a dirndl. It wasn’t quite the same as being at the real thing in Munich, but it was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Earlier in the week I took the plunge and found myself a personal trainer. Whilst the running goes some way to evening out the calorie count from the inevitable chocolate I have to eat, I’m still in need of some toning up, so I decided to seek help to get me into shape. Hopefully I can make a decent start before Christmas and try to slow the inevitable weight-gain the festive period springs on me. On Thursday I had a day in London for the Barry Callebaut chocolatier’s event. It’s a great opportunity to network with people from the industry and we had some interesting talks and demonstrations throughout the day. We talked a lot about healthy options for chocolate and even more about sustainability and helping the coco farmers build a better life. We also had the opportunity to try some new gelato products. It didn’t fit in too well with the new health regime, but they tasted good!!

Fine Wines and AI

We’ve now come back down to earth after last weekend’s show. Monday was spent unloading and unpacking and then stock checking before we headed back into production to restock and plan restocking for our next show. We had a weekend away from the kitchen, which was very welcome. On Friday evening we attended a Fine Wine evening run by Mr Wheeler’s wines at Wivenhoe House Hotel. A selection of fantastic Burgundies accompanied a superb meal and throughout the course of the evening we managed to select the wines to pair with our Christmas dinner. Although a little jaded on Saturday morning, we did manage to get out for an early run to get the blood pumping. It’s a great way to get through the hangover – even if the pace is a little slower than usual. We then went to see the new Blade Runner movie, which we rather enjoyed. It’s not the classic that the original has become, but a fine couple of hours of escapism, followed by dinner out at TGI Fridays. It’s now time to relax after a lovely Sunday morning walk. Whilst Mr D is in Edinburgh during the week, we have decided to go for a Sunday morning walk and chat before he heads back on Monday morning. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.

The London Chocolate Show

Aaaaand relax! It’s been a busy few days, all focused on the London Chocolate Show at Olympia. It was fantastic to see so many of you at the show and I hope you got enough chocolate to keep you going until Christmas!! We’ve had a brilliant show. It’s been very busy all weekend and our Festive Collections are selling well. We’ve also given out plenty of leaflets, so we know that the online orders will start pouring in before too long. If you are ordering online, then please make sure you order in plenty of time for Christmas. Our stock has a 6 month shelf life and we can only process so many orders a day! It gives us a great bicep workout taking the parcels to the Post Office every day, but the people in the queue behind us get a bit huffy if we’re there too long 😉

Whisky Galore

So for the next few weeks Mr D is working in Edinburgh from Monday to Thursday. The positives are that he gets to buy a new malt whisky every week as he comes through the airport, and I get to work extra-long days to get stocked up for Christmas! We’re busy getting ready for the Chocolate Show which starts next Thursday, so that means getting a lot of stock ready. Although we do put our Festive collections online earlier, we use this show as our official launch of the Festive Collections. As in previous years we’ve got a 12-chocolate collection and a 24-chocolate box with 2 of each flavour. We’ve got the same great flavours in the box and I particularly love the Blackberry Cheesecake. Mr D’s favourite is the Chocolate Orange Martini, so I have to make extra of both of those 😉 The Chocolate Show is at Olympia and open from 12-15 October to the general public, with a VIP Gala Evening to open the show on the 11th. Make sure you come and say hello if you’re coming along.

Absolute Eighties

It’s been a full-on weekend, and showing no sign of stopping anytime soon! On Friday we said goodbye to one of my cousins. A bittersweet funeral, as I had the chance to catch up with family I’ve not seen in many years and reconnect, sharing some wonderful memories, but a lot of sadness around losing a member of the family. From there, we headed to Skegness and Butlins for an 80s weekend. It was a fact-finding trip to see if this would be a suitable way to celebrate our 50th birthdays, which are looming ever closer. After the first night of carnage, we were thinking ‘probably not’ and by yesterday evening we realised the logistics of keeping a large group of people together for an entire weekend on site would be impossible. But we’ve had a fabulous time of it. We had a DJ set from Pat Sharp, caught the last bit of Altered Images live set, and saw Jason Donovan live. We’ve also seen a Duran Duran tribute band, and this evening we’ve got a Bon Jovi tribute. In between the live bands we’ve had non-stop 80s hits playing. It’s all been a lot of fun, and I’ve not used so much hairspray and mousse since I was a teenager. The fancy dress has been outstanding. We took a selfie last night and realised that we’d caught Bananaman and James T Kirk having a drink together over our shoulders. Much neon is on display, and the bars are serving Hooch. I just wish I could process the alcohol the way I did in the 80s, as the hangovers are making me realise I am a lot older than I really want to be!